- THE MAGAZINE
Mike Roden has been designing and building truckmounts for the past 35 years, first with his brother Jim at Prochem, and more recently as the VP of Engineering at Sapphire Scientific. His design philosophy when it comes to developing truckmounts is a simple one: make them work, make them reliable and make them so that cleaners are happy with them. It’s a philosophy that’s helped move about 10,000 truckmounts over the course of his career.
We caught up with Roden recently – here’s what he had to say about how the truckmount has changed, pushing the development envelopes and what the truckmount of the future may have in store:
ICS: Talk about how far truckmounts have come from your early days at Prochem to present day.
Mike Roden: Probably the biggest change in truckmount technology is the first ones were either propane or diesel-fueled. There were a lot of issues with those, not only the cost of fueling them, but also safety issues. (With) propane there were some real severe accidents in the field and then diesel, there’s always a chance of a fire with additional fuels. One of the things I did in the early 80s was really took heat exchange technology very seriously because I thought we were wasting all this energy just going up the exhaust pipe. I tried to capture that and make it into the unit that the systems were all passive. Rather than seeing that energy go to waste, use it to heat the water and accomplishing what we need to do. I was the first one to do that and it was a huge success.
ICS: How did you configure things to reuse some of this energy?
MR: I did it with a catalytic converter at first. I put a catalytic converter in the heat exchanger. Some of the first ones were the Prochem 405 and the Bruin 2 – those were some of my first units that I was able achieve that level of heat exchange technology. Customers were totally satisfied with the heat output.
ICS: In what ways are you pushing the design envelope with today’s truckmounts?
MR: We’ve been able to push the dial quite a bit further than we have in the past because of the way we designed the heat exchanger and the water box. The heat exchanger is located in the center of the water box and all that radiant heat that normally ends up inside of the van is captured in the water itself. We got some sound reduction in that and we were just issued a patent on what we call the thermal well. One of the big achievements with that is we were able to make our units a lot smaller because we combined the water box, the heat exchanger and got rid of the flow valve. We pressurized the water box, which makes the pump last a lot longer because you’ve got a slight pressure on the check valves, which makes the pump work less.
ICS: What do you see as the truckmount of the future?
MR: We’ve talked about several concepts – maybe a hybrid unit could come out in the future? I’d like to see an electric truckmount that would run off the van engine – it’s something we’ve thought about. There’s really no significant improvement as far as the gasoline drives because EPA is going to drive cleaner engines and more expensive engines and I think manufacturers are going to use them as long as they can and be forced to upgrade into new EPA engines. That will be the challenge – keeping up with the emissions and regulations as far as these units are concerned for the next several years.