Sucking it up

No-risk excavation. No water. No mess. No waste. No service interruption. No harm. No damage.


When it comes to excavating in urban streets, building sites and the like, this may all sound just too good to be true.


But there’s a handful of air vacuum excavation trucks now in the country and one operator using them reckons that this is exactly what they deliver.


Auckland’s Alliance Services has two of the five Kiwi units, both based on Scania R500 and G450 8x4 trucks, fitted with powerful vacuum excavation units built by German specialist RSP.


The German company says the suction systems provide a “gentle,” environmentally-friendly excavation alternative to conventional methods for trenching, repairs and maintenance around urban underground services.


The air vac trucks don’t come cheap – at around $NZ1million each! Not surprisingly then, Alliance Services’ Matt Fillmore says that the units typically are called in on projects “when the risks are too high.”


People call on one of the major advantages of the air vac system, which is to work around underground services, says Fillmore: “Traditional methods like diggers rip through the ground, while the air vac truck lifts dirt straight out of the ground. Hydro-excavation, similarly, comes with hazards you don’t find with this new technology.


“If a digger or hydro-excavator damaged a fibre optic cable it could cost $50,000 to repair – not to mention all the interruption. It happens….and then Auckland falls apart.”


So, as he adds: “We come in when they don’t want to risk it with a digger – so we’re always at the coalface of multiple services and high-pressure situations.


“We’re digging around services every day and in the last year we’ve had zero strikes, zero harm and zero damage to services or to operators or employees – thanks to these trucks.”


At the site of what reputedly will be the biggest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere – the $790million Westfield Newmarket in Auckland – Alliance’s Ian Bedggood provides a rundown on what the company’s newest air vacuum excavator truck can achieve.


Bedggood, who operates and manages the two trucks (and is one of the four drivers who operate them) explains: “The kind of things you find under the ground, we can dig down underneath – power cables, telecoms, water – with no potential danger to ourselves, the site or what’s in the pipes....




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