There’s Potential Work at Campgrounds or With Other Customers Who Don’t Need Restrooms

You’re a whiz at placing and servicing portable restrooms at events and construction sites, but where else can you look for new pumping opportunities?

There’s Potential Work at Campgrounds or With Other Customers Who Don’t Need Restrooms

We Want to Tell Your Special Event Story

With COVID-19 vaccinations well underway and crowd restrictions being lifted this summer, we want to celebrate the reopening of 2021 special event work in a big way. If you are serving a large or noteworthy event this summer or fall, drop us a line at editor@promonthly.com and tell us about it. After more than a year of not being able to cover PROs serving special events, we are looking to highlight a number of companies returning to normal service with fairs, festivals and other outdoor events. We’ll send out a photographer to capture your crew hard at work and then promote your great local events through our On Location feature.

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The topic for this month’s At Your Service column by Jeff and Terri Wigley was inspired by years of conversations I’ve had with PROs wondering about unusual or nontraditional pumping jobs. I have always had the sense that service providers can find revenue opportunities beyond pumping their own restrooms if they are willing and ready to step outside of that comfort zone.

Many of the queries I’ve had from PROs over the years relate somehow to campground work, cleaning out RV holding tanks and vault toilets at private camping resorts or public county, state or national parks. However, when I asked Jeff and Terri to share their experiences with out-of-the-ordinary service work as longtime owners of an Atlanta portable sanitation company, the variety of examples both surprised and delighted me. 

As you peruse the stories in this issue, don’t miss their column titled Planes, Trains and Pontoon Boats, in which the Wigleys detail how they answered usual pumping customer requests and share their advice on how to take on this new and exciting work while still ensuring profitability. Perhaps the best lesson to learn from their experiences is that a PRO has to carefully account for unanticipated time and materials expenses when negotiating fees for unfamiliar types of work. 

I think it’s fair to use the word “exciting” when talking about some of these unusual jobs. Among other things, the Wigleys’ service technicians’ routine was interrupted frequently when they pumped airplane waste tanks at a military base, and never more than when they were tasked with pumping the tank on Air Force One during a presidential visit. As you’ll read, the workers spent the day at the military base airport waiting to pump the famous airplane, only to be told their services weren’t required after all. 

CAMPING ON THE UPSWING

You may not be called on to pump waste for the leader of the free world, but the odds are good that you may be offered work pumping an RV tank at some point in time. And this specialty could become more lucrative in the future. That’s because two factors are pointing to an explosion of interest in RV and travel trailer camping these days. 

First, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered the way Americans are choosing to travel. The past year saw a plunge in airline travel, fears of staying in hotels and motels, and folks looking for socially distanced ways to enjoy vacations. Camper sales went through the roof, and campground bookings and state park usage skyrocketed. Suddenly there is a stepped-up demand for RV pumping. 

But if and when COVID is controlled, the trend toward camping travel will continue on. Why? Because baby boomers are retiring at a record pace, and many of them want to enjoy the great outdoors. What better way is there to travel on a fixed retirement income than pulling your motel behind you? I believe you can count on the demand growing, and RV pumping could develop into a mainstay service for many restroom contractors.

Your success with campground pumping may vary depending on the local market potential. PROs located near a popular state or national park may find a lot more opportunities to provide these services. For example, if you’re a short drive from Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, you are surrounded by many public and private campgrounds that remain crowded for much of the year. Or if you are situated near a popular snowbird destination in Arizona or Florida, for example, you might be able to keep a route driver busy all winter moving from campsite to campsite and rarely having to deploy a restroom from your inventory. 

TOP TIPS 

As the Wigleys explain, you have to consider what accessories are needed for each atypical service job. Your crew also needs to develop expertise in each area to perform the work safely and efficiently. In a May issue of our sister publication, Pumper, writer Mary Shafer talked to two California women who rent out RVs to tourists and have incorporated a pumping service into their business. Daniella and Angel Talamantes have learned by trial and error the best practices for pumping RVs. Check out Pumper to read all the details.  

But I’d like to share a few of their helpful tips for campground pumping: 

Position your rig wisely

Campgrounds can be crowded places with lots of twists and turns in the access roads to pinch traffic flow. Pay attention to where you pull over for service, look for a straight shot between your truck and the RV holding tank to maintain the best suction power. Use your emergency flashers liberally and be prepared for an occasional impatient camper who wants to get around you.

Work quickly

The more you pump campers, the more efficient you will become at adjusting to different RV configurations and workarounds. Make it your goal to get in and out of each campsite quickly to both avoid issues with campground traffic flow and to ensure you can make a profit on each pumping. But also remember how important it is to work safely in a busy environment with lots of children running around. 

Develop a service system

The Talamantes’ hand out bright yellow-orange envelopes with instructions for campers. Those who want a pumpout that day leave cash in the envelope and tack it to the campsite number post. Then it’s easy for the PRO to spot the sites that need service, and the camper doesn’t have to wait for the service provider to show up on their rounds.

Provide proof of pumping

The Talamantes’ say RV holding tank level sensors are notoriously inaccurate. When scum builds up in the tanks, the sensors will often indicate tanks remain full after pumping. So they use a clear hose connector so they can watch the contents evacuate into their vacuum tank and show when all the waste is removed from the holding tank.

Crushed RV tanks may be a myth

You hear stories about RV blackwater or graywater tanks collapsing when suction is applied from the PRO vacuum tank. Daniella and Angel Talamantes have never seen this or heard of it happening to another pumper. If it has happened, it was likely a result of applying high vacuum to a holding tank with a clogged vent stack, they say.

GETTING STARTED

We’re in the height of summer travel and camping season nationwide. If you haven’t already, it might be a good time to make connections with your local campground owners or park managers. They may need your help right about now. And while you’re checking in, let them know you also have portable restrooms and hand-wash stations available and ready to go.   



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