Who to Hire for the Job?
When you hire a hydro excavation company you aren’t just buying a hole in the ground. You are buying a safe hole in the ground, and one created by a machine that may cost nearly half a million dollars, so it comes with a price tag. Even so, there are ways to make your budget dollar go further than you may have thought possible, as long as you make smart decisions.
Need hydro excavation?
Fourteen years ago there were probably 25-30 hydrovac trucks operating in the U.S. Today there are more than 500, and even more who say they can do hydrovac when they can’t. Hire someone with a hydro excavator. Don’t hire a guy with a sewer jetter or a water blaster or a vacuum truck with a pressure washer. Hire the guy who has the truck that was built for your application. You wouldn’t hire somebody to dig a hole and then hand him a rake. The job requires a shovel. We are talking about the same principle here. Use the right tool for the job. Hire a hydro excavator to expose underground utilities and put those other trucks on the jobs they were designed for. At the end of the day your jobsite will be safer, cleaner, dryer… and it will be cheaper.
News Flash: All hydrovac trucks and crews are not the same.
Even among trucks designed to be hydro excavators, there are differences. Does the truck have water pressure and water flow that can be dialed up or down depending on the soil conditions? This can be critical in excavating older and deteriorating underground lines. Does the truck have enough water and debris capacity to dig at least half a day without having to leave the jobsite to dump? Too much drive time off the job can cost you more than you think. In the winter, does the truck have a boiler on board to heat the water to a temperature that will melt frozen ground? If not, you will pay more than you need to for the excavation, guaranteed. Ask truck questions of your potential supplier and make sure you get clear and detailed answers before going to work.
Even more important than the truck is the crew running that truck.
Those two people (and don’t hire a hydro excavation company that sends a truck out with less than two people) are 75% of the secret to efficient, safe and productive hydro excavation services. If they are experienced, they know their truck and how to get the most out of it: water pressure, water flow, water nozzle design and configuration, nozzle orifice size, proper vacuum hose handling, water conservation (not using too much water for the job at hand). Every one of these factors is important.
Contrary to what you may have been told, it’s not about the hourly rate.
It’s actually about the cost of the specific amount of soil that was moved on your job. The cost should be calculated, or estimated, in dollars per cubic yard. If hydrovac Company A charges $300 per hour and removes two yards of soil in that hour, their actual cost is $150 per yard. If Company B only charges a “bargain” $200 per hour but moves only a yard of soil in that time, they seem drastically cheaper by the hour, but their actual cost is $200 per yard, so company A is a better deal because they are more efficient with your money. We see this discrepancy constantly, and it is the single biggest error that the customer makes when hiring a hydro excavation company; they overpay by tens of thousands of dollars sometimes, just because they never measure the actual productivity of their contractor. Find out how efficient your potential hydrovac contractor is before work starts, if possible. Ask for an estimate, or even a hard bid. Hold your service provider to his promises, and look beyond the hourly rate.
The Damage Prevention’s website posted this article and the following is reference to it:
Clark, Mike. “Hydro Excavation is Expensive” The Damage Prevention.
N.p., Winter 2014. Web.
Hydro Spy partners put their faith in the emerging Technology of hydroexcavation and quickly built a business with a multistate clientele…
Richard Young and partner Jose Santos developed Hydro Spy LLC with a business plan that saw the emergence of hydroexcavation as a major force.
Opening in January of 2009 with $50,000, a business plan, and a rented vacuum truck, the two put their combined 10 years of experience with the process and their managerial skills on the line as they promoted their company.
They attended business networking events in Texas and developed the website that now attracts 75 to 80 percent of their clientele. Along the way, Hydro Spy, based in Houston, has served customers in Texas, Colorado, Louisiana and Mississippi.
As they closed the books at the end of 2010 after 24 months of operation, they were awaiting the delivery of a 2010 GapVax hydroexcavator, bringing them closer to their business plan goals.
