Vacuum Excavation: A Proud Past, A Critical Future

The market for vacuum excavation is expanding in all directions thanks to its versatility

This content is sponsored by Ditch Witch. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of COLE Publishing. View our privacy policy.
Vacuum Excavation: A Proud Past, A Critical Future
Jason Proctor, Ditch Witch product manager, vacuum excavation

Interested in Drilling?

Get Drilling articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Drilling + Get Alerts

Vacuum excavation has long been an essential practice on job sites across the globe. Every underground construction operator, large or small, seeks to keep crews safe and projects profitable. In a modern, competitive industry, finding the right machine to balance these needs can be difficult.

From damage prevention to fluid cleanup on horizontal directional drilling projects, vacuum excavation saves operators time and helps improve safety. Understanding the transformative history of these machines will arm today’s contractors with an appreciation for the technology and provide insight into how they’re transforming today’s underground construction industry.

The history of vacuum excavation stems from the use of hydroexcavation as far back as the late 1800s, when pressurized water flow was used for mining purposes in the United States. Breaking up soil through pressurized water created a cleaner and safer way to dig. From there, hydroexcavation expanded as a method used on underground construction sites throughout most of Canada and the United States.

At the turn of the 21st century, the demand for vacuum excavation led to new designs focused on improving performance on a variety of job sites. Reduced noise, for example, supported the excavators’ growing use in residential neighborhood projects. Innovations within nozzle technology focus on increasing digging capability while reducing damage to underground utilities. Larger tank capacities kept machines on job sites longer and provided greater hauling capacity, improving contractor profitability. For example, some municipal operators improved time savings by nearly 50 percent with larger tank sizes.

Additionally, the machines evolved to fit smaller job site needs as well. Compact units featuring smaller tanks improved ease of use and maneuverability in tight work areas while other, larger models kept operators productive on bigger, more time-intensive projects. 

Beyond mechanical updates, today air excavation has found a new prominence. For years, many contractors dismissed the effectiveness of air excavation. Due to the increased time and costs savings from not having to dispose of spoils, the productivity and efficiency of air excavation has proved significant for many operators. Unlike hydroexcavation, which requires access to water, air excavation keeps machines running and operators profitable without costly trips to acquire water or dispose of spoils.

The market for vacuum excavation is expanding in all directions. Every unique need has a solution thanks to the versatility of these machines and advancements in newer technology. As more vacuum excavators are used for damage prevention and utility location around the United States, market demand is accelerating the need for these machines. And as fiber build-out and utility expansion continues, vacuum excavators will play an integral role in uncovering, digging and cleaning up these jobs.

For more information on the suite of Ditch Witch vacuum excavators, visit


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.