The following excerpt features an interview with Jason Holden recently featured in an article from Tunnel Business Magazine.
The microtunneling market is steady and healthy in North America, according to experts in the field. As larger and more complex projects have been completed, project owners are becoming more comfortable with the steerable pipe jacking technology.
However, there are some challenges in the market that could hamper growth, such as labor shortages and project backlogs.
Tom Pullen, who has broad experience in microtunneling an associate with Brierley Associates, describes the market as cyclical and currently dominated by a numerous shorter microtunneling projects.
“You had your cities with big CSO programs driving the market, and now we’re starting to see smaller programs come up,” Pullen says. “These projects are not the headline-making microtunneling projects, but a high volume of projects that are sustaining the market.”
Comfort and familiarity with the technology are driving the market forward, Pullen adds. While smaller projects may not be as glamorous as larger ones, he says they represent a “critical path” and are integral to the success of the project and the industry at large.
“You don’t want to overlook any project,” Pullen says. “Even through it might be a smaller crossing, it’s still a critical path. One hiccup or black eye on those can really hurt the market.”
In addition to “pent-up demand” from the 2010-2014 housing recession that affected funding for municipal projects, another factor that is driving the microtunneling market is technological advances, according to Lester Bradshaw, president of Bradshaw Construction Corp.
“Technology advances in microtunneling being accepted by owners and engineers,” Bradshaw says. “Drive lengths increasing to regularly over 1,000 ft, curved drives being designed and or accepted as VE changes on projects, industry knowledge of microtunneling spreading throughout the marketplace, expanded ground conditions for the microtunneling application and expanded diameter of microtunneling with 8-10 ft diameter becoming common.”
Additionally, expanded knowledge in general are helping to improve the market, says Jason Holden, vice president and chief revenue officer for Akkerman, Inc.