total trenchless revenue for Top 50

Top 50 Trenchless Engineering Firms of 2018: Trenchless, by Design

ANALYSIS: Trenchless Technology’s Annual Top 50 Ranking Shows Market Consistency in 2018

Engineering is a critical phase in any construction project. In the trenchless industry, engineering has evolved and matured with the market. Over the past few decades, the acceptance and use of trenchless technologies has gone more mainstream, eliminating the skepticism that once existed. Trenchless methods are now considered a viable solution with many benefits for addressing much of our underground infrastructure.


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engineering survey pie graphThe practice of trenchless engineering has also evolved. As the industry has advanced, leading engineering companies now have one or more individuals with expertise specifically in trenchless technology.

GRAPHIC: 2018 Trenchless Technology Top 50 Trenchless Engineering Firms

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As longtime trenchless consultant and Trenchless Technology editorial board member Steve Kramer has told us, “To differentiate today, [trenchless engineers] must have more than just technical expertise. Owners expect that you understand their specific issues and come with tailored solutions to their problems.”

This year marks the 22nd annual survey and ranking of Trenchless Technology’s Top 50 Trenchless Engineering Firms in North America.

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total trenchless revenueEach year this ranking is compiled based on data submitted by engineering companies via a survey. The chore of compiling the revenue figures and data is not easy, and Trenchless Technology  would like to thank all firms that participated in this year’s survey. Only revenue figures submitted to Trenchless Technology were used to compile this ranking.

RELATED: The Year in Trenchless Engineering – Top 50 Trenchless Engineering Firms of 2017

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In ranking the top 50 trenchless firms, Trenchless Technology’s goal each year is to give readers a snapshot of the work completed by top trenchless engineering companies, thereby offering a general impression of annual market performance. The ranking examines firms’ trenchless revenue relative to total company revenue, trenchless design specialists and projects completed in the past five years. We also examine the number of projects completed in the past year across various market disciplines. Engineering firms are ranked according to trenchless revenue in 2017 or the company’s previous fiscal year.

jacobsThis Year’s Top 50

Not surprisingly, Dallas-based Jacobs takes the top spot in 2018 following its 2017 acquisition of CH2M, which had typically frequented the No. 1 ranking. Last year, at No. 1, CH2M became the first firm to ever surpass the $200 million mark on Trenchless Technology’s Top 50 ranking. With the CH2M acquisition, Jacobs continues the trend this year with more than $253 million in trenchless revenue and remains the only firm on the ranking to exceed $200 million. Jacobs was ranked at No. 8 in 2017.

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Mott MacDonald and Stantec repeat as Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, with AECOM jumping up to No. 4. Black & Veatch drops a spot from a year ago to No. 5. Also maintaining their positions in the top 10 were Hatch Corp. coming in at No. 6 and CDM Smith at No. 7. The No. 8 spot goes to Cardno, which did not participate in the 2017 ranking but had historically landed near or in the top 10. GHD jumps up six spots from 2017 to No. 9 while KCI Technologies repeats as No. 10.

RELATED: Top Ten Engineering Leaders Continue Upward Trend in Trenchless Design in 2016

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Canadian firm CCI Inc., generally ranked as the top 100 percent trenchless firm, went beyond trenchless in 2018 and ranks in at No. 14 this year. That means the highest-ranked 100 percent trenchless firm in 2018 goes to Laney Engineering Group, ranked 30th. Laney is one of only three 100-percent trenchless firms to appear on the ranking (the others being Staheli Trenchless Consultants at No. 47 and J.D. Hair & Associates at No. 50).

laneyIn addition to taking the “top 100 percent trenchless” honors, Laney Engineering Group also experiences the biggest jump on the list, moving up from No. 50 in 2017 to No. 29 in 2018.

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Overall, the 2018 figures – which, again, refer to revenue in 2017 or the previous fiscal year – continue to show the slight upward trend of recent years. Looking specifically at trenchless revenue, this year’s Top 50 trenchless firms did more than $1.4 billion in trenchless work, up from about $1.3 billion a year ago. Of the Top 50 firms’ collective revenue of $41.6 billion, 3.4 percent was in trenchless engineering. There’s also some optimism on the workforce front as this year’s survey revealed more than 5,200 engineers specializing in trenchless design amongst the Top 50 firms – a notable increase from 4,350 in 2017.

Project Breakdown

Also of note is the number of projects completed in the past five years. Among the Top 50, more than 31,200 trenchless projects were reported to have been completed from 2012 to 2017. Looking at just the past year, the Top 50 reported 17,065 total trenchless projects – a notable 46 percent increase from the 11,672 total projects reported in 2017.

According to the survey, of the reported 17,065 projects this year, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is again the top market discipline with 5,074 completed projects. Next is subsurface utility engineering with 4,236 projects, followed by pipe rehabilitation (1,715), sanitary sewer evaluation studies (1,693), pipe jacking (624), microtunneling (572), auger boring (503) and pipe bursting (259), with 2,389 projects reported in the “other” category.

number of projects completed by discipline

Participating in the Top 50 Survey

Submittals from engineering companies are imperative to making Trenchless Technology’s annual Top 50 ranking as comprehensive as possible. If you are a trenchless engineering company and would like to learn more about how to participate, please contact Sharon Bueno, managing editor, at

Andrew Farr is associate editor at Trenchless Technology.

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