Do not buy a Vac Truck until you read this!

Sep 29, 2021 | Trucks

Vacvator Pty Ltd is a local New South Wales manufacturer of vac trucks – Australian Made since 2006.

What is not well known is that the two Vacvator founders, Andrew Rowlands and Denis Walker are both engineering wizards.

Interestingly, our first vac truck ever built is still in operation some 15 years later!
For sure, it has had a few mods but the fundamentals of construction and ruggedness have not.

vac truck manufacturers australia

The quality engineering shows up clearly in the design of the four Vacvator models we build today and the trained eye can detect the differences!

At a recent virtual marketing roundtable, Andrew sat back and made an observation:

Most people in the market for a vac truck today, really do not understand all the variables required to make the right Vacuum truck decision for their business – wet, dry, jetter, size and on it goes! 

Andrew’s perspective is not only coloured by his Vacvator background, but he has owned and operated a large electrical utility and civil service contracting company in Sydney.

As such, he also understands all things Non Destructive Digging [NDD].
As the story goes, silence after Andrew’s observation led to another astute observation, let’s fill the buyer’s knowledge gap!

Hence, we present to you, 

The Australian Vac Truck Buyer’s Guide.

This article is going to provide you with a more technical view of what to look for when buying a vac truck based on our experiences over 15 years in the industry.

Denis Walker explains, there are some fundamental considerations to consider when buying a vac truck and as the old saying goes…

“Don’t base your decisions on the advice of someone who does not have to deal with the results”

What you need to know to buy a Vac Truck.

Listed below are some of the key elements to look out for that could be the difference between a profitable business and a business that will continually struggle with downtime.

1. Is the external construction of the truck robust and will it handle the vibration created by rural Australian roads?
2. What type of blower does the truck have and is it self cooling?
3. What is the support from the manufacturer like and can they analyse real-time data remotely via Telematics?
4. Is the truck easily operated and can multiple staff be taught in a short period of time?
5. Does the blower meet local noise level restrictions, particularly in inner-city areas?
6. How often does the blower filter need cleaning?
7. Is the truck easily maintained?
8. If operating in confined spaces in city environments will a smaller truck have enough suction to perform the duties needed?
9. Will the truck you purchase be road legal when loaded?
10. What is productivity and reliability like onsite compared to competing operators?

These are some of the main issues we see and these questions provide a good foundation for a vac truck operator who wishes to purchase a new machine.

Since 2006 Vacvator has addressed all these issues in our design and manufacturing – the irony, we still see these issues quite broadly in the marketplace!

Before we begin, it is important to point out that no matter what brand of truck you have, nozzles and hoses will all wear out and need replacing at some stage depending on usage.

If you would like some background on why you should be using a vac truck please read this article.


Vacvator Workshop

1. Is the external construction robust and will it handle the vibration created by Australian roads?

Let’s be honest, there is a difference between Aussie roads and the roads in USA and Europe where a lot of vac trucks on Australian roads are built. Australian vacuum truck operators often work in very remote areas and the roads in these areas can be very rough which means major vibration issues for equipment. We see many trucks that vibrate themselves to bits and this causes reliability issues when on the job.
If the truck is not constructed well, external parts can break and this means downtime for the operator, upset clients and more downtime as the breakages are repaired.

Things to look out for are ensuring external components such as metal cages, fixing points for water tanks, metal walkways, and storage cabinets are solid and well constructed.

Fundamentally the better made the vacuum truck, the fewer breakages and problems you will experience.

Message: The extra strong, robust construction of external accessories is critical and needs to be proven when buying a vac truck. At Vacvator we handcraft our trucks to meet Australian conditions.

Vac trucks for Australian use, need to handle the unique Australian conditions that are so different to overseas.

* Harsh climate
* Rugged terrain
* Vast distances

2. What type of blower does the truck have and is it self cooling?

When buying an excavation vacuum truck, ensure you understand what type of blower is in your truck.
There are two types essentially, one cools itself and the other one does not.
Typically the blowers that don’t cool themselves don’t suck as well and therefore provide half of the performance.
The blower, otherwise known as the air pump operates within a 1mm of clearance so the quality and style of the blower are very important to the reliability of the vacuum truck.
Incorrectly installed blowers or poor quality blowers can overheat and fail at very inopportune times, meaning costly downtime and expensive repairs.

