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Ditching and trenching Equipment


Introduction- excavating machineries

Ditching and trenching equipment- History
Ditching and trenching equipment- definition
Ditching and trenching equipment-type
A, wheel type B,___ type
Safety Measures
Application Area

Trenching Machines

These machines are used for digging trenches at a faster rate and with
proper control of depths and width, and are capable of digging any
type of soil except rock. They are available in various size for digging
trenches of various depths and widths. These are generally crawler
mounted having large range of speeds to permit the selection of the
most suitable speed for any job condition, ranging from canal
excavation to laying cables. Trenching machines are two type, namely
wheel trenchers and ladder trenchers and described here under: -

A. Wheel-Trenchers
Trenchers are equipments used for excavating trenches or ditches
of variable width and depth. The trenches of width upto 12 meters
and depth upto 3 meter can be excavated in one pass with the
trenchers available now a day. A trenchers consist of : (a) self-
propelled tractor or carrier fitted with either crawler type or wheel
type running gear; (b) an excavating device consisting of several
buckets on the periphery of a wheel or several cutters attached to
chain for digging and discharging continuously: (c) a means of
conveying the excavated material to either side of the excavated
trench and depositing it in windrows.
Wheel trenchers are most common type of excavators.
Excavating member of these wheel trenchers consists of a pair of
circular rims whose outside diameter are connected by U-shaped
buckets or cutters. The wheel is turned by a chain drive which
connects to the power source. The wheel turns in a direction with
the buckets travelling away from the carrier in the top position
when discharging material, and towards the carrier at the bottom of
their travel while digging. The buckets or cutters on the wheel
perform the work of excavation while traveling upward. When the
wheel reaches the top position, the excavated material drops from
the buckets on the conveyor and discharges alongside the trench to
form the bucket windrow, keeping some clearance between the
windrow and the edge of the trench. The wheel trenches are very
suitable equipment for digging canals and other trenches.

The trenches may be for water, gas and oil pipe line, telephone
cables, drainage and sewer. These provide for digging with positive
control over depth and width of trenches and needs minimum
efforts for finishing. These can dig any type of soil except rock, and
are available in various size for digging trenches of varying depths
and widths.
The selection of a trenching equipment depends on the job
condition, depth and width of the trench, type of soil, disposal of
excavated earth, availability of ground water.

B. Ladder-type Trenching machine

In these machines buckets are provided with chain links on ladder type
fame or boom. By providing extensions to the ladders and by adding
more buckets, it can dig trenches up to 10m depth. These machines are
used where depth of trenches required is more than 3 meters. Width of
the trench can be increased by installing shaft mounted side cutter on
each side of the boom. As the bucket travel up the upside of the boom,
they bring out earth and unload it on belt conveyor which discharges
this excavated earth along either side of the trench like wheel type
trenching machines.

The ladder turns about two pivot points in its elliptical path. This
makes for a flatter, more compact arrangement, and the depth
excavation is not restricted by wheel diameter. For slit trenching, there
is chain line which carries cutting blades along its periphery upon the
width of the trench desired. For hard ground like concrete or rock-
studded ground, tungsten carbide teeth are used.


 It is faster and cheaper method of trenching

 It digs only as much as is necessary, A 10 cm pipe can be
installed in a 15 cm wide slot cut by a trencher.
 It is a continuous process and is not like that of back-hoe
excavator. i.e dug-lift dump.

There are variety of excavators available for specialty application. These are
machines designed strictly for one work application such as trenchers, but there are
also general utility machines such as backhoe-loaders. If there is a requirement to
excavate large quantity of material from an extensive borrow area, the Holland
loader is designed for such mass excavation tasks. However, if the excavation is in a
busy city street, the contractor should consider an excavator.


