Vacuum Excavation Applications – Going Beyond Utility Work

Since the introduction of hydro and air vacuum excavation equipment, utility applications like potholing and cleaning up horizontal directional drilling (HDD) slurry have been a natural fit for these machines. However, there are many industries using vacuum excavators to replace more labor-intensive and inefficient methods of working. Vacuum excavators aren’t just for utility work anymore.

Vermeer MV Solution vacuum excavators have a wide range of applications, many of which don’t even involve excavating, such as cleaning to reshaping sand traps at golf courses. Here’s a look at a few of the industries using hydro and air vacuum excavator equipment.

Municipal work

Many cities employ large vac trucks to maintain networks of sewer systems, but public works departments sometimes need smaller and more nimble vacuum excavators to help out and allow crews to work in more places at one time. Municipalities are adding hydro and air vac systems to excavate for poles and signs, aid with water line repairs, exercise water valves and jet sewer pipes.

“Cities, counties and state entities are always discovering new ways to use vac systems,” said Brian Showley, director of sales for Vermeer MV Solutions. “Beyond some of the traditional applications, workers employ vacuum excavators to remove roots and debris around water meters and valves, and remove waste from storm drains, catch basins and culverts. High-pressure water wands help them with digging and cleaning. Air vacuum excavators are also excellent for pressure testing sewer lines.”


Industry plants are investing in vacuum excavators to help clean around the facility. “Vacuums aren’t new for cleaning at industrial plants,” explained Showley. “Facility managers used to have to employ service companies with big trucks to work during scheduled shutdowns. With smaller vacuum excavators, they can now make cleaning an ongoing effort, which has helped extend the intervals between scheduled shutdowns.”

Vac systems are also widely used to remove debris from drains in wash bays and car washes. “These drains tend to get plugged up with mud, grease and waste oil while cleaning dirty equipment, and doing the work with a shovel is a job no one wants,” said Showley. “Vacuum excavators do a better job in a fraction of the time.”


Vacuum excavators are finding a home in agriculture doing projects like installing fencing to cleaning up grain bins and animal stalls. Using a high-powered digging wand and suction hose can reduce the time it takes to set fence posts. Also, when fencing is being done in areas that share the right of way with buried utilities, vacuum excavation is a safe way to avoid damaging the utilities.

Vac systems can also help maintain a safe working environment while cleaning grain bins. Traditional cleaning methods produce high levels of airborne dust. Vacuum excavator filtration systems do an excellent job of containing that dust and limiting a worker’s exposure.

Of course, suctioning dry material isn’t the only cleaning that vacs excel at. From equestrians to zookeepers, vacuum excavators are being used to sanitarily clean animal stalls. According to Showley, having an all-in-one cleaning system saves a lot of time. “Bedding and waste used to have to be manually removed from a stall or with a small loader and then hauled away before pressure washing the area — there can be a lot of trips involved,” he explained. “With hydro-vacs, workers suction up everything with the debris hose and have a high-pressure washer right there to spray everything down and then collect all of the loose material and water in one step.”


There are also a few niche landscaping applications that vacuum excavators are being used for. Contractors are renting them to remove old mulch or rock around flowerbeds, parks and around buildings, as well as to dig holes for fence posts and footings for signs. Vacs are also being used at large cemeteries for setting headstones.


It’s also worth noting that vacuum excavators aren’t just being used to do utility work in the construction industry. Utility strikes are a common concern for every contractor working near buried lines. And anytime new subdivisions are being constructed, vacuum excavators are an excellent addition to help with sewer and drainage work.

There are a ton of applications where using a vacuum excavator can improve efficiencies while maintaining a safe working environment.

To learn more about vacuum excavation or to demo a vacuum excavator for yourself, contact your local Vermeer MV Solutions dealer.