Vacuum trucks are tank trucks that feature a heavy-duty vacuum system designed to use vacuum technology to load liquids, sludge or slurry through suction lines. These pumps are also used to unload tanker trucks using pressure.
Most vacuum pumps are driven off a semi truck’s power takeoff (PTO) instead of off a stand-alone engine. The two truck types that are best suited for these installations are the bobtail, which has an 80-barrel capacity, and the transport, which features a 130-barrel capacity.
Vacuum pumps were first used for the disposal of produced water and water from hydraulic fracturing operations in the oilfield. Typically, these pumps were in a belt pulley system configuration consisting of a PTO, drive line, pillow block and sheaves to power the pump. This system added wear to the pump’s bearing because of the tension of the belts required, which caused excessive wear and early pump component failure.
As technology changed, the gearbox system was introduced. This system used a drive line, right-angle gear box and coupler to power the unit. This advanced tank technology increased the life of the pump because of the direct, inline coupling of the pump and gearbox, creating less lateral wear to the bearings from excessive belt tension.
The next improvement was upgrading to a hydraulic power system. This system featured a hydraulic pump, hydraulic motor, coupling bracket and coupling. The advantage of the hydraulic system was that no alignment issues existed because everything was a registered fit between the hydraulic motor and the pump.