Next Certificate Program Start: 04/22/2024  |  Next Associate Degree Program Start: 05/06/2024

Next Certificate Program Start: 06/06/2022  |  Next Associate Degree Program Start: 07/05/2022

Next Certificate Program Start: 04/22/2024  |  Next Associate Degree Program Start: 05/06/2024



What Is Horizontal Directional Drilling?

The field of construction equipment operation continues to grow year-over-year. But with so many types of heavy equipment available, how are you supposed to choose which one to specialize in? Don’t stress; we’re here to help.


Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is an ever-expanding field that offers various benefits to construction workers of all experience levels. Want to know whether it’s right for you? Keep reading to learn more.

Table of Contents

What It Is, & What You’ll Learn

How HDD Works

Horizontal Directional Drilling is an advanced drilling technique used in the construction industry to install underground infrastructure—like pipelines, cables, and more. Since the entire process takes place underground, it doesn’t require trench digging—which saves you time and money.


The drill forms an arced tunnel that starts at an entry point and reaches an exit point on the opposite end. Although this drill path is predetermined, advanced drill location technology allows operators to modify the path mid-drill if needed.

What You’ll Learn in HDD Training

In addition to learning the basic principles of directional drill operation, students of our Ditch Witch-certified HDD program learn how to:

  • Communicate effectively with a team
  • Follow safety best practices
  • Implement traffic control and other preventative measures
  • Perform equipment inspection procedures
  • Perform proper PPE inspections
  • Conduct proper job planning and job site preparation, including any underground locates and requirements for the directional boring plan
  • Prepare emergency response plans

Get Trained and Certified in as Little as Two Weeks

Complete Your Directional Drill Operator Training At HEC.

You can complete the program and earn your HDD certification in as little as two weeks. Enroll today to give your career the kickstart it needs.

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Why Is HDD Used?

Horizontal directional drilling is used for various reasons. Check out the main benefits of this drilling method.

  • It allows construction crews to install pipes and other materials with greater ease
  • It’s more efficient and cost-effective than alternative drilling methods
  • This trenchless method creates minimal soil disturbance and environmental impact
  • It’s extremely accurate
  • It requires less post-drill cleanup, allowing teams to restore the ground to its pre-drill condition quickly and easily

The Three-Stage Process of Horizontal Directional Drilling

If you’re wondering how horizontal directional drilling works, we’ve got you covered. Take a look below at our three-step guide to achieving effective drills.

Pilot Hole

Here’s how to get started.

  • Drill a small pilot hole in the ground.
  • Next, pump drill fluid through the drill pipe to the drill bit. The bit and the pressurized drill fluid will break through dirt and other materials along the way, creating a bore path. The drilling fluid will return the excavated materials—which are called the cuttings—to the drill rig.
  • The drill head contains a transmitter or steering tool that sends a location signal to the operator.
  • This component enables the operator to track and adjust the pilot hole to ensure more accurate drills.
  • Once the beacon housing and drill bit reach the exit point on the other end, a reamer replaces them.


Now it’s time to pre-ream the pilot hole. This process involves expanding the hole to a size large enough for product line installation.

  • While the reamer recedes and rotates, it pumps additional drill fluid to separate and remove solid debris that obstructs the bore path. This drill fluid also helps prevent future obstructions from forming.

Pipe Pullback

Last but not least is the pipe pullback.

  • The drill rod and reamer are fastened to a swivel.
  • The swivel prevents torsional stress—which is the rotational force experienced by the drill string during the drilling process—between the product line and reamer.
  • The product pipe enters the drill hole, and drill fluid enters it—acting as a lubricant to ensure a clean and seamless installation.

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Where You Can Learn Horizontal Directional Drill Operation

Looking for the right place to earn your HDD certification? Look no further than Heavy Equipment Colleges of America (HEC)—a leading heavy equipment school.

As a Ditch Witch Authorized Provider of the Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) program, HEC offers the training courses you need to start your career as a Directional Drill Operator.

This unique partnership allows us to offer instructor-led training courses that teach the fundamentals of drill operation and job site safety. The program also offers hands-on training opportunities that prepare students for life on the job.

Upon completing our HDD training program—which you can do in as little as two weeks—you’ll be equipped with the skills and experience that employers desire. You’ll not only know how to operate a horizontal directional drill properly, but you’ll know how to do it safely as well, helping to reduce workplace risks and improve performance records.

Our Training Location

You can attend HDD training in-person at our Oklahoma location or complete it all online, thanks to our virtual course options. Want to know more about this location? Click here to learn more.

Earn Your HDD Certification at HEC

Are you ready to get HDD certified? Enroll in our accelerated Horizontal Directional Drilling training program to develop the skills you need to kickstart your career as a Directional Drill Operator.


Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from industry experts in the classroom and gain hands-on experience in the field. Start the enrollment process today to get one step closer to achieving your career goal.


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