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Over the last few decades, water trucks have facilitated a variety of worksite uses and public cleanup functions. Everywhere from quarries to public sidewalks, water trucks have been responsible for cleaner surfaces and more breathable air. These functions are all made possible by the containment, transportation and regulated flow of mass amounts of water. So what is a water truck used for?
What Is a Water Truck?
A water truck is a large motorized vehicle specifically designed to transport large volumes of water for commercial, public and industrial purposes. It contains a long tank full of water that's dispersed through pumps and spray nozzles.
Water trucks are most often used for mining, fire-fighting and street-cleansing applications. In mining, the water is used to remove dust from the working area as excavations take place. Other water truck uses include civic construction and public water access.
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How Much Does a Water Truck Hold?
Water truck types range in size and purpose. The average water tanker truck capacity ranges from 1,000 to 50,000 liters. Portable versions of water trucks — which can carry between 1,000 and 2,600 gallons — are sometimes used to fill public swimming pools.
Before Water Trucks
Prior to the development of water trucks, miners had already harnessed water as a means for extracting prized minerals from the Earth's soil. Hillside mining, for example, would often be carried out with hydraulic monitors equipped with nozzles, which would spray water over covered pits where minerals were known to exist.
The water itself would be accessed from nearby natural resources, such as mountains, lakes and rivers. Through an arsenal of pipes, the water would be streamed over dirt-laden stretches of land. With hydraulic force, dirt would give way to mud, which would ultimately wash aside to reveal gold and other minerals.
To a degree, the hydraulic monitor relieved miners of the strenuous physical requirements associated with mineral excavation. However, the process of water streaming was problematic in its own way. The mud streams generated by the system would often pollute nearby waterways. In some cases, the mud would obstruct hillside roadways. Consequently, the practice was outlawed in gold-rich California in 1884, though it continued in other parts of the U.S. up through the 1940s.
As commercial trucking developed, the functions of hydraulic monitoring were worked into a new kind of truck from which volumes of stored water could be streamed for the purposes of mining and other forms of mechanical labor. On today's water trucks, hydraulic monitoring is employed in combination with supportive machinery that makes it possible to stream water over expansive target areas.
How Water Trucks Work
Contemporary water trucks are built in a range of sizes to suit a variety of mining applications. For narrower mining locations, small water trucks are employed to clear the air of dust and wash away dirt from the more overburdened stretches of ground. In larger mining locations, trucks with longer, taller dimensions and greater carrying capacity are used for similar purposes.
While larger water trucks can carry more gallons and support a more powerful arsenal of connecting tools, the dimensions of these larger trucks are generally ill-suited to smaller mining areas. Certain water trucks have been designed to fit onto a variety of chassis dimensions.
The use of water trucks can vary from nation to nation. In Australia, for example, water trucks are employed for irrigation and water delivery in addition to dust control and road work.
Water Truck Features
Aside from the fact that water trucks carry liquid as opposed to solid contents, they function similarly to other trucks. On select water trucks, tires are designed for off-roading routes. Such trucks are often used at remote mining sites situated far off the nation's highway grid. These vehicles are also commonly equipped with safety ladders and structural I-beams.
The nozzle of a water truck is situated at the back of the tank. The water can be streamed via pressurized and gravity-dip methods. The flow of water is regulated by controls from within the cab of the vehicle.
Water Trucks in Construction
In regions with arid climates, water trucks allow communities to manage the flow of dust and fertilize local greenery. In cities, water trucks are used to spray streets and sidewalks clean and keep the pavement free of oil and gunk deposits. In the field of road construction, the water supplied by trucks with large tanks makes it possible to manage soil compaction. Moreover, water trucks prevent dust from kicking up into the air in small working environments.
At worksites where dust is an inevitable factor of the broken ground or crumbling remains, hydraulic solutions can be employed from a water truck to suppress the spread of airborne particulates. At a demolition site, for example, water can suppress the spread of dust through the air and allow work crews to commence with efforts to clear away rubble and strip the site of remaining debris.
Likewise, as the ground is being broken for the site of a new building, water solutions help prevent dusty engulfments that would otherwise make the air less inhalable for workers.
Mining With Water Trucks
At mining sites, dust from soil and sediment layers are liable to get dense as dirt and rock particulates are kicked up through the air by drilling tools and machinery. Consequently, the ambient air can become foggy, congested and unhealthy to breathe unless mining crews are equipped with a means for dust management.
Water trucks make it possible to manage dust by preventing drilled surfaces from kicking it up into the air. At the same time, the water makes it easier for mining crews to clean away freshly drilled surfaces and reveal mineral pits long overburdened with soil.
Potable Water Trucks
At outdoor public events, water is needed in vast quantities for the many thirsty people in attendance. For example, a country fair or concert festival could attract tens of thousands of attendees, many of whom will have to park their vehicles miles from the event taking place. Given the remote locations of these and similar events, water often needs to be imported in large volumes.
Depending on the size of the event in question, one or more water trucks could help make the outdoor festival experience more comfortable and sanitary for thousands of attendees. With one or two water trucks, thousands of liters worth of water are made available for the purposes of drinking, hand-cleaning and more.
