The Drilling Contractors Association (DCA) is a technical association for the horizontal directional drilling industry in Europe. Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) has established
itself worldwide as a technical and economic alternative for the laying pipelines, particularly where open cut options would be environmentally damaging, where obstacles would create
significant difficulties for the pipelaying contractor and where timely and cost-effective installation is required.
Pipeline infrastructures form the lifelines of modern society and it is difficult to imagine the construction of this type of infrastructure without using trenchless construction methods, in particular horizontal directional drilling. For almost 30 years, the DCA has successfully represented the interests of HDD technology in the areas of technical development, quality assurance, training and further education, and research and development vis-à-vis clients,
authorities and other institutions.
Taking a look at what DCA offers to the industry, Trenchless Works (TW) undertook an interview with the organisation’s UK Representative and DCA Board Member, Scott Stone (SS).
TW: When was DCA established?
SS: In December 1994, the then leading companies in the HDD Industry came together
and thought it would be a beneficial to have a Society representing them. They also thought it would be a good idea to have various stakeholders in the industry join, so
the DCA has always been open for Contractors, Clients and Suppliers of equipment and
other materials suppliers and industry engineers. Most of the companies that were
present from the start are still members!
TW: How many members across how many countries does it have?
SS: Currently DCA has a total of 142 members from 13 different countries. I was the
first Country Representative (representing the UK) and we have started to appoint
representatives in various other countries where our organisation is less well known.
This is working very well in the UK and has already brought us some new members as
well as from other countries.
TW: In which global areas is DCA aiming to increase its membership?
SS: The DCA is a European society, so focusses on European members. Should companies from other areas be interested, for example because they have lot of European customers, membership is possible and they can become a member as well, with the same rights as all other members. DCA is also looking to expand into Scandinavia, although we only have a very limited number of members there. Southern Europe is in our focus as well, but there the bigger hurdle is language. Within the DCA we are using both German and English as our two main languages, and we are publishing our guidelines in French as well. But at our meetings and gatherings, catering for 2 languages is difficult enough. We see this being a problem, more in southern Europe than in the north.
TW: Can you summarise the aims and objectives of the organisation?
SS: I think our website covers this quite well (https://dcaeurope.org/). In short however, the aim of the Association is to maintain, promote and further develop the technical standards of horizontal directional drilling at a European level. In addition, to establish framework conditions for use in this comparatively young methodology which can be improved primarily using uniform standards of quality assurance and the standardisation of
approval procedures and the promotion of training, research, and development.
Furthermore, the association provides an international forum for the continuous exchange of experience between HDD contractors, subcontracting companies, planners, clients, and authorities. Also, in order to reach a reasonable level of quality in the execution of HDD operations we are promoting and supporting training, in the form of a course for drillers, site supervisors and experts. This is currently running in Germany, and, based on the same contents, in The Netherlands. We try, as much as possible, to support our members in gatherings for their clients. We are also supporting the development of these courses in English and working towards a uniform training standard which would be acceptable in Germany for example even if the course was completed in the UK. By organising our yearly Congress, we want to promote the social aspect and make it possible for people across the industry to get to know each other. This year is particularly pertinent to the UK as the Congress will be held in Stratford-upon-Avon between 5 and 7 October 2022. More details are available on our website. In addition to the Annual Congress, we also have a members
forum, which is held once a year at the start of May and this year looked in depth at drilling tools and their application. I believe this is extremely beneficial for the members of both small- and largescale drilling applications and its interesting to see the different
TW: In DCA’s opinion what are the biggest challenges for the HDD sector now and moving forward?
SS: In normal times, it is important to keep the quality at a sufficient level. There are
more and more companies starting to do HDD, but some of those have little knowledge
of what they are doing and are doing more harm than good and are sometimes working
in an unsafe manor and this can hurt the whole industry. We also want to maintain a level
playing field by ensuring our clients are asking for HDD work according to a standard and
not forcing contractors to take unreasonable risks. In the current environment, we need
to come together and make sure the outrageous price increases due to the shortage of
materials etc. is not put on our shoulders of the contractors.
TW: How can DCA aid its membership in achieving solutions to these challenges?
SS: We assist in organising training, and we have our technical guidelines, which we are
continuously reviewing (the 5th edition is expected to be published shortly), we form task
groups creating guidelines for specific issues we are running into in the industry, and we
are working on standards whereby we may try to create an EN or ISO standard for HDD
works. Furthermore, by organising events, we want to keep our members in contact to
The DCA offers its members numerous important services, training opportunities and
information. In addition, the DCA offers an international forum that facilitates a constant
exchange of experience between HDD contractors, suppliers, planners, customers and
authorities. Our thanks go to Scott and DCA for providing the time for this interview and their responses.
So, what does this tell us about DCA and HDD? It appears that, as with most areas of
construction and industry, the key for DCA today is largely based on communication.
Keeping industry members informed of what is available to them within the methodology
(equipment, applications, technology) etc.), maintaining training and safety standards
across the industry and creating and implementing a set of standards that will be
accessible and easily understood by all those involved in HDD operations across Europe
and beyond. This high level of communication will ultimately keep HDD at the forefront of
the minds of planners and specifiers who will be able to understand how successful and
effective HDD can be when correctly undertaken by those with the right experience.