Home Hydraulic Drives...The Tanker Revolution

Hydraulic Drives…The Tanker Revolution

Even before the stringent EPA rules about dust suppression on construction sites, tankers were part of every major construction plant fleet.  We’ve all driven around country roads when there has been road construction going on in the past decades and seen water cards with “dribble bars” as part of the road construction plant.

“A tanker, a rubber tyred roller or vibrating roller and a motor grader is all you need to build a road”, says earthmoving veteran, Rod Parker.  Rod is famous for having introduced the Bobcat to Australia!   They said it was a toy and would never sell, what a joke!” he said.

Incidentally, it took Rod six months to sell the first Bobcat, but he’s a man who doesn’t give up.

Today, those old tankers with dribble bars are a thing of the past!  The new EPA rules not only make dust suppression mandatory on every site and there are hefty fines for transgressors.

That means the demand for water carts, the unsung heroes of the construction industry, are even more important than they ever were before.  One company, Australian Pump Industries, is close to the earthmoving industry.  Although they only started trading 25 years ago, senior members of the company, both in engineering and management, cut their teeth in the earthmoving industry working for the old and mighty Tutt Bryant.

John Hales, Aussie’s Chief Engineer, was an 18 year old cadet engineer, working at Rydalmere back in the good old days.  He built bucket wheel excavators, bitumen plants and pavers under license to Barber Greene.  There’s a blast from the blast!

“It wasn’t a surprise to us when we started seeing the pumps we had developed for farmers, mainly engine drive self priming transfer pumps,  being applied by earthmoving contractors and government departments for road tanker work”, said Hales.  “We were also surprised to find that the engines were burning out long before the pumps and realised just how suitable those 2”, 3” and 4” Aussie pumps were for basic tanker applications”, he said.

The company saw councils buying their Honda powered transfer pumps, not only because of their reliability and performance but because Aussie Pumps offers electric start as a standard option.  OH & S is a big issue, not only to councils, but contractors as well.

“When we launched the Aussie QP402, a 4” self priming pump, it was a revolution. People hadn’t seen a big 4” pump that could be driven by an 8hp Honda petrol engine and produce a whopping 1,800 lpm flow.  Waiting time filling tankers became a thing of the past”, said Hales.

The big 4” pump, with huge ‘shoulders’ surprised the market with an ability to draft water through a vertical lift of 8.4 metres.  “The big shoulders in the pump, revolutionary in design at the time, meant fast self priming, first time, every time”, said Hales”.    The big shoulders hold a water tank which allows the pump to prime like no other.


Aussie Pumps started making the same 3” and 4” pumps in diesel drive, after a deal was struck with Yanmar and then later with Kubota.  Both engines, Japanese companies of absolute integrity and engine expertise, perform beautifully, even in the toughest conditions.

Being air cooled engines, they are compact, lightweight and in the range of 4.8hp, through to 10hp, provide reliable power.  Coates Hire for example, has operated a number of these 4” Aussies with Kubota engines over the years in their fleet with excellent results!


Farmers aren’t particularly fussed if they have to wait half an hour to an hour to fill a 10,000 litre tanker.  Earthmoving contractors, working on a site where dust is an issue or, where watering the road is a significant part of the compaction process, do care about how long it takes to load.  Sometimes it is highly relevant how long it takes to unload as well.  It all depends on the job.

Engine drive pumps, both petrol and diesel drive, come into their own with requirements moving from just fast filling the water cart to run a dribble bar, to the need for spray bars, spray heads and the ability to spread water over a wide distance.

“Originally, we saw it was a simple process. For a big 20,000 litre tanker, you need to fill fast, sometimes from a river, dam or stream.  Aussie’s fast fill pumps have open impellers that enable them to move a lot of water!  The downside is, they don’t have a great deal of pressure, normally maxing out at around 35 – 40 psi.  That resulted in tankers being fitted with two pumps.  One was a high pressure pump, sometimes one of our Aussie Fire Chief firefighting pumps, or QP402 for fast fill”, said Hales.

Those big pumps, also doubling as very effective firefighting units, are being marketed by Aussie Pumps as their “Brigade Boss” range and provide real pressure, in two variations.   The Brigade Boss QP402SL, delivers a whopping maximum pressure of around 70 psi.  On the other hand, it will also move up to 1,200 lpm in flow.  Doubling as both a high flow and high pressure pump.

The next variation, the QP402SX, comes with an impeller that delivers a head of 70 metres, that is approximately 100 psi! Again, the compensating factor there is the lower flow, a maximum of 800 lpm.

“The pumps show stunning performance and excellent efficiencies.  They take every ounce of horsepower that a Kubota OC95 9.5 hp engine or a Yanmar L100 10hp can deliver used efficiently”, said Hales.


Putting two pumps on the back of a tanker is not particularly space efficient.  Sure, they can be slung under the tank, tucked in behind the cab or even, at the rear end of the tanker.

The rear end of the tanker can be an issue.  “We’ve seen engines where the operator has taken the air cleaner filter out and thrown it away, because, being choked with dust, the engine efficiency and performance of the pump went down”, said Hales.

