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How Is Excavator Capacity Calculated?

Sep 08 , 2022

Excavators are one of the most popular and effective pieces of equipment used to move large amounts of dirt for construction projects and other similar projects. If you have a job coming up that requires dirt removal and you need an estimate of how long it will take, you may be wondering, "How much can an excavator dig in a day?"


An excavator can be used to dig anywhere from 350 to 1,000 cubic yards per day, depending on a number of factors, including bucket capacity, ground type, operator skill, and efficiency level.


To help you better plan which type of excavator you need and how long it will take to complete an upcoming project, we have provided some resources below.




The main factors affecting digging speed and efficiency

One of the biggest factors affecting how much an excavator can dig in a day is the bucket size of the machine, which usually ranges from 0.5 to 1.5 cubic yards of bucket capacity. The most common conventional size excavator has a bucket capacity of 1 cubic yard, while smaller excavators have a capacity closer to 0.5 cubic yards.


Another factor is the type of ground you are digging on. Wet mud or ground soaked with large stones will be more difficult to dig and will take more time to dig. Dry, loose mud with minimal rocks or stones is the ideal type of ground to dig efficiently.


This is a given, but the skill and efficiency level of the excavator operator will also have a significant impact on the production rate. Not only will there be a significant learning curve at first for people with little experience operating heavy equipment, but even if they master the process they simply won't be able to work as quickly and efficiently as others with thousands of hours of excavator digging experience.

Rock Bucket

Rock Bucket

How to estimate excavation volumes?

Now that you know what factors affect productivity, it's easier to estimate how much you can excavate on a given project.


Remember, it's overly simplistic, but in short, you can estimate the amount and speed of digging using the following formula.


Bucket capacity * number of cycles per hour * number of hours worked per day = amount of digging per day


For example, an experienced operator operating an excavator with a capacity of 1 cubic yard (which is typical) can perform 120 cycles per hour (2 per minute) and do 6 hours of actual work per day (in an 8 hour shift) and dig approximately 720 cubic yards of soil per day.

Excavator Rock Ripper

 Excavator Rock Ripper


If you run these figures, you will notice that small changes in any factor can have a significant impact on production. For example, if your excavator can only haul 0.5 cubic yards instead of a full yard, you will only be able to dig half as much dirt in the same time period. Similarly, an operator will take twice as long as an experienced person to dig half as much dirt in the same time period.


You will notice these very obvious things when you take the time to crunch the numbers, but it is surprising how many people don't take the time to do accurate calculations. That's why it's important to take the time to consider all the factors that can affect digging speed and volume before making excavator plans for your next project.


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