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    Diligent Bore Planning Can Help Prevent Utility Strikes


    It’s getting crowded out there! From small fiberoptics and cable TV lines to larger water, gas and wastewater pipelines, there’s a significant amount of buried infrastructure to avoid while installing underground utilities. Those busy underground rights of way make diligent bore planning more important than ever to help prevent utility strikes.

    Bore planning steps

    According to Kipp Ulferts, applications specialist for Vermeer Intelligent Worksite Solutions, for many smaller diameter installs at short distances, bore planning may involve calling in locates, daylighting all existing utilities, walking the bore path, and then creating a bore plan. However, for larger projects at greater distances and in areas where there are several utilities nearby, he recommends incorporating planning tools like Vermeer Projects software.

    “Planning needs to start with mapping out a bore path or white lining that includes target depths and accounts for product bend tolerances. This information will help a contractor determine and negotiate entrance and exit points,” Ulferts said.

    The next step is to call in locates, followed by visual verification of all the utilities along the bore path. Ulferts recommends adding the GPS coordinates and depths of all of the services to the pre-bore plan. “Larger jobs take longer, and there are usually a lot of considerations involved, so it’s important to have documentation that notes everything that’s in the ground.”

    After existing utilities are noted, the bore path should be reviewed and revised to help verify there is proper clearance between the product being installed and what’s already in the ground. “When looking at the distance of allowable space between utilities, contractors have to make sure they’ve given themselves enough space for reaming. In many soil conditions, the weight of the reamer can cause the depth of the bore hole to drop a bit.”

    Once everything is adjusted, it’s time to share the bore plan with all the responsible parties on the job, including the crew that will be working the project. The bore plan developed will be their roadmap for the install.

    During the bore

    Planning doesn’t stop when the work starts, though. To help avoid utility strikes, crew members need to be paying attention to the bore plan closely during the bore and keep track of bore depths. Tracking depths manually with a logbook is one way of doing it. However, crews using Vermeer Projects and a supported DCI® DigiTrak FalconTM receiver can keep track of it all through an onboard DigiTrak® Aurora® display with Vermeer BoreAssist. From the operator seat, bore plans can be viewed and adjusted right from the display. Also, with DCI Log-While-Drilling (LWDTM) Live, the crew can compare real-time drill head tracking with the bore plan.

    Ulferts also recommends noting the location of landmarks around the area at the time of the bore to help with locating buried utilities in the future. “Over time, things above ground can change dramatically, but what’s underground remains unchanged. However, capturing the distance between a landmark that is unlikely to change in the near future and the utility can help someone find it in the future,” he explained.

    Documenting it all

    Planning is not done yet. After the bore is completed, it’s time to compare and update the bore plan with as-built information. “Many utility companies require contractors to provide as-built bore profiles because it will help with future expansions or replacements,” said Ulferts. “As-built information will also help another contractor out as he or she is planning to install product in the same area. Detailed documentation now can help reduce the number of utility strikes in the future.”

    Easing the process

    Planning before, during and after a project is complete is vital to helping avoid utility strikes. The process outlined above doesn’t have to be labor-intensive, though. Vermeer Projects makes it convenient to create a bore plan, capture GPS coordinates of existing utilities, as well as add depths and calculate allowable space between services. Reports from Vermeer Projects are also convenient to share.

    On the drill, operators can select the model they are running and follow the rod-by-rod directions from an onboard display. Meanwhile, the locator’s marked points throughout the bore can be quickly uploaded to the Vermeer Projects cloud.

    Afterward, pre-bore and as-built data can be merged with all other relevant bore details, including noted landmark photos. It will be stored within the system and can also be shared with others.

    To get started with Vermeer Projects, contact your local Vermeer dealer.


    Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications. Vermeer and the Vermeer logo are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. DCI, DigiTrak, Aurora and LWD are trademarks of Digital Control Incorporated.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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    First impressions: Brandon Bird Utilities Construction Sees Value in New D8x12 Navigator® Horizontal Directional Drill


    Growing up on a ranch just outside of Post, Texas, Brandon Bird discovered his passion for pipelining while working with his dad in junior high and high school. When Bird graduated from Texas Tech a few years later, he knew exactly what he wanted to do — start his very own pipeline company. Now, with 23 years under his belt, his company, Brandon Bird Utilities Construction, is responsible for installing and rehabbing gas lines throughout the Lubbock, Texas, area. Bird employs more than 50 highly trained individuals and owns a fleet of equipment that includes excavators, several Vermeer trenchers and one Vermeer D8x12 Navigator® horizontal directional drill (HDD).

    “With the size of the installs we normally do and the location, open-cut installation methods usually make the most sense for the majority of our jobs,” Bird explained. “However, there are still times where we need to bore gas service lines, which is why we added the compact Vermeer D8x12 HDD unit in the spring of 2018.”

