Rebuilding Infrastructure Means More HDD

In November 2021, HR3684, better known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), was signed into law. This act unlocked over $1 trillion of funds for the development, repair, and creation of all kinds of infrastructure across the entire nation.
Here’s a breakdown of this bill’s impact and what it will likely mean for the construction industry and Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) in the future.

Breakdown of the IIJA

According to an NPR report published on November 6, the IIJA includes budgets for 14 aspects of American infrastructure, 9 of which are related to the transportation network.The bill includes the following budgets for the next five fiscal years:

  • $110 billion for roads, bridges, and other major road network projects
  • $75 billion for power infrastructure (power grid, plants, etc.)
  • $66 billion for railways
  • $65 billion for broadband internet infrastructure
  • $55 billion for clean drinking water development
  • $50 billion for water storage in the Western states
  • $39 billion for the public transportation network
  • $25 billion for airports
  • $21 billion for soil and water pollution removal efforts
  • $17 billion for docks, harbors, piers, and other port infrastructure
  • $11 billion dedicated to transportation safety programs
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicles
  • $7.5 billion for low-emission buses and ferries
  • $1 billion for miscellaneous community revitalization projects

According to the White House, the IIJA will create approximately 1.5 million jobs per year for the next decade. A significant percentage of these jobs will be in the construction and engineering industries.

Why HDD Will Play a Significant Role

In November 2021, the Home Builders Institute described the ongoing construction industry labor shortage as having reached crisis levels, requiring over 61,000 new hires per month to meet demand. The passage of the IIJA will increase the demand for labor even further.
To combat the effects of this labor shortage, many construction firms are turning to technology and taking advantage of more advanced and efficient techniques, such as Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD). These methods help American construction companies complete their projects more quickly, more efficiently, and with less personnel.

HDD allows construction companies to drill long-distance tunnels under roads, railways, and waterways like rivers and ponds. They can then install cables, pipes, and conduits through these tunnels.

HDD is relevant for developing and installing many utilities covered by the IIJA. These utilities include power and water, internet infrastructure, sewage and wastewater lines, gas and oil pipelines, and many other types of underground utilities.
This directional boring method is ideal for crossing large rivers, congested roads, and other areas where traditional, open-cut trenches would be impossible or impractical. With HDD, construction firms can dig tunnels and lay utilities down with little to no surface disruption above the project.

Construction equipment and personnel are only necessary at the start and end of a tunnel. Advanced tracking and locational technologies, such as GPS beacons, allow personnel to pinpoint the drill’s current location at any time. The advantages of these technologies combine to improve nearly any project’s cost-efficiency.

Why Building Trust Now is Essential

A company specializing in HDD belongs to what the industry refers to as a specialty contractor in the construction sector. The United States is home to over 460,000 specialty contractor firms, representing millions of workers. Each firm is competing in the market, bidding on any available jobs and projects in their area of operations.
One of the most important keys to success and competitiveness is trust and solid relationships with clients and general contractors. According to the latest industry insights by Autodesk, low trust is the result of incorrect or insufficient data and poor decisions. The undesired outcomes of low trust cost the industry approximately $1.8 trillion each year.
High trust levels positively affect every aspect of a construction project, and it results in fewer missed deadlines and project delays, decreased turnover rates, and increased repeat business. According to Bain & Company, even a 5% increase in client retention can boost a company’s profits by up to 95%.
Ultimately, building trust and good relationships with clients ensures you complete more projects, get more business, and retain more qualified workers. The best way for specialty contractors to demonstrate their trustworthiness is to show they possess the three most desirable traits: Reliability, competency, and communication.

  • Reliability: In the construction industry, dominated by deadlines and schedules, it isn’t enough to complete projects; clients expect the firms they hire to deliver on time, meet deadlines consistently, and remain organized.
  • Competency: Quickly completing projects means little to a client if the job isn’t satisfactory. Specialty contractors must demonstrate they are highly skilled in their domain, with excellent workload management, attention to detail, and a high degree of focus on quality.
  • Communication: The primary ingredient to a positive and long-lasting partnership is communication. From bidding to project completion, the best construction firms are the ones that can deliver the most thorough and productive communication with their partners.

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