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The hydrovac market is on the rise. Driven largely by the safety and efficiency advantages that hydrovac methods lend to construction and utility projects, the mounting interest in hydro excavation services has expanded the market significantly. But while increased availability of equipment and contractors is beneficial for the industry, it’s important to note that not all teams are created equal. Even if you have top-of-the-line hydrovac trucks at your disposal, there’s simply nothing more critical than contracting the services of an experienced, well-trained, dedicated and safety-focused crew.
Here’s why that’s the case.
Adverse Assumptions About Hydrovac Professionals
There’s a common misconception that just about anyone can do the job of a hydrovac professional. So long as you’ve got a strong back and don’t mind getting dirty, there’s nothing else you really need in order to perform this role and do it well, right? Wrong.
Hydrovac as a profession is a specialized trade. It takes years of learning and practice to master the skills and operations necessary to perform hydrovac functions safely and effectively. And it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. There’s so much more to this job than driving the truck to a work site and turning on the equipment. Only the most qualified and experienced hydrovac teams understand the nuances of the truck and how to leverage them properly, as well as how to account for whatever dangers might be present where the project is located.
In fact, the difference between a top-notch hydrovac crew and an inexperienced one can mean success or failure in terms of safety, efficiency and cost. You’re talking about a major impact on a project’s timeline and bottom line—not to mention the level of risk to workers on the job. Assuming that a hydrovac team doesn’t require years of training and practice to do the work effectively is an assumption with serious potential consequences for everyone involved.
Critical Risks & Dangers Facing Hydrovac Crews
Construction contractors who specialize in hydro excavation spend a large portion of their workdays exposing underground wiring and other sensitive infrastructure for clients. This makes a hydrovac crew vulnerable to some pretty dangerous work conditions. Live utilities, both below the surface and overhead, are a serious hazard for any construction team. Therefore, hydrovac professionals must maintain rigorous electrical safety standards and other measures to protect against the dangers of utilities.
For instance, a crew that isn’t incredibly mindful of the potential for a boom to hit a high-voltage overhead line, particularly in areas with limited clearance, is a crew that’s in major harm’s way. The same goes for hydrovac professionals who are not highly attuned to the practices necessary for avoiding contact with underground utilities, or the attention required to operate a truck’s remote features carefully.
Given the magnitude of these everyday hazards associated with hydrovac work, it’s of the utmost importance for companies to employ committed, well-trained professionals and to institute safety policies that ensure the well-being of their team, contractors and clients.
What Separates Quality Hydrovac Crews From The Rest
Let’s start with the basics. Any professional hydrovac crew qualified to perform this kind of work safely and successfully will be managed by an experienced foreman who is both certified as a hydrovac operator and specially licensed with a CDL. The foreman is responsible for supervising and mentoring a crew of hydrovac truck operators and ensuring the smooth completion of hydro excavation projects, including utility-line exposure, debris removal, slot trenching and digging.
Some of the expertise and qualities that separate a truly top-notch hydrovac crew from others out there in the space include the following:
- Team Commitment: The crew should work cohesively as one, which typically stems from dynamic, ongoing training and a strong effort to cultivate team collaboration. The size of the crew is not necessarily relative, meaning you don’t need a large group in order for the work to be first-rate. Truth be told, sometimes having a smaller team is an advantage because there’s greater connection and synergy among the hydrovac workers. As Merut Construction’s own Hydrovac Operator, Jan Deitz, explains, “The dedication to the team is what separates us from the rest; every member out here prides themselves on their work and realizes the critical role they play in the day-to-day operations that makes us succeed in this business.”
- Excellent Equipment: A hydrovac crew benefits greatly from having access to the best hydrovac equipment available on the market. This market comprises a variety of truck models, each one featuring different levels of water pressure, suction and capacity. For a company providing hydrovac services at an elevated standard of quality and safety, it’s essential for them to maintain a fleet of hydrovac trucks that meet various excavation needs and highlight the importance of doing each job both well and safely. Every truck should be engineered to be safe, productive and durable, enabling the crew to manage hydrovac tasks with a high level of performance and a low level of risk. “Not only does Merut have the best hydrovac equipment available on the market, but our operators are also the best in this business today,” says Deitz.
- Safety-First Mentality: As mentioned, this is a dangerous job with potentially serious outcomes when the right safety measures are not observed to the letter. An expert hydrovac crew knows the fundamental importance of taking a safety-first approach to every job and sticking to the processes and standards set in place to protect the team, the client and anyone else in harm’s way. According to Mike Clary, Merut’s lead Hydrovac Operations Foreman, “Working in areas with live utilities is about as risky as it gets for us, especially when the dangers are not only below us, but also above us. I want people to know we have a WORK HARD, SAFETY HARD mentality and process that we stick to.” For safety-minded crews, this means conducting thorough equipment inspections, ongoing monitoring of worker safety and performance (including signs of fatigue), proactive project planning and preparation, proper use of protective gear and equipment, mitigation of weather impacts and so much more. Experienced, superior hydrovac operators place safety above all else, regardless of the specific job at hand.
Overall, a truly knowledgeable and experienced hydrovac team is one that exceeds the capabilities of the trucks employed to perform the work. They are committed to the health and safety of each and every worker. They are skilled and highly trained on equipment, policies and best practices. They work hard to make the team a highly adept work crew, and they understand the individual efforts required to ensure safety and success.
As you research hydrovac companies to help with your next excavation project, please download our free brochure to learn more about our capabilities.