With four employees, the company has seen its client list grow. From doing jobs that lasted three or four days, they’ve grown into larger projects lasting three to four weeks. They have also snared a contract for standby hydroexcavation services with a major gas producer for utilities in several states.
Breaking the barrier
Neither man had special training in hydroexcavation when they hired on for construction jobs. Santos was 19 when he started. Young also wanted a paycheck after he tried unsuccessfully to make a career in writing and music. The two discovered their future in mud and worked their way up to management before becoming partners and going on their own.
Both saw potential for a business built entirely on hydroexcavation and its many applications. “We wanted to provide a service where the benefit to the client justified the cost,” Young says.
“That was our concept. We did research and found what had happened in Canada, where they use hydroexcavation whenever digging near utility lines. Our company believes we are in an emerging industry. We wanted to go for fast, quality service with referrals and repeat business.
“In my experience as an operations manager, I found that people had been searching on the Internet for this service. And still, a lot of contractors just don’t know about the process, but are running into situations where they would prefer not to dig.”
They shopped a business plan trying to get financing, building a model based on four trucks. “We didn’t envision a huge fleet because we anticipated others getting into the market, and this is a capital-heavy business,” Young says. “Trucks are expensive. You need to keep them working. You have to pay the note, the insurance, the personnel. If the work isn’t there, you still pay all those.”
Lenders liked the plan but did not come through with financing: They questioned why anyone would start a business in a recession. “People said we couldn’t get the money, and we wouldn’t get any work,” Young says. “We thought: Why not start out in a recession? Get your foot in.”
Hydro Spy started by targeting utilities, pipeline contractors, and refinery service contractors. However, clients now also include electrical contractors and others.
Determined, the partners gathered their funds and built a website that launched in June 2009. They also took part in Blue Book Showcases held in major cities, where contractors, subcontractors and suppliers meet under one roof and at no charge to offer their services to prospects. The Blue Book Building and Construction Network has been supporting the construction industry since 1913.
Through Showcase events in Houston and San Antonio, Young and Santos were surprised to find that of 100 contractors, only one or two knew about hydroexcavation. At one event, they generated more than $100,000 of work from one new client.
They had to educate potential clients on the benefits of hydroexcavation and provide data on their work backgrounds. They did one of their first jobs as a donation – which turned into a three-day job with pay.
Another call came on a Saturday at midnight: A customer needed an emergency job on Sunday morning. They researched the project overnight, showed up in the morning, did the job, and picked up a customer.
As a startup, Young and Santos took on some daunting projects. A utility company needed to locate some lines believed to be at least 50 feet deep. “It took us several probes, but we found the utility without ever opening up the ground,” says Young. “The lines were 54.7 feet deep.”
Even in building pipelines above ground, support piers must be constructed, requiring deep holes. If the location is restricted, Hydro Spy parks a GapVax hydroexcavator up to 400 feet from the site and extends the water and vacuum hoses.
Pulling it together
Launching the website gave the company a huge presence in the Houston arena. Young put his experience with websites to work and spent about four weeks on the effort, so that anyone searching for hydroexcavation would find Hydro Spy. “Our focus was on the right domain name and keywords to get us ahead of others who come into the region,” Young recalls.
In 85 percent of jobs, Hydro Spy is a subcontractor. In that role or as the prime contractor, the company strives for integrity and customer satisfaction. The website lists a service guarantee: If the customer is not happy, there is no charge.
“We are that confident in our ability to go out and do a great job,” Young says. “Our company knows how expensive the technology is. We want a client to know how hard we work to get a job done. We go over and beyond. This is why educating the client about the technology is critical. When we go on a job site, we brief them on the process and the scenario and what they want us to do. We want it to go smoothly.
“We explain that when we dig this hole, because of the ground conditions, there may be a need to insert a casing to keep the hole open. All is discussed ahead of time. The workers in the field need to know if there will be a casing in the hole. After we dig, we have 10 to 15 minutes to get a casing in, or it will cave in.
