Editor's Log: The Good, The Bad & The Future Of HDD

June 2013, Vol. 68, No. 6

There are few limits on directional drilling these days. Traditional niches expand and new applications are found every day. To take advantage of such opportunities increasingly requires rigs with more power or enhanced abilities found in mid-sized units. Variations in soil conditions also require more torque or different types of drilling systems and tooling. For many contractors hoping to expand their business, mid-size and large rigs offer tempting opportunities.

Of course, all is not roses and rainbows for drillers. Complaints from survey respondents were common regarding the “new guys” in the industry who don’t understand the market and are constantly underbidding projects, making life difficult for veteran drillers. There are still areas new to the technology and one bad experience can sabotage the HDD market for others.

Additionally, the lack of quality, skilled labor continues to plague many areas, survey respondents lamented.

Several also stressed the need for continued education of owners and engineers. There are still those not accepting of HDD for primarily archaic reasons or lack of data. Times change and the HDD market must recognize the need for ongoing community educational interaction.

Or course, markets change quickly and there is no guarantee that HDD won’t see another down cycle. This is still a young industry. But fortunately, there are many who can recall both the boom years and dark days when HDD was struggling to carve its niche in the utility construction market. Those veterans, both in the contractor and manufacturing community, readily embrace growth but always with an air of caution and restraint. That is the mark of a maturing industry.

But for now, all is well for HDD. As we see many jobsites from around the country, it has become more common than not to see a directional drilling rig at work, right alongside a back-hoe loader.