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What Is Hydro Excavation?

by TRUVAC Team, on Sep 23, 2021 3:21:48 PM

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Precise digging is a key benefit of this method

Before digging on any job, it is critical to call 811 to locate service lines underground.

“If you accidentally strike something, you can cause a significant interruption of services for a lot of people,” said Cory Schueller, product manager of TRUVAC/Guzzler.

These issues happen far too often — a utility line gets hit every six minutes in the United States, according to the Common Ground Alliance. 

There is a better way. When digging near critical infrastructure or excavating small spaces, vacuum excavation can make work safer and more efficient. Let’s start with the basics. 

How does vacuum excavation work?

Vacuum excavation involves digging a hole using high-pressure water or air. A high-powered vacuum system then sucks up the spoils into a debris body, which acts like a storage tank. 

Typically, all equipment for digging, vacuuming and storing the excavated material is mounted on a truck, such as the TRUVAC Paradigm. On TRUVAC trucks, the chassis’ engine powers every function. 

While it may take longer, the vacuum excavation process is safer and more precise than using the tough, metal bucket of a backhoe.

“With a backhoe,” Schueller said, “there is more disruption to the area surrounding the dig site and a greater likelihood of hitting underground utilities.”

Who should use vacuum excavation?

Anyone who needs to dig precise holes can benefit from using vacuum excavation, Schueller said — from utility crews to landscapers to construction companies. Drillers use vacuum excavation trucks in large, open oil fields, and utility companies use them in tight spaces like residential areas.  

The precision of this method is especially useful in residential areas. Consider a recent sewer job in a Joliet, Illinois, residential neighborhood. Rather than disturbing landscaping and lawns adjacent to these homes, the crew was able to dig a 1-foot-square hole, 9 feet deep, while using a vacuum excavation truck. 

“It's a very small footprint,” Schueller said of the process. “It’s minimally destructive, and it leaves vegetation intact. After we were done, you’d have no clue that we were there.”

There are some key differences between using air and water in vacuum excavation. 

What is hydro vacuum excavation?

Hydro vacuum excavation uses water to loosen up dirt and dig a hole. It is faster than using air because liquid can cut more easily through earth. There is even an option to use heated water to cut through clay or frozen soil. Importantly, the hydro method is just as safe when working around utility lines.  

There is one potential drawback to using water. Disposing of the wet dirt mixture can be a challenge because it is considered hazardous waste in some places and will need to be offloaded in designated areas.

What is air vacuum excavation?

When using air to dig, you can return the dirt to the ground after it has been vacuumed up. Air excavation is most commonly used for lighter materials such as sand. Some states/areas require air to dig and will not allow water digging.

A range of trucks for many applications

Ready for a vacuum excavation truck? TRUVAC trucks hold from 300 to 1,200 gallons of water and offer a range of capabilities for many applications and situations. 

When deciding which type of truck is right for the work you need to do, consider where you’ll be driving to reach the excavation site. The bigger the truck, the larger the turning radius and the wider the streets it needs.

“When you're out in the oil fields, you can have a ‘big, bad’ truck because you have plenty of room to turn,” Schueller said. “If, for example, you’re working in downtown Chicago, a smaller truck is easier to navigate through city streets and alleys.”

An essential feature on TRUVAC trucks of all sizes is the boom. On the Joliet, Illinois, job, where the crew was digging in a homeowner’s yard, the boom proved its usefulness. There was no need to drive a truck onto the lawn. The crew was able to park on the street and extend the boom to reach the work site. 

Now that you are armed with the answer to what is hydro excavation, let TRUVAC help you find the perfect truck for the job you need to do.

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Topics:Safe diggingnon-destructive diggingHydroexcavationwhat is hydro excavationvacuum excavationhow does vacuum excavation workwhat is hydro vacuum excavation