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Vermeer revealed and demoed a prototype of its new XR2 vacuum excavator at the ICUEE 2019 event in Louisville, KY. The XR2 became available in select regions in early 2020. (SAE/Ryan Gehm)

SAE, AEM collaborate on underground-equipment standard

The “first of its kind” standard was developed to provide essential safety requirements for vacuum excavation and sewer cleaning equipment.

SAE International recently published the first standard of its kind for the vacuum excavation equipment industry – J3107, Vacuum Excavation and Sewer Cleaning Equipment - Safety Requirements – in collaboration with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). The J3107 standard complements the already-published J3106, Vacuum Excavation and Sewer Cleaning Equipment Classification and Nomenclature, which defines the common terminology for vacuum excavation and sewer cleaning equipment.

The J3107 standard is not intended to cover equipment addressed by other on-road federal, state, and local regulations. Truck-mounted or trailer-mounted vehicles are required to meet local or regional on-road requirements, as applicable. Prior to publication of J3107, there were no safety standards or guidelines for the vacuum excavator or sewer cleaning equipment industries.

The members of the AEM Underground Equipment Manufacturers Committee (UEMC) determined the need for standards for the growing vacuum excavation industry. While vacuum excavators have been in production for many years, the full use of this equipment for assisting with the safe excavation around underground utilities has just started to be realized in the last few years, according to AEM.

The UEMC Committee drafted the initial scope of the vacuum-excavator standard and then approached SAE to expand the efforts to the entire industry. This included gathering several manufacturers and industry experts to create the standard. Since many of these manufacturers produce a combination sewer cleaner and vacuum excavator machine, it was practical to include both machines in developing a standard.

“As we started developing it, we realized that it was going to be hard to draw a line where the vacuum excavation equipment stopped and the sewer equipment started. It was something that wasn’t the original intent, but it just made sense to include the sewer cleaning equipment in with the vacuum excavator equipment,” said SAE MTCS9a task force chair Susan Harmon, of Charles Machine Works (Ditch Witch).

After many meetings and the joint efforts of industry experts, the SAE MTCS9a committee, led by Harmon, completed and navigated the two standards (J3106 and J3107) through the SAE balloting and publishing process, while AEM and William Bernhard with AEM sponsored and facilitated the meetings. Harmon explained to Truck & Off-Highway Engineering that vacuum excavation and sewer cleaning were in a gray area, where it was not entirely clear what standards applied to these applications. “It is moving toward falling in the scope of earthmoving machinery, so it will be a little clearer what standards apply to this [equipment],” she shared.

The publication of SAE standards J3106 and J3107 has complemented the efforts that the underground construction industry has delivered to their workforce to improve safety. “I am an advocate for having industry consensus on our best practices to develop safety requirements for earthmoving machinery,” Harmon said. “What is really nice about this new standard is that we were able to arrive at a consensus and that we came together to define these requirements.”

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