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Nowhere off limits for the off-road jet vac monster

A go-anywhere jet vac tanker designed for use by the military and United Nations relief teams is keeping sewers running smoothly in some of the remotest parts of central and southern England.

The JHL recycling jet vac tanker is being used by drainage and water utility specialist Lanes Group plc to access remote sewers and culverts across difficult terrain on behalf of Thames Water.

Lanes, Thames Water’s wastewater network services maintenance partner, is using the specialist vehicle for more productive planned cleaning of main sewers and to respond rapidly to off-road blockages.

Michael Hall, Head of Operations for Lanes Utilities, said: “Our 8×8 jet vac tanker is the only vehicle of its kind operating in the UK, and it’s all-terrain capability is proving its worth time and again.

“We can quickly reach assets, such as sewers and culverts, that are far from a road or firm ground, for example on farmland or under railways. The vehicle is also ready to be deployed if there is a flood to maintain critical assets such as pumping stations.”

The vehicle has enhanced ground clearance plus eight-wheel drive and steering. It was originally designed to support wastewater management in remote military bases and humanitarian aid camps.

As well as chomping up the most challenging terrain, the 8×8 jet vac can continuously filter and reuse its water, so can operate for longer without having to refill its 14,000-litre tank. It can also pump up to 700 litres of water a minute over two kilometres.

Two Lanes drainage engineers have now undergone specialist off-road training in the vehicle to support their work in some of the most remote and hard-to-reach locations across the Thames Water region.

The training has taught them how to make the safest and best use of the jet vac tanker’s ability to cope with boggy and unstable ground and risk assess conditions to ensure all off-road hazards are fully considered.

In Long Hanborough, in Oxfordshire, the vehicle has been used to travel 1,000 metres across farm and construction land that had been churned up by excavators to carry out a large sewer clean.

Without the JHL 8×8, the project could only have been completed with a recycler jet vac tanker, two tracked portable jetting reels and the deployment of a confined space entry team.

Jet vac operative Chris Wood, who is the vehicle’s main driver, said: “This is an extraordinary piece it kit. It makes our off-road work much more productive and allows us to react more quickly to potential pollution incidents.

“Importantly, because I can drive right up to a manhole, wherever it is, and vacuum blockage material from the sewer, we don’t have to send in a confined space team which is a major safety boost.

“There hasn’t been a project yet where we haven’t felt confident that we can reach an off-road sewer. Even when we’ve been axle-deep in mud, it has kept on going.”

Off-road Training Specialist Mark Stopps, of Explore the Country, near Milton Keynes, who led the training, said: “The 8×8 jet vac is a very impressive piece of machinery.

“It has better off-road capabilities than many similar-sized military vehicles. Hats off to Lanes for giving its drivers off-road training, it’s not something that many users of all-terrain vehicles think of doing.”

Lanes Group:

The company has a network of 32 depots and strategic utility hubs, providing high quality utility, drainage, and maintenance services for commercial, public sector and domestic customers.

Its services include CCTV drainage surveys, drain and sewer cleaning and unblocking, sewer excavation and repair, sewer lining, wet well and tank emptying, industrial cleaning, tankering and professional services.  

Key market sectors are water utilities, construction, energy, rail, highways, insurance and commercial maintenance.

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