In late June, when the Illinois River reached 24 feet—about six feet over flood stage—the city of Peoria, Illinois, had to work fast to keep the water from dampening one of the community’s biggest celebrations.
“They needed to save the Fourth of July,” says Chris Dillon, vice president of J.C. Dillon Inc., a local plumbing, heating and underground utility firm. “The river was originally supposed to crest at 24 feet, but it just kept raining and the river just kept rising.”
“Basically a big shop vac”
As the water rose, the city called on J.C. Dillon to help reinforce a sand barrier wall, as well as install plugs and caps on existing storm sewer drains, in an effort to keep the flooding away from Peoria’s riverfront—where tens of thousands of spectators gather annually for food, music and fireworks on Independence Day. While those preventive measures worked well, the wall sprung a few leaks, and the floodwaters began to seep through.
Enter J.C. Dillon’s Cat® CT660 Vocational Truck, a hydrovac unit developed through a relationship between Caterpillar, Cat dealers and Premier™ Oilfield Equipment. Hydrovacs use heated water to break up earth, then remove it with a powerful vacuum—a fast, safe and effective alternative to traditional excavation.
“It’s basically a big pump, a big shop vac,” Dillon says. “It pulls out material and it pulls out water.”
And it does both fast. That allowed J.C. Dillon to suck up the rising river water quickly enough to find the leaks in the wall and plug them—keeping the riverfront area dry for Peoria’s Fourth of July festivities.
Boosting production & the bottom line
Of course, removing flood water wasn’t the main reason J.C. Dillon invested in a Cat Truck hydrovac unit. The company has been using hydrovac technology for the past 15 years to increase production, boost the bottom line and reduce liability in several key areas of its business—including trenchless utility installation and directional drilling.
According to Dillon, hydrovac units also play an important role in verifying the location of existing underground utilities.
“In the past, we would rely on hand digging, which was labor intensive and costly, and we still ran the risk of hitting a gas line—which could lead to fines and liability issues,” he says. “Now, we send the hydrovac out in front of our crews to expose the lines quickly and safely. That allows us to do the work more cost effectively for our customers. The initial investment in the truck may be high, but it’s worth it in the long run.”
Service & support from one supplier
Dillon says he put off purchasing a hydrovac unit for some time because he didn’t like the idea of buying the chassis from one supplier and the body from another.
“I was concerned that there was no one to back up the whole truck,” he says. “What if something goes wrong and you send the truck to the chassis supplier, and they sit on it a few days and then tell you the problem is with the body? You could lose a week or two of production.”
Eventually, though, Dillon began pricing options with a variety of suppliers and was about to sign on the dotted line when he learned that Caterpillar had recently teamed up with Premier Oilfield Equipment to offer hydrovac units.
“I was pretty much sold when our dealer salesman at Altorfer told us they would be able to service the entire truck—the body and the chassis. It’s the only hydrovac on the market I’m aware of with that kind of dealer support,” Dillon says. “And since Altorfer runs two shifts, I knew we’d be able to bring the truck in anytime and get it back to work in a day or two.”
In fact, Dillon is so pleased with the Cat Truck’s performance and Altorfer’s service that he recently purchased a second hydrovac unit. The company also owns a Cat Truck lowboy tractor.
“At the end of the day, the combination of the Cat Truck and the Premier Oilfield Equipment hydrovac is one of the best solutions on the market,” Dillon says. “It’s a great all-around unit, and I have access to a dealer who can handle the complete truck. For the best long-term value, it’s the way to go.”