Chris Brahler is president of TT Technologies, Inc., a leading trenchless technology product supplier in the U.S. The company, formed in 1991, specializes in pipe bursting, pipe ramming, winches and boring, and is located in Aurora, Ill. Brahler has been involved with trenchless technology since 1974.
WWD recently spoke with him about the growing market for the company’s products, what’s new in the industry and TT Technologies’ role in the ever-increasing problem of decaying water and wastewater infrastructure across the nation.
WWD: Has the market for trenchless technology in the drinking water and wastewater industries been expanding? How is it compared to ten years ago?
Chris Brahler: The rehab market in general has been growing every year. Over the last ten years, the types of tools and technologies being used for rehab projects has grown as well. We’ve seen technologies grow from grouting lines to liners to pipe bursting. As far as trenchless technology specifically, we’ve seen good growth in the use of various types of trenchless technologies in both the sewer and water industries.
WWD: What kind of benefits can your company’s pipe-bursting and other products provide in this industry?
Brahler: Trenchless technologies have been around for many years, and their popularity continues to grow because of the benefits associated with the methods. The minimizing of disruption has to be one of the biggest benefits. Traffic can keep moving and businesses can stay open. Trenchless technology has many positive social impacts. Minimizing restoration and lowering the associated restoration costs is one of these benefits. In certain situations, restoration can account for 70% of a project. That’s major time and money savings for the contractor and many headaches saved for homeowners and municipalities. Capability and versatility are additional benefits. The tools can perform a range of work in a variety of situations.
WWD: How does TT Technologies see its role in helping to repair crumbling water/wastewater infrastructure in the U.S.?
Brahler: We really feel our role on one level is to educate municipalities, engineering firms and contactors on the benefits and capabilities of the various kinds of trenchless technologies available. Secondly, we advise them on which method suits particular issue or situation. After that, if it proceeds to a project level, [we] offer the training and equipment needed so that the project ends successfully.
WWD: Can you please briefly describe your product line—how has it evolved and what are the products that have proved most popular?
Brahler: Trenchless technology basically started with underground piercing tools many, many years ago. From there, the technology evolved into pneumatic pipe ramming and eventually pneumatic pipe bursting. When a group in Europe began using piercing tools to burst cast iron gas mains and pull in new pipe, pipe bursting was developed.
In the U.S., pipe bursting—which is a very popular method—took hold in the gas market, and from there it gained the attention of the sewer market [and] expanded to the water industry. Both static and pneumatic pipe bursting methods are established rehab technologies and continue to grow, especially with rehab in the water and sewer markets expected to continue substantial growth over the coming years.
In addition to piercing tools and pipe-bursting equipment, TT Technologies offers pneumatic pipe ramming equipment and compact directional drilling rigs. All the tools have certain roles in the water and sewer rehab.
Piercing tools, for example, are primarily used for projects going from the house to the street. Pipe bursting is used for the rehabilitation of existing water mains. Pipe ramming is used often for casing installations. Directional drilling can be used for both service line installations and small main installations.
WWD: What type of person/company would benefit from attending TT Technologies’ training seminars?
Brahler: Anyone that needs a new pipe or new hole in the ground. That includes gas companies, water and sewer entities, municipalities, engineering firms and contractors—really anyone involved with underground construction and/or infrastructure can gain valuable information about the various types of trenchless equipment out there.
WWD: What’s new in the water/ wastewater trenchless market?
Brahler: For water specifically, new product pipes and new techniques for static pipe bursting are really starting to impact the market. Municipalities now have a wider selection of potential product pipes they can utilize with the static bursting method. In addition to HDPE, utilities can now install ductile iron pipe as well as PVC. On the sewer side, they can now use clay pipe if desired. The technologies and techniques continue to grow and improve.