Typically this happens when the blower runs out of air due to a blockage and this causes the rotor to expand and eventually seizes.
To avoid this issue, look for an “Air Injection System” as this style of blower has two mufflers and will not overheat when there are blockages.  It is self-cooling and will switch off automatically. These types of blowers typically suck 50% stronger than the alternative models which means you can suck up material over a longer distance and at deeper levels.

3. What is the support from the manufacturer like and can they analyse real-time data remotely via Telematics?

When buying a vacuum truck it is critical to know you will have full support from the supplier and also fast assistance when an issue crops up. Part of good support is having a system that allows the supplier to dial in remotely to the truck and find any faults present.

Vacvator uses the CAN bus system (Controller Area Network) and this telematics gateway enables remote monitoring of on-vehicle equipment via a modem and sim card.
Telematics can analyse vacuum pressures, if the circuitry is ok, where the truck is located,  a blocked filter, when the next service is due, the location of an actual fault like a damaged wire, and other issues that may stop the machine from working or working efficiently.

Dialling in and fault finding is a critical element regardless of if you are working remotely or even in a big city. Time is money and this technology saves a “truckload” of time. Ensure the CAN bus system is the industry accepted version as there are several types. Any issues, the truck operator can ring the supplier and have them dial in via the modem to see what the problem is.
Other key factors to consider are vac truck parts and repairs: Are the parts held locally?

What are the turnaround times from the service centre for repairs and servicing of the truck?

4. Is the truck easily operated and can multiple staff be taught in a short period of time?

One surprising factor in the marketplace is the complexity of some vacuum trucks and this has some major downsides for the business that purchase those units. Complexity equals a requirement for more extensive training, complex operator manuals and in some cases a 1-week training course to bring the vac truck operator up to speed.

This can cause the following problems for the business.

1. It can be a challenge to find experienced operators
2. It can be a challenge to find a replacement driver when someone is sick or off work.
3. Lack of experienced drivers can make it challenging to scale the business quickly if opportunities present themselves
4. Valuable productive time is lost in long training sessions
5. Truck unavailability when the usual operator is not available
At Vacvator we are proud to say that anybody can be taught to use the unit in an amazingly short time so having someone off work means it is an easy fix to find a new operator.
5. Does the blower meet local noise level restrictions?

Noise generated by the blower unit is one item that is quite often overlooked!
Some trucks produce 115 decibels which is the equivalent of a jet engine taking off at 300 metres. If you are working in a confined area in a city, no surprise, this is well over the noise restrictions set by the local council.

Also if the vac truck operator is requested to work at night, the noise levels will attract many complaints by neighbours.
The Air Injection system mentioned above produces 79 to 82 decibels (the equivalent to a household garbage disposal unit) at full pressure which means you can have a conversation standing beside the truck.

If noise is a consideration for you then make sure you test the blower levels before signing on the dotted line.


self cooling blower vac truck

6. How often does the filter need cleaning?

The filtration system filters both wet and dry material – a design challenge! All these materials that are sucked up are filtered before the air passes through the blower, and as the clearance on these blowers runs at about 0.1mm, you do not want sand and small stones going through it. This is where the filter comes into play.  A quality vacuum excavation truck uses cyclone filter technology.
A truck without an efficient cyclone and filter technology working in dry areas will need the filters cleaned every few hours to ensure 100% performance and this is very labour intensive for the truck operator.

When NDD (non destructive digging) dry or wet materials without an efficient cyclone system, the filters will usually need cleaning weekly, as opposed to every few hundred hours with an efficient cyclone system. When it takes about 1 hour to remove and clean the filters, this adds a lot of extra maintenance to the daily workload.
The Dry Vac type filtration technology is a means of sending a pulse of air down the filter to clear any dust buildup and send it into the holding tank. This process is carried out every 30 seconds depending on the dirt load. This operation is automatically controlled by sensors in the system. The system will run indefinitely cleaning as it goes and with an operator visual check weekly all that is required. This saves considerable time and improves reliability. This feature has been built into all Vacvator Dry Vac units.

7. Is the truck easily maintained?

Having your vac truck serviced and maintained regularly is a critical component of experiencing less downtime through breakdowns. In many sites, it is not possible to climb up on a truck and fix it so having a regular maintenance schedule will avoid this.
There are some common issues that crop up on a regular basis when it comes to maintaining your vacuum excavation truck.

