Vacuum excavators are the often unsung hero of the trenchless technology world, quickly and effectively moving soil when needed so that horizontal directional drilling can take place.
But now, local governments across Australia and New Zealand are discovering a multitude of uses for vacuum excavators.
For the uninitiated, vacuum excavation, also known as non-destructive digging or hydro excavation, is a modern alternative to traditional excavation. By combining high-pressure water with an air vacuum, vacuum excavators can remove significant amounts of earth with minimal damage.
Vacuum excavators started as support machines for horizontal drilling operations, locating existing buried utilities prior to drilling and managing the drilling slurry. This role continues to gain prominence as the network of underground assets expands, particularly with the advent of the National Broadband Network and buried distribution power lines.
However, a range of uses beyond the traditional trenchless market are ensuring that councils which invest in a vacuum excavator have their machine in constant use – making it a valuable addition to the fleet.
These versatile tools excel in applications that range from digging around utilities to efficiently excavating small holes, cleaning up storm drains, assisting with water main breaks and much more. The vacuum excavator can be used to replace more labour-intensive and inefficient methods of working.
“In Australia and New Zealand, communities are becoming less tolerant of works that impinge on their daily lives. They expect local governments and contractors to utilise construction methods that reduce the area required to carry out any works,” says Jeff Lawson, Vermeer Australia’s General Manager of Sales.
“They also expect their local government to employ construction methods that are sustainable and minimise the damage caused to the surrounding environment.
“We’re also finding that councils are becoming more aware of the potential safety risks that come with digging trenches, or excavating close to dangerous environments like busy roads. They are looking for automated solutions which keep their employees out of harm’s way, and vacuum excavators are just one example of this.”
Non-destructive digging helps protect sensitive environments
Vacuum excavators are becoming the preferred method to excavate in many applications where existing infrastructure exists. Excavating footings for poles, signs and fence posts has become common.
One task that is often a challenge for councils is digging up and replacing existing utility poles that have either been damaged or exceeded their useful life. Using an excavator or backhoe to dig up the poles without disrupting surrounding utilities can present a difficult challenge. The vacuum excavator is well suited to this task. It can dig around the pole, even when buried utility lines are tied into the pole.
Vacuum excavation excels in digging tasks where either a small hole is required or there may be hidden infrastructure. Holes can be dug for new trees and stumps can be removed around existing utilities.
Vacuum excavation can also access tight spaces. It allows councils to dig short runs where a backhoe may struggle with access. Vacuum excavation also proves useful for removing roots and debris around water meters and valves.
Vacs clean up
Many of the applications for vacuum excavators don’t even involve digging. The vacuum technology can be used in clean-up operations and aid in water main repair.
When water mains break and a pump can’t keep up, vacuum excavators can handle the job. They also prove useful to exercise water valves and jet sewer pipes when properly equipped.
Vermeer manufactures a range of vacuum excavators which save time, labour and material handling costs. Whether it’s potholing for a fibre installation or supporting a HDD rig, Vermeer has the vacuum excavator for the task. With units ranging between 400 and 11,000 litre spoil tank capacity and the CFM to match, we have your vac ex requirements covered.
For more information visit Vermeer Australia.
Subscribe to Trenchless Australasia for the latest project and industry news.
This article appeared in the December edition of Trenchless Australasia. Access the digital copy of the magazine here.