Company Finds Many Applications For Hydro-Excavating

Even the most highly visible public works projects depend on improvements to and protection of the invisible underground infrastructure. That’s what keeps Goliath Hydro-Vac Inc. busy. The 10-year-old contracting firm based in Jordan, MN, uses a fleet of hydro-excavating trucks from Vactor Manufacturing to tackle a variety of construction and remediation projects that require special attention to existing underground infrastructure.

Located 30-miles southwest of the Twin Cities, Goliath Hydro-Vac currently provides hydro-excavation services to support the 11-mile Central Corridor light rail expansion connecting downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. When completed in 2014, the new route — operating via Washington and University avenues — will bring light rail service to five major commercial districts, the University of Minnesota, the state capitol complex and several area neighborhoods.

The Central Corridor route will become the second light rail line operated by the Twin Cities’ Metro Transit, connecting with the Hiawatha Line that opened in 2004 to provide mass transit from downtown Minneapolis to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America.

“The light rail line extension is an interesting and challenging project for us,” said Brandt Volk, founder and president of Goliath Hydro-Vac. “Working in an urban area with a lot of traffic and pedestrians requires a compact and maneuverable hydro excavator that is powerful enough to get the job done and provides the water capacity and storage capacity needed to stay on the job for a while.”

Volk’s hydro-excavation fleet includes one Vactor 2106 HXX Prodigy model, two Vactor 2112 HXX trucks, and two older units used mostly for industrial vacuum applications.

When the light rail expansion opens in 2014, Volk said he’ll have the satisfaction of knowing Goliath Hydro-Vac played an important role in improving mass transit in the Twin Cities, even if the results of the company’s work are invisible to the public.

“This job has kept our Prodigy HXX machine busy full time, mostly excavating utility crossings and clean-out stems on water mains,” Volk said. “We’ve been excavating at depths of 11 feet, working in some tight quarters. It’s a perfect situation for the Prodigy unit, because despite its smaller size, it’s a very productive unit. It’s like our little giant.”

Industrial cleaning
While most of Goliath Hydro-Vac’s projects involve hydro-excavation services for utility companies, sewer and water contractors and a few municipal governments, Volk acknowledged that cities have their own hydro excavators. Volk’s company also makes its hydro excavators available for industrial cleaning projects, serving a variety of large manufacturers and material processors, or as he puts it, “anywhere there are spills from belts and conveyors.”

Some of Goliath Hydro-Vac’s largest customers include Xcel Energy, a major electric and natural gas company based in Minneapolis, and Minnesota Valley Electric, a local, member-owned electric distribution cooperative.

“For the utility companies, we do a lot of rehab work, fixing cable faults, relocating poles or excavating for new poles,” Volk said. “The fiber companies co-locate with power lines, so it’s important not to damage any in-ground infrastructure when digging new utility pole holes. You couldn’t use an excavator or backhoe in that kind of setting.”

Volk said hydro-excavation technology can save the day when encountering the unexpected.

“We just had a crew down at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, excavating footings for a new scoreboard at the football stadium,” Volk explained. “Because of the sandy soil, we were going to have to excavate about 12-feet deep and four-feet wide in order to set the Sonotube concrete forms that would be used during the concrete pour for the scoreboard footings.”

Volk said his team excavated about four-feet deep and hit fiber optic conduit in all three holes. “With hydro-excavation, we didn’t damage the conduit and we were able to give the general contractor an opportunity to re-site the footings,” he said. “If a contractor with a backhoe had been digging those holes, it might have knocked out fiber-optic service to the whole campus.”

During a recent project for Northern Natural Gas on its Michels Pipeline near North Branch, MN, Goliath Hydro-Vac crews prepared the site of a new compressor station by exposing 16- and 20-inch gas lines that needed to be re-routed into the facility.

In another recent project, Goliath Hydro-Vac deployed its trucks to South Dakota on a three-month maintenance job for the MinnCan Pipeline, exposing gas pipelines to service and replacing valves and fittings. The 304-mile pipeline transports Canadian crude oil to refineries in the Twin Cities, and serves to strengthen Minnesota’s energy future.

Volk said he hasn’t encountered a job yet that’s too big for his fleet to handle. “We recently had three trucks – including the two Vactor 2112 HXX units – working on a month-long project, six days a week for Northern Natural Gas in North Branch, MN. We were uncovering 20-inch gas mains that needed service, including the application of new coatings on the pipelines. This was the biggest project yet for our equipment and they did a great job for us.”

Before starting Goliath Hydro-Vac, Volk worked for an excavation and demolition contractor. He became interested in hydro-excavation through a friend at a local gas utility company who told Volk about a Canadian hydro-excavation contractor who had been hired for some work.

Operator comfort
Goliath Hydro-Vac’s crew includes five operators — including Volk — and four laborers. Typical projects require a two-man crew. Volk said the company provides safety and operator qualification training through third-party training organizations. Some customers, such as the gas companies, provide their own safety programs for Goliath Hydro-Vac’s operators.

“We’re big believers in keeping our operators happy and comfortable,” Volk said. “That’s what keeps them productive on the job. That’s why we’ve spec’ed our trucks the way we have. Our operators are ecstatic to have such nice equipment, especially the automatic transmissions and the quiet cabs.”

Volk appreciates working with a company like Vactor that’s been in business a long time with a good reputation. “Vactor’s factory support is great – we get trouble-shooting assistance and quick response when we need parts. The technicians at the factory are extremely well-educated about their products. They used to work in manufacturing, so they really know the equipment from the inside out,” he said.

A Goliath Hydro-Vac technician hydro-excavates a utility trench during a recent project for Magellan Pipeline in North Dakota.

“We did a lot of research before choosing the Vactor hydro-excavators. We like the way they’re set up. We really like the water recirculation system that can be run while the truck is on the road. In our northern climate, we have to be very careful about the water freezing during the cold winter months, but the recirculation system on our Vactor trucks makes that a non-issue. In some other trucks that we used previously, we would have to hurry back to the shop whenever the water in the tanks started to freeze, or we’d be looking at some expensive repairs.”

Volk specified that his units be mounted on optional Kenworth truck chassis, with 500-hp engines, automatic transmissions, navigation systems, dual intake/dual exhaust, cab upgrades including high-end upholstery, and a variety of chrome and stainless steel trim.

“The transmissions are a $12,000 option, but it’s worth it for the wear and tear it saves on our drivers, and for avoiding maintenance expenses on manual transmissions; for example, no clutch burn-outs and no clutch plate adjustments are needed,” Volk said. “We also specify the three-axle configuration to handle heavy loads and for better stability on the road. We have a new Vactor 2112 HXX with a quad axle on order which will let us haul another three tons. That’s a big boost in productivity when you have to haul excavated material to a remote site for disposal, which is something we do in about half of our jobs.”

An industry leader in sewer and catch basin cleaners, Vactor Manufacturing produces a wide range of combination sewer cleaners and jetters for sewer line maintenance, as well as specialty products including vacuum excavators. Celebrating more than 100 years of providing customers around the world with a wide range of material handling equipment, Vactor has one of the largest and most developed distributor networks in the sewer cleaning industry, with more than 50 North American distributors and more than 100 locations.


Goliath Hydro-Vac, (612) 727-3444,
Vactor Manufacturing, (815) 672-3171,

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