April 2016, Vol. 71 No. 4


Locates Critical For Triumph’s Port Of Houston Project

The capability to carefully control and guide the path of an underground pilot bore is what has made horizontal directional drilling (HDD) a primary method of installing underground utilities. Indeed, HDD often is the only practical and, in some instances, the only possible way to bury pipe, conduit or duct.

While the drill unit provides the force to make the pilot bore and pull product back through it, the guidance system is the key to success or failure to complete a pilot bore.

Job requirements vary and in some cases there is flexibility with how precisely a bore must be controlled. Other times, there is no tolerance for deviation from the planned bore path. A good example of such a project is one recently completed by Triumph Cabling Systems LLC, for the Port of Houston, TX.

HDD was used to install two, four-inch diameter conduits for 144- and 72-strand single-mode fiber optic cable from an existing manhole to a fire station.

Keeping the pilot bore on line to the designated exit point was critical because the Triumph crew had to work in very congested areas with gas, power and water lines and a sprinkler system, said Henry Garcia, Triumph president.

“At one of the bore entry locations, we had an 8-inch water line right inside a bore pit where a manhole needed to be placed,” Garcia said. “We hydro excavated to completely expose the water line before drilling to make sure we bored below the line.”

Total length of installation was 3,000 feet, said Garcia. Five bores were made, the shortest 350 feet, the longest 600 feet, with an average bore length of 480 feet.

Sandy soil made it very difficult to keep the pilot on line, he added.


For the bores, Triumph used a Ditch Witch JT20 with pullback rated at 20,000 pounds. Its compact size made it ideal for tight work areas. Triumph had to provide traffic con-trol in certain areas such as cones, signage, flag men, etc.

To guide the bore path, the Triumph crew used a Subsite TKQ tracking system consisting of a downhole beacon which sends information about bore head location and orientation to a hand-held receiver operated by a crew member walking along the surface above the bore path.

Subsite utility locator panel

The TKQ’s four-frequency beacon performs effectively in environments with high levels of signal interference, and its Bore Path Analyzer automatically recommends the two best frequencies to use in each work site situation.

With two methods of locating – peak and null – the operator can locate with one and verify with the other. Its “Drill To” mode allows the drill operator to make real-time steering corrections and helps improve accuracy. Beacon locating depths are to 110 feet with receiver to drill rig range to 2,000 feet.

Using Subsite TSR software in conjunction with the TKQ system, Triumph provided the client with an as-built map of the completed installation.

“This is very important for this client, the Port of Houston,” Garcia said. “Triumph does a lot of construction and must have this information to know exactly where all utilities are for future construction.”

Based in Houston, Triumph Cabling Systems is a full service, low-voltage network cabling and underground contractor, specializing in the installation of voice, data, fiber optic, distributed antenna, audio/video, outside plant, underground services and horizontal directional drilling.

For underground segments of outside plant construction, Triumph uses trenching and plowing in addition to directional drilling. Currently the company operates two HDD units. Support equipment includes Ditch Witch vacuum excavator and two drilling fluid mixing systems, all used on the Port of Houston project.

Do it yourself

Triumph and other telecom specialist contractors have two options for projects requiring outside plant distribution: do it themselves or subcontract the work.

  • Garcia said Triumph does the work itself for several reasons:
  • Triumph has full control of the project which helps ensure meeting deadlines;
  • Triumph controls the employees doing the work and their experience, training and safety procedures;
  • Using Triumph employees assures workers conduct themselves professionally; and
  • Controlling this aspect of projects results in higher profit margins.

There also are “cons”:

  • Investment in equipment and maintenance costs and repairs;
  • Liability.

For Triumph, underground construction is working, and Garcia said Triumph’s plans are to build the underground construction part of its business into other market areas.

“Triumph has been in business 12 years and has serviced more than 500 companies throughout the U.S.,” said Garcia. “In addition to the Port of Houston, they include the University of Houston, Rice University, Bay City Nuclear Power Plant, city of Houston, Texas Southern University, AT&T, Methodist Hospital and University of Texas Medical Branch.”

“The company’s overall objective,” Garcia said, “is to satisfy that market segment that demands integrity and quality construction, and to maintain a steady growth in sales volume that will sustain the company for many years to come. Our core values focus on professionalism, excellence and continuous improvement.”

Garcia entered the telecommunications industry in 1993 as a field technician and worked his way up to lead foreman, shifted to sales then joined a different company where he became a project manager. He and his wife, Cher, established Triumph Cabling Systems in 2004.

The Port of Houston is a 25-mile-long complex of public and private shipping facilities that is the busiest port in the United States in terms of foreign tonnage, second-busiest in the United States in terms of overall tonnage, and one of the busiest in the world. Expansion has taken port facilities outside the city of Houston into several neighboring communities.

Triumph Cabling Systems is serviced by Ditch Witch of Houston located at 14565 North Freeway in Houston, TX.

Triumph Cabling Systems, (713) 465-9988, triumph-cs.com

Subsite Electronics, (800) 846-2713, www.subsite.com

Ditch Witch, (800) 654-6481, www.ditchwitch.com

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