What would you do if you had the opportunity to work on a job that was three times as large as anything that you or your company had ever done before? This challenge was presented to Frank Gurney Inc., a subcontractor out of Spokane Valley, Washington, after they won a bid to drill seven miles of concrete barrier on I-90 between Mullan, Idaho and Lookout Pass, Montana. The company took a creative approach to drilling the holes, which would wind up paying dividends in the long run.

Frank Gurney Inc. was established in 1959 and specializes in highway guardrail, concrete barrier, impact attenuator and signage installation. Working almost exclusively for governmental agencies, the family-owned business had carved out a niche for themselves in Eastern Washington.

When tasked with by far the biggest project in the history of their company, Frank Gurney started to do some online research on what they could do to speed up productivity. A Chicago Pneumatic RDR 48 R hydraulic rock drill caught the eye of Chuck Hines, a superintendent at Frank Gurney. That began a process of designing and developing a plan to connect the rock drill to one of their guardrail installation machines. The highway contractor worked alongside their dealer Edge Construction Supply’s vice president of sales, John Cervelli, who provided the Chicago Pneumatic RDR 48 R hydraulic rock drill to perform initial tests.


Chicago Pneumatic offers two rock drills in their lineup and the RDR 48 R hydraulic rock drill can be fit to a rig as it comes without handles. Its streamlined design works well in tight spaces and can reach depths of six meters.

The Chicago Pneumatic tool turned out to be exactly the right fit to go on their punch machines and drill through the pavement to install the anchor pins. After the initial tests were a success, Frank Gurney purchased four of the RDR 48 R hydraulic rock drills for the I-90 application from Edge Construction Supply.

“The amount of drilling we had to do for this job would have really brought anybody to their knees – we probably would have done more harm to humanity than good if we tried to do the I-90 job all by hand with a handheld drill,” said Tom Stewart, President of Frank Gurney, Inc. “The Chicago Pneumatic drill performance out on the jobsite was absolutely incredible. Once we figured out how to connect the drills to our guard rail machine and did some tests with them, they were drilling monsters.”

The interstate project, which began on April 22, required 12,500 1 ¼-inch by 18-inch holes that needed to be drilled between Mullan and Lookout Pass on I-90 to mount the concrete barriers for traffic channelization. The concrete barriers were the initial phase that would allow ACME Concrete Paving to come in and tear out the old roadbeds, so that they could repave a new concrete roadbed in each direction.


Before they discovered the RDR 48 R hydraulic rock drill, Frank Gurney would drill anywhere from 500 to 600 holes on average per day. By utilizing the Chicago Pneumatic drill out on I-90, they increased their productivity to double what they did before at 1,200 holes per day, which led to completing the job a month ahead of time. This made Frank Gurney completely rethink the way they operate moving forward.

“We’re a contractor and a contractor is only as good as their last job,” said Stewart. “Anchoring concrete barriers are a big part of what we do and is the initial part of many projects. The Chicago Pneumatic hydraulic rock drill on our rig sped up productivity immensely and we will be changing our method of installation moving forward, especially to this process if the job requires going through concrete.”

Companies that have lasted 50-plus years do not make it by resting on their laurels; rather they do it with innovative thinking, being open to those new ideas, and creating and fostering close relationships with the community along the way. If it is true that a contractor is only as good as their last job, Frank Gurney is miles, and in this case holes, ahead of the competition.