    Horizontal directional drilling isn’t new to Brandon Bird Utilities Construction. At one point the company owned and operated several drills, but Bird determined several years back that at the time it was more economical to enlist HDD subcontractors to do the trenchless work when needed. However, as infrastructure work around the area has increased in recent years, those subcontractors are busy with other jobs, and Bird doesn’t have the time to wait. So, he decided it was good timing to get back into the HDD business.

    Finding the right size rig

    The gas service installs that Brandon Bird Utilities Construction usually performs does not warrant the need for a large HDD since most of these projects are smaller-diameter short bores. “The bores we were outsourcing were usually located in tight urban areas,” Bird explained. “So, we didn’t want to get anything too big because it may be hard to maneuver in alleys or around buildings. We also wanted a machine that was convenient to use and priced right.”

    Bird communicated that information to his local Vermeer Texas-Louisiana dealer sales representative, Mitch McCalib, who introduced him to the new D8x12. Sized for working in tight spaces, this compact HDD features straightforward controls and delivers quiet operations.

    “Horizontal directional drilling rigs have come a long way since we worked on that side of the business, and I’m sure all of the technology in today’s machines make a huge difference for contractors specializing in that line of work,” Bird added. “However, we wanted a more basic machine, something like we used to run — that’s what we got with the Vermeer D8x12 rig. It still has a lot of great features to help our guys get work done quickly and safely, and it’s priced to be a real value. It’s the exact machine for our needs.”

    Getting the team up to speed

    McCalib, with the support of the rest of the team at the Vermeer dealership, made sure everyone on the new HDD crew for Brandon Bird Utilities Construction had what they needed to start drilling. “Mitch (McCalib) told us what locating system we should be using and what tooling we should have for the type of installs we do,” explained Bird.

    Chris Altman and Richard Serenil, two seasoned equipment operators for Brandon Bird Utilities Construction, became the proud new operators of the Vermeer D8x12 HDD. “The guys from Vermeer brought the drill out, and they spent a lot of time with us going through the controls and helping us learn how to operate it,” Altman said. “By the end, I had already completed my first successful bore. They did a great job of making sure we were up to speed, and Mitch has also been extremely responsive to any questions we’ve had since then.”

    Altman went on to say how impressed he was with the controls on the D8x12. “It was real quick to sit down and feel comfortable with how everything worked. And with the locator we’re using (the DCI® DigiTrak® Falcon F5® location system), I can see where I’m at on a bore from the seat of the rig. It does all of the hard work.”

    On the job performance

    The Brandon Bird Utilities Construction HDD crew has been impressed with the productivity of the D8x12 since putting it to work. Bird and Altman both agree that it has plenty of power to do the 200-400’ (61-121.9 m) small-diameter shots they need it to go under roadways and in areas where trenching is not an option.

    “We’re primarily using the drill to install 2” (5.1 cm) poly pipe in urban areas,” Altman said. “Some shots are more challenging than others, like a recent 275’ (83.8 m) bore we did down an alleyway near an apartment building. We couldn’t restrict access to the apartments, so our equipment had to be strategically placed. We also had to do a lot of potholing to make sure we knew exactly where other utilities were located. Once all of that was done, we got to work, and honestly it didn’t take us long to complete. There were no complaints from people living in the apartments — that’s sometimes one of the best compliments a crew can get.”

    With a narrow footprint of just 35.5” (90.2 cm), the D8x12 is suited well for jobs like this. It also has an onboard 25 gal (94.6 L) fluid tank, which helps on short bores when it's not possible to get additional equipment near the drill. On most projects, the Brandon Bird Utilities Construction team connects the drill’s pump to a 300 gallon (1135.6 L) tank they carry on the back of one of their trucks.

    Saving time and reducing expenses

    According to Bird, adding the Vermeer D8x12 HDD has helped his crews better meet their customers’ timelines and reduced the company’s expenses. “Waiting on subcontractors was really starting to become a challenge. Waiting meant we couldn’t wrap projects up as quickly as we wanted to. On top of that, the costs to hire subcontractors was steadily increasing. With the Vermeer D8x12 HDD, we are no longer waiting on someone else, and we’ve been able to do a better job of managing our expenses. We’re really glad we made the investment,” he concluded.

    For more information about the compact and productive Vermeer D8x12 Navigator horizontal directional drill, contact your local Vermeer dealer or visit Vermeer.com.


    This article contains third-party observations, advice or experiences that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vermeer Corporation, its affiliates or its dealers. Testimonials and/or endorsements by contractors in specific circumstances may not be representative of normal circumstances experienced by all customers.

    Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in product engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing or distribution at any time without notice or obligation.

    Vermeer and Navigator are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. DCI, DigiTrak and Falcon F5 are trademarks of Digital Control Incorporated.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.