Digger Derrick History Explained!

Many companies benefit from the use of a digger derrick in everyday business operations. It can perform various tasks for a variety of industries such as mining, electric and telephone among others. Its major structural feature is a giant hydraulic auger mounted on the truck chassis. With so many technological advances, the history of this specialized vehicle tends to be forgotten, how it was created and came to be.

Following is some information regarding the original method of excavating holes, historical background of the digger derrick and its current transformation to fit various industry applications.

Original Process

The labor intensive task of setting up electric and telephone line poles is with a conventional manual digging process. Workers use a traditional shovel and post hole digger with a long handle and a set of metal spade-shaped blades. The digging process is initially simple, with difficulty arising as the hole gets deeper. Open blades are strongly pushed into the soil, then closed and pulled upward with outward force to excavate and create the desired hole. It is hard work for the back and only few holes can be dug at a time.

Another traditional digging method is with hand and power augers, a slight progression from shovel use. The hand auger was around long before telephone and utility poles. It is made from a wide “T” steel bar with helical flighting to produce accurate results; it is used in ground level deck construction. Power augers have powerful torque to speed up soil excavation process and only requires one or two workers to control the machine.


With rapid technological advancement, it was necessary to find a faster, more efficient way to set telephone and electric poles. The industry needed a powerful machine to easily and rapidly excavate post holes to get necessary services to anxious consumers. Terex Utilities took on this mighty job and in 1945 invented the first mechanical digger derrick, which was named “Telelect.” It was mainly utilized in the telephone and electric line industries and its operation required two workers.

Ongoing Development

Since then, there has been ongoing development with different models and configurations. There are variations associated with this machine including: a reverse gear-box; the Rite-Way auger storage bracket that can deliver a continuous drilling operation directly under the boom; the Commander 1 series with dual-lift cylinders; a full product line of Captain Series; and the present Telelect digger derricks. All of these innovations have evolved from a simple soil excavation method to more advanced technology to eradicate the labor-intensive method of manual excavation.


To add more versatility, many companies are customizing diggers into aerial equipment to make it a device that can perform several applications in a short period of time without many workers. It offers a good return of investment, boosts productivity and finishes tasks on schedule without delay.

With a desire to improve the quality of life, many inventors seek to discover new technological innovations that can have an impact on many lives as exemplified by taking the simple task of manual excavation and turning it into today’s sophisticated drill hole methods. Without an innovation driven by a desire to lighten the load of manual soil excavation, the invention of the digger derrick might never have been happened; it was made possible by a great idea and help from the past!