Underground Construction - June 2020 - 22

22nd Annual Directional Drilling Survey
working from home, we've been helping
out the telecoms with maintenance and
service upgrades."
Added a West Coast contractor, "The
telecoms we work for are already talking
about the increased need for fiber-to-thehome services by 2021."
For the past several years, medium-sized
rigs have been a hot commodity. Survey
respondents say that while some of their
work for pipelines has dried up for the time
being, they are still able to utilize those rigs
for multiple applications.
"We bought a 60,000-pound [pullback
force] rig a couple of years ago and use it for

a variety of needs and applications," revealed
a Southeast contractor. "We expect to keep
that rig pretty busy through the year. The
water market keeps growing, and for a lot
of our distribution and telecom projects, we
sometimes need the extra power."

Broad applications
Indeed, the current pandemic has clearly
demonstrated just how valuable HDD has
become to the underground construction
industry. HDD has been embraced broadly
by virtually every market involved in
underground utility installations. Telecom
remains the primary driver for small rigs,

Average Bore Length (in feet)
2015
2,500

2016 2017

2018

2019

2,302
2,125
1.917 1,892

2,000

1,973

1,500
1,000
679 688
588 640 636
389 390 378 381 379

500

Large rigs

Mid-sized rigs

Small rigs

What is the most common type of pipe installed via HDD?
50

49.9

49.7

48.3

49.0 HDPE

26.1

26.3 PVC

46.6

40

30
24.7
22.3

22.5

20
14.2

10

22

12.4

12.8

9.1

10.0

9.9

4.5

5.4

6.0

2015

2016

2017

JUNE 2020 | UConOnline.com

12.1

11.4 Steel

8.8

8.7 Ductile/

4.7

4.6 Other

2018

Iron

2019

while gas distribution, electric, water and
even sewer continue to emerge as growing
market opportunities.
In this year of the pandemic, HDD
market composition has changed
somewhat. The survey revealed that at 25.9
percent, telecom still represents the largest
market segment for HDD applications.
However, water is maintaining a 19.9
market share, followed closely by gas
distribution at 19.8 percent and electric
distribution/transmission at 12.9 percent.
At the time this survey was conducted, oil
and gas transmission applications had fallen
to 7.6 percent of the market (and were still
falling). Varied and innovative uses of HDD
have grown to a 3.1 percent market share.
When asked about future prospects
for the continued growth of HDD, most
respondents strongly agreed the technology
has a bright future. Observed a Mountain
States contractor, "In the short term,
as long as things like fiber and 5G hold
up, HDD has a great future. The key will
be keeping HDD expanding in different
markets, like water and sewer and other
areas, so that when telecom finally slows
down, we've still got plenty to do."
Several respondents mentioned the
state of the economy in light of the
pandemic as a major concern. "We really
need to get the economy going pretty
quickly to keep our work growing," said a
Mid-Atlantic contractor. Another concern
emphasized by a Southeast respondent,
as well as by several other contractors, is
that "the presidential election could have a
major effect on construction."
In 2019, about 34 percent of contractors
executed up to $1 million of HDD work,
44 percent performed $1 to $5 million, 13
percent had HDD work worth between $5
and $10 million, and 9 percent completed
projects in excess of $10 million.

Rookies, other issues
Contractors have complained for several
years about new contractors jumping
into HDD without experience, then
underpricing and underperforming on jobs.
"These rookies usually have very little
training - or haven't taken the time to get
trained - on best practices and profitability,"
observed a Midwest contractor.
Said this Southwest contractor, "Some
of these new guys don't only leave a lot


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Underground Construction - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Underground Construction - June 2020

Contents
Underground Construction - June 2020 - FC
Underground Construction - June 2020 - IFC
Underground Construction - June 2020 - Contents
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 4
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 5
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 6
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 7
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 8
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 9
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 10
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 11
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 12
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 13
Underground Construction - June 2020 - 14
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Underground Construction - June 2020 - 58
Underground Construction - June 2020 - IBC
Underground Construction - June 2020 - BC
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