Large fleet of high-volume vac trucks enhances New Mexico contractor’s productivity.

For tough jobs such as removing tailings from reserve pits at oilfield drilling sites, Riley Industrial Services Inc. might run eight vacuum trucks 10 hours a day, six days a week for weeks at a time. In those instances, reliability and productivity clearly are critical, which is why the company owns 26 Supersucker vacuum trucks made by Super Products.

“And that’s just one job out of the year,” says Glen Riley, vice-president of maintenance at the large industrial-cleaning firm based in Farmington, N.M. “We were just at a copper mine where we were running four trucks for 10 hours a day, six days a week. We might be at some sites for up to a month, cleaning out years of accumulated sludge and other materials.”

The trucks’ model years run from 1996 to 2009. To minimize the amount of spare parts required for inventory, Riley Industrial specs out all the trucks exactly the same: blowers made by Roots Systems Ltd. (5,800 cfm at 27 inches Hg); 450 hp Series 60 diesel engines made by Detroit Diesel Corp.; 16-cubic-yard debris tanks; vibrate-assisted dumping with tilt tanks; Fuller 13-speed transmissions from Eaton Corp.; and tires made by Toyo Tire USA Corp.

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“We don’t order them with a lot of bells and whistles … that way anybody can operate them,” Riley explains. “If I teach any of our men how to run one of our vacuum trucks, then they can pretty much run all of our vacuum trucks. This way, there aren’t any surprises for our mechanics, either. If they know how to fix one, they know how to fix ’em all.”

The trucks are out working in every kind of harsh environment imaginable, from rugged terrain to extreme heat and cold. They clean at wastewater and sewage-treatment plants, chemical plants, coal mines and gas and oilfields, where they’re used to remove everything from reserve pits to flowback water in huge tanks.

But the Supersuckers – which represent a roughly $6.5 million investment – take a lot of punishment and keep on running, Riley notes. They’re workhorses in a large fleet of equipment that includes 31 hydroexcavating trucks made by GapVax Inc.; 10 wet-vac trucks manufactured by Global Vacuum Systems Inc.; 19 waterblasting machines made by Gardner Denver and NLB Corp.; 70 pressure washers made by AaLadin Cleaning Systems; 225 18-wheel trucks; and more than 100 flatbed trailers.

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“We like the Supersuckers the most because they’re simple and they vacuum the best,” he says. “They rely on a very simple design … the way the air flows through the bed, into the cyclones and through the dry side of the filtration system and out. We run the same kind of blowers in all of our trucks, but the Supersuckers vacuum the best.”

Riley also lauds the Supersuckers’ filtration system, which is both efficient and maintenance friendly. If a bag needs to be changed out, an operator can do it in a few minutes. That, in turn, improves productivity because it minimizes downtime – an important factor when performing works during time-sensitive plant shutdowns, Riley notes.

The company’s Supersuckers are also very reliable, Riley adds, noting that one of the Supersuckers has racked up 28,000 hours – well over a more typical life cycle of about 5,000 hours. Riley Industrial enhances the trucks’ longevity by lining the bottom half of the tank interiors with 1/4-inch-thick fiberglass, then painting the top half with an epoxy coating. The tanks get recoated every 10 years to prevent rust, Riley says.

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Fewer breakdowns also promote customer loyalty and increase repeat business, as well as word-of-mouth referrals, he adds. The company reduces the odds of equipment breakdowns by adhering to a rigorous preventive maintenance schedule.

“We don’t wait for something to break down,” Riley says. “When we hit 5,000 hours, we start thinking about putting in a rebuilt transmission and do it at our convenience, rather than have it go out while we’re on a job in, say, one of the 10 states where we work. We do a lot of preventive maintenance … it’s the key to our operation.”

Riley Industrial opts for the largest debris tanks possible to minimize trips to disposal facilities and maximize vacuum time. It’s not unusual for operators to drive about 100 miles one way to a disposal facility, so maximizing payloads is critical. “When a disposal site is a two-hour drive away, we want to carry as much as we can without violating weight-restriction laws,” Riley points out.

The Supersuckers also enhance employee safety by minimizing the amount of laborers required on job sites. For instance, the vacuum trucks allow the company to do some jobs with a two-man crew that used to require a 10-man crew. “That’s dramatically fewer people working in potentially precarious conditions,” Riley notes. “The more people you have working, the better the chances are that someone can get hurt. Plus the hoses can reach places were laborers can’t get to.”

Overall, Riley praises the Supersuckers for boosting the company’s productivity and profitability over the years.

“We’re working them hard every day and they don’t give us a lot of trouble,” he says. “We get them up and running and they just run. Aside from normal wear and tear, they rarely break down. We couldn’t operate as efficiently as we do without them.”

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