Vacuum Excavation Continues to Infiltrate the Drain Cleaning World

Manufacturers of equipment like vacuum excavators and directional drills are expanding the types of companies they try to reach as drain cleaning contractors grow beyond their typical tools of the trade

Vacuum Excavation Continues to Infiltrate the Drain Cleaning World

Shows like the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show in Indianapolis, historically devoted to drain cleaning, portable restrooms and septic trucks, now have more manufacturers featuring equipment like vacuum excavators and directional drills.

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Only a few years ago, companies like Ditch Witch wouldn’t have thought about bringing equipment like directional drills, trenchers and vacuum excavation trailers to a trade show devoted to drain cleaning, portable restrooms and septic trucks.

But the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show, being held this week in Indianapolis, has seen an uptick in that type of equipment hitting the show floor.

“The market has really changed over the last few years,” says Cory Maker, product manager for horizontal directional drills for Ditch Witch. “We’ve started bringing some more of our equipment because that is what we are seeing in the industry.”

Drain cleaning companies are finding that equipment like directional drills that can help install new laterals can also be used to install fiber optic lines as that boom continues, allowing their companies to expand. 

“It’s an easy area of growth for some of these companies,” Maker says. “They might already have some of the support equipment for it and they can go out and get a small $100,000 machine and be doing even more.”

Another change has been the onslaught of smaller vacuum excavators, which helps keep them road legal even when fully loaded. Vactor Manufacturing debuted its iMPACT combination sewer cleaner at the show. The Vactor iMPACT replaces the outgoing Vactor 2013 and has a compact design that allows it to maneuver more easily through tight spaces. The truck also does not require a CDL license to operate it.

“That makes it even more attractive to contractors who are finding it hard to find employees that have CDL licenses or are willing to get them,” says Josh Malmassari, product manager for Vactor. “With this machine, anyone on your staff can get in and drive it.”

Vermeer was highlighting a larger new addition to its fleet at the show — the XR2, which initially debuted at ICUEE in October. The vacuum excavator has a material separator built in. The XR2 isn’t expected to hit the market until 2021, but company officials are seeing some good reaction from contractors checking it out at various shows.

At WWETT, Vermeer also announced a minority equity investment and distribution agreement with Vacuum X-Traction Products (VXP). VXP will supply a series of Vermeer-branded, high-capacity, truck-mounted vacuum excavators to be sold exclusively through Vermeer industrial dealers. Vermeer and VXP were debuting the Vermeer-branded VXT500 at the show. The VXT500 is an 8-inch vac with an 8-yard spoil tank capacity. It is ideal for utility applications where a higher capacity machine with a smaller footprint is desired. 

The lineup of trucks will also include the VXP-600D with a “detachable box.” The roll-off tank allows an operator to leave the tank at a dump site if they need it verified and not have to leave the entire truck. 

“Instead of leaving a big truck parked and not making money, the contractor can just leave the tank until it is verified and go back to the shop, get a new tank and continue to work,” says Adam Bates, product manager of the underground segment for Vermeer. 

Contractors are excited about continued equipment evolutions.

“Changes are happening and if we don't keep up with those changes, your company will fall behind,” says Will Breill, a drain cleaner and vacuum excavation contractor in Florida. “That’s why coming to these shows is so important. It’s a way to see what is new out there, what is coming, and how that can help your company.”

Breill says his company just added vacuum excavation three years ago and is now exploring expanding into directional drilling.

“There’s been a big push toward underground utilities around here and those machines would be good for that, but also for my drain cleaning side doing new pipe installations and replacements,” Breill says. “So I’ve been looking at some of that stuff just to see what is out there and how it would benefit me.”


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