The Evolution of the HDD Contractor: The Changing Needs and Wants In Today's HDD Marketplace

By Bob Martin - General Manager - July 2006 - Featured in Trenchless Australasia

As an individual who has constant contact with contractors from all over the world on a daily basis, I have a somewhat unique take on just what exactly it is that the average contractor is looking for in HDD equipment. Our customer base here at HDDBroker includes hundreds of contractors in dozens of countries from around the world, giving us a broad spectrum of companies to compare against.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the only thing that people were looking for was the latest, greatest, and newest equipment on the marketplace. Machines older than three years with more than 1000 hours were not even considered. That is still the case now with some contractors, however I have seen an interesting trend taking place and I thought that I would share it here.

In our opinion, today's average contractor is looking for a dependable machine. This point may not be at the very top for all contractors that I speak with, but it is inevitably amongst the top three things that they look for.

It seems to me that manufacturer's are always looking to "one-up" their competition by offering more options, more features, and more automation with their machines. In doing so, however, I have seen a disturbing rise in complaints from customers when it comes to the reliability and durability of the units after they are put in the field. Advanced electronics controlled by a host of sensors mean that most contractors cannot repair these units in the field, resulting in long downtimes and corresponding lost income and opportunities, not to mention the actual cost of the parts and service needed for the repair itself.

I've also seen an interesting increase in the amount of late model and low-houred drills being listed for sale on our website (www.hddbroker.com). That is not to say that these machines are not productive. Perhaps when taken on the large scale they will actually out-produce older and more reliable machines, however the uncertainty of them have led some contractors to actually downgrade their equipment in terms of year, hours, and features in order to gain perceived reliability and simplicity of repair.

Older models of drills such as the Vermeer D24x40A and the Ditch Witch JT2720, for example, have seen a resurgence as the drills of choice for many contractors, even though there are very new drills being offered in the same capability range with more features and even, in some cases, factory warranty.

Many contractors, especially those from markets outside North America, are still looking for new machines, however reliability and performance are their top priorities, far above advanced features and electronics. It would be refreshing to see new machines on the market once again that can offer simple and dependable operation at a good price. The latest and greatest will always have a home, but there is definitely a growing demand for the simple ones.

This commentary is presented for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or detailed statement on any subject and no representations or warranties, express or implied, are made as to its accuracy, timeliness or completeness. Nothing in this commentary is intended to provide financial, legal, accounting or tax advice nor should it be relied upon. Neither HDD Broker, Inc nor the author is liable whatsoever for any loss or damage caused by, or resulting from, any use of or any inaccuracies, errors or omissions in the information provided.