There was a time not long ago when the vast majority of highway, HDD, electrical generation, transmission, and utility companies didn’t know much about hydro excavation, let alone understand the benefits that it could provide. As companies have realized just how much the process can save them in terms of labor costs and repairs, usage of these services has increased. At the same time, the number of companies offering hydro excavation services has also increased, but unfortunately not everyone who says they do it actually has the expertise and equipment to do the job well.
Expert hydro excavation is going to be more expensive than the old method of just using a backhoe or having your crew dig a hole. The difference is that you’re getting a hole in the ground that guarantees safety and can reduce the chances of damaging underground utilities that will cost a lot to repair. In order to get this hole, you need to hire a company with a hydro excavator, and since it’s an expensive piece of machinery, they may charge more than another bidder. Be wary of someone who bids low but plans to use a water blaster, vacuum truck with a pressure washer, or a sewer jetter in place of a hydro excavator.
Every hydro excavation crew will tell you that they care about safety, but you want to work with a company that actually follows through with safety policies and procedures. Make sure they don’t sacrifice safety to meet a job deadline, keep costs low, or just because it’s easier to let these policies slide. Ask about their training and check their safety record through places like EMR or OSHA before you hire.
In order to get the best deal on your job, you want to hire the most efficient crew. While many companies will provide a bid that breaks hydro excavation down to hourly rates, there is a more important calculation to make: what is the hourly cost to move one cubic yard of soil? For example, if one crew provides a bid of $200 an hour and can move a single cubic yard, but another company bids $250 per hour and can move twice as much in the same time, the second company is actually a better deal ($125 per cubic yard versus $200). Going by face value, these bids might make you want to go with the first company, but you’ll save money in the long run by paying more per hour and getting more productivity out of that hour. To find out how efficient a company is, talk to past customers for reference, or ask the company directly to include that in their bid.
When you hire the company with the right tools and the right experience, your site will be safer, dryer, and cleaner, and the entire job will cost you a lot less.