Contractor Combines Trenching, HDD To Grow Business

Parker-Stockstill Construction, Elm City, NC, has carved out a solid niche installing natural gas transmission and distribution lines in central and eastern North Carolina.

“We started the company in 1993 near Ashville with my dad, brother and a partner,” said Trent Parker, co-owner. “Our intent was to concentrate on the gas market, and that’s what we have done ever since. There have been ups and downs, but the gas industry has been very good for us.”

The Parkers bought out their partner, and the family-owned company today is operated by Trent, brother Todd, his son Dustin, and Trent’s son-in-law, Cameron May. Family patriarch Perry Parker passed away in 2010.

Not long after going into business, the company took a three-week job in Elm City, about one hour east of Raleigh, and ultimately the decision was made to relocate the business there.

For most work, Parker-Stockstill works directly for the project owner, usually a gas utility company. A primary client is Piedmont Natural Gas, a gas provider for more than 1 million residential and business customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

On most projects, Parker-Stockstill installs underground pipe and makes all connections. “We do not sub out any part of our work,” said Parker.

Construction methods
To put pipe in the ground, Parker-Stockstill depends on vibratory plowing and horizontal directional drilling equipment. Open-cut construction is minimal.

“Vibratory plowing is fast, efficient and minimizes restoration because no trench is dug,” said Parker. “Our basic plow is a ‘quad’ model with four independent tracks instead of rubber tires. The quads take it over rough terrain and across landscaped areas minimizing turf damage because the tracks distribute the machine’s weight more evenly than tires.”

The HDPE pipe installed by plowing ranges in diameter from 3/4 to eight-inches. Pipe in diameters to two inches is in 500-foot rolls; larger diameters are in 40-foot joints which are butt fused. Depths of pipe range from two to 5 feet.

Soil conditions in North Carolina vary greatly and can change quickly, said Parker. Much of the work on company projects is in clay, and sand also is common. Production speeds vary with soils.

“In good conditions, we go from 30 to 35 feet a minute,” said Parker. “In hard soils, it will slow down to about 10 feet per minute.”

Parker said his crews use the direct-pull method for plowing in all pipe, attaching the pipe to the machine’s blade mounted on its shaker box. An option for smaller diameter pipes is to feed the pipe through a chute on a different type of plow blade.

“We prefer direct pulling,” said Parker, “because it fits the needs of our projects better than feeding small-diameter pipe through the chute of a feed blade.”

Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is used to cross roads and highways, streams and rivers and other bodies of water, to place pipe under landscaped areas and on job sites where the presence of other utilities prevent cutting through the ground.

Productive combo

“For us, plowing and directional drilling make a very effective combination,” said Parker.

Typical of Parker-Stockstill projects was a recent job in Vanceboro to install 18,000 feet of four-inch diameter distribution pipe to serve a prison facility. The installation route went through town and open country to the prison. Pipe runs were made in 500-foot increments.

For plowing, Parker-Stockstill uses a Ditch Witch RT115 Quad with vibratory plow attachment providing 42-inches of cover above the pipe in most soil conditions. The 115-horsepower vehicle is built on a heavy-duty track frame running on four tracks with a unique “chevron” pattern that provides maximum traction on wet ground and slopes. A three-speed load-sensing hydrostatic ground drive provides dependable performance in virtually all soil conditions.

When directional drilling is necessary, a Ditch Witch JT2020 Mach 1 is utilized. Powered by an 85-horsepower diesel engine, the unit develops 20,000 pounds of pullback force, maximum spindle torque of 2,200 foot pounds, and maximum spindle speeds of 225 rpm. Its footprint (207 inches long, 51.5 inches wide) makes the machine an ideal combination of power and compactness for the company’s needs.

Reflecting on the history of his family’s company and its growth over the years, Parker gives all credit to God.

“When we got started, work was very difficult to get,” he said. “There were established contractors and breaking in was hard. Then we went to Elm City on one job, and the work just kept coming. We would have a project and nothing lined up when it was finished. More work always came along and still does. God has brought us where we are.”


Parker-Stockstill Construction, (252) 245-3254
Ditch Witch of North Carolina, (800) 545-9015,
Ditch Witch, (800) 654-6481,

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