Fire Prevention With Water Trucks
At the scene of fires far removed from sources of water, flames are often suppressed with the help of water trucks. Though not built for the direct purpose of firefighting, water trucks can be used to provide water for crews in the heart of forest fires, which occur far away from the availability of fire hydrants. As long as the water truck is equipped with a tire system designed for off-road routes, trucks of this sort can arrive at the remote locations of forest fires far more easily than a conventional fire truck.
In cities and suburbs where conventional fire hydrants are readily available, water trucks can also be used for additional supplies of water. If an inferno grows way out of hand and engulfs several blocks of high rise buildings, water trucks can help firefighters and rescue workers put out the flames and minimize damages and casualties.
Safe Water Tank Design
For someone to ensure safe operation and sanitary supplies of liquid from a water truck, certain key features are preferable on modern-day tank models. For starters, it's best for the tank to have a flat roof so that operators can walk on top without the risk of falling and incurring injuries. Also, the tank should have an accessible interior for periodic cleansing cycles.
Some tanks contain only fill holes and thus cannot be entered without the use of an acetylene torch. Once this option has been exercised, the tank must then be repaired to watertight shape for further use. Some of today's larger tanks, however, are equipped with doors to the interior. These doors are typically located at the front or back of the tank. This placement allows workers to walk inside and clear away sediment buildup along the interior walls of a water tank.
Water Tank Shape
Traditionally, water tanks have been designed with rounded bodies, but this shape has been problematic for a number of reasons. A rounded tank body provides no gravity center and thus makes the truck less stable on imperfect roadways and off-road terrain, the likes of which are common around mining and quarry sites.
A rounded tank body also makes it more difficult to regulate the flow of water. Consequently, operators of water trucks will often refrain from filling rounded tanks to their full capacity. This choice can ultimately lead to more downtime at a worksite location because the truck has to be returned to its water source at more frequent intervals.
Baffles in Water Tanks
Baffles serve as stabilizing walls within the interior of a water tank. The purpose of baffles is to prevent water from moving abruptly from side-to-side when a truck is in motion. Without baffles, the unrestricted movement of water can be dangerous when a truck has to make a sharp turn or come to an abrupt stop.
Unfortunately, baffles with faulty designs have been built into many water tanks. For example, some baffles are neither high enough nor long enough to prevent water from churning to one side and throwing off the weight of the vehicle. Alternately, some baffles are designed with holes for the purpose of inter-compartmental access. In order for baffles to properly contain liquid and stabilize the gravity center of a water truck, a tank should have ones that span the length and height of the interior.
Chemical Solutions for Tank Water
For water trucks used at mining and construction sites, chemicals are often employed that render the water more effective at suppressing the spread of dust. Liquid polymer surfactants, for example, are used by some companies to reduce the surface tension along a mining quarry or other site where dust would otherwise spread.
At the same time, chemical solutions can help the water penetrate the soil with greater ease and depth. As such, chemicals allow water to serve as a vital utility among work crews. With the power of water, excavations can be carried out with greater sanitation and efficiency.
Knowing How to Work a Water Truck
To ensure maximum job-site safety, it's crucial for the person responsible to know how to use a water truck in advance of resourcing the tank for its intended purposes. For any application in which a water truck is put to use, the flow of water should be handled only by a qualified professional. The pipes and hoses that attach to the water tank require skill to manage. An untrained worker could incur injuries while attempting to regulate massive volumes of water.
Skill and experience are also crucial for matters of savings and efficiency when it comes to the operation of a water truck. An untrained hand is liable to mismanage the flow of water and waste untold gallons in the process. Consequently, a tank will typically get depleted more rapidly while targeted areas are left oversaturated when a water truck is operated by an unskilled worker.
Water Truck Safety
At worksites as well as rescue sites, the use of a water truck can enhance safety, as long as the water is employed in proper measures. The risks posed by fire hazards, for example, are greatly minimized by the presence of a water tank, which can be utilized to put out a fire on quick notice. Even when the truck sits idly, the water tank can serve as a safety feature on standby.
Of course, a water truck itself could exacerbate danger if the tank is mismanaged by unskilled hands. If the water is deployed too effusively, it could weaken the foundation of the underlying ground and cause mudslides. As such, a water truck is a vital worksite utility that nonetheless requires skill for operation.
Parts and Components for Different Water Truck Types
Water truck uses are wide and varied. When a professional is using a water truck, construction and mining sites are safer due to the virtual elimination of airborne dust. Moreover, water trucks allow for greater efficiency at worksites thanks to the effects of water, which make it possible to clear away soil and clean up spaces with enhanced ease and speed.
Still, it's crucial to know how to use a water truck in order to properly regulate the flow of water and ensure that tank contents are dispersed with care and maximum safety no matter what the other external circumstances are.
In addition, for everything from street cleaning to dust management, water trucks work best and last longest when properly maintained on a regular basis. A water truck should be subject to periodic inspections and submitted for parts replacement when the need arises. At PrimeSource, we sell replacement parts and offer service work and repairs on water trucks. Contact PrimeSource today for a free quote or more information.