CVacuum_Truckleaning sewers and emptying septic tanks are probably two of the dirtiest jobs there are; however, with the help of a vacuum truck, cleaning those things is a huge leap in terms of sanitation as compared to how workers performed this task decades ago, long before the vacuum truck was invented. The development of this truck has modernized how cities clean up the dirtiest of their sewage systems.


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.


Like most mechanical equipment born from crude ideas and developed into modern and highly technical equipment, the vacuum truck has also undergone this same development. The first true vacuum pump was developed by Otto von Guericke in 1654. He determined that by removing air from a confined space, no amount of power could separate the two halves of that whole. In 1855, Heinrich Geissler took the vacuum pump to a new level using his mercury displacement pump.

Since then, vacuum technology has lept to great lengths. The suction power generated by early vacuum designs cannot compare with the suction power generated by modern vacuum equipment. Modern vacuum trucks are able to generate powerful suction power due to the development of the rotary vane vacuum pump. The vanes rapidly spin within a confined space and pull air out to an exhaust port, creating negative pressure at the opposite opening. The current vacuum truck can handle just about anything that is in the path of its suction line.

Modern Applications

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.

Despite their nasty reputation, the vacuum truck and its pumps are one of the most intricate types of modern equipment available today that allows the job of sewage maintenance worker to be performed much easier. History has been kind to this great suctioning vehicle!