Specifically designed and engineered for the collection and disposal of various liquids and debris, vac trucks as they are commonly known, have been instrumental in changing the way many excavation projects such as trenching and under road boring are being performed across Australia.
The operations involve high pressure water jets being used to loosen the soil on the targeted surface, while a powerful vacuum boom sucks up all the mud, debris, liquids, slurry or sludge back into a truck mounted ‘spoil’ tank which can have a capacity of up to 10,000 litres. The liquid is then transported to a suitable location for disposal in an environmentally correct manner.
There is an increasing demand for equipment with the capabilities to perform minimally invasive hydro-excavation work and to remove the resultant spoil and sludge, while still remaining straightforward to operate and maintain. “These days for anyone who is doing hydro-excavation work, they essentially can’t dig unless they have a vac truck,” says VTI Managing Director Matt Clough. “Australia has a complex network of underground assets such as gas, water, telecommunications, electrical and stormwater systems just waiting to be struck at any given moment when excavating by traditional methods. Because of the significant liabilities, companies can’t afford to take out any services, or worse, risk worker injury or death.”
Located at Arundel on the Queensland Gold Coast, Vac Truck Industries (VTI) is emerging as Australia’s leading OEM manufacturer in its sector, providing complete vacuum truck solutions to a broad number of sectors including the construction, civil, electrical, infrastructure, mining, drilling, and oil and gas industries in Australia. Over just a few years VTI has grown to become a major national supplier across these various sectors. Key to VTI’s success has been focus and investment in the development of evolving technology to produce Australian designed, engineered and manufactured hydro-excavation vacuum trucks, high-pressure hydro drain cleaning systems and liquid waste collection systems.
Since its beginning, VTI has expanded and diversified its offerings significantly, with various packages and specifications designed to meet the changing demands of its clients’ industries. The equipment covers a range of volume sizes and power capabilities as well as various sizes of tanks for fresh water and spoil. VTI was established four years ago with the intent to provide the local market with readily available, high-quality Australian-made and supported products and the Directors Matt Clough, Ned Popovic and James Hennessy, can draw upon more than 50 years of combined industry experience. “We based our manufacturing processes around Australian assets with a priority of keeping jobs in Australia,” says Matt. “Our focus is to build trucks which suit the challenges of Australian conditions, and at the same time make a conscious effort to keep their operation simple. With no disrespect to vac truck operators, it’s vital to keep them user-friendly by being simple to use and simple to maintain.”
The level of simplicity is evident with equipment such as the pumps and blowers fitted to VTI trucks being hydraulically driven by the trucks’ engines via the power take-off (PTO) connection, obviating the need for an auxiliary engine. The result is a less complicated truck with a lower tare weight and lower noise levels when operating, which is important for residential or night works. Using the truck’s engine to power the equipment also has the benefit of reducing emissions to the Euro 6 standards met by the current model trucks used as the platforms for the hydro and vacuum equipment. Those same exhaust emission standards may not be necessarily met by an auxiliary engine.
Practical, well-researched design and quality manufacturing are just the first steps of the journey VTI maps out for its customers. “We pride ourselves on the aftersales service and support we provide. It’s all well and good selling something, but it’s also important how you manage it after the initial sale and how you support your customer. Frequently when people buy one of our trucks, they’ll be back to buy another one and we find we do a lot of repeat business.” Operating in a market that is considerably specialised, yet highly competitive, the VTI business has grown rapidly from its beginnings. “It took us nine months to put our first unit out due to the amount of research and development necessary to achieve the end results we insisted upon, and since then we’ve delivered nearly 100 trucks,” says Matt.
Initiated prior to VTI’s manufacturing operation, Vac Truck Rentals Australia continues as an important factor in VTI’s overall offering and currently has ten trucks of different sizes and capacities available. The hire operation also provides the opportunity for potential buyers to experience the benefits of the locally made units before committing to purchase their own. The hire option also allows potential customers to remain agile in their markets and improve their operational productivity in reaction to fluctuating industry demand and prices.
After importing some equipment from the USA, Matt, Ned and James soon became convinced they could manufacture superior equipment locally and build trucks that were better suited to Australian conditions and were compliant with the relevant Australian Standard AS1210 in the construction of the pressure vessel components which are vital to the successful operation of this type of vehicle. The performance and efficiency aspects of VTI vacuum trucks are much more than just details of velocity, airspeed, and suction specifications, as innovations such as remote controls along with outstanding reliability are crucial factors as well. The result for VTI’s clients is robust, without having overly complicated pieces of Australian engineering which are adequately backed by spare parts and service expertise. “The one comment that is frequently made is our trucks are really easy to use,” says Matt. “Our truck design is simple compared to others that have so many different things on them you have to be a rocket scientist to operate them. Consequently, we can give an operator a ten-minute rundown over the phone and they can immediately begin operating efficiently and safely.” VTI hasn’t allowed COVID to affect the company’s export aspirations. “We recently sent a truck to New Zealand and obviously couldn’t get over there to do the familiarisation for it, so we did it over the phone,” recalls Matt. “They know how to operate it because it’s very simple and that simplicity is definitely a key point of difference between our trucks and those of our competitors.”
VTI delivers trucks that can go straight to their first job with the pre-delivery preparation extending to include the safety items necessary for operational and worksite compliance. The cab chassis which are the basis for VTI’s vehicles are not restricted to one brand, although Hino has been becoming more dominant in recent years.
VTI acquires all Hino trucks through Sci-Fleet dealerships which strengthen the ability to offer a complete package to a customer at a competitive price with the advantage of a single invoice and finance application. “Hino are easy trucks for us to build on,” says Matt. “The Allison transmission is our preferred option but we can work with other drivelines as well. I reckon the new 8X4 Hino 700 is a bit of a game-changer for Hino because the cabin is very European and people like that European look. We’ve got a couple more on order already.” Vac Truck Industries has attained a unique position in the Australian market and provides equipment and services to some of the largest and most respected companies including BHP and Rio Tinto. An extensive supplier network of trusted industry brands is backed by a highly-skilled and industry-trained team of technical specialists that can provide full-service delivery to its customers.
Vac Truck Industries’ reputation has been deservedly built on its delivery of reliable, efficient and safe vacuum trucking solutions, which universally prove to maximise clients’ return on investment due to the integration of high-quality components, including the cab chassis bases from leading manufacturers such as Hino. Moving forward, the company is not standing still and remains at the forefront of industry development by working closely with customers to best understand their needs and provide them with competitive advantages in the future.
Read this article at Prime Mover Magazine