Good Vibrations: HDD Industry Riding Out Recession Better Than Other Market Niches

12th Annual HDD Survey
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | June 2010 Vol. 65 No. 6

Along that same line of thought, one mountain states contractor said that their market is getting “tighter” due to poorly qualified people entering the business and wreaking havoc in the market for experienced firms.

A Southwest respondent expressed concern as “interest in HDD is still limited to when it seems to be the only alternative. Many projects still opt for open-cut if possible without considering potential savings via HDD.”

Price continues to be a hot topic and major concern for most areas of the country, the survey revealed. “I still see mom and pop-type drillers getting into this industry and killing a market that should be thriving,” lamented this Southeast driller. “The prices are going lower (especially on the telecommunications side) and knowledge is not there. Quality should count,” stressed a Mid-Atlantic contractor. A Texas respondent believes “the biggest challenge would have to be the competition. We’re beating each other to death.”

Concerns about cross bores remain a stumbling block for HDD in the municipal market. It is not uncommon for HDD to be banned or cumbersome restrictions established in attempts to prevent further cross bores. When major accidents occur as the result of cross bores, the resulting bad press serves only to give the industry a black eye.

Efforts to prevent cross bores – and locate existing cross bores – are becoming important to many contractors who have experienced problems. “Successful bores and no damage to existing utilities is the biggest challenge to the industry,” observed a Southwest contractor. “The industry is still plagued by the impression that HDD is really good at destroying existing utilities.”

A California respondent added “We have to stay current with new technology and avoid hits.” Another contractor succinctly summed up the situation: “Underground utilities are becoming a lot more crowded than in the past.”

Frac-outs (drilling fluids leaching from bore paths, often to the surface) are major concerns from owners and engineers as that could lead to serious state environmental quality issues (dependent upon the state). “Too many people are trying to get into the business that don’t have any knowledge. They are doing a halfway job and making mistakes by fracing out under roads and streams, and then letting the frac-outs go without containing them,” stressed this contractor.