An Industry Developing…
This time on Mike’s Muck I’d like to focus on where we find ourselves as an Industry here in 2019.
I am going to say that this version of my Blog is more of a rambling of things I’ve noticed and my personal take on them. Observations of what I have seen, what I have heard and how all of these pieces have helped shape the Industry as we know it.
The history of Hydroexcavation has been long documented and argued over the years. The basis is using water to remove soil cover to expose a solid item buried beneath. Simple and effective. There are, of course, MANY ways in which this can happen and we don’t want to get into any long drawn out arguments on what is the absolute truth as to the origins of the technology. Suffice to say, the Vac/Hydrovac Industry has come a LOOONG way in the past 25-30 years!
Take a look at all the various forms of vacuum excavation we have now. We have the standard water run Hydrovac that is most commonly used. But, we now also have Air Spades or Air Knives. We have massively powerful air excavators that dry suck the soil. There are Trailer Vacs, Semi Vacs, Combo Flushers for sewer, Combo Vacs with Code tanks for contaminated soils. We have Hydrovacs on Semi Trailers now! We have Skid Mounted units that can be air-lifted into remote locations. Units mounted on Nodwells and Commander
s for rough terrain. Don’t forget other forms of vacuum…..Septic Trucks, Dry Vacs with Baghouses, Liquid Ring technology, Stainless Tanks for Chemical Service and your Standard General Purpose Vacuum Truck that can used for a variety of tasks. The possibilities are endless and we continue to develop new ways to do the job. Have I missed anything? I am sure I have….the technology is moving faster than we can keep up.
Compare your first truck to what you are on now. Even workers that are relatively new to the Industry will have seen changes in the equipment they run. My first unit was a belt driven blower with a hand throttle to set the RPM’s. Mostly manual controls and a heavy corded pendant. No vacuum breaker and manual water pressure set off of a hydraulic needle valve. Both safety and convenience were lacking greatly!
Look at what we have now….automatic this and that, wireless everything, onboard scales with Bluetooth capability to your phone, heated control cabinets, microwaves and I’ve evn seen mini fridges and coffee makers in some trucks! Thankfully safety has developed along with the technology as well. Tie off points, high pressure reliefs, automatic shut offs and ESD’s, neutral safety switches, lockouts and many other systems that protect not only us, but the general public around us as well. These are all good things we should be thankful for.
Speaking of Safety, let’s take a look at the spin-off Industries that have developed to support our industry.
We have many Safety Training Courses that are directly tied to the Hydroexcavation Industry and many others that are generally required for any Construction related job. Things like Ground Disturbance, Confined Space Entry/Awareness, Trench Safety, Electrical Shock Awareness and Equipotential Bonding are all Certificates we may need specifically for Hydrovac work. Don’t forget First Aid, H2s Alive, Fall Protection, CSTS, PCST, GODI….the list goes on and on! All of these create jobs within the Industry and enhance the effectiveness of what we do in the long run.
What about the Product Support side of our Industry? We now have specialty retailers for things like hoses, fittings, valves, wands, heads, jets, clamps, blower parts/repair, boiler parts/repair and mobile mechanics. OEM Manufacturers developing after hours service and support as well as Aftermarket Manufacturers doing the same thing.
There are many Trade Shows specifically geared towards the Industry. I have now started to see training schools designed through Union Halls and Independent sources that cater to the Industry. Online resources, print resources and Product Specific literature is everywhere out there now.
We even have this little thing called Hydrovac Nation and all its related Social Media Platforms that have developed just specifically for our Industry!
The Vac/Hydrovac Industry now covers the four corners of the Globe. I have contacts in Australia, New Zealand and the UK that I talk to regularly. I have personally been to China to help develop the Industry there. Every day in my travels while delivering trucks, I get stopped by someone who is curious about the truck. What is it? What does it do? How does it work? Is it a good career? These are things that I never dreamed about the first day I climbed into the cab of my old Western Star and went to work!
We have THOUSANDS of people worldwide making a living and supporting their families in an Industry that really only came into light 25 years ago. Imagine where we will be in another 25 years!
Aside from all the advancements, all the technology and all the innovations, it still comes down the Men and Woman who work day in and day out in the heat, the cold and the wet. You are truly the ones that keep this big machine going.
We are known by many names: Mud Monkeys, Ditch Diggers, Mud Slurpers and others. Personally, I have always liked “High Pressure Water Injection Engineer” or Liquefied Soil Relocation Specialist” as a job title! Next time someone asks what you do, toss one of those out there and enjoy the deer in the headlights stare you get!
It takes a special breed to do what we do and everyone should hold their heads high. Be proud that you are involved in something as special as what we see continuing to grow here. Who knows where we will be in just a few short years.