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Trenchers are like excavators. They serve the same purpose. Trenchers can be useful for breaking soil and rock and for debris clearing. Unlike an excavator, a trencher can work in continuous succession.

It is often used to dig trenches for pipes or cutting through hard materials. There are two types of trenchers; wheel trencher and chain belt trencher. It can also be classified either as walk-in behind trencher or a ride-on trencher.

Trenching is a process of digging conducted in a long line, especially with deep hole depth, and narrow width. It is commonly used for the installation of long pipes and utility cables. There are many sizes of trenchers according to the project requirement. Trenchers can also be used for creating drainage, digging for electrical wires, levelling and cutting of pavements.

Types of trenchers

Rock wheel trenchers

Rock wheel trenchers have a wheel and several buckets sitting on crawler tracks. As the wheel approaches the ground, it rotates, and the bucket digs the dirt from the trench. These buckets move like a ferris wheel, and as each bucket reaches the high point, the dirt is dumped out into a conveyor belt. Rock wheel trenchers, such as the Ditch Witch 8020, are large trenchers that use toothed metal wheels for digging, particularly deep depths. Wheel trenchers are typically used for cutting through road surfaces and pavements for road works and utility maintenance.

Track trenchers

Track trenchers work in a similar way to wheel trenchers, however, look like a giant chainsaw as the buckets are attached to a chain (the “ladder”), which collected dirt into buckets and mean it can dig deeper trenches. Tracked trenchers, such as the Vermeer T955 and the Ditch Witch RT115, are large tracked machines typically used on large civil and mining projects that involve earthmoving. As the name suggests, track trenchers utilise continuous tracks instead of wheels. Tracks allow the trencher to operate across a variety of difficult terrains including mud, bog, sand, dirt, and snow.

Walk-behind trenchers

Walk behind trenchers such as the Red Roo HT912 and the Toro TD4, are smaller trenching machines that are used by an operator who stands behind the machine and walks with the machine as it is used. Walking trenchers are a popular option for backyard projects and weekend warriors.

Ride-on trenchers

Ride-on trenchers can be used for road maintenance and for cutting pavements. These small trenches minimally disturb the surroundings, while the walk-behind or portable trenchers are lighter and easier to manoeuvre and are often used for landscaping jobs like installing irrigation lines and edging. Ride-on trenchers, such as the Toro TX1000 and the Ditch Witch RT95, are small to medium-sized machines equipped with an array of attachments, making them a versatile and useful machine for a variety of small to medium projects and backyard jobs.

How do trenchers work?

In the case of heavy wheel trenchers, as the wheel approaches the ground it rotates and the bucket digs the dirt from the trench. These buckets move like a Ferris wheel, and as each bucket reaches the high-point, the dirt is dumped out into a conveyor belt for removal. Heavy chain belt trenchers are able to dig deeper trenches, though can cost a little more to hire since they have more moving parts and are generally more costly to buy. 

On the other hand, chain belt trenches work in a similar way to heavy wheel trenches; however, a chain belt trenchers bucket is attached to a chain (the “ladder”) which descends to collect dirt into buckets. This machinery is the most powerful trenching machinery available and is suitable for working with hard rock and large scale projects. Chain belt trenches are commonly used for jobs like digging pipelines and laying telecommunications.

For small sized jobs, ride-on trenchers are frequently used for road maintenance and cutting pavements as they minimally disturb surroundings and can be controlled remotely or by radio. The walk behind trencher (also known as a portable trencher) is another option for smaller jobs, as they are even lighter than ride-on trenchers and easier to manoeuvre. Walk behind trenchers are often used for landscaping jobs such as installing irrigation lines and edging.

To hire one of these trenchers or if you’re not sure which type of trencher is the best choice for your job, get in touch with us at or browse through our trencher hire listings now. Our directory offers a variety of trenching and trencher hire services from suppliers throughout Australia.