Optimize Cleaning Operations

Using the correct accessories will improve cleaning performance while minimizing water use.

Optimize Cleaning Operations

Combination jet/vac trucks are a prerequisite for effective sewer cleaning, but the right accessories can significantly improve the speed and quality of cleaning by any work crew, while conserving water.

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The right tools are essential for collections system crews facing difficult cleaning challenges and stubborn obstructions. A well-equipped vacuum truck is a big piece of the puzzle, but so is selecting the proper accessories — tools that can take performance to another level and save considerable time, labor and water resources.

Industry expert and consultant on vacuum sewer trucks Matthew Woods, vice president of sales and marketing at Haaker Equipment, says the right accessories are essential to help crews perform more efficiently.

“The value of having the right accessory for the job cannot be overlooked in terms of operating safely, quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively,” he says. Haaker Equipment is a dealer of vacuum sewer trucks, sewer cleaners, pipe inspection equipment and other tools for municipal utilities.  


As industry professionals understand, jetting nozzles are some of the most important tools on sewer trucks and are used daily to clean sanitary and storm lines. Nozzles direct pressurized water to clear out obstructions such as silt, sludge, grease and mineral buildup as part of required maintenance or to prepare pipes for relining. 

Although nozzles with many configurations are used, the industry rates nozzles based on efficiency. Since utilities are always looking for more effective ways to conserve valuable water resources, companies like Haaker recommend purchasing higher efficiency nozzles with every vacuum sewer truck.

“We regularly recommend stepping up to a higher-efficiency nozzle,” Woods says. “The ultra-efficient nozzles play a key role as freshwater becomes scarcer because the nozzles provide more efficient fluid mechanics to prevent the waste of water and reduce operating pressures.”

“Today, most vacuum trucks are still filled with clean, treated, fluoridated drinking water [from hydrants], which is an increasingly costly resource to put down a sewer line to clean it.” 

The most efficient nozzles offer tight water patterns that effectively clean the pipe wall and create a powerful water stream to move debris long distances and propel the nozzle. 

“With a more effective high-efficiency nozzle, operators will get better performance and clean more pipe using less water. They will be able to clean more square footage of sewer line with the water available on the truck,” says Woods.

Reducing water also saves costs by eliminating unnecessary extra trips to refill the truck’s water tank and keeps crews effectively on task.

Sewer line cameras

Having a camera or nozzle camera can help operators assess pipe condition without a CCTV truck. A camera is often necessary to not only locate pipe offsets, collapses and infiltration but also avoid obstacles that could trap a nozzle. Video or photo documentation of before-and-after pipe condition is advantageous to ensure the pipe is completely free of obstructions.

“Without using a camera, sewer truck operators are going into the pipe ‘blind’ and do not know what is down there or what they are cleaning,” says Woods. “It is much easier for crews to clean once they identify what is going on inside the pipe. With this information, the operator can apply the right tool or technique and speed completion of the job.”

According to Woods, a pole-mounted camera can be used to quickly assess sewer lines from an adjoining manhole to determine if they need cleaning, repair or further inspection. A unit with Wi-Fi wireless control and video will eliminate cables and allow live video sharing on multiple devices.

“The pole-mounted camera allows the prioritizing and allocating of resource-intensive inspection and cleaning crews, to keep the operation running smoothly,” says Woods.

To further simplify inspection down the sewer line, camera nozzles provide operators the ability to clean sewer and storm lines while recording video. Self-leveling camera heads, onboard illumination, high-definition recording, memory capacity and Wi-Fi downloading are all features worth considering.

“During routine cleaning, the nozzle camera captures video that can show if there are roots in the pipe that should be removed before they even become a problem,” Woods says. “If the roots cannot be removed by the action of the nozzle itself, an operator can go back in later with a chain cutter.”

Chain cutters

Tree roots are often the cause of blockages in sewer and storm lines. Blockages can also occur due to accumulated hard mineral deposits, grease, silt or debris. 

When a severe blockage is identified, chain cutter nozzles might be required. Most are hydraulically powered, which reduces the overall cost of the unit, but many supply sufficient power or torque to cut through heavy roots or hard mineral deposits.

Chain cutter nozzles that utilize water pressure, however, are more efficient and can deliver the required torque to cut through thick masses. In this approach, high-pressure water enters the chain cutter nozzle chamber and is directed to spin the cutting chains at high velocity.

Sewer maintenance tools

Another valuable addition to the accessory list is the broader category of general “tools” that simplify tasks and improve efficiency. This includes items such as manhole hooks/picks, telescoping claws, sewer brushes, debris baskets, tubing transition couplers, vac-traps and the like.

“For sewer cleaning and maintenance, there are many special tools and accessories that crews use on a daily basis that facilitate safety and productivity,” Woods says.

The bottom line

The bottom line for collections system crews is that having the right accessories can significantly improve the speed and quality of cleaning by any work crew, while conserving water. 

With so much to gain, cleaning crews are advised to spend the time and energy investing in the accessories they need. Those that seek out best-in-class options and use them effectively to complement the vacuum sewer truck itself will enjoy dramatically improved performance and productivity. 


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