The Pump Truck – An Example of Constantly Changing Technology

The history of the pump truck is not a glamorous one. Still, it is a story of evolution and adaptation to new technology, which eventually leads up to the mechanisms of today’s modern service trucks.
The Portable Sanitation Association International posted an interesting article about the history of the pump trucks, or the “Workhorses of the Industry,” commonly referred to. We have summarized the write-up, comparing pump trucks of the past to J Bar’s current fleet. The PSAI points out that the development can be attributed to different aspects of other industries that all come together.

Humble beginnings

There once was a time where restrooms were not commonplace, and chamber pots and outhouses were a feature of all households. It is probably safe to say that we people of the future haven’t given thought to removing the waste that would have built up at these houses.
It had to go somewhere, so eventually, an individual leading a horse-drawn “honey wagon” was seen going from house to house bravely emptying chamber pots into barrels on the service wagon or pulling pails of waste out of outhouses to empty into the wagon to haul away.
As you probably guessed, the service wagon was aptly named after the color of the substance it was hauling . . . The term “honey wagon” is still used today. It is the name for portable holding tanks drawn by many travel trailers and RVs.

Trucking along . . .

In 1896, an individual named Gottlieb Daimler invented the first truck. The development of motorized vehicles led to the need for gasoline. This, in turn, led to a need for the transportation of fuel from Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and California across the country. This need led to the invention of the fuel tank truck in 1905.
Fuel and sludge may not have an obvious connection to you at the moment. Still, the more advancements made in fuel, technology, and transportation will soon lead to a commonality between the two. So stay tuned!
The original fuel tank trucks relied on gravity to empty their contents, so they were slightly tilted. Though they weren’t the most efficient, they were surely a positive change from the original honey wagon.
They drove a whopping 15 miles per hour in the early 1910s, not comparable to the higher – but reasonable and legal – speed our modern trucks reach, but a certain improvement to the slow clippity-clop of horses hooves and the squeak of the wooden wagon.
Fuel and transportation became major players in World War I and more so in World War II. It was needed to power the trucks, jeeps, planes, and ships overseas, and soon tank trucks became critical to the war effort.
While all of this was happening, a new product called the “portable outhouse” began popping up in Naval shipyards in Long Beach, California. At this point, you can see the connection between fuel and sludge beginning to form.

Suck it up!

With the increased need for fuel overseas and the transportation of sludge on the homefront, vacuum pumps became crucial to the development and efficiency of pump trucks.
The first vacuum cleaner was invented by Hubert Cecil Booth in 1901. It consisted of a horse-drawn combustion engine that drew air in by a piston pump through a cloth filter.
He only sold his cleaning services but soon focused on the industrial etplace and began producing larger machines. The concept was soon adapted to assist pump trucks in removing sludge from the portable outhouses, but then came the issue of needing a power source to make the whole system work.

I’ve Got the Power

The idea of a “power take-off” or PTO had been discussed among farmers from as early as 1878; in 1918, the International Harvester Company was the first to use a PTO on a tractor, and in 1945 Cockshutt Farm Equipment in Ontario created the first “live PTO” which allowed the vacuum to work independently from the piece of machinery it was assisting.

It’s All Coming Together

These different topics – the development of the truck, fuel production, and transportation, vacuums, farming – are all independently unrelated to the portable sanitation industry. But interestingly enough, it is revealed by the PSAI’s article that developments in the different fields eventually led to the advanced technology our modern pump trucks rely on today.
Portable sanitation companies soon began popping up throughout the ’50s and beyond, and pump trucks’ operations still had some inefficiencies and kinks that needed to be worked out until the 80’s when Satellite Industries (the company that provides our sanitary restrooms, hand wash, and hand sanitizer stations, and luxury trailers, and other equipment) improved the processes.
As technologies and operations continue evolving, so do the industry’s “workhorses.” Their adaptability to current technology can be compared to the portable sanitation industry as a whole. Just as the beginning stages (and the current versions) of the pump trucks consisted of constant changes, we in the portable sanitation industry are used to frequent changes and fluctuations in the business.
From those fluctuations come opportunities to work together with our teams and improve our processes to serve our customers better while keeping operations efficient and productive.

J Bar’s Fleet – Efficient and Effective

At J Bar, our modern pump trucks feature many innovative pieces of equipment that improve our drivers’ service time during their routes and their time in the yard at the end of the day.
With over 1800-plus services a week, efficiency is crucial to our operation. The company needs to turn a profit. Our drivers need to quickly but effectively service many restrooms during their routes.
Each truck features a vacuum hose to extract waste from the restroom being serviced into the 800-gallon or 1500-gallon (depending on the size of the truck) waste tank. Some companies have stuck to the routine of carrying buckets of water to their unit when servicing it, but J Bar trucks are equipped with water hoses to refill the tanks of the restroom after pumping the waste; another feature is a power washer that drivers use to spray down the inside of the unit to clean it and finish with a mist of hospital-grade disinfectant that remains effective for up to 10 days.
The equipment on the truck is located within the drivers’ reach rather than being overhead to improve the ergonomics of the system and spare the drivers’ shoulders during their multiple services.
Compared to the early pump trucks that relied on gravity to empty their sludge – the concept of which some companies still use – the vacuums on our pump trucks are pressurized and can reverse to discharge into the reserve at our yard or to get rid of a clog during servicing.
Along with the location of the hoses for ergonomics, the hoses are actually designed not to be able to become crossed and create a hazard for the driver. Along with those concepts, the trucks are also equipped with many safety features, including LED work lights so our drivers can see their work during early morning or late evening service; backup cameras and alarms; safety strobes for visibility; and Lytx camera system that tracks drivers’ location and records audio and visual inside and outside the units.
Over time, J Bar has modified our equipment to serve better our customers, service technicians, and ultimately the company. The changes are never finished as new technology emerges, giving us reason to consider new ways to improve our fleet.
“At J Bar, our trucks are designed to be efficient and effective,” CEO David Jamar said. “We have embraced new technology as it comes available when designing our vehicles.”
No matter the challenges we face and changes that have become inevitable over the years, it has all been for the better. Also, we have come a long way from horse-drawn wagons carrying barrels of sludge.

For a deeper look at the history of the industry’s pump trucks, be sure to visit the Portable Sanitation Association International website.

Safety is paramount with J Bar Contractor’s Services, we place the safest vehicles on the road for our employees, customers, and the communities that we serve. Rather it is roll-off dumpsters trucks or portable sanitary restroom service vehicles all vehicles are equipped with LED safety strobes, back up cameras and alarms, additional front hood mirrors as well as tire pressure regulators, lug nut torque indicators, and daytime running lights to ensure maximum visibility in all weather conditions. J Bar also utilizes Lytx for its fleet management. Lytx is a technology package that tracks vehicle location and records audio and video inside and/ or outside of the vehicle.

Savanna Gregg