In the end, a mix of HDD equipment and trenchers often ends up being the most cost-effective solution, since it enables you to take advantage of each machine's strengths.
According to Wren, this is already happening in many areas of Tennessee, where rural water (city water routed to rural residents) is a growing trend. "Contractors will use trenchers to open cut alongside the road, then use a drill to cross under it," he points out.
"There isn't any job that is cut and dried," he adds. "Every one is different, and every state and county will have different requirements. It really depends on who your customer is. It isn't black and white. It's gray all over."
Double-check Before You Dig
However, it's also a good idea to perform your own checks for buried utilities. While you might not be at fault for cutting a utility that a One-Call service didn't locate, it will still lead to downtime - or worse - if a strike occurs. This is why many contractors conduct secondary utility locates prior to trenching or drilling.
"One-Call services have some latitude on each side of the mark," says Richard Levings, Ditch Witch. "We highly recommend that each crew have a locating device to double check the locate. Then, we also recommend that contractors do some type of soft excavation to expose existing utilities before they start work."
There are several types of low-cost, simple locating systems available in the marketplace. For example, Ditch Witch offers a new locator line that makes it more feasible for every crew to have one.
"These systems allow you to do a better job of planning before you work," says Levings. "You should pre-plan either the trench or the bore and double check everything, even if you're using a plow or a backhoe."
Ditch Witch's hand-held pipe and cable locators are designed to detect buried utilities, such as telephone, cable, etc., that are conductive and emit an electromagnetic signal. Its ground penetrating radar can detect both metallic and non-metallic pipes and cables.
"Locating instruments are very, very important to our industry because they can prevent damage to existing utilities," Levings emphasizes. "Most contractors will have one or two sets, but we recommend that each crew has its own."