Smaller Hydrovac Units Allow Customer to Take on City Jobs with Ease

City suitable trucks, social media marketing trigger quick expansion for Toronto company.

Smaller Hydrovac Units Allow Customer to Take on City Jobs with Ease

The team at Torovac includes, from left, Bruno Cornacchia and David McGill, operators; Kristal Rotundo, Frank Rotundo and Bento Soares, co-owners; and Jonathan Andrade, operator.

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When Frank Rotundo established his hydroexcavation company, Torovac Services, about two years ago, he had no grand plans in mind for explosive growth.

“At first, I just thought it would be a one-truck thing,” he says. “I didn’t think hydroexcavating would be so popular. I figured I would just buy myself a job and work for myself.”

But now the company — based in Toronto, Ontario, and co-owned by Rotundo, his wife Kristal, and his father-in-law, Bento Soares — owns four Rival T10 hydrovac trucks. And Rotundo, 37, a 15-year-veteran in the hydroexcavation industry, plans to invest in another one later this year.

“My initial plans have changed quite a bit,” he says.

The primary reasons for the company’s exponential growth in slightly less than two years? A fleet of Rival “street-legal” hydroexcavating trucks that are small enough to maneuver in congested urban areas yet still big enough to carry heavy payloads, a crew of experienced and skilled operators and a marketing campaign primarily based on social media and an eye-catching logo.

In fact, the company’s branding efforts — an Instagram-led campaign Rotundo’s wife, Kristal, leads — is so effective that she constantly receives requests for Torovac-branded gear, featuring the city of Toronto skyline, from people around the world.

“We also see random people walking around the city with Torovac hats on,” she says. “It’s pretty cool.”

BUILDING PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS

In short, Torovac — shorthand for Toronto vacuuming — isn’t a conventional hydroexcavation company.

“We’re definitely not your typical construction company,” Kristal says. “I show up on job sites to bring treats to the crew. We have a very personal connection to the company.

“We also have very personal connections with customers,” she continues. “We don’t just send our trucks out to job sites. We go there, too, and interact with customers. I think it’s invaluable for customers to see us face-to-face.

“It shows we care,” she adds. “I know it might sound corny, but it’s working.”

That personal connection with customers also carries over into the couple’s relationship with their employees. “We literally treat them like family,” Kristal says. “We hold parties for them and we have them over for dinner. Our two sons know our operators very well.”

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE 

Frank started working as a hydrovac truck operator in 2005 and honed his experience and skills while working for several different companies. In 2016, he was hired by a company that used hydrovac trucks built by Rival, and he soon was sold on their reliability and maneuverability.

When a company he was working for in 2018 went bankrupt, Frank had to recalibrate his career plans. And with the encouragement and support from his father-in-law, they formed Torovac.

Early on, the company benefited from Frank’s extensive network of contacts established during his years in the industry.

It also helped that he decided to make the greater Toronto area the company’s primary market. That made it easier to attract skilled drivers because most competitors are on the city’s outskirts, which means operators might spend 2 to 2-1/2 hours a day commuting to work.

“That was the meal ticket right there — working close to home,” he says. “It’s a huge advantage for our operators and a big benefit to our customers, too.”

The company’s primary customers are utilities and municipalities that need underground lines exposed and telecommunications companies that also need lines “daylighted” and located, he says.

 MANEUVERABLE MARKETING MACHINES

The tandem-axle Rival T10 trucks, built on Western Star chassis, are designed for urban work. They weigh less and feature a smaller footprint than many conventional hydrovac trucks.

Furthermore, a drop-axle helps distribute weight more evenly, which minimizes wear-and-tear on roads and highways and helps operators avoid weight-restriction violations, which carry heavy fines in Canada. (In Canadian parlance, the drop-axle makes the trucks SPIF vehicles — Safe, Productive and Infrastructure-Friendly.)

Built on Western Star chassis, the trucks feature 10-cubic-yard debris tanks; 1,200-gallon water tanks; Robuschi-Gardner Denver blowers (3,850 cfm); Pratissoli (a brand owned by Interpump Group S.p.A.) water pumps (10 gpm at 3,000 psi); a hydraulic hoist for easier dumping; and a 25-foot-long boom (when fully extended) that can rotate up to 340 degrees.

The trucks also serve as giant and flashy marketing tools. They feature a bold yellow-and-black color scheme that bolsters brand recognition and vinyl wraps featuring the company’s distinctive Toronto-skyline logo.

“Most trucks around here are basic white, which makes it hard to tell one company from another,” Kristal explains. “But our trucks look so cool that it’s not unusual for people to take pictures of them as they drive past. Our trucks driving down the streets are a huge marketing tool.”

EFFECTIVE SOCIAL MEDIA 

Instagram usually isn’t a conventional marketing tool for hydroexcavation companies, but Kristal is doing her part to change that. What started as just a fun way to document the company’s growth has evolved into a full-blown marketing mechanism that boosts brand recognition and generates service calls, she says.

“Social media has really helped us get the word out about our services,” she says. “People message me about jobs all the time, which is shocking in this industry.”

The company has nearly 750 followers on its Instagram account, which is pretty impressive for a hydroexcavation company, she notes.

“And I don’t even promote it,” she points out. “We have that many followers just from people finding us on their own. I honestly started posting on Instagram to document the company’s story for our sons,” she continues. “I never saw it as a marketing tool. But it just blew up from there, which I never expected.”

Better yet, Instagram costs nothing but the time she spends taking and posting photos, she notes.

Kristal believes social media will become a more accepted form of marketing in the industry as younger company owners slowly replace the preceding generation.

“This trend will grow because that’s all we (young people) know,” she says. “Social media is how we communicate and how we get things done. And it’s not that complicated to learn how to do.”

TAKING A BREATHER 

The Rotundos say they’ve enjoyed the company’s surprisingly rapid growth. And they see continued growth on the horizon.

In the long term, Frank envisions eventually investing in a horizontal directional drilling machine, which would add a complementary service that goes hand in hand with hydroexcavation. “That would make us a turnkey operation,” he says.

Frank also would eventually like to own nine or 10 hydrovac trucks.

But the couple also is wary about overextending company resources and losing control over quality, which in turn can decrease customer satisfaction. So instead of aggressively pursuing further growth, they’re currently content to take a break and instead focus on refining internal processes.

“We want to play it smart,” Kristal says. “We would like to add a fifth truck, but we really haven’t been open all that long. So we want to make sure our four existing trucks are working steadily before we expand further,” she continues. “We also want to take enough time to find the right operators — people we can confidently put out there and who will represent our company as well as we do. That’s a lot harder to do when you’re growing too fast.” 



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