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

This information and much more are detailed in the 2013 15th Annual Underground Construction HDD Survey of the U.S. market. This exclusive industry research was conducted during March and April. Surveys were sent via both U.S. Postal Service and email to more than 5,800 contractors or organizations that actively own and operate HDD drilling units. The number of completed surveys allowed for an accurate statistical portrayal of the market. Survey responses came from all 50 states plus Puerto Rico.

Challenges
Even as the industry continues to mature and overall the market is strong, HDD is not without its fair share of challenges and growing pains.

According to this Pennsylvania contractor, their biggest challenge is finding “professional, qualified operators and locators.” That same problem was echoed by contractors throughout the country. In fact, a North Carolina contractor stressed that not being able to find qualified personnel inhibits his company from expanding.

While low-ball pricing schemes, often by inexperienced or desperate companies continue to be a hot-button issue for many, this Florida contractor shared another perspective. “HDD should never cost less than it would to open-cut whatever is being crossed. If it is a road, then plan, profile, engineer; allow for maintenance of traffic, back filling soil in lifts, proctor, testing, temporary pavement, then milling and permanent asphalt and striping. Then add 10 percent to that amount for the convenience of HDD. The same goes for water crossings. We do this work way too cheap for the risk that we take every day.”

Added this mid-Atlantic contractor, “Even though our pricing is not among the lowest, our knowledge and experience allows us to carry a reputation of completing the HDD jobs we take on. That permits us to continue to receive HDD jobs at our current pricing. Adequate pricing is needed in the HDD process for expansion and due to all the unknowns when HDD is used.”

As underground utility corridors become more crowded, often an easy-out is to simply drill deeper. But that strategy is coming back to haunt the industry, says a Missouri respondent. “These existing utilities are becoming harder to expose due to the depth they were bored.”

This Oklahoma contractor agreed. “We spend more time looking for missed locates than most bores take to drill. We are also facing new problems of congested easements where previous HDD activity occurred and a less than professional approach was taken. They drilled deep and crooked and took up all the room.”