15th Annual Horizontal Directional Drilling Survey

While Bumps In The Road Continue, Overall HDD Industry Presses Ahead
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | June 2013, Vol. 68, No. 6

Despite pockets of negativity, the majority of horizontal directional drilling contractors continue to enjoy a robust business atmosphere for 2013, and most expect that environment to continue for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, most contractors commenting in the survey seemed bullish on HDD opportunities. A contractor from Idaho went so far as to predict that “the directional drill will be as common on a job site as a backhoe.”

An Oklahoma contractor said that various market conditions should keep HDD strong for some time. “The long term looks to be even better with our current infrastructure reaching the end of its life span. Most of the infrastructure is in highly congested areas where open-cut will not work. Environmental reasons are bringing the cost of open-cut higher than HDD.”

Said this mid-Atlantic contractor, “We have been involved in HDD for 20 years and find it necessary for us to survive in today’s market. We are going to keep expanding in the HDD field with the feeling the market will only continue to need more HDD than in the past.”

Of course, the outlook is not without risk, many concede, especially in areas where cutthroat competition has kept prices too low.

Cautions this California survey respondent, “It seems like the ‘fiber boom syndrome’ is coming back to our industry, only this time it is centered around energy (gas, oil, solar, etc.). The prices seem to be hurt by a glut of new, unqualified contractors. If you are an HDD contractor with an excellent reputation and specialize in tougher work, this doesn’t hurt as bad as if you are a company with a not-so-good rep that drills easy dirt projects.”

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A Florida contractor lamented that in his area, HDD could be in trouble if market prices are not improved. “There is so much price gouging that you cannot afford new equipment. If prices do not come up above open-cut than the HDD market will no longer exist.”

Several survey respondents complained that too many of the new entrants into HDD are causing negative ripple effect issues for others. Observed this Michigan respondent, “New contractors are unaware of proper pricing and procedures.”