Super-Size It

McRae’s Environmental keeps customers happy and production up with a fleet of combination trucks that carry extra muscle

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What do a McDonald’s value meal and the new fleet of combo vacuum trucks at McRae’s Environmental Services Ltd. have in common? They’re both super-sized!

McRae’s, an industrial cleaning company in Vancouver, B.C., ordered six giant-size trucks from Vacall Industries Inc. at $350,000 each. The trucks are so customized that they don’t even have a formal model number, says Bob Ballance, one of the principals of McRae’s.


“They’re built on a Freightliner FL120SD (severe duty) chassis, which actually is specified for the logging industry,” he says. “They’re almost built like tank trucks, because they can produce both pressure and vacuum, and pump and haul large loads of solids. They provide the best of both worlds.”


The trucks weigh in at 46,000 pounds unloaded and are about 41 feet long. They have 550-hp engines, 14-cubic-yard debris tanks and 1,700-gallon water tanks. “Everything on them is biggie-sized – the tires, frame, pumps, transmissions, cooling systems – everything,” Ballance says. “The model 8702 vacuum pumps from Hibon-Ingersoll Rand are the biggest mobile blowers you can buy” (at 28 inches Hg at 5,000 cfm).


Instead of conventional water pumps, which deliver 60 to 80 gpm at 2,000 psi, the trucks, with three rear axles, carry pumps that generate 120 to 140 gpm at 2,000 psi. “By doubling the water volume, it doubles the thrust at the nozzle,” Ballance says.


There’s a simple reason behind the super-size approach: Productivity. “The trucks provide added value for our customers, because we can accomplish in half a day what it used to take us a day or two to do,” Ballance says. “We can go longer on a jobsite – pump more and clean longer without needing to refill.


“We go to the dump once a day instead of multiple times. Since we don’t have to off-load as often, our trucks aren’t stuck in traffic as often. Instead, they’re on the site, doing the job.”


Jobs entail everything, from cleaning large-diameter pipes, lagoons, tailing sites and ponds to hydroexcavating. “We can pump slurries and liquids through hundreds and hundreds of feet of 6-inch hose,” Ballance says. “Or we can suck liquids, mud and debris from holes drilled up to 100 feet deep for geothermal heating systems. In addition, the trucks can serve as a bypass system.”


The trucks are comfortable as well, with stereo systems, air-ride suspensions and seats, power windows, air conditioning, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and wood-grain interiors.


“They basically have most options you’d find in a fully loaded Cadillac,” Ballance says. “They have to be comfortable because our drivers might spend up to 14 hours a day in their trucks. They’re not noisy either, because they’re heavily insulated.”


Customers like the trucks as much as the drivers do. “Their eyes bug out and they say, ‘Whoa!’” Ballance says with a chuckle. “They want to get inside and drive it. We have customers that ask only for a super combo. They know if that truck can’t do the job, nothing can.”


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