While pool service technicians have countless tools of the trade, including suction hoses, test kits, brush attachments and more, it could be argued that one of their most important tools is the service cart for lugging all those other tools around.
Pool service carts, for the uninitiated, can be as simple as a two-wheeled hand truck with a basket attached to it, or something far more complex, with preinstalled equipment. The main requirements, however, are durability, ease of use and the ability to attach it to the hitch of a vehicle so it doesn’t take up valuable space.
For Sam Kamumya, who co-owns Aqua Operators Pools in Raleigh, North Carolina, his service cart has become an essential part of his business.
“It’s just more convenient, you know?” Kamumya says. “Say you have 10 pools on your route that day. That can be a lot of walking. But with a cart, you just jump out of your truck with your chemicals, and you usually know how many chemicals you will need, so you can just have those already in your cart, have your pole already attached, and grab it and go.”
Kamumya adds that the need for a cart can be exacerbated, depending on the location of the pool one is servicing. “I’ll have some pools that are located down on a hill,” Kamumya says. “Just imagine having to carry that pile of stuff by hand all the way up and down that hill.”
Pool carts come in a variety of forms. Below are just a few options available in today’s market.
T. Dula Cart
The T. Dula Cart has been relied on by pool service technicians since 1980, when Tom Dula founded T. Dula Inc., the company that would go on to produce the hand trucks.
Today the Orange, California-based manufacturer offers a line of four carts including the standard service-cart option, designed to hold a four-gallon chemical case in its bottom compartment as well as test kits, brush attachments, suction hose and vacuum head; the spool cart, which is similar to the standard model but with the addition of a spool for easier access to one’s hose; the pump cart, with all the standard features but made with space for installing a vacuum system; and finally the 12-volt cart, designed to hold a 12-volt vacuum as well as the standard compartments available on the other models.
According to Sam Desher, who took over T. Dula Inc., as president in 2016, all the carts are made in-house and can be customized at an additional cost.
The carts do not come as complete units with equipment already installed. This helps keep costs down, as well as keep Desher from having to serve as a dealer for a third-party company. “I don’t want to deal with selling someone else’s product,” Desher explains.
There have been occasions when customers have asked Desher to help install their equipment for them, which he says he is happy to do. “People have brought me all kinds of wacky stuff,” he says, “and I’ve built carts for them all the same.”
Riptide SL Vacuum Service Cart
When Jeanette Horn began operating her business, Horn Family Pools in Mabank, Texas, she was using what she refers to as the “old school” approach of simply making frequent trips to and from her truck during a job. But as her client list grew from 20 pools to more than 80, she realized she would need to pick up her pace. In 2019, Horn purchased the Riptide SL Pool Vacuum, a cart with a pre-installed vacuum system and vehicle hitch. “It has been phenomenal,” Horn says. “… I’m still on my first Riptide. I haven’t had to replace any parts on it yet.”
The Riptide SL Pool Vacuum is manufactured by Service Industry Solutions LLC, based out of Riviera Beach, Florida. According to David Sargent, the company’s president, the first attempt at a Riptide service cart, in 2016, was too large and cumbersome. Only a year later, however, an updated model was released: The Riptide SL. “SL literally means ‘smaller and lighter,’ ” Sargent says. “We stopped producing the original, larger cart pretty quickly after that.”
The Riptide SL comes preinstalled with the Riptide SL Pool Vacuum System, the Riptide SL Transport Rack [Hitch Mount] and one standard bag. Like other carts available on the market, the SL comes with compartments for brush attachments, cleaning kits and more, and is built to last.
“This thing is a true workhorse,” Sargent says. “… It has to be ridiculously overbuilt to stand up over the years.”
Dean Dietrich, operations manager at Del Ray Beach, Florida-based Hammer-Head Patented Performance, says the company believes a service cart needs to be lightweight and nimble with as much storage as possible.
“Hammer-Head’s philosophy is keep the whole package as light as you can,” Dietrich says. “The tech has to drag this in and out of people’s yards, 20, 30 times a day. Heavier is not better.”
After creating a lightweight, balanced cart with a large storage tray for chemicals that includes several hitch styles depending on the vehicle, the company made a few accessories that technicians can add — a chem caddy helps keep chemicals organized and a pool pole mount.
After 20 years in the industry, Kamumya has found Hammer-Head to be his preferred brand, thanks in no small part to the aforementioned lightweight design. “It really, really helps,” Kamumya says, “Especially for the residential service jobs, because it’s easy. You can pull it out and just wheel it to the pool.”
With the regionalisation of the pool service industry, Hammer-Head doesn’t believe in adding a lot of standard features because what one technician might need, won’t be the same for another. So many who use the Hammer-Head Vac and cart will customize it to fit their particular route.
“I don’t think you can make a one size fits all [cart],” Dietrich says. “You have to make it as basic storage as you can, and hope that they can modify it to their needs. As long as you’re not hindering them, I think you’re doing the right thing.”
Some customization and feature requests that Dietrich has seen are pumps to wash the cart tracks off the pool deck and in one instance Dietrich says, a customer asked for a place to store a skimmer rod. “We don’t hear that one a lot,” Dietrich says. “Passed that up the line.”
At the end of the day, Dietrich says that the company is proud of the cart’s balanced design, noting, “It rolls super easy, even when it’s loaded.”
While not exclusively made with pool service workers in mind, Ed MacDonald, CEO and founder of Buffalo Carts, believes his cart will garner interest from pool service workers, as it was designed with outdoor workers in mind.
Like other carts, the Buffalo Cart is designed to attach to a vehicle hitch, but unlike many service carts, it is four-wheeled, and its powerful electric 24VDC 500W transaxle rear-wheel drive system enables it to haul up to 500 pounds of tools and equipment.
The Buffalo Cart is available in four models, including a model for hunters; a flatbed model; a standard wagon model; and a commercial model, which MacDonald believes will be of most interest to service techs.
“When we looked at other electric carts on the market, one of the big complaints we saw was that other electric wagons were not very durable — they were kind of fragile, and they couldn’t haul that much,” MacDonald says. “So we designed around exactly that: Make it durable, make it strong.”
Another issue MacDonald prioritized was ensuring the cart was only 24 inches in width, allowing it to easily fit through doorways.
Additionally, the cart can be steered using its long handle system, with a twist throttle for moving forward and reversing. It comes with a li-ion rechargeable battery that is said to last two to five hours. Pool service workers who need to work late into the night are also able to purchase an LED front light system for the cart.
Currently, the Buffalo Cart is only available to purchase on the company’s website. As this is the first wave, MacDonald says he is eager to hear opinions from new users so the company can use that feedback when designing future models. “We want their suggestions, and to know if they have issues or problems,” MacDonald says. “That way, we can address those issues immediately.”