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Sun July 21 2019

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Vac-Ex buys Mercedes-mounted suction excavator

2 Jul Vac-Ex has bought the first of a group of Mercedes trucks being equipped with MTS suction equipment for excavating roads and footpaths.

The purchase is part of a group of eight sets of MTS Suction Systems UK equipment being fitted to new Mercedes-Benz trucks supplied by Orwell Truck & Van.

MTS, which has a sales headquarters in Ely, Cambridgeshire, ordered the seven 32-tonne Arocs 3251 ENAs and a single 26-tonne Econic 2635 L ENA from dealer Orwell’s Newmarket branch. The trucks are being fitted with their bodies and ancillary equipment at MTS Suction Systems’ production facility in Germersheim, southern Germany.

The first Arocs, a left-hand drive version, is now in service with suction excavation specialist Vac-Ex of Doncaster. Vac-Ex is also due to receive another two, identical trucks before the end of the year.

The remaining four Arocs have all been specified in right-hand drive form, for use by a multinational infrastructure group.

The Econic has been built for another specialist operator of suction excavation equipment, which is based in Chesterfield. This company chose the low-entry chassis for its direct vision safety credentials, and is looking forward to the arrival of its new truck later this month.

MTS Suction Systems UK’s managing director Russell Fairhurst said: “We are client-led when it comes to vehicle marque, and this is the first time we’ve sourced Mercedes-Benz chassis here in the UK, rather than from Germany. The experience of working with Orwell Truck & Van has been entirely positive.”

The company said that vehicles built by MTS Suction Systems typically cost between £350,000 and £400,000 apiece, so represent high-value investments. “Despite this, the explosion over recent years in the use of fibre optics and other underground services mean the company’s vacuum excavators are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional machinery such as mini-diggers, and even shovels,” it said. “Not only do they offer protection from injury for operatives who might otherwise hit live electricity cables or other utilities beneath the ground, but they also help contractors to minimise the risk of incurring potentially crippling fines for damaging infrastructure.”

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The surface of the footpath or roadway is first disturbed by a conventional road breaker – the new trucks all carry one. A compressed air lance is then used to further agitate and loosen the ground, before the debris is removed via a 250mm-diameter suction hose.

The suction hoses are capable of picking up 75kg rocks the size of footballs, while an automated self-cleaning filtration system limits the amount of dust that escapes into the atmosphere.

As well as being non-destructive, suction excavation allows for very rapid removal of spoil – according to Vac-Ex, it is up to five times faster than digging by hand, and offers the capability to excavate very narrow and deep holes or trenches.  

“We used to be happy to sell two or three suction excavators per year, but we’re looking at between 25-30 now,” said Fairhurst. “The capital cost means this equipment will never replace conventional methods altogether, but for areas with high concentrations of underground services the benefits in terms of health and safety, and damage-free operations, are compelling.”

Vac-Ex proprietor John Mee said: “We run a mixed-marque fleet currently, but moving forward will only be buying Mercedes-Benz trucks. The three-pointed star conveys an image of quality and professionalism, while experience has proved the Arocs to be exceptionally reliable and cost-effective to operate. The manufacturer’s contract maintenance provision also represents very good value, and the back-up we receive from our local Dealer is first class.”

Mee’s company was trading under another name when it purchased its first suction excavator, which was also one of the UK’s first MTS-built vehicles, 12 years ago. “We knew the risks associated with working in the vicinity of underground services and felt this was the right way forward,” he recalled. “It’s proved to have been a wise decision.”

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