A vacuum truck is a massive version of the vacuum cleaner that homeowners use to clean up their homes. These two machines operate and clean using the same principle of pneumatic suction. In the case of a household vacuum, an electric motor drives a rotary vane vacuum pump that creates negative pressure on its intake port. The negative pressure is what suctions dust and debris.
This truck operates in the same way as a household vacuum pump, except that the vacuum is mounted on a truck and is powered by that truck’s massive engine to drive an equally massive rotary vacuum pump via PTO. Modern vacuum trucks are so powerful they could easily suction just about any type of liquid including slurry sludge and even solid debris such as brick and rock, as long as the debris fits through the two to three inch diameter suction line.
All the slurry and solids suctioned are temporarily stored in the vacuum truck’s water tight tank. When the tank reaches full capacity, the contents are then transported to a proper treatment facility. The contents in the vacuum pump can be released by reversing the vacuum’s flow, or in the modern vacuum truck, the end of the tank can be opened and the contents dumped.
Vacuum trucks are extensively used by towns for street cleanup, sewers, and septic systems. Although these trucks are better known for use with dirty jobs, they are also capable of handling volatile and even toxic materials. They are the primary equipment used by petroleum companies, particularly for cleaning storage tanks and oil spills. They even play an important role in drilling for natural gas and wells. The primary role of the vacuum truck in this capacity is to remove drilling mud.