The team at VAC DIG in Shepparton, Victoria, is achieving big things in manufacturing hydro excavation equipment - contributing to standardising the non-destructive excavation method.

VAC DIG engineer Luke Farrall with a finished hydro vacuum

Hydro excavation is the process of using high-pressure water to break up soil, whilst simultaneously vacuuming up the unwanted earth and water slurry into a debris tank.

The small team currently produces about six custom hydro vacuums a year - one of which was recently purchased by Tag Hire and used in a major Vic Rail project to install overhead pylons.

VAC DIG's engineers are able to tailor-make these units specifically to the client's exact needs - from the capacity of the water storage, vacuum pump and water pressure pump, to the type of steel and even the colour.

According to VAC DIG engineer Luke Farrall, the units are a cost-effective and high-quality system that delivers.

"Being a small team allows us to deliver exactly what a client wants from their hydro vacuum, meaning we don't have to put all the bells and whistles on like our competitors - simplifying the units keeps costs down for clients compared to an off-the-shelf product," Farrall said.

"No job is too big or small - the truck chassis arrives and we custom make every unit from there.

"We also source all our materials from local suppliers, bar the hydraulics, and the units are made here in Australia for Australian conditions - we're very proud every time we see a job go out of the door." 

Another point of difference of VAC DIG's hydro vacs is the diesel engine - a JCB DieselMax ranging from 108HP to 123HP is at the centre of the units, providing increased power at lower engine speeds, in comparison to other engines of the same size.

The use of a more powerful motor means the hydro vacs can run at 100% capacity, whereas others can only run at 80%.

"We use a bigger motor so you can drive the vacuum at full power, and run hydraulics and the pressure washer all at the same time," Farrall said.

"The size of the unit determines how many cubic feet per minute can be excavated, but the vacuum power doesn't decrease.

"Supplied by Power Equipment, the JCB DieselMax's robust design and heavy-duty structures make them perfect for the demanding hydro excavation applications."

Safety is also extremely important for VAC DIG - their control units on the hydro vacs are limited to six buttons, whereas many similar units have up to 16.

"This simplifies usability and prevents users from operating the tank and boom at the same time, increasing safety - the control system is idiot proof," Farrall said.

Farrall adds that hydro excavation's applications are almost limitless, and hydro vac systems continue to become the industry standard in power, rail and telecommunications industries, among others.

Hydro excavation has already become standard industry practice in NSW, where contractors are banned from using traditional excavators for services jobs.

"This will also soon be the case for Victoria, with most Melbourne utility companies already insisting on using hydro excavation to locate and expose their underground services, due to its minimally-destructive process," Farrall said.

"This is also the case with the National Broadband Network project, where contractors have been using hydro vacuums for cable location, and that's where it's really starting to take off now, because they have to locate the cables before they're allowed to dig a hole.

"Most now use hydro vacs to excavate as well, because it's pretty much non-destructive, and we're definitely going to see hydro excavation as the norm in Melbourne very soon."