Back to On The Job
Unpredictable Urban Terrain Tamed by ADB Companies

Ditch Witch All Terrain technology provides the performance required to drill in challenging urban environments

For utility construction companies, urban environments can pose more challenges than the hardest rock. That’s because buried remnants of the past often lie beneath city streets, creating an unpredictable patchwork of natural and man-made terrain.

Those drilling complications are compounded by the ever-increasing demand for faster, digital-broadband capabilities, putting constant pressure on fiber-cable installers to get jobs done on time and on budget.

Missouri-based ADB Companies Inc. (ADB) faced these difficulties firsthand with the installation of 1,800 feet of fiber cables beneath a downtown St. Louis business complex. ADB has nearly two decades of underground-utility experience across 36 states. That expertise and the industry’s unparalleled equipment and technology helped them overcome the obstacles encountered beneath America’s “Gateway City.”

Drilling Through the Past

St. Louis has been a cornerstone of commerce since French explorers established it as a fur-trading post in 1764. The city was incorporated in 1823, and became a popular destination for people looking for a better life on the edge of America’s frontier.

Ensuing generations built the city’s infrastructure, creating an underground web to accommodate utility services to homes and businesses. Many of those structures have since been replaced by more modern construction, but some debris stayed behind and became part of the underground landscape.

Such obstacles weren’t apparent when ADB began the St. Louis project. In fact, the job seemed routine.

“This project was supposed to be quick—in and out,” said Tony Webb, vice president, ADB Companies Inc. “We soon discovered that wouldn’t be the case.”

The initial plans called for ADB to bore under a parking lot between two buildings, presumably through hard soil and rock. But bore samples showed they’d need to change the scope of their initial drilling plans. Down through each layer, ADB encountered granite, concrete and old building debris in their path in addition to hard rock.

Building regulations became another hitch. Restrictions on the surrounding structures precluded ADB from cutting or altering the parking lot in any way. The project required an 800-foot continuous bore, limiting the type of equipment necessary to accomplish the job.

Versatility of All Terrain Technology

For more predictable excavations, ADB turns to the Ditch Witch JT2020 horizontal directional drill. However, they clearly needed a more powerful alternative for this project.

“The JT2020 is our go-to drill,” Webb explained. “But we chose the JT3020 All Terrain to tackle this project because of its superior performance in difficult conditions.” The JT3020 All Terrain is a powerful and compact, utility-class drill capable of installing product in a variety of soil conditions. The compact size and quiet operation make the machine ideal for applications in noise-sensitive residential areas.

The patented, All Terrain technology uses a dual-pipe drilling system with an inner rod specifically designed for drilling precision, control and efficiency in solid rock, fractured rock or other hard, underground formations. The system delivers the maximum available power to the downhole tool to get through any soil or rock condition, without using any additional drilling fluid like conventional equipment. 

Armed with the right drill for the right terrain, ADB completed the continuous bore in three days without disturbing the surrounding structures. “The JT3020 gave us the widest selection of power and versatility that we needed to overcome the difficulties we faced.”

“Without Ditch Witch technology, the fiber installation would not have been accomplished with the same productivity and performance,” Webb added. “Our partnership with Ditch Witch ensures we are successful with every project. They know what it means to be profitable and productive.” With the right partner and the right equipment, the work of tomorrow can successfully navigate the challenges of the past.

Beyond the Drill: The Partnership

ADB owns and operates a fleet of more than 45 Ditch Witch drills, with more than 10 All Terrain units to conquer the most challenging, underground terrain. The company has relied on Ditch Witch equipment since 2005, when the company switched its service from another equipment manufacturer.

“We had some hesitancy from operators when we first introduced our new fleet of Ditch Witch equipment,“ said DeLayne Black, vice president, fleet manager ADB Companies. “But once operators began using the technology, we received nothing but positive feedback about the ease of use and efficiency of the new drills.”

“Additionally, the service and support of the Ditch Witch organization is unmatched,” adds DeLayne Black. ADB works closely with the Ditch Witch Sales Inc. dealership with a branch location in Sullivan, Missouri. “The dealership is extremely responsive. They understand if our machines aren’t running properly, we aren’t profitable,” said Black. “They treat us as more than just a customer—we’re in a partnership with Ditch Witch.”