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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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    Plan for Success, Then Work the Plan


    Many horizontal directional drilling contractors have that one success story that brings a smile to their face just thinking about it. For Erik Carlson, owner of Pinnacle Construction & Directional Boring, Inc., in Charleston, South Carolina, that story happened on the day his team completed a 285-foot (86.9 m) bore under the entrance roadways at the Charleston International Airport — hitting a 20-inch (50.8 cm) diameter exit hole in a wall directly below the airport’s baggage carousels.

    “I didn’t realize I could hold my breath for that long,” joked Carlson. “We had the airport’s director of operations, IT supervisor, IT manager and several other dignitaries waiting near the exit hole, just to see if we could do it. And, we hit it — dead center! I couldn’t have been prouder of my team and everyone else we recruited to help us with the job.”

    Starting from the beginning

    The success Pinnacle Construction experienced with the airport job can be attributed in part to proper planning; Carlson had been preparing for a project like this one for several years.

    Carlson’s journey started when he joined the United States Navy after high school. He studied submarine electronics and was responsible for analyzing threat signals when a submarine was out at sea. Using the information he gathered, Carlson helped officers and the ship’s captain make decisions as to where to go, what to do and where not to be.

    “I learned then that you don’t take a multi-billion-dollar submarine out to sea without a good plan,” Carlson explained. “We practiced every potential scenario that could happen — flooding, a hydraulic line rupture, electrical fire, loss of propulsion or any other kind of life-threatening situation. Diligent planning and training meant we were all prepared for whatever came our way.”

    When Carlson completed his service in the Navy and got into horizontal directional drilling, he developed a similar approach to his business. “I’m an analytical person, and I’m used to processing data to make decisions, troubleshoot and train,” he said. “So, when it comes to drilling, it never made much sense to me to show up on the jobsite, stick the bit in the ground and push it through until it comes out the other side..”

    Commitment to planning

    From Pinnacle Construction’s first drilling jobs to their jobsites today, Carlson has trained his team to diligently plan for every scenario before work begins. The process starts by examining the bore path, identifying any potential underground obstacles and then determining how the crew will avoid them. After the locates are called in, Pinnacle Construction crews spend time talking through what potential challenges they may face on a job, long before any machine shows up onsite.

    Planning tools

    Around the same time that Carlson started Pinnacle Construction, horizontal directional drill manufacturers began to introduce technology that could aid in planning. “We purchased the Vermeer Atlas Bore Planner® computer software long before anyone else we knew of was talking about planning,” Carlson explained. “I knew taking the time to plan jobs would make us more efficient, more professional, and would help us avoid potential utility strikes and other safety concerns.”

    Carlson upgraded Pinnacle Construction’s planning process when the Vermeer BoreAid® design tool was introduced. “BoreAid design tool gave us the ability to plan and present more three dimensional, which is extremely helpful for larger-diameter bores,” Carlson explained. “And, when I heard about Vermeer Projects productivity tools, I knew we had to give it a try.”

    Pinnacle Construction was also an early adopter of Vermeer Projects +BorePlan productivity tools. According to Carlson, the bulk of his company’s work is for electric utility companies, and Vermeer Projects has been invaluable for DOT-permitted road crossings, where they have to prove how they will drill a shot and how they plan to avoid all the utilities.

    “South Carolina’s DOT requires permits for most roadway crossings, but they are very particular about any bores that are greater than 2 inches (5.1 cm) in diameter,” Carlson said. “We used to have to take a measuring wheel out to a jobsite to plot utilities. Now with the mapping tools, we go out there with a cell phone and a 6.6-foot (2 m) stick. We usually capture three GPS positions for each utility — one to the left, one where we will intersect and one to the right. It’s much faster and more accurate than other methods.”

    Back in the office, Carlson can open and review the collected GPS data in Vermeer Projects. He likes to label each utility and specify who owns it, what size it is and pertinent elevation information. Bore details are then added, including the type and size of pipe being used, what directional drill will be performing the job and setback requirements. A report is then generated and combined with other project documents and then sent to the engineer on the job, who uploads everything for the DOT to review. If the DOT has any concerns, Carlson can make adjustments in Vermeer Projects and then resubmit it for approval.

    “Vermeer Projects makes the whole process more efficient than doing all of that work by hand or using separate programs that don’t communicate with each other,” Carlson explained. “Plus, it is professional looking, which has helped us get invited to bid on jobs that have strict requirements, like the one at the Charleston Airport.”

    Working the plan

    It was Pinnacle Construction’s thorough planning process that earned the team an invitation to bid on the recent fiberoptic relocation project at Charleston Airport. After winning the job, the team went through all of its planning steps. “We laid out the utilities, brought in a private locator to verify utilities that were not publicly operated, used GPR to confirm locations under the runways, used GPS to plot our course and then plugged it all into Vermeer Projects,” said Carlson. “Everything needed to be accurate because the whole project was going to happen during regular airport operations and an accidental utility strike could cause major issues for the airport, airlines and travelers.”

    The most challenging shot on the nearly 2,500-foot (762 m) project was the 285-foot (86.9 m) shot that started just outside of the airport and ended in the terminal’s basement — 12 feet (3.7 m) below grade through a 20-inch (50.8 cm) hole located 48 inches (120.9 cm) off the floor in the baggage handling area. From there, the crew would pull back four 4-inch (10.2 cm) conduits.

    “Given the parameters of the job, we hired a professional surveyor to stake and map the site,” Carlson said. “He provided us with typography, as well as target points. We also brought in a sweeping company to clean up for our team and a vacuum service company to run a pipeline from outside of the airport. We still had to collect our drill slurry and couldn’t pull a vacuum truck underneath of the baggage area because of the ceiling height.”

    Also, assisting on the job was a representative from Digital Control Incorporated (DCI®). “We used a DCI® SubK rebar sonde with the drill to help minimize interference as we crossed beneath 200 feet (61 m) of 12-inch (30.5 cm) thick rebar reinforced concrete,” Carlson commented. “And, DCI®, along with Vermeer, sent folks for additional support.

    “Everyone — our crew, the specialist we partnered with from our local American Subcontractor Association chapter, and the representatives from DCI® and Vermeer — all helped make this job successful,” Carlson continued. “Seeing that drill bit appear from a small hole in the wall is such a special memory for me. All of the planning we did and the team we assembled made that happen.”

    At Pinnacle Construction, Carlson and his crew plan for success and then work the plan.


    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 Productivity Tools assist users with planning and management functions. Information provided is reliant upon the accuracy and quality of user-provided data. 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. Products shown are for illustrative purposes only and may display optional or global-region specific features, accessories or components. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on product specifications.

    Vermeer, the Vermeer logo, Atlas Bore Planner, and BoreAid are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. DCI is a trademark of Digital Control Incorporated.

    © 2018 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.