A History of Vacuum Trucks: From Ideas to Mainstream


Vacuum trucks have become the backbone of many construction companies across the country and globe and for good reason. With the right training, vacuum trucks are an excellent tool for excavation and site clean-up. They are durable and reliable, which are just some of the reasons why we love our vacuum trucks so much. 

But vacuum trucks weren’t always so popular. In fact, not long ago, they didn’t even exist. In our latest blog, we take a deep dive into the history of vacuum trucks and how they’ve changed the construction industry!  

Hydro Excavation & Mining 

Before we get into the history of vacuum trucks, we first need to discuss hydro excavation. Hydro excavation is the use of water for mining, digging, and other construction activities. The technique was used as far back as the late 1800s, where water was used to break up the soil. Why? Because the water was a cheap and less labor-intensive way to conduct mining operations. Hydro excavation uses the same process that created the Grand Canyon, only faster! 

Hydro excavation began being used more in the early 20th century, as the country was in the throes of the Industrial Revolution and needed resources. Water excavation was especially used in places like the Southwest, where it could provide a much easier way to drill the tough, dry soil.

The process of hydro excavation is still used today in large operations, as well as the small and medium-sized excavation products that our vacuum trucks are used for. 

Vacuums, Vacuums, Vacuums! 

While hydro excavation is one aspect of the vacuum truck, the other is the vacuum. The power of the vacuum wouldn’t be realized until 1901 when Hubert Cecil Booth invented it in England. His invention was actually due to an earlier invention by John S. Thurmond, who created a gasoline-powered air blower of sorts. 

Booth’s invention was powered by an internal combustion engine that pulled air through a cloth filter. His invention was absolutely massive; it could not enter buildings and had to be pulled around by horse. Obviously, this was far from ideal, but a practical version wouldn’t be far off. In 1905, a cleaning machine using vacuum technology would be created by one Walter Griffiths. It was improved in a number of ways, including using a flexible hose/pipe.

Eventually, the first full-fledged portable vacuum was created in Ohio in 1907. The creator, James Murray Spangler, was not a full-time inventor; he was a janitor! His machine had an electric fan, box, bag, rotating brush, and was a relatively good idea. 

Unfortunately for Spangler, he simply didn’t have the capital to turn the idea into a business, so he sold the patent to William Henry Hoover in 1908. Hoover, of course, still stands today as one of the premier vacuum companies in the world. 

For several decades, the vacuum was a commodity only used by the well-off. However, the end of WWII and the economic explosion the U.S enjoyed as a result made vacuums a household staple. 

Bringing Hydro Excavation, Vacuums, & Trucks Together 

In the ’60s and ’70s, technology and ingenuity birthed the first iterations of hydro excavation or vacuum trucks. Technology finally made it somewhat feasible to combine the three technologies in a way that companies could utilize. It wouldn’t be until the ’80s and ’90s, however, that vacuum trucks would begin to become mainstream. To learn more about all the uses of these technological marvels, check out our blog on the topic!

Today, there are tens of thousands of vacuum trucks used all over the world, ranging in size from small trucks to the size of oil tankers. Here at EP Vacuum Truck, we have a varied fleet and experienced staff to take on any project in the city. 

Trust EP Vacuum Truck For Your Next Project! 

EP Vacuum Truck has spent years as El Paso’s best in vacuum truck services, and we continue to grow and expand every year. If you’re in need of an experienced team, contact us today to get started!