Horizontal directional drilling (HDD), also known as directional boring, has become a common and preferred method for digging trenches to install underground utilities. Excavation vacuum trucks have become an important part of this process. These specialized vacuum trucks that are purchased play a critical role in keeping directional boring jobs safe, clean, and efficient by facilitating HDD in a number of ways.
The Basics of Horizontal Directional Drilling
HDD is a commonly used method of digging underground trenches for the installation of underground utility lines. Using this technique, a flexible and guidable drilling stem is used to bore into the ground at an angle which then travels horizontally under the ground surface. HDD prevents the need for more expensive and invasive trenching from the surface down; however, it does require the assistance of additional equipment to keep the stem drilling productively. This is where vacuum trucks used for air or hydro excavation come in.
The Role of Vacuum Excavation in HDD
Directional boring is a trenching technique that was first used by the Ditch Witch company in the mid-1990s. It quickly became obvious that vacuum excavators were a necessary part of this operation. These air or water powered excavators provide two critical roles in accurate HDD:
- Trench Potholing - Even though the drill stems used with directional boring are able to be guided, it is essential that they are actually following the right path while excavating utility trenches. Most jobs begin by crews electronically locating existing utility lines and other underground content; however, the location of these lines is confirmed through potholing along the proposed drilling line. Using hydro and air excavators, the installation crews dig a number of potholes along the drilling path to locate existing utilities, then use those same holes to observe the passage of the stem as it drills alongside the lines. This lets crews be sure trenching does not interfere with in-place utilities.
- Drilling Fluid and Waste Removal - Excavation vacuum trucks are also crucial for removing excavation waste. Like any other trenching method, HDD produces a lot of soil and fluid waste since the stems are lubricated with water to facilitate drilling. Vacuum excavators suction this waste material out of the trenches as it is pushed back, containing it so there is no contamination of the job site. Only after the trench has been cleared of all waste debris can installers slide in the protective outer piping sleeve that will eventually contain more fragile electrical and telecom wires.
Most utility installers either use their own trailer-mounted vacuum excavators or rely on the assistance of services that operate full-size excavation vacuum trucks. This important equipment allows utility companies to quickly and safely dig trenches to install new services without the risks associated with using heavy equipment. Considering the fact that this type of work is ongoing both in new construction areas and places where older lines are being replaced, there is plenty of work available for those service companies looking for a few more excavation vacuum trucks for sale for their work fleet!