Trenching machines have been around for over 100 years. Supposedly, the first
mechanical trenching machine was assembled in 1893. The early models were
steam-drive monsters, but, today there are many small utility trenches available
including two-wheel-drive walk-behind trenchers for trenching in soft ground

Trenching or ditching machines are designed for excavating trenches or ditches of

considerable length and having a variety of widths and depths. The term “trenching
machine,” as used in this book, applies to the wheel-and-ladder-type machines.
Most general construction work requires trenches that are no wider than 2 ft or
deeper than 7 ft, so 95% of the machines are in the 40 to 150- hp range. Machines
in this horse power range are satisfactory for digging utility trenches for water and
gas and shoulder grains on highways. Large trenchers, having gross horsepower
rating of over 340, are used to excavate the much wider and deeper trenches
necessary to lay large diameter cross country pipelines or water and sewage system
main-distribution lines.

There are fully hydrostatic trenches having self-leveled trucks. A hydrostatic

trencher delivers horsepower to the cutting chain and wheel/trucks more efficiently
and tends to be smoother to operate. With self-leveling equipment a vertical trench
can be maintained on uneven terrain having up to 18.5 % slope.

Trenchers provide relatively fast digging, with positive control of trenches depth
and wide, thereby reducing expensive finishing operations. Most large trenchers
crawler-mounted to increase their stability and to distribute the weight over a great

Wheel-Type Trenching Machines

These machines are available with maximum cutting depths exceeding 8 ft, with
trench widths from 12 in. to approximately 60 in. Many are available with 25 or
more digging speed to enable the selection of the most suitable speed for almost
any job condition.

The excavating part of the machine consists of a power driven wheel on which are
mounted a number of removable buckets, equipped with cutter teeth. Bucket are
available in varying widths to which side cutter can be attached when it is necessary
to increase the width of a trench. The machine is operated by lowering the rotating
wheel to the desired depth, while the unit moves forward slowly. The earth is picked
up by the bucket and deposited onto an endless belt conveyor that can be adjusted
to discharge the earth on either side of the trench.

Wheel-type machines are especially suited to excavating trenches for utility service
that are placed in relatively shallow trenches.

LADDER – TYPE trenching Machines

By installing extensions to the ladder or booms, by adding more buckets and chain
links, it is possible to dig trenches in excess of 30 ft with large machines. Trench
widths in excess of 12 ft can be dig. Most of these machines have booms whose
lengths can be varied, thereby permitting a single machine to be used on trenches
varying considerably in depth. This eliminates the need to own a different machine
for each depth range. A machine may have 30 or more digging speeds to suit the
needs of a given job.

The excavating part of the machine consists of two endless chains that travel along
the boom, to which are attached cutter bucket equipped with teeth. In addition,
shafts mounted side cutters can be installed on each side of the boom to increase
the width of the trenches. As the buckets travels up the underside of the boom, they
bring out earth and deposit it on a belt conveyor that discharges it along either side
of the trench. As a machine moves over uneven ground, it is possible to vary the
depth of cut, by adjusting the position, but not the length of the boom.

Ladder type trenching machines have considerable flexibility with regard to trench
depth and widths. However, these machines are not suitable for excavating
trenches in rock or where large quantities of ground water, combined with unstable
soil, prevent the walls of the trench from remaining in place. If the soil, such as
loose sand or mud, tends to flow into the trench, it may be desirable to adopt some
other method of excavating the trench


The choice of equipment to be used in excavating a trench will depend on

 The job condition

 The depth and width of the trench
 The class of soil
 The extent to which groundwater is present
 The width of the right-of –way for disposal of excavated earth.

If a relatively shallow and narrow trench is to be excavated in firm soil, the wheel-
type machine is probably the most suitable. However, if the soil is rock that that
requires blasting, the most suitable excavator will be a hoe. If the soil is an
unstable, water-saturated material, it may be necessary to use a hoe or a clamshell
and let the walls establish a stable slope. If it is necessary to install solid sheeting to
hold the walls in place, either a hoe or a clamshell that can excavate between the
trench brace that hold the sheeting in place will probably be the equipment for the