Some trucks are not well-maintained and items not lubricated properly lead to problems. When questioning vac truck operators on why the lubrication is not being done the issue of accessibility of lube access points comes up regularly as a problem. Make sure the lubrication access points are not in difficult areas and are easily accessed.

Electrical components
High-quality electrical connectors that are all colour-coded helps with reliability and maintenance. This is important particularly for operators working in remote areas. Instructions from the supplier are easily communicated when colours are involved particularly in the case of damage to electrical components.

Robust construction
If you’re onsite a long way from home, a very small issue due to the quality of the build or something not being maintained can lead to a very big issue very quickly. A bolt falling out or coming loose or breaking suddenly becomes a major problem so the build of the truck becomes absolutely crucial. This leads to reduced running costs.

CAN BUS system
Having an industry-approved CAN BUS system provides many safety valves for the operator. As an example the system can check the temperature of the transmission, ensure the transmission is in the right gear, ensure the dump valve is in the correct position and even check if the truck engine is running at full revs and can idle the engine back to low Idle automatically and close the relief valve in about 1 1/2 seconds if required.

Efficient design
There is absolutely no question that efficient design simplifies maintenance and improves uptime.

vacuum truck reversing down driveway

8. If operating in confined spaces in city environments will a smaller truck have enough suction to perform the duties needed?

Many vac truck operators work in very confined areas and manoeuvrability is a critical factor when buying a vacuum truck.
Quite often, jobs are in tight spots or areas where the unit can’t access directly over the job, the hose will need to be extended a considerable distance and the unit may not have the power to do the hydro excavation and extraction to a satisfactory level.

Understanding CFM flow and the vacuum levels produced at extended distances can be a crucial part of your buying decision.

A good truck can suck 100 to 200 metres. They will also have a mechanically operated retractable hose reel to assist the operator and reduce the incidence of injury from manhandling the extra hose.


9. Will the truck you purchase be road legal when loaded?

For good reasons, Australia has very strict laws when it comes down to transporting material and hydro excavation trucks can be an easy target for the local authorities. The main issue tends to be the weight distribution requirements as compared with Europe and America.
Australian trucks can legally carry a lot less so, therefore, the trucks that are designed in America and Europe can be overloaded very easily.
This can prove expensive and dangerous for the operator.

An Australian made truck is built with the intention of making the operator road legal and one of the benefits of a well set up truck is having scales on board that alerts the operator when the truck reaches maximum payload.

A vacuum truck owner and operator have a “duty of care” to ensure they know what weight the truck is carrying to protect their driver and other road users.
The CAN system found in Vacvator trucks shuts the blower off once the scales indicate the unit is overweight.

This is a health and safety feature that protects the driver and the public.
This is crucially important as driving overweight can be very expensive for the company and for the truck operator and dangerous for road users. 

10. Productivity and reliability on site
One important factor that is often overlooked, when buying a vacuum truck is productivity on site. The cost of downtime for an hour or two it’s not a big deal but when your customer sees you broken down regularly it doesn’t take too many times before they will seek another operator, particularly if the payment arrangement is per hour.
Also factored into the productivity on site is the amount of material taken away each trip. If the vacuum truck operators are being paid on an hourly rate and one operator is taking away half the material of the others onsite, the project manager will favour the more productive truck each and every time.


Buying a vac truck is a big investment. Researching the marketplace, asking questions, and testing the units is important.

With more and more underground utilities being installed as our country and population grows, non-destructive digging via vacuum trucks has become a system of choice for most operators to avoid costly damage to high voltage lines, sewers, gas pipes and telecommunication cables.

However, not all vacuum trucks are created equal – optimising machine productivity by design and operation is key.

In addition, by knowing some of the pitfalls, you can avoid expensive repair bills and costly downtime on the job with breakdowns.


We hope this buyer’s guide has helped you in some way and given you a foundation of questions to ask and a better understanding of some of the pitfalls of Vac truck ownership.

As this topic is very complex we invite any questions you may have on the form below and will respond to you very quickly with sensible answers based on our 15 years in the Australian industrial vacuum truck industry.

Should you require more information please contact us here