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John Clayton
Jet Vac Driver

John Clayton

  • Jet Vac Driver
  • Preston

Blocked drain emergency sows seed that leads John to Lanes

When a jet vac tanker turned up at the home of former soldier John Clayton after he reported a blocked drain he thought ‘I’d quite fancy operating one of those’.

Three years later, that is just what he is doing, working at Lanes Group plc’s depot in Preston, Lancashire. “I thought it looked like an interesting piece of kit, and the job looked interesting as well,” explains John, aged 44. “But it was a passing thought at the time and I put it out of my mind.”

Then, at the beginning of 2022, John saw an advert for a jet vac tanker driver at the Lanes Preston depot and decided to put in an application. He says: “I was ready for a change and I already had an HGV licence from being in the Army. So I gave it a go and got an interview. The people at the depot were very friendly and positive and when I was offered the job, I was pleased to accept it.”

John started his career at Lanes in February 2022. The company has put him through his HGV Driver CPC training, which is compulsory for civilian drivers, and John now operates his own jet vac tanker.

He is quickly gaining the technical knowledge and skills he needs, helped by mentoring from experienced Lanes colleagues, as well as the technical training and experience gained during 12 years in the Army.

Lanes Preston Operations Supervisor John Addison is playing a key role in coordinating ongoing training and coaching. He says: “John joined us with no experience in the drainage industry and has been a revelation.

“He’s picking the job up very quickly and is now a valuable asset to the Preston depot as well as being a thoroughly nice guy and great team player.”

John had been an Assault Pioneer in the Royal Logistical Corps – a trained infantry soldier who could also build fortifications or even blow them up with explosives, if necessary.

He served in Bosnia and two tours in Afghanistan at the height of the conflict there.

Back in the UK, he spent two years at one of the British Army’s main munitions sites recreating the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by insurgents in Afghanistan and

Iraq so bomb disposal officers could learn how to diffuse them. 

After leaving the Army as a lance corporal in 2010, John worked as a plumbing salesman, he ran his own audio systems business for five years, and worked in a tool hire company, before joining Lanes.

Along the way, he has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) triggered by his experiences in the Army. Some close friends were killed in Afghanistan.

He has been well supported by his partner, Shell, a nurse. They met when John joined a running club in 2016, the Blackburn Road Runners.

Since then, they’ve both run many long-distances races together, including marathons. John has run 10 of them in five years, with a best time of 3 hours and 36 minutes.

He is now looking to the long-term with his new career at Lanes as well. John says: “During the job application process I looked at the Lanes careers pages and read about the experiences of people who worked there, and was impressed with what I saw.

“That encouraged me to apply and I haven’t been disappointed by my own experience of Lanes or the job. It’s very interesting work and we work as a team together, making use of each other’s strengths.

“There are some early starts on some mornings. But not too early. And if you work over normal hours you get paid for them, which is something I couldn’t say about running my own business.

“Also, to be honest, you don’t see as much poo as you think. If you really don’t like the occasional bad smell perhaps being a drainage engineer isn’t for you. But that’s only part of the job. A jet vac tanker can suck up a lot of other stuff as well!”

So, highlights of the job so far – four months in? One was one of the first times he drove his jet vac tanker back to the depot from a job.

“I was in Workington and the route back to Preston took me through the Lake District,” says John. “Being in control of your own jet vac tanker and enjoying the scenery was a good feeling. I thought, I could get used to this.”

We provide all of our valued employees with a range of rewards and benefits, including training opportunities, health schemes, pension options and childcare support.
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At Lanes, we deliver industry-leading training courses and programmes to help our staff do the best job they can, while developing their skills over the span of their careers.
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We offer a diverse range of roles and opportunities in locations across the UK, and applying for them is as easy as filling out our online application form.
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Working at Lanes can be rewarding and fulfilling, but you don’t have to take our word for it - we’ve asked some our staff to share their stories of what it’s really like to work here.
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17 Parkside Lane, Parkside Industrial Estate, Leeds, LS11 5TD

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01753 254001


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