July 2017 marks my 21st anniversary in the locating business.
Like almost anyone else with paint on their boots, I kind of fell
backwards into locating. That’s usually how it is. A friend of a
friend – or your cousin – or some other sideways acquaintance introduces you to it. For me, it was my father-in-law. When I say that, I always think of that scene in No Country for Old Men where Javier Badon says, “You married into it?” and almost coughs up his peanuts.
If you’d asked me at two years, or five, or even eleven, I would have told you it was a temporary gig. My wandering eye was always gazing over the fence to some other profession where the grass was greener, where people got more respect for what they did. Then a funny thing happened. The locating business got respectable. As our processes and instruments have involved over the last two decades, so have our technicians and our managers. As the DIRT report has proven multiple times, from a statistical standpoint, if a ticket is called in and a locator has a chance to respond, no damage occurs, and contract locators have been repeatedly demonstrated to have an edge on their in-house counterparts. That’s a record to be proud of, and it just keeps getting better.
Consolidation in contract locating has delivered with it economies of scale and standardized training methods. Technological advances are changing the way we record and deliver information to our customers, and organizations like the CGA and Nulca are providing clear and consistent leadership toward a damage-free future. As you read these words, Nulca is already at work on the latest revision to their Professional Competency Standards for Locating Technicians, a comprehensive model for locator training whose skeletal framework had only just been imagined when I first picked up a Dynatel in 1996. With the growth of the CGA, it’s easy to forget that Nulca published its first training standard three years before the first ever Best Practices document was published.
On top of those high level changes, field technicians continue to have one of the best (if still one of the most misunderstood) jobs in all of the construction trades. We enjoy the opportunity for rapid advancement, have
access to high-quality, employer-paid training, earn a respectable wage, and benefit from perks like company vehicles, paid vacations, and safety incentives. We have freedom and flexibility in our workdays that most
people can only envy, and earn the satisfaction of providing a valued public service with each completed locate.
I always honk and wave when I see a technician working alongside the side of the road, whichever company they’re with. We share a brotherhood, a bond that comes from understanding the challenges we face in a fast paced,
high intensity field with major consequences for failure. And we also share the pride that comes from practicing a respectable trade, one with a bright, secure future. It feels great to be part of that team and, 21 years in, I know
I’m not going anywhere.
Now, if only I could stop explaining to people exactly what it is I do!LOCATING
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Damage Prevention Professional welcomes and encourages articles and correspondence from all points of view.