If you’ve never seen a hydro vac truck in action before, you may be wondering: what is hydro vacuum excavation?

In the construction, utility, and excavation world – a hydro excavation truck or hydro-vac system is one of the most popular tools for accessing areas underground. Here’s why. 

Hydro excavation has revolutionised how we dig

In a world where the new frontiers are underground, the tools we use to get there must reflect the needs of industries as they evolve. Today, that means getting underground quickly, efficiently, and with precision to fulfil a variety of tasks beneath the surface. With better soil/dirt removal capabilities, lower environmental impact and easier deployment to the job site, Vermeer hydro vacuum excavation trucks are increasingly becoming the preferred method of excavation.

What is Hydro excavation exactly?

Hydro excavation is the process of excavating the ground using high-pressure water that cuts the ground –  which can then be sucked up into a tank for storage. As the ground is vacuumed out – hydro excavation trucks expose areas beneath the ground, allowing workers to access important underground utilities like water, gas, and electricity. 

What does the hydro excavation process work?

The process of digging via hydro excavation is vastly different from any other mechanical excavation styles. Here’s a simple rundown on how this system works:

  • A large onboard water tank is mounted on the vac truck – this holds a supply of water used to form the pressurised spray.
  • A powerful pump delivers high pressure water with thousands of PSI through the nozzle where the high pressure loosens hard earth .
  • A boom system fitted with a suction hose is lowered to the dig site –  an industrial strength vacuum blower draws the spoil directly back into the truck’s debris tank.
  • Usually, two operators are required to facilitate both the high-pressure excavation and another to operate the vacuum system. 

What is Hydrovac used for?

A hydro vac system is used in multiple settings from construction sites, to public areas and mine sites to access underground assets, for slot trenching, potholing, and for precision or tight-space excavation. Normally, hydro vac trucks attend locations where new cables or pipelines need to be installed, updated, or inspected. Hydro excavation systems are also extremely effective in spoil removal, especially where it would be dangerous to do so using traditional digging methods. 

Benefits of Hydro excavation

Digging underground has always been at the centre of building modern interconnected cities, but how this is done has been changing as new and more effective tools are invented. Hydro excavation is one of the more innovative ways of accessing underground spaces. 

The benefits compared to traditional digging methods are many-fold:

Non-invasive digging

Hydro vac trucks minimise damage caused by their operations because the pressurised water doesn’t impact existing infrastructure like pipes, cables and other underground services.

Fast and efficient

Hydro excavation methods can quickly and easily be deployed to any job site without the normal digging permits required on traditional digging jobs. This translates into faster excavations, and better bottom lines.

Controlled/Precision excavation – compared to traditional methods, hydro excavation is far more accurate in its digging process – making it ideal for more complex tasks.

Safe and secure

Hydro vacuum excavation is safer because it doesn’t impact the utilities and potential hazards beneath the ground, making it a preferred excavation technique for unknown job sites. This greatly reduces the risk involved with excavating subsurface utilities, navigating tree roots, and avoiding damage to electrical cables.


The easy positioning of a vacuum excavator truck makes the process highly applicable for complex building sites where a fence or structure prevents the vac truck from accessing the site directly. Being able to access tight and compact building spaces makes vacuum excavation one of the more useful tools on a job site. 

Low impact and environmentally sustainable 

These days, having a solution that preserves the local environment, habitat, and surroundings is a must. Compared to more traditional digging processes where large amounts of earth are moved from A to B, the vacuum excavator system uses precision accuracy to deliver targeted, low-impact, non destructive digging solutions to any job site. This protects local habitats, flora, and fauna by concentrating the digging and eliminating destructive piles of earth. 

How deep can you Hydrovac?

The depths that hydro excavators can excavate depend on the kind of system you’re running. Larger and more powerful vacuum trucks can excavate up to a depth of 20 metres. Custom-designed systems may even push deeper. Ultimately it depends on the vacuum system used to haul the spoil back up into the tank. 

Need a hydro vacuum excavator? Talk to the experts

If you’re a utility contractor, local supplier, or anything in between, finding the right vacuum excavation equipment can be a difficult process. Here at Vermeer WA & NT, we supply high-quality vacuum excavation trucks to our community of dealers, contractors, and building firms, and we know a thing or two about vac trucks. 

Thinking of expanding your underground capability? Give us a call, our qualified sales team will be happy to walk you through our range. 

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