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.