Vactor Celebrates 101 Years in Business

This year, Vactor Mfg. celebrates 101 years of providing customers around the world with a wide range of material handling equipment.

Originally founded in Chicago in 1911, as the Myers-Sherman Co., a manufacturer of pneumatic farm equipment, Vactor Mfg. has evolved to become the industry leader in sewer and catch basin cleaners, industrial vacuum loaders and vacuum excavators featuring innovative technology and custom configurable designs.

With one of the largest and most developed distributor networks in the sewer cleaning industry, Vactor Mfg., a subsidiary of Federal Signal Corp. – and part of its Environmental Solutions Group – has more than 50 North American distributors in 100 locations to serve the municipal market, and six factory direct locations for industrial customers.

“Our history began with the design and manufacture of products such as milking machines, feed blenders and mixers, and grain storage and conveying systems,” said Mark Weber, president of Federal Signal Corp.’s Environmental Solutions Group. “The pneumatic conveying systems in these original products provided the impetus for our success as a global leader in the sewer cleaning industry. While Vactor Mfg. has changed and expanded considerably over the years, we remain dedicated to the original spirit of innovation and hard work upon which our business was founded. Our dedication to innovation and service will continue to guide us into our second century of business.”

In the mid-1930s, Myers-Sherman moved its operations from Chicago to the community of Streator, Ill. Years later, in the early 1960s, the company began to design and manufacture a line of sewer and catch basin cleaners for the municipal market to clear clogged sewer lines and catch basins. In 1969, the company engineered the first combination sewer cleaner featuring water jetting and vacuuming. That same year, the company introduced the Vactor Jet Rodder Water Pump, the first pump designed specifically for sewer cleaning.

A decade later, in 1979, Myers-Sherman was purchased by Peabody International, which was then purchased by The Pullman Co. in 1985. The company name then changed to Peabody Myers. By this point, the company exited the agricultural business to focus on the growing sewer cleaning market. In 1989, the company introduced the popular Vactor 2100 Series combination sewer cleaner, which has become the industry standard for the municipal market. To date, the company has sold more than 13,000 sewer cleaners.

The Pullman Co. sold to Forstmann, Little & Co., a leverage buyout firm, that sold Peabody Myers to Federal Signal Corp. in 1994. Upon purchase, Peabody Myers was renamed Vactor Manufacturing. Today, Vactor Mfg.’s 170,000-acre facility in Streator is staffed by more than 500 employees.

In 2000, Federal Signal consolidated the manufacturing of its Guzzler brand of industrial vacuum loaders into Vactor’s location in Streator to take advantage of the product synergies and manufacturing economies. Popular Guzzler products include the Guzzler CL, ACE and NX. Today, this brand still enjoys a leadership position in the industrial vacuum loader market.

In addition, Vactor Mfg. also produces vacuum excavators, including the full-size Vactor HXX hydro-excavator and the compact Vactor HXX Prodigy vacuum excavator. Vacuum excavation uses similar technology as that used to clean sewer lines and catch basins — high-pressure water and vacuum — as a non-destructive digging medium for a variety of utility and municipal excavation applications, including slot trenching, potholing, water valve box repair and locating of existing fiber optic lines, cables and other utilities.

“Everyone at Vactor Mfg. is proud of their contribution to this longstanding, successful company,” Weber said. “Even as we celebrate 101 years in business, our employees are building upon our heritage of expertise and innovation. Having a talented workforce that can adapt to changes in the industry is another important component of our past – and future – successes.”
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