Trenchless equipment supplier, ELB Equipment, has developed unique structures within the company to easily assist municipalities and municipal contractors to find solutions to piping infrastructure needs.

For quicker and easier identification of equipment requirements, tendering assistance and access to finance, the company has put in place special departments that are focused entirely on dealing with local government requirements with specialists who are trained and well-versed in Government business.

According to ELB Equipment divisional director, Desmond van Heerden, the idea is to ease the burden on officials and technical staff in order to streamline the process and ensure the right equipment is available to do the unique jobs required within the boundaries of each town and region.

Municipal focus

“We have a 100-year history of service within South Africa, during which time we have customised our services and products to become an integral supplier to all spheres of Government. We have also made sure that our products are listed on the central procurement RT57 tender system to ensure that officials have quick and easy access to our equipment when required.

“Our easy-to-access offerings put the equipment in reach of emerging contractors as well, which means that we are actively developing these contractors through skills development and training, as well as easier access to finance and ongoing advice and support for their equipment.

“We are also actively encouraging our emerging contractor to adopt trenchless technologies in their service offering, as a relatively untapped market with massive scope for growth. Many of our existing towns and cities have complex buried infrastructure; and trenchless techniques are the only viable means of replacing aged infrastructure in these circumstances,” says Desmond.

Urban necessity

He further explains that pipelines placed by means of trenchless technologies are naturally founded in the surrounding earth and are therefore less likely to fail due to load stresses that may otherwise be caused through trenching and filling. In certain circumstances, where soil conditions are varied or poor, trenchless techniques can actually minimise maintenance associated with constant failures in these with poor founding conditions.

This is especially true in coastal areas such as Cape Town and the Cape Flats. Cape Town City Council’s strict guidelines for trenching with minimal disruptions to residents and traffic, has provided a considerable advantage to ELB Equipment’s customer, Last Mile, who has won a number of contracts based on its workmanship and capabilities of its equipment.

Over the years the company has gained considerable experience in a wide array of drilling applications to support fibre optic installations, pipelines and other infrastructure. During this time, it has become a leading proponent in the use of trenchless technologies using earth drills, moles and related equipment to burrow beneath obstacles such as roads and other infrastructure to minimise disruptions and save costs of restoring the infrastructure to its original condition.

Versatile solutions

Last Mile director, Paul Minnaar, says the company is currently engaged in a large number of drilling contracts in the Western Cape and Free State mainly for the installation of fibre networks. These require manual trenching up to driveways and roads where the company’s latest tool, the Ditch Witch JT10 directional drill provides the reach to drill across even the largest of obstacle.

“In order for us to be effective we undertook a thorough investigation of equipment and best practices a number of years ago in order to identify the right equipment for urban inner-city and suburban environments. We wanted to meet the strictest of municipal requirements and provide the fastest and most effective tools to get in-and-out of an area with the least disruption and happy customers.

“This led us to the advanced range of Ditch Witch products that met the criteria. In operation these machines are also proving to be very reliable and well-supported by the national supplier, ELB Equipment, which has a large stock holding of accessories, spares and parts, that we need to meet our serving and maintenance requirements.


Old favourite

This is important because any disruption as a result of breakdowns can infuriate residents and slow the progress of fibre installation on behalf of fibre bandwidth suppliers. It also costs us tens-of-thousands of Rands in operational costs, so the importance of reliability of the equipment cannot be overemphasised, “says Paul.

He says the company’s original Ditch Witch JT 922 machines have been serving the city of Cape Town for a number of years and drilling an average of 60m per day for the installation of underground infrastructure. During this time, they have also saved the infrastructure owners and residents of the city many millions of Rands in permissions to uproot infrastructure and the return to its original condition thereafter.

For example, the City of Cape Town charges contractors a fee of more than R4000 per metre to manually trench across secondary roads. Long delays for permits and permissions would otherwise also cost installers many days in waiting, which clearly shows why directional drilling has found favour among city officials.

Pipe bursting

But, in other instances where large amounts of infrastructure are required to be replaced “Pipe Bursting” is considered the best and most cost-effective means of replacing pipes quickly and efficiently with minimal disruption to infrastructure and surface traffic. Another of ELB Equipment’s customers, Gokor Construction, is assisting cities throughout Gauteng to stem the loss of millions of litres of potable water daily, while preventing sewerage leaks from silently contaminating our waterways and ground water.

With thousands of pipelines already well over the 50-year mark and equally many over 100-year old, failures are becoming common-place and specialised pipe-laying companies like Brakpan-based Gokor Construction are increasingly being called to find ways of replacing the pipes under layers of underground infrastructure and below houses, hospitals, roadways and buildings.

The contractor is one of the only specialised pipe laying companies in the region that can undertake large-scale pipe replacements using pipe-bursting technology that allows special tooling to be passed through and burst existing pipelines, while simultaneously pulling-in a new (often larger diameter pipe behind it. In this way up to 170m of pipeline can be replaced in 2 hours without digging trenches or interfering with above ground or buried infrastructure. This is very much soil dependable as to the time period.

Tembisa record

According to Gokor Construction owner, Jan Bouwer, the company purchased a purpose-built Hammerhead HG12 and Hydroguide pipe-bursting system from local distributors and specialists, ELB Equipment, precisely to undertake this type of specialised pipe-replacement work for Gauteng’s municipalities.

“Throughout Gauteng we have built our towns and suburbs over these buried pipelines and now it is mostly impossible to manually dig trenches and repair or replace pipes. As a result, a complete pipeline failure means that either the area gets dug-up or the place floods in water or sewerage.  With our solution that does not have to happen as we simply dig entry and exit pits, as well as inspection pits and pull new pipes through without unsettling the ground.

“In places like Tembisa we were even able to replace a 70m stretch in 38 minutes and the entire 170m pipelines in just two hours. In cases like this it ensures the municipality is able to affect speedy upgrades and it saves residents the inconvenience of digging-up their properties, as well as providing a quick replacement service for water and sanitation,” says Jan.

Contractors required

ELB Equipment product manager, Phillip Mc Callum, explains that the Hammerhead solution is most suited to urban work and allows crews to work in confined and heavily built-up areas. Also, with round-the-clock support from ELB Equipment, as well as the manufacturer no underground challenge in insurmountable. The high level of support also means the machine is able to work for protracted periods of time reliably and with minimum disruption, which is especially important on urgent pipeline replacement projects.

Good news for emerging contractors is that companies like Gokor Construction have replaced thousands of meters of pipelines and provided essential services in Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and a host of smaller municipalities, as well as in industrial sites and mines. There is plenty of room for other contractors to specialise in other types of piping or in one of the many areas that are not already serviced by dedicated contractors.

“Municipalities and private property owners need to be made aware of the fact that they no longer need to dig-up and disrupt properties or infrastructure nor disrupt road traffic to replace pipelines. Due to the speed of operation of the Hammerhead system we are able to assist with most pipe replacements in confined areas – in quick time,” Jan says.

Supporting Government

Desmond reiterates that the market for trenchless technologies is in its infancy and growing rapidly. Municipalities and contractors should adopt these technologies as a means of providing underground services without damaging and disrupting surrounding infrastructure.

With the assistance lent to municipalities and contractors, ELB Equipment is making it easier than ever before to identify and procure the right equipment for the jobs at hand and it pays to contact the company’s specialists in order to speed up service delivery.

The company also provides full training on the operation of the equipment and assists contractors to establish profitable practices to ensure their ongoing success. Specialised telematics are also available to assist with fleet management.

ELB Equipment, Desmond van Heerden, Tel: (011) 306 0722, Fax: (011) 918 7208, Email:, Web: