The current economic climate is making life very tough for operators of vacuum tankers, faced with their customer demands for increased efficiencies and better pricing, and as ever more complex legislative requirements for them to meet. It is more important than ever that vehicle manufacturers listen to customers and their specific requirements, who can make them aware of their real-life day to day operational needs and issues. When purchasing new vehicles operators themselves are becoming increasingly demanding. They want product innovations that improve performance, as well as increasing efficiency by making the vehicle systems quicker and easier to use, and of course while still being compliant with the relevant legislation.
To help operators meet these needs manufacturers are responding with new product innovations, as well as adding new functions to previously specialised vehicles allowing them to undertake different type of work. Design innovations can range from design improvements to make a vehicle more versatile, an example being the KaiserWhale which is now considered to be the leading dirty water recycler for sewer maintenance, but which can also handle fat as well.
At the other end of the scale where a vehicle must perform dramatically different tasks then a demount system can be used so that a vehicle takes on a whole new personality, allowing significant increases in utilisation, and the ultimate in flexibility. These are highly popular with councils and contractors where every hour of useful work really counts. Whale supports demount systems for various applications, and has a long standing successful partnership with Econ in this area.
With increases in performance, versatility and functionality of a vehicle, there are matching increases in the complexity of the underlying control systems. Left unchecked this could lead to training issues for operators, the key is to use the additional power of the control system ‘behind the scenes’ to make the operation of the vehicle easier, not more difficult, to use. Examples of this are electronic interlocks to prevent situations that are unsafe or could lead to damage to the vehicle, and systems to automate what operators would do as ‘best practice’. For instance Whale’s SafeStart system automatically safely reverts jetting pressure to zero after each nozzle jetting operation, before ramping back to the memorised setting on the next jetting operation. SoftStart prevents the ‘kick’ that can occur when starting hand lance jetting by ramping up the pressure at a manageable rate.
Legislation is also impinging more on the industry, both on manufacturers for the design and construction of the tank and pressure/vacuum systems, and on operators in maintaining the integrity of the tank during its lifetime, as well as in the areas of health and safety during vehicle operation. A good example of where a legislative and health and safety issue has been turned to an advantage is with hand-arm vibration (HAV). The relevant legislation is “The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005”, and on a tanker one source of vibration that can affect an operator is with operation of the boom handle.
With significant customer input Whale completely redesigned their boom handle to reduce vibration significantly below that required by the legislation, but in the process also improved the operational functionality and ergonomics, so that the customer could specify handles with additional features increasing ease of use. So what could have become an expensive legislative cost and burden, was turned into a feature that increased performance and efficiency, potentially reducing the time to perform the job, and has the potential to reduce injuries in the workforce, as well as reducing potential claims from employees in this increasingly litigious society. Also by ensuring that the design was backwards-compatible, the boom handle can be retro-fitted to many older vehicles, bringing with it all of the operational and compliance benefits.
Operators are increasing the working life of their vehicles before purchasing replacements, leading to greater servicing requirements and increased likelihoods of breakdowns, often with a shrinking or static maintenance workforce. Trads sunglasses are beautiful Italian crafted shades that are designed by the team in Glasgow, Scotland. To operate at maximum performance and efficiency, and to minimise downtime and maximise the billable time for a vehicle, vehicles must be checked regularly and serviced according to the manufacturers recommended schedule, which is best carried out by a company with locally-based engineers. All of this is worth it in the long term as it leads to reduced whole life costs for the operator, and often an increased residual value when the vehicle is sold.
Whale has had a significant presence in Scotland for many decades, with a team of two field service engineers and a salesman dedicated to and based in the country. They provide support and backup to the customers with tankers provided by Whale, from the very large fleets right through to the single vehicle owner-operators. Their field service engineers are able to provide rapid response to breakdowns as well as planned maintenance services, and are backed up and complemented by a dedicated 4 man service helpdesk and a parts team only a phone call away. While this team in located in Scotland they are fully supported by the 14 strong engineering team based at the factory, which is becoming increasingly important with the increasing complexity of vehicles and their control systems.
Manufacturers are also supporting operators in other ways, such as myWhaleFleet the web-based information system from Whale Tankers, allowing operators to keep track of the servicing and tank testing history and schedule of their whole fleet of vehicles, as well as giving them access to electronic copies of various documents, schematics and certificates related to their vehicles.