“Of course, that burst of supreme of efficiency without the air cleaner element in place, was short lived, with the engine dusting up promptly, much to the surprise of the operator!” he said.

Another issue can be dry running of the pump.  Sometimes the tanker operator, unknowingly continues to run the pump mounted on the back of the unit, even though the tank is empty.   The result is cavitation which can make the impeller not only vibrate but, become pock marked.

“A cavitated impeller will fool some people, they think it’s corrosion”, said Hales.  “However, we can tell from the pock marks on an impeller that it has been cavitated and that the problem relates to those explosions created by the mixture of air and water at high speed in the impeller chamber.   Cavitation is a pump killer and tanker operators need to be warned about allowing a pump to run without adequate water supply!” said Hales.

So, there are some issues.  In other applications, pumps have been run by direct shaft drive off the PTO of the truck engine.  Again, adapting a bare shaft pump for an application like that, means the pump has to be tucked between the chassis members, often in an exposed position.


“Ten years ago, Australian Pump introduced a range of highly efficient cast iron self priming pumps in 2”, 3” and 4” configuration.  We used them close coupled to engines , and realised that to get the maximum out of the pumps they needed more horses!” he said.

“Putting a big 25 hp diesel engine on the back of a tanker is space inefficient” said Hales.  We then looked at hydraulic drive and … bingo!  We struck the exact right combination”, he said.

Now, having started out with low pressure 4” cast iron pumps, the company gravitated to a 3” Aussie GMP, model B3XR-A/ST that is a trash pump, a medium to high pressure pump and a high flow pump all in one.  “Not only that, but by running it of a 22cc motor, we don’t make huge demands for oil or the motor supply load to get the job done”, said Hales.

The company has been very successful with even the Australian Army running hydraulic drive B3XR-A pumps in tanker applications for the troops.  In the latest developments, they are producing hydraulic drive pumps in not only cast iron but also in 316 stainless steel.   Those 316 stainless steel pumps are also the choice of the army.  They are very particular about the pumps that deliver water to our fighting men.

Other breakthrough products in the range include, a big 4” hydraulic drive pump, also used by the army, available in cast iron or 316 stainless steel.  The big pumps will deliver a whopping 2,300 lpm, emptying a 20,000 litre tanker in ten minutes.

The best news is that those same pumps are capable of heads as high as 35 metres, close to 50 psi.  So they can also double as spray pumps.

From there, the company moved on, listening to earthmovers, with their recipe of what they considered the perfect pump.  “Here’s the criteria”, said Hales.

  1. It’s great to have a pump that’s cast iron and can stand pressure shocks or spikes.
  2. The pump should also be self priming as you never know when you’re going to have to pick up a load of water from a creek or dam.
  3. The pump should have a big open impeller, capable of passing solids in suspension!
  4. It should be configured in a trash or semi trash set up so that the pump bowl can be cleared out in case of debris being sucked into it. A front opening port is very handy!
  5. The pump should be hydraulic drive. The hydraulic drive pump means no drivelines, no shafts, just hydraulic hoses as flexible as the imagination of the installer or engineer.  The pump can be located virtually anywhere that it suits the manufacturer.


Aussie Pumps new G3TMK-A hydraulic drive is a 3” high pressure, high flow, self priming pump with front opening port and an open impeller that will pass small solids in suspension.  Yes, it self primes!  Although it’s a 22cc motor, it’s built like a tank.  The pump internals come with a stainless steel wear plate and a silicone carbide mechanical seal for a long, trouble free life.

“Of course, they don’t like running dry”, said Hales.  “That’s one weakness they we haven’t got over yet.  But otherwise, these pumps are designed for the toughest applications on the planet in mines, construction sites or quarries”, he said.


A good example of that is Miller Contracting in Victoria, using an Aussie MQ60OTD 6” trash pump, that produces 6,000 lpm.  Apart from saving the town of Horsham from a terrible flood, around 8-9 years ago, that pump can fill tankers fast and dramatically help production on a big site.  The same pumps, a matched pair, are used by Vincers?  In the Northern Territory on a defence project.  After months of arduous and consistent work feeding the tanker fleet for dust suppression, those pumps haven’t even burped!


Australian Pump has an affinity to the industry. They believe in the country, the capability of the construction industry and work hand in glove with customers as diverse as hire companies to quarries and earthmovers,  Bobcat owners to the biggest in the industry.

“We know they’d want what we’d want”, said Hales.  “Products that work, that do what they claim to do and, the people who support it.  We want to know if there’s a problem, and never run from it.  “Some of the best advances we’ve made in engineering have been based on problems found in the field.  Our customers tell us about issues and site conditions that we could never imagine”, he said.

Further information including a new Basic Guide to Aussie Tanker Pumps is available from Australian Pump Industries.  The company’s commitment to the industry and to the readers of Australian Earthmoving magazine is 100%.

 Contact 02 8865 3500 or check aussiepumps.com.au for movies, technical data and other useful info.


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