Trailer, truck skid-mounted or PTO vacuum excavators – which is right for your company?

The choice between a trailer, skid-mounted or power-takeoff (PTO) vacuum excavator comes down to versatility, maneuverability, pricing and personal preference. Here’s a quick list of pros and cons to consider when researching your next vac system.

Trailer vacuum excavators

Trailer vacuum excavators are the most widely used vac types in the utility industry today. If you’re like most contractors, price and the ability to leave a trailer vac back at the yard or on the job are its two biggest selling points. But, more often than not, trailer vacs are attached to the same truck every day and may not be as maneuverable as truck vacs, depending on the driver and the jobsite. This is especially true on smaller jobsites.


  • Lower upfront investment
  • Versatile transport with the ability to be pulled with different trucks or left in the yard when not in use


  • Longer combined length of truck and trailer on certain jobs
  • Limited maneuverability in tight working areas
  • Spoil tank capacity weight restrictions

Truck skid-mounted vacuum excavators

A truck skid-mounted vac with a pony motor has better maneuverability on the job and could pull another trailer instead of your vac system. However, with fewer axles to handle the load, the extra weight of the pony motor can become an issue for certain models when the spoil tank is full.


  • More maneuverability on the jobsite
  • Convenient transport with the ability to pull a trailer to the job
  • Flexibility to choose which type of truck it’s mounted on


  • Added weight from pony motor to the truck chassis, reducing hauling and pulling capacity
  • Longer truck frame requirement than PTO models
  • Limited spoil tank capacities due to DOT restrictions

PTO vacuum excavators

PTO vacs provide outstanding jobsite maneuverability, and the vac always goes wherever the truck goes.


  • Larger capacity tanks can be mounted on a shorter truck chassis because there is no added weight from a pony motor
  • High maneuverability in confined areas
  • Similar fuel usage as truck skid-mounted units with a pony motor, but with minimal maintenance needs
  • Larger range of spoil tank capacities


  • Higher upfront investment than trailer vacs
  • Type of truck it will be installed on is typically determined by the manufacturer

As you can see, a case can be made for all three types of vacuum excavators, and you likely have a few pros and cons to add to each based on your own experiences and preferences.

No matter which type of vac you prefer, the most important “pro” is selecting a machine built and supported by a quality manufacturer. Vermeer offers a wide range of trailer, skid-mounted and PTO vacuum excavators, all supported by a knowledgeable dealer network. So when it’s time to add a new vacuum excavator to your fleet, contact your local Vermeer dealer — they’ll be happy to help.

Vermeer MV Solutions, Inc. reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements, or discontinue manufacturing at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

Vermeer and the Vermeer logo are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. © 2023 Vermeer MV Solutions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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