Vacuum excavation growing in popularity and awareness
TRUVAC brand of trucks, manufactured by Vactor, designed to set vacuum excavators apart from other machines and meet growing needs of contractors working around buried utilities
Vacuum trucks have been a part of the sewer and water maintenance scene for quite some time, offering contractors a powerful approach to sewer cleaning and other similar tasks that could otherwise be challenging.
However, that use has in some ways overshadowed the other use of vacuum trucks for excavation work. With buried infrastructure being installed or replaced every day, traditional methods of excavation such as hydraulic excavators may not be able to effectively and safely dig without causing potential damage, so vacuum excavation is becoming more popular.
With that growth in interest, one of the key manufacturers in the sector is expanding its brand with hopes of increasing awareness as to the benefits of vacuum excavation.
"The vacuum excavation industry in general is still pretty much in its infancy - there's plenty of growth opportunity left. Regulations are changing and new laws are being passed, it seems like every day, regarding safe digging initiatives," said Nick Bruhn, product manager with TRUVAC, a newly established brand within Vactor Manufacturing.
Bryan Blankenship, director of TRUVAC, said that some regions have begun to recognize the potential of vacuum excavation for improved safety, noting that the province of Ontario has been recognized as a leader in safe digging practices for some time.
"[Canada has been more progressive than the U.S. in the acceptance of safe digging practices]; however, OSHA has recently refocused on safe digging practices within the tolerance zone [the area nearest a buried utility] and the acceptance of vacuum excavation - safe digging and trench safety have become focuses for them," Blankenship said. "In addition, there's been a major investment made by utility companies as well as municipalities and private companies regarding one-call services . . . they're making it very visible, not only within business networks but also within the private sector, even for people who are putting a tree in their backyard. Hydro excavation is the best way to dig within the tolerance zone to locate those buried utilities."
Growth drives new branding
That growth is one reason behind the launch of the TRUVAC brand at present - to help expand the market for vacuum excavators and educate the market on their benefits. That has been a challenge previously thanks to the prevailing consideration that vacuum trucks are mostly focused on sewer cleaning, a perception that Blankenship said needs to change.
"Much like the Kleenex or the Q-Tip, the brand name Vactor has become synonymous with the actual item itself. People may ask for a Bobcat, but they often just mean a skid-steer - they're not necessarily asking for the brand," he said. Many times we'd talk to customers or just in general about Vactor and people would say ‘are you talking about the hydro excavator or the sewer cleaner'? It began to dawn on us that we needed a product that can stand on its own two feet, but still be tied to more than 100 years of history and carry the same quality, productivity, engineering and dedication to customers."
So, just as with the Guzzler and Vactor brands themselves, TRUVAC has been created to provide customers with a product line specifically targeted to the vacuum excavation industry, leaving Vactor-branded trucks for the sewer cleaning sector and Guzzler to manage industrial cleaning work.
"We needed to differentiate our product offerings and show not only the market but also our internal employees and ourselves that, while the vacuum excavation business is still in its infancy, it is an important business for us because the customer base is important and the growth is important," he said. "We felt we needed a dedicated product line or brand as well as a dedicated group of people internally who are focused on this."
The new brand will feature product lines including the Paradigm sub-compact vacuum excavator, the Prodigy machine which provides power in a smaller footprint, and the HXX series of full-sized vacuum excavators for the biggest digging projects. It will also benefit from a broad and capable dealer network across North America, Blankenship noted.
"Our dealer network is very strong - they have high capability of after-sales service and support to our customers, they feature 24-hour-a-day road service, they have local parts inventories, and they have local factory-trained technicians that are on call to help users and get you up and running as quick as possible," he said. "That's a huge difference for us, because in the municipal sewer business, uptime is important but the customer sense of urgency is a little less than in the commercial construction business. In construction, when you're called on, you have to perform now - if you don't, someone else will. That dealer network is what assures us of maximum uptime and satisfaction for our customers."
Separating business sectors means TRUVAC can focus in on technology improvements as well, Bruhn noted. The company's DigRight water system, for example, adds safety through using pre-defined water pressure settings that won't change despite the water nozzle being used.
"For example, without DigRight, when you put a very large nozzle and set your pressure . . . if you take that nozzle off and switch to one half that size, you can easily increase your pressure without changing any of the pump systems," Bruhn said. "You physically have to go back to the truck and mess with dials and valves to figure out what you need. If you don't do that you run water through relief valves, and your chassis is taking up more power, adding unnecessary wear and tear on components . . . most importantly, you can be unsafe if you exceed the site pressures."
DigRight controls and commands the system to ensure the user receives exactly the right pressure in the right place, Bruhn described. TRUVAC trucks also include such safety systems as non-destructive emergency stops at each point in which operators interface with the truck - pushing the button discharges the system, but doesn't cause damage to the components.
Customers have expressed approval of the new brand and truck design, Blankenship said.
"The look of the machine is by design - it's meant to be something you're proud of, something you would park in front of your house and say ‘that's my truck,'" he said. "The customers like that because it makes them look good - and the reaction from the customer base and our dealers has been outstanding."
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