“On one job, the client’s workers left the site for lunch and were not there to take care of the casing, and there was a collapse. The owner was upset, but we said we would not charge him. In fact, he did insist on paying the bill.”
Growing and gaining
During the first few months in business, rental costs took a toll on the company. “We had our client base, but we were not making much profit,” Young says. “We needed our own truck, but still didn’t have the financing.”
After 11 months, a 2002 GapVax HV-46 HX vacuum loader became available for purchase through a lender in North Carolina, and that’s when things really kicked off.
The GapVax unit remains the truck of choice. It came with a 1,600-gallon aluminum water tank, a water pump by Giant delivering 2,900 psi/19 gpm, a 14.5-cubic-yard debris body, and a vacuum blower developing 3,800 cfm/28 inches Hg.
The equipment list expanded to include a Rycom Instruments cable, pipe and fault locator used to supplement subsurface utility engineering projects and locate hard-to-find utilities. They also have an Ingersoll Rand compressor with 185 cfm free-air delivery rating for air excavation and directional bores for electrical PVC conduit installations.
Hiring technicians was always in the plan. Initially they hired part-time help when jobs came along, but in 2010 they added four technicians, some experienced and some new. Santos says starting from scratch with a new hire is not a bad thing.
“It’s good to find people not set in their ways,” he says. “We bring them in and go from the ground up. We want open-minded people who are not afraid to get muddy. This is tough work, and we want people to push forward.”
Santos and Young give new hires an orientation about the equipment and the industry and take them out for training, teaching them how to dig holes, trench, and locate utilities without damage. “We know in a couple days if a person will make it,” Santos says. Safety is always an issue, and the training makes workers aware that the water lance can be a formidable cutting tool.
Sorting it out
As a rule, Santos goes to job sites with the truck and two operators to maintain quality control. Young stays at headquarters to manage and generate business, but also works in the field when necessary.
Equipment maintenance is a top priority. The firm keeps careful records on the hydroexcavators, which receive maintenance including new fluids and filters every 300 hours of operation. Drivers are encouraged to check the trucks for leaks or loose bolts and to crawl under the trucks to inspect critical components.
Everything to do with Hydro Spy carries attitude and accomplishment. “When I first got into this line of work, it was just for a short-time place to get some experience driving a truck and to pick up a paycheck,” Santos says.
“But I found it exciting and interesting. Richard and I decided we would make something out of it. We just segued from being operators to being owners. It took a while, but we have proven we’re on the right track.”
Cleaner Magazine’s website posted this article and the following is reference to it:
Bond, Marian. “Mud Is Money.” Cleaner Magazine. N.p., June 2011. Web.
“In 1989, Gapvax was born to design and manufacture the highest quality equipment that would meet, and exceed, the needs and applications of the customers of GapVax. GapVax has grown to be the leading manufacturer of industrial vacuum equipment through innovation and application at GAP P.E.C. With the team of highly skilled and dedicated workers here in Johnstown, PA GapVax manufacturers the highest quality, top performance products of anywhere else in the country! We listen…and we deliver!”
– GapVax (www.gapvax.com)
Monster Equipment, LLC currently has available for rent or sale eight GapVax Hydro Excavators. We deliver anywhere in the country.
Some of the GapVax advantages are the following:
- The heavy duty, simple design
- Volume and PSI needed to excavate safely and efficiently in any environment
- Reduced maintenance cost
- Longer life of the units
- The ease of operation
In conclusion, these trucks provide the power, versatility, and stability that we need out on the job.
Hydro Excavation is a process that utilizes pressurized water to break up and vacuum up the soil into a debris tank. Therefore, this provides a non-destructive means to safely locate utilities and accurately excavate an area. Hydrovacs can eliminate the unknown or unintended consequences from any project involving drilling, trenching or excavation.
