In construction and design applications, potholing refers to a particular digging practice used for ascertain the horizontal and vertical location of an underground facility. It is also viewed as a phase of underground construction for any type of excavation.
Traditionally, potholing was done using backhoes or shovels, but this is a risky endeavor due to the potentially destructive nature of these means. Besides, the backhoe or shovel method is inexact and cumbersome; even the most skilled digger or operator of a backhoe runs the risk of damaging underground utilities, while trying to locate and protect them.
However, nowadays potholing can be done safely and with high precision, using a hydro or vacuum truck. The technology incorporated into these industrial machines is non invasive, using high pressures air or water to excavate the soil. Underground utilities will be safe, as this technology does not have the damaging potential of the traditional excavation means. A hydro or vacuum truck can dig very small test holes, 6 to 12 inches deep, and accurately identify lines, pipes or obstructions.
Potholing has many different uses, so there are more and more companies in different industries using this technology: engineering services, oil refineries, pipeline companies, barge operations etc.