The choice between a trailer, truck 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 you’re researching your next vac system.

Trailer vacs

Trailer vacs 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 the two biggest selling points. Of course, more often than not, trailer vacs find themselves attached to the same truck day in, day out. Also, depending on the driver and the jobsite, trailer vacs are not as maneuverable as truck vacs, especially in confined areas.


  • Lower up-front investment costs
  • Can be pulled with different trucks or left in the yard when not in use


  • Combined length of truck and trailer on certain jobs
  • Lacks maneuverability in confined areas
  • Spoil tank capacity weight restrictions

Truck Skid-Mounted vacs

Truck skid-mounted vacs with a pony motor have better maneuverability on the job and could possibly pull another weight legal trailer instead of your vac system. However, with a reduced number of 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 maneuverable on the job
  • Easy to transport and could possibly pull another weight legal trailer to the job
  • Flexibility to choose which type of truck it’s mounted on
  • Can be easily remounted to another truck or an off-road crawl carrier


  • Pony motor adds weight to the truck chassis, reducing hauling and pulling capacity
  • Longer frame is required than PTO models
  • DOT restrictions can limit spoil tank capacities

PTO vacs

The shortest vacuum excavator setup you can purchase, PTO vacs provide the best jobsite maneuverability — and if you are buying one with a 500-gallon spoil tank capacity, the operator typically does not need a CDL to operate it. Those advantages do come at a more substantial initial investment, 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
  • Best maneuverability in confined areas
  • Similar fuel usage as truck skid-mounted units with a pony motor, but with fewer maintenance needs
  • Larger range of spoil tank capacities


  • Up-front investment higher than trailer vacs
  • Much more challenging to remove and remount vac to another truck
  • Manufacturer typically determines the type of truck it will be installed on

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 that’s built and supported by a quality manufacturer. Vermeer®MV Solutions®offers a wide range of McLaughlin®and Vac-Tron®trailer, truck skid-mounted and PTO vacuum excavators, all of them 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.


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