10 Tips for Spec'ing & Maintaining Sewer Cleaners

Sewer cleaning trucks help ensure a clean city, free from clogged drainage systems. Properly spec’ing and maintaining this equipment requires careful planning and a clear strategy.

November 2009, Government Fleet - Feature

by Jack Doheny & Jim Schwaller

In the hierarchy of mobile equipment, sewer cleaning trucks may not command the priorities of police cars, refuse trucks, or fire equipment, but they represent big investments that can make or break a public sector fleet’s budget.

With reductions in fleet sizes and a noticeable trend toward leasing and seasonal rentals, the owned trucks represent an important investment that must be protected and maintained to provide years of dependable performance as well strong resale at trade-in time.

The following 10 tips will help spec the right sewer cleaning truck and maintain the equipment to achieve optimum machine life and resale value.

1. Don’t over-spec.
When purchasing a sewer cleaning truck, work with a factory-trained sales representative who will help spec the right equipment based on how the machine will be used. Understand the 80-15-5 rule. What will the machine do 80 percent of the time, 15 percent of the time, and 5 percent of the time? In most cases, the truck should be spec’ed to meet the 80-percent requirement.

Productivity enhancements are available to satisfy the remaining 15 to 20 percent of necessary applications, but you must determine whether they’re worth the additional cost.

For example, there may be an occasional need for hydro-excavation capability, but it might make more sense to hire an outside hydro-excavation contractor instead of spec’ing seldom-needed expensive extras.

2. Don’t under-spec.
Be sure to get “all the truck” needed to meet fleet requirements, and keep in mind an under-spec’ed sewer cleaning truck won’t bring a strong resale value. Is a fan machine or a positive displacement (PD) blower needed? Let a dealer sales rep help evaluate these considerations to ensure the spec’ed truck is the truck you need.

3. Spec for service, parts & loaner availability.

When issuing a request for proposal (RFP) for new equipment, spec the availability of service, parts, and rental or loaner equipment for short-term replacements. It might be possible to save a few dollars purchasing from a dealer who can’t dependably provide parts, service, and loaner equipment, but you’ll pay in the long-term through lost productivity if these capabilities aren’t required from your dealer at the time of purchase.

4. Develop a trade-in cycle strategy.
With good preventive maintenance, a properly spec’ed sewer cleaning truck should last up to 10 years; however, the optimum trade cycle may be closer to 5 years. From a resale standpoint, the used market is always looking for well-maintained, five-year-old machines.

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