Vacuum Excavation Business Is Booming

Consider specific needs and demand when selecting the right excavating system

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Vacuum Excavation Business Is Booming

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Vacuum excavation has seen a surge in the last half decade as contractors across different construction and utility sectors apply the efficiency and operational benefits of vacuum excavators to different types of job sites.

Some of the earliest vacuum excavation applications date back to the use of hydroexcavation — high-pressure water for breaking up soil and fragmented rock — in the mining industry in the late 19th century. Flash forward a century or so, when Vermeer Corporation acquired McLaughlin Group and Vac-Tron Equipment forming the new Vermeer MV Solutions brand in 2018. The acquisition means Vermeer dealers now offers a full line of vacuum excavators — including a line of high-capacity truck-mounted vacuum excavators introduced in February 2020 through Vacuum X-Traction Products — building on the existing availability of Vac-Tron and McLaughlin machines and providing even more options to deliver new levels of efficiency and productivity to excavation job sites around the world. 

Meeting the needs of a growing marketplace

Why vacuum excavators? Simply put, demand is booming. In the last four years alone, the marketplace has grown by just over 94% as contractors experience the efficiency benefits of vacuum excavation compared to other digging and trenching methods. And as demand grows for underground pipeline installations, vacuum-based systems help contractors avoid an increasingly common problem with other types of excavators, according to Brian Showley, sales director for Vermeer MV Solutions.

“Utility strikes have become a major concern for any contractor, especially as more utility lines have been moving to underground installation. Vacuum excavation systems help contractors pothole so they can avoid these strikes,” Showley says. “Using vacuum systems is one way to conduct ‘soft excavation’ with no striking shovels or backhoes involved. Using vacuum systems helps eliminate a lot of the abrupt impacts that can lead to dangerous utility strikes.”

But every project is different in its required power, excavation and fluid capacity to complete the job at hand. Given the general increase in demand and growing range of jobs on which contractors are using the systems, Vermeer offers a full line of excavators through the McLaughlin and Vac-Tron series ranging from 100-gallon trailer-based systems to the new Vermeer XR2 vacuum excavator that has a 1,500-gallon fluid capacity and offers the industry’s first integrated shaker deck to separate liquids and solids.

Trailer-based systems

There are many trailer-based models that range from 100 to 1,200 gallons of fluid capacity, offer 3- to 5-inch hoses and move material at a rate of 580 to 1,200 cubic feet per minute. Trailer-based models, such as the Vac-Tron LP series, are best suited to utility and pipeline contractors locating and potholing utility lines ahead of horizontal directional drilling, trenching or other digging crews.

“Trailer vacs are really popular with HDD contractors, but it’s a major growth area for other applications whether they involve potholing or not,” Showley says. “Operators can add accessories like hydraulic booms, strong arms and jetters to add to the utility of these machines so they can efficiently take on a wider variety of jobs.”

Vacuum excavation trucks

Contractors with greater fluid capacity needs and who work on jobs beyond basic excavation are better matched with vacuum excavation trucks. Still a good fit for utility and pipeline contractors, truck systems can conduct locating and mud management work ahead of pipeline jobs but are also deployed in industrial facilities and by environmental construction companies for cleanup projects. Truck vacuum excavators are available in a wide range of sizes and capacities for every application; fluid capacities range from 800 gallons to 3,000 gallons at velocities of 1,000 cubic feet per minute to 6,400 cubic feet per minute of vacuum and a vacuum hose size range from 5 inches to 8 inches.

Truck-mounted systems, like the MEGA Vac series, are typically used more often by companies with crews dedicated specifically to vacuum excavation and mud management.

A new level of performance

To help better meet the marketplace’s growing needs, Vermeer has introduced the XR2 vacuum excavator. The truck-mounted unit that’s slated for customer availability later this year is the first on the market to offer an onboard shaker deck to separate solids from liquids once material has decelerated through an airlock. This enables operators to reclaim downhole fluid while the dry material is separated and discharged on site.

“The patented system enables the operator to take more water to the job site, stay on site longer and separate the solids from liquid, leaving stackable solids at the job site,” Showley says. “This helps solve the problem of lost time on the road to dispose of material as well as the high dumping costs for slurry-type materials.”

Meeting growing demand

With the establishment of a distribution partnership with Vacuum X-Traction Products, Vermeer has continued its trend of aligning with respected names, now to deliver the dependability and durability to which Vermeer customers have become accustomed in the vacuum excavation industry. The full range of vacuum excavators — from the smaller trailer-mounted machines to the large-capacity, high-performance truck units — as well as all components, parts and maintenance services are available from the Vermeer dealer network.

“The full lineup of vacuum excavators offers many industry firsts and leading innovations, while offering the durability and dealer support that Vermeer customers have come to expect,” Showley says. “We believe there is not a dealer network that can provide and support a full lineup of vacuum excavators like Vermeer can now, and we look forward to strengthening relationships with existing customers and building relationships with new ones.”

Learn more about Vermeer MV Solutions by visiting or contacting your local Vermeer dealer.


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