The equipment in this category includes machines that are used in digging excavations and in trenching operations. While any operation that involves digging material could be called an excavation, we have listed equipment here that is most often used to dig more size limited excavations and trench excavations.
Some of the equipment listed in this section is used in various precision type excavating due to their maneuverability. The large “mass excavators” will be found in the earthmoving and mining section that follows.

Leading the list of excavating and trenching equipment s is a combination type machine called the loader backhoe, backhoe loader, or tractor backhoe. This is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment built.

Dredges are machines that are used to excavate are that are under water. Dredges are used to deepen harbours and waterways and in that sense are excavating machines and are included in this section. They are also used in underwater mining.

Excavators come in two basic forms, tracked and wheeled. The tracked excavator is more common place, due to it having better flotation and traction characteristics than the wheeled excavator. These machines are used in many different industries due to their versatility.

Chain and wheel trenchers are effective at creating trenches that are dug close to design depth. Trenches that are not dug deep enough can often result in having to re-dig the trench, often from the side in an operation known as side-digging. This can be very wasteful and expensive. Digging trenches that are deeper than necessary is also wasteful and expensive, and is known as unnecessary “overdig”.

Operators of the equipment in this section are often called on to create excavations or trenches with sloped banks, as required due to various regulations or requirements.


Backhoe Loader

A backhoe loader, also called a loader backhoe or tractor backhoe, is a heavy equipment vehicle that consists of a tractor fitted with a bucket on the front and a small backhoe on the back. Due to its relatively small size and versatility, backhoe loaders are very common in urban construction projects. These machines travel on rubber tires, and can actually travel at speeds of approx. 25 mph/40 kmh. This makes these machines very popular where travel between worksites or excavations is required often.

These machines can dig small excavations, dig trenches, and using the loader attachment on the front of the machine can move material such as sand or gravel and can be used to can load trucks.

Backhoe Loader



Dredging is the activity of excavating underwater bottom sediments and disposing of them at a different location. This technique is often used to keep waterways navigable or reclaim land. There are several types of dredgers available.

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service




Excavators, also known as a track hoe, are heavy equipment consisting of a boom, dipperstick, bucket and cab on a rotating platform. The cab sits atop an undercarriage with tracks or wheels. All movement and functions of the excavator are accomplished through the use of hydraulic fluid. The tracked excavator is very versatile in the mining, forestry, construction and pipeline industries.


Wheeled excavators offer mobility to travel up to 23 mph (37km/h) and can move quickly from job to job minimizing the need for additional transportation. They are ideally suited for a number of applications, like ditch cleaning or road maintenance that require travel while using a work tool.



A trencher is a piece of construction equipment used to dig trenches, typically for laying pipes or cables, or for drainage. Trenchers range in size from walk-behind models to heavy tracked heavy equipment. Trenchers come in two designs, chain trencher or wheel trencher.


A chain trencher cuts with a digging chain that is driven around a rounded metal frame, or boom. It resembles a giant chainsaw. This type of trencher can cut ground that is too hard to cut with a bucket-type excavator. This type of trencher can cut narrow and deep trenches. The angle of the boom can be adjusted to control the depth of the cut. To cut a trench, the boom is held at a fixed angle while the machine creeps slowly.

Ditch Witch chain trencher


A wheel trencher or rock wheel is composed of a toothed metal wheel. It is cheaper to operate and maintain and can cut harder ground than chain-type trenchers. Thanks to the wheel it is possible to work in hard or soft soils. This is due to the fact that a cutting wheel works by clearing the soil like a bucket-wheel does. They are also used to cut pavement for road maintenance and to gain access to utilities under roads.

Wheel trencher attached to New Holland tractor

Ditch Witch RT70