At Sapphire Scientific, our focus is on advancing technology to engineer more effective equipment that helps cleaners do their jobs better and faster. The work of perfecting truckmount technology is far from finished and many of us in the industry spend a lot of time thinking about what the future might hold for truckmounts. Here are some trends I’ve observed in recent years.
SMALLER, QUIETER AND MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
As motor vehicles continue to get smaller and more fuel efficient, truckmounts will follow the trend. This devel- opment is driven chiefly by EPA fleet miles-per-gallon and carbon emissions requirements. Compact light-duty commercial vans such as the Ford Transit Connect – now outfitted with the Sapphire 370SS truckmount and branded for ServiceMaster Clean franchises – will become in- creasingly popular. Manufacturers who build equipment that offers competitive performance and fit inside these smaller vehicles will have a definite competitive edge. Larger vehicles will still be available, but they will become more expensive to purchase and to operate.
It will also become increasingly important to reduce truck- mount noise levels. Human services facilities such as schools and hospitals struggle to accommodate cleaning operations – especially noisy truckmounts. And in recent years, many residential neighborhoods have become more sensitive to noise and disruption.Advances in sound abate- ment technologies – particularly the types incorporated into heat capture systems – will continue to be important. Even helical tri-lobe blowers like those in Sapphire’s 454SS advance the cause for quiet yet powerful performance. Quieter machines will also open up the possibility of night time and off hours work when cleaning and restoration activities are less disruptive, giving operators a distinct competitive advantage.
We’re also going to see more environmentally friendly truckmounts. Until recently, the engines typically used in truckmounts have been relatively free of EPA and C.A.R.B. requirements, but those loopholes are now set to close. This has profound implications for truckmount powerplants. Specifically, we’re going to see the introduction of catalytic (oxi- dation) converters on gasoline engines. For diesel engines, we’ll see the introduction of Exhaust Gas Recirculation systems and Selective Catalytic Reduction systems, plus Diesel Particulate Filtration (a carbon sequestering system). Lower fuel costs and higher efficiencies for diesel units will likely drive increased use of diesel powerplants. Sapphire is careful to ensure that its new truckmounts will be EPA compliant for years to come.
Vacuum blower manufacturers have made great strides in tackling noise issues. Gardner Denver’s helical tri-lobe blower, for example, has been a great success. In my tests with the Sapphire 454SS model, this design has reduced noise levels by 7 db compared to straight lobe designs – that’s a huge reduction and a welcome improvement for cleaning techs and customers alike.
Current thermal well technology has made significant advances. Sapphire has systems in use now that capture close to 60% of the total potential BTUs of the fuel. This is heat that used to flow out of the exhaust unused but is now helping us provide hotter, more stable heat produc- tion than ever before. Sapphire will continue to fine tune these cogeneration systems for even greater efficiencies.
For years, belt failures have been the number one complaint from truckmount users. Our use of drive belts made from EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) on Sapphire truckmounts has greatly reduced downtime for maintenance and replacement. EPDM has been used quite successfully for au- tomobile timing belts since the 1970s. Compared to traditional drive belt materials, EPDM offers a 100°F higher heat tolerance, longer service life, and less noise.
Auto-pumpout systems that operate at higher pressures will translate to smaller tank sizes – again, a perfect fit for the trend toward smaller vans.
As much as truckmount customers won’t like it, more electronic controls are inevitable. Truckmounts operate in very difficult environments with lots of heat and vibration and work under very demanding loads.The industry’s early experiments with electronic system controls did not prove to be very reliable. But as emission regulations tighten and performance expectations grow, electronic controls will continue to improve. At Sapphire, we focus on developing the simplest, most robust control systems possible.
Perhaps the most important developments we’ll see are improvements of the tools and chemicals that can fully utilize the heat and vacuum provided by today’s new truck- mounts. Sapphire’s Stryker Wand with its multi-injection continuous flow system is lighter and more effective than traditional cleaning wands, and the lightweight Upholstery Pro hand tool has been a huge hit with technicians. These innovations give operators the advantage they need to stay ahead of the competition.
Truckmounts will need to be more reliable and more effec- tive. Most importantly, they will need to be more versatile. Multipurpose truckmounts that deliver excellent carpet and upholstery cleaning and tile, grout and other hard
surface cleaning like Sapphire’s new 870SS will present valuable revenue generating opportunities for operators.
Perhaps the most important change I’ve seen is a shift in the way people think about the industry. Manufacturers and operators alike will remain competitive when they transition from merely cleaning to restoring: returning materials to like-new condition will differentiate the truck- mount operator from every other type of cleaning service.
For the foreseeable future, truckmounts will have a criti- cal role in any serious cleaner’s arsenal of tools. There is simply no other system that can get materials truly clean, especially when heavy soiling and staining is involved.This is because truckmounts excel at the fundamental task of cleaning, that is, transferring energy to the cleaning surface, dissolving soils, and removing them.