As a private utility locator, my day differs from that of a contract locator. While they typically work from a laptop containing an ever-refilling queue of work due two to three days from now, and have fluidity in their route and schedule within that constraint, I go to a series of appointments scheduled with just enough time to finish the work at one and get myself to the next.

My office manager has scheduling down to a delicate science. She takes a call, finds out what needs to be located and where, asks when the work needs to be completed by, and tries to slot the appointment into a route she’s building on the fly. When it works well (which it does most of the time), I breeze from appointment to appointment greeting my customer, marking the needed facilities, completing paperwork, and heading off to the next job with just enough time to use the restroom or grab a splash of gas. Putting together a whole week of those days is a thing of beauty.

A few years ago, in a piece called “White Lines and Whoppers”, I wrote about how excavators strain the contract locating system when they fail to white line and instead call in requests to simply mark an entire lot, or call for thousands of feet of ROW to be marked when they’re only actually digging in a small portion. This strains the system because unlike other businesses, locating companies are statutorily required to serve their customers. Show up to Burger King at the lunch rush and you may face a long wait. They might even run out of burgers. You might be mad, but they’d never face a civil penalty.

As a private locator, you would think I’d never have to worry about excavators straining the system since I’m working outside of the One Call system (eliminating the 48-hour ticking clock), and going from appointment to appointment (eliminating the need to serve an unlimited number of customers per day). But, I have my own version of white line failure. It often begins with the words, “As long as you’re here…” or “While I’ve got you…” and can sometimes end up doubling my time on a jobsite. It has a companion in the excavator who wedges themselves into an already full schedule with the promise that, “This is an easy one. It’ll only take five minutes.” It never only takes five minutes.

For me, failure to white line, calling in way more than is needed, doubling my work once I’m onsite, or making false assurances about how easy a job will be to shove into a crowded queue all equal one thing – disrespect for what I do. Hidden in all of that is the assumption that what I do is easy, disposable, and valueless. That my time doesn’t matter and that it’s okay to lie to me. If you find yourself about to do any of these things, stop and ask yourself how frustrating that same behavior is when it comes from your customer.

I want to help you. But if you throw more work on me “as long as you’ve got me”, it may have to wait until next time.

Christopher Koch is a training consultant and President of ZoneOne Locating. He is past president of Nulca and worked on both the 2009 and 2015 revisions to the Nulca Professional Competency Standard. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @kochauthor.



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