There are many advantages of using hydro excavation in today’s world. Monster Equipment, LLC has gathered three key benefits to help you make the best decision:
1. Hydro Excavation is Precise
Hydro excavation uses high-pressure water and suction to create openings in the soil. The result is a slurry of water and soil that gets suctioned up into a holding tank for disposal. Since the high-pressure water is intense and focused, the result is a highly precise excavation. Backhoes and cats have to navigate around piles of dirt and can damage underground utilities. This heavy equipment can ruin the surrounding area.
Hydro excavation works extremely well in rain gardens, parks or areas in need of drainage sumps and trenches. Small slits and trenches are excavated without damaging the surrounding area.
2. Hydro Excavation is Efficient
Probably the most amazing aspect of hydro excavation is the speed at which the intense streams of water impact the area and suck away dirt. What can take days of digging takes hours with hydro excavation.
Aside from the time saved, hydro excavation is efficient because it can handle a variety of soil types, from clay to sand. Additionally, hydro excavation maintains its efficiency even in freezing temperatures.
3. Hydro Excavation is Non-Destructive
As mentioned earlier, hydro excavation is precise and won’t damage the surrounding area. Hydro excavation will also prevent damage underground. Unlike metal shovels or claws, high pressure water does not damaged coaxial cables, pipes or other underground utilities. This is especially helpful if you are unsure of what is beneath the soil.
Hydro excavation services can assist you in locating utilities should you need to make any repairs.
To talk more about your interests in hydro excavation services, please Contact Us. Thank You!
A recent trip through Oklahoma en route to Texas with one our Vacall Hydro Excavators.
Monster Equipment, LLC provides a variety of best-in-class hydro excavators to oil field service & hydro excavation companies throughout the Barnett and Woodford Natural Gas.
Give us a call today to inquire about truck availability and current rental rates. 1.888.393.4425
Taking delivery of our newest Vactor HXX hydro excavator from the Vactor manufacturing facility in Streator, IL.
Monster Equipment, LLC provides hydro excavators for rent throughout much of the United States. Give us a call to today to inquire about truck availability and rental rates.
Hydro excavation has its roots in the petroleum industry, where it has been used for years to expose, with no damage, underground oil pipelines and valves.
In recent years, hydro excavation has found its way into mechanical excavation applications including exposing underground utility lines and fiber optic cables, sign & pole installations, pipe & sewer repairs, underground facilities maintenance, and much more.
Hydro excavation is a safe way of excavating in a place where the location of sensitive utility lines is unknown. To avoid strikes to underground lines and prevent injury to personnel, more and more contractors are turning to hydro excavation to prevent costly damages and downtime.
Hydro excavation machines come in variety of trailer-mounted or truck-mounted models, each with various degrees a capability and reliability. What most hydro excavating machines have in common is they all feature the use of a high-pressure water pump and a high-powered vacuum system. The water system feeds one or more nozzles for blasting away soil, sand, and even some types of rock. Frequently a hand-held “water knife” or “digging lance” working at 2,000 psi or more, is used to dig holes or slots in the ground. The water creates a slurry (a thin sloppy mud capable of being pumped), which is sucked up by a high-powered vacuum system. The resulting slurry of water and debris is vacuumed into to a debris tank, which typically is hundreds of gallons in capacity, and driven away for disposal. Many hydro excavating trucks such as GapVax HV-56, Vacall AllExcavate and Vactor HXX will have a debris capacity above 10 cubic yards and a water capacity exceeding 1,000 gallons.
Since the boom in the natural gas industry began, the demand for hydro excavation services has grown exponentially. Significant investment has been made in hydro excavating equipment by contractors throughout the shale regions such as the Bakken, Marcellus and Eagle Ford Shale. All this added demand, has created a long waiting list with hydro excavating equipment manufacturers.
For more information about hydro excavating trucks for rental or purchase contact Monster Equipment, LLC today 1.888.393.4425