Reader Response

The following LinkedIn exchange between several industry professionals resulted from an
article published in the dp-PRO Special Locate Issue (The Global Locate Summit, page 30):

“I like this magazine. See page 30 for serious issues in the utility locator industry, public and private. 25%
of hires retained. 3 out of 4 people are leaving. We can’t find help. What are we going to do? Ticket volume is
increasing. Laborers are decreasing. Is this wonderful or terrible?”
Tyler Bristow, GIS Professional at Centerline Mapping

“I’ve been meaning to comment on your post for a while. Here is what I think we should do:
1. Convince utility operators to map their underground assets with precision in a GIS. Use a Good, Better, Best
approach. Good = new facilities are GPS’d when installed, before backfill. Existing assets are GPS’d whenever
exposed, such as to repair, replace, relocate, exercise valves, etc. Better = Good plus using tech to map existing
assets when locating, such as what high-end EM locating instruments are doing (like Radiodetection, Vivax-
Metrotech, Ridgid, etc.). Best = Better plus accepting pothole data from third-party excavators who cross their
facility while performing other excavation work, but GPS the pothole location and give it back to the operator,
even though that operator is not their client. Develop a CGA Best Practice for GPSing potholing locations so the
operator will accept the pothole data.
2. Facility operators give maps to trusted contractors. Perhaps these contractors are certified (Gold Shovel) or
meet some other quality standard to prove to the facility operator that they can be trusted with the maps.
3. The same GIS system is used by the facility operator for all departments – pre-construction, regular operations
and locating. Proposed new assets are symbolized in the GIS with dashed lines, which change to solid lines once
the asset has been installed. Second-party excavators installing these facilities upload work, which has been GPS’d
over night into the GIS. Contract locator downloads the latest GIS data every morning before starting their locates
for the day.
4. Once trusted contractors get maps from all facility operators, they can begin digging immediately instead of having
to wait 2-3 business days… No markings and late markings cost contractors so much money that it’s worth it for them to
accept liability of locating and marking themselves because at least the timeframe is now under their control. A large
percentage of tickets are related to utility work, so if the facility operators can give good maps to the contractors, the
burden of tickets to be marked goes down dramatically and now they only have to mark tickets for non-utility work. I
haven’t fully elucidated this plan, but I think this could be the start of a great discussion of how to really solve the
problem? Hiring more locators is not the answer.
5. The One Call center gathers the maps from the facility operators. Today, the operators are resistant to the idea of
aggregating their GIS data into a central master database. They cite homeland security as the main reason for this, or
competitive advantage, but the real reason why they don’t want to share their asset data is because they don’t trust their
own GIS data… If the positional accuracy issues can be solved, then the operators would concede that the homeland
security and competition arguments can be overcome. The pros of sharing data, especially when projects are in the
design phase, outweigh the cost of hoarding data.
6. Finally, instead of aggregating all of the data into one central GIS, which would be a nightmare to keep current with
all operators uploading their changes every day, the One Call center’s ticket software connects to each operator’s GIS
via an API, and snags only the data within the area of a specific ticket. This keeps the data decentralized, while requiring
the operator to maintain stewardship over their own data, but while allowing the One Call center to be the neutral hub that
collects the bite-sized pieces of data as each ticket is created and gives that data to the trusted excavator within a few
minutes of the time the ticket is submitted.”
James Wingate, Executive Director at Underground Service Alert of Northern California

“Regarding your point number one, ASCE 75 might be your answer.  Check it out when it is published in September.”
Jim Anspach

“James Wingate, I agree with you on all six points. We can do all the SUE, locating, GPR, scanning and potholing, but
we need a way to manage this data for the utility operators, and use the information again in the future. Every time we
subdivide parcels of land, it is required to survey, monument, describe, map and record this information in the county
courthouse for future reference. Utilities have no such requirements. Everything you said makes complete sense to me
and it is possible with accountability and leadership. And most counties and municipalities are turning towards GIS to
help them map, manage and share this parcel information for public use.”
Tