Hydrovac Operator Job Description, Skills, Interview Questions

Last updated: May 22, 2023

What Does a Hydrovac Operator Do?

As a Hydrovac Operator, you will be responsible for operating a hydrovac machine to safely and efficiently excavate soil and other materials around underground pipelines and utilities. You will be a key member of a team, working alongside other operators, supervisors, and laborers to complete projects on time and on budget. Your ability to operate machinery safely, follow all safety guidelines, and communicate effectively with other team members will be essential to success in this role.

Key Responsibilities

  • Operate a hydrovac machine to excavate soil and other materials around underground pipelines and utilities in a safe and efficient manner.
  • Perform routine maintenance on the hydrovac machine, ensuring that it remains in good working condition at all times.
  • Adhere to all safety guidelines and protocols, working to identify and mitigate hazards before they become a problem.
  • Communicate effectively with other team members, including supervisors and laborers, to ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget.
  • Utilize mapping and GPS tools to locate underground utilities and other infrastructure as needed.


  • Prior experience operating heavy machinery or hydrovac equipment preferred.
  • Ability to lift and move heavy equipment and materials as needed.
  • Willingness to work in a variety of outdoor conditions.
  • Strong communication and teamwork skills, with a focus on safety and efficiency.
  • Comfortable using mapping and GPS tools to locate underground utilities and other infrastructure. 

Job Talks - Hydrovac Operator - Jamie Explains this Skilled Trade

In this video titled "Job Talks - Hydrovac Operator - Jamie Explains this Skilled Trade," Jamie explains what it means to be a hydro vac operator.

A hydro vac operator uses high-pressure water and vacuum to locate gas, water, sewer, and electrical lines in a non-destructive way. Jamie discusses his responsibilities, which involve maintaining the equipment, conducting safety checkups, and digging up water services. He emphasizes the excitement of being on different job sites and working with heavy equipment.

Jamie highlights the team aspect of the job and notes that entry-level positions would start as a helper but progress with experience. He also mentions the importance of respecting those who are willing to do this type of work.

Why Do You Need a Hydrovac Operator?

  • Having a Hydrovac Operator on staff provides an efficient, cost-effective way to complete excavation work 
  • A trained Hydrovac Operator is knowledgeable about proper safety protocols, which can prevent costly accidents or injuries 
  • Hydrovac Operators use industry-leading technology and specialized equipment to quickly and accurately locate underground utilities, making it safer and more reliable than traditional excavation methods
  • The powerful combination of pressure and vacuum makes it possible to clear away debris with little impact to the surrounding area, helping to preserve the environment
  • Using a Hydrovac Operator reduces risk and overall time spent in excavation processes, allowing you to get the job done faster and more efficiently
  • The right Hydrovac Operator can help you save money by minimizing downtime and repairs that may otherwise slow down progress

Hydrovac Operator Job Description and Responsibilities

1. A HydroVac Operator is the driver of success, responsible for the safe and efficient operation of hydro excavation equipment. 

2. You’ll be responsible for the safe and accurate excavation, loading, and digging of rocks, dirt, and other materials. 

3. Keep your hydrovac unit running at maximum capacity and make sure all systems comply with safety regulations. 

4. Make sure to stay on top of tank entry, cleaning, and vacuuming. 

5. You’ll be required to attend training sessions and ensure that all paperwork is properly completed. 

6. You’re the mechanic of the team, so be prepared to do maintenance on the truck.

7. Have a knack for problem solving? You’re in the right place to tackle any issues that come up with the hydrovac unit. 

8. Be prepared to work in tight spaces: you’ll often be required to enter tanks and other small areas. 

9. Represent the company by taking pride in your work, being dependable and showing a professional attitude. 

10. Have a valid driver’s license and clean driving record. 

11. Get ready to get your hands dirty – you’ll be outside in all types of weather. 

12. Prove your expertise by demonstrating knowledge in hydraulics, electrical systems, and mechanical systems. 

13. Take charge of the job site and be prepared to work on projects that require attention to detail. 

14. Make sure to always be aware of your surroundings and maintain a safe working environment. 

15. Work with the team to ensure that all materials and equipment are secure and safely transported. 

16. Flexible and able to adapt to changing conditions on the job site. 

17. Show off your experience in excavation, as well as your ability to read and interpret blueprints. 

18. Keep up with the latest technology and be able to use electronic devices accordingly.

19. Be a team player and communicate effectively with the crew and other personnel. 

20. Make sure all safety measures are taken, including proper use of personal protective equipment. 

21. Keep a record of all maintenance and repairs, ensuring that the hydrovac unit is in top condition. 

22. Maintain a clean and organized job site, and ensure that all equipment is in working order. 

23. Have a great eye for detail and be able to follow instructions precisely. 

24. Stay focused and be able to work for long periods of time. 

25. Always be prepared to work overtime, including nights and weekends. 

Hydrovac Operator Skills and Ideal Candidate Profile

1. An ideal Hydrovac Operator should be safety-oriented and have a good understanding of hydrovac operations. 

2. A successful Hydrovac Operator must be able to operate heavy machinery with precision and accuracy.

3. The ideal candidate should possess strong communication skills and be able to work well with others.

4. The ideal Hydrovac Operator should have a valid driver’s license and be physically fit.

5. Attention to detail, troubleshooting abilities, and problem-solving skills are essential for a Hydrovac Operator.

6. The ideal candidate should have the ability to work independently, be organized and have a positive attitude.

7. A successful Hydrovac Operator should be able to work in different environments and be able to adapt quickly to changing conditions.

8. A successful Hydrovac Operator should be able to read and understand safety rules, regulations, and procedures.

9. Knowledge of operating hydrovac systems, excavation techniques, and safety procedures are essential for any Hydrovac Operator.

10. The ideal candidate should have a good understanding of local, state, and federal regulations concerning hydro excavation operations.

11. The ideal Hydrovac Operator should be knowledgeable of the industry, customer service and have the ability to meet customer deadlines.

12. A successful Hydrovac Operator should have excellent customer service and customer relations skills.

13. An ideal Hydrovac Operator should possess the ability to work well in a team environment.

14. A successful Hydrovac Operator should be proficient with computers and be able to use GPS systems for navigation.

15. The ideal candidate should have the ability to interpret and understand technical documents.

16. The ideal Hydrovac Operator must be able to identify safety hazards and take appropriate corrective action.

17. Successful Hydrovac Operators must have excellent manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

18. The ideal candidate should be able to lift heavy objects and have the ability to work in extreme weather conditions.

19. The ideal Hydrovac Operator should have the ability to think quickly and make sound decisions.

20. A successful Hydrovac Operator should be able to interpret and follow written and verbal instructions.

21. The ideal candidate should have the ability to multitask and prioritize tasks efficiently.

22. A successful Hydrovac Operator should be able to troubleshoot equipment and perform basic repairs.

23. The ideal Hydrovac Operator should be able to read and interpret blueprints, schematics, and diagrams.

24. The successful candidate should have a good understanding of hydraulics and electrical systems.

25. A successful Hydrovac Operator should have the ability to work a flexible schedule, including weekends and holidays. 

Hydrovac Operator Interview Questions

1. What experience do you have operating hydrovac equipment?

2. How comfortable are you working in challenging weather conditions?

3. How do you ensure safety standards and regulations are met?

4. What is your experience in tank entry?

5. Describe your experience in cleaning and vacuuming.

6. How do you stay organized and efficient when mobilizing equipment?

7. Can you explain the importance of attending training sessions?

8. Are you comfortable completing paperwork and truck maintenance?

9. What safety measures do you take when operating hydrovac equipment?

10. How do you ensure the hydrovac unit operates at maximum capacity?

11. What do you understand by the term hydro excavation?

12. How do you stay aware of any changes in regulations?

13. What factors do you consider when digging or breaking rocks or debris?

14. What experience do you have in the transportation of hydro excavation equipment?

15. How do you assess the safety of a job site before beginning work?

16. Describe a time when you had to troubleshoot an issue with a hydrovac unit.

17. How do you stay up-to-date on new hydrovac equipment technologies?

18. What strategies do you use to minimize the impact of excavation on the environment?

19. How do you handle unexpected obstacles while operating the equipment?

20. How do you handle situations where the job requires more time or resources than expected?

21. What steps do you take to ensure that all excavated materials are safely stored?

22. How do you stay motivated when completing repetitive tasks?

23. How do you handle difficult clients or customers?

24. What techniques do you use to identify any potential hazards on the job site?

25. What steps do you take to prepare for a hydro excavation project? 

Hydrovac Operator Salary

The earning potential for a hydrovac operator in the United States is quite extensive - ranging anywhere between $26,000 and an impressive $81,000 annually. What's more, according to recent surveys, these professionals can expect to make an average hourly wage of around $24.18 in Florida. That said, the exact salary could vary depending on multiple factors, including location, years of experience, and the employer.


Hydro Excavating Utilities With A Vac Truck

The YouTube video features hydro excavation using a vac truck, which is highly versatile and can suck out dirt and flush utilities for easy excavation.

The process is demonstrated by locating underground utilities before conducting road extension work. The safest way to do the job is to locate the utilities first and avoid damaging them. The hydro excavation process involves creating a vacuum with a large tank and using water to break in all the dirt, creating a slurry to make excavation easy. The truck can hold up to 1,500 gallons of water and can accommodate up to 250 feet of suction hose.

The hydro excavation process is much safer and cost-effective than traditional digging methods and is ideal for locating utilities in areas with unmarked underground items. The video ends with a demonstration of how to dump the spoils and clean up the truck after use.

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