- Bill Poupis

If you’ve worked as an environmental/geotechnical consultant long enough, you understand how quickly a problem on a project site can snowball and impact your budget and timelines. Equipment breakdowns, in particular, can provide a special kind of frustration. The unfortunate truth is breakdowns happen, and they don’t happen while rigs are sitting motionless in a yard between projects. However, if you are working with the right contractor, they will have strategies to prevent breakdowns in the first place, as well as a plan to minimize their impact when they occur.

In this blog post we’ll cover what you should look for, but in my webinar next month, “Critical Discussions to Have Before You Start Drilling,” I’ll be joined by Cascade’s Sr. Vice President of EHS, Michael Gentry, and our Fleet & Maintenance Director, Ken Allen, as we discuss the many components you need to maintain a project site that is both safe and efficient.


Preventing equipment breakdowns on a drilling site starts before the rigs arrive, carries on throughout the project, and continues after it ends. Let’s dive into each.



Good contractors have preventative maintenance programs. Before signing them on, it’s vital you determine not only if they have such a program in place, but if they’ve also staffed it with qualified mechanics and technicians who can carry it out. Ask your contractor for a copy of their vehicle maintenance checklist before mobilizing to your project—it should give you a good idea of how thorough and detailed they are about their equipment.

Pre-trip inspections by the field crews are another critical measure to ensure proper functioning of the equipment once it's on your project site. Any concerns should be discovered and brought up to mechanics for resolution beforehand, and equipment should not leave the shop until everything has been addressed.

Remember, equipment should be functional when it leaves for the job site.



Preventative maintenance doesn’t stop when the equipment leaves the shop. For example, one of the most important things a drill crew should be doing is greasing their rig. The rule of thumb is to grease at noon and again at the end of the day. Actions like these take very little time, especially when the alternative may be the entire site grinding to a halt due to non-operational equipment.

Despite the best preventative maintenance efforts, however, breakdowns can still occur. Your contractor should have a plan in place, and you should know the following:

1. Are mechanics available to fix the problem on site?
2. Can replacement equipment be sent to the job site the same day?
3. Is the crew capable to fix the problem?
4. Will you get the support you need from the contractor’s project and operations managers?

One of the benefits of working with larger contractors (like Cascade) is that they have larger fleets and can often bring in another rig on short notice to get your project up and running again. Smaller organizations may not have that option.

Whoever you work with, it’s important to know your contractor won’t shut down your project because of equipment failures. Always make sure they have a Plan B in place.



As your drilling contractor prepares to leave at the end of their portion of your project, continue to pay attention to how they manage their equipment.
If the equipment was damaged during the project, how did they repair it—a permanent fix or was it a triage solution?

You want to be certain equipment was repaired correctly, as that rig is headed out to another job site soon and someone (even if it isn’t you) may suffer additional breakdowns if it wasn’t. If triage took place, ask your contractor if new equipment is their next step or what they plan to do to reduce the risk of additional breakdowns.

Like I said at the beginning of this blog post, breakdowns happen to everyone, but you can dramatically lessen the impact to your project budget and timeline if you work with an experienced drilling contractor that has a preventative maintenance program, a plan in place in case of breakdown, and is committed to proper equipment repairs.

If you are interested in learning more about how to ensure a safe and efficient project site, register for my upcoming webinar, "Critical Discussions to Have Before You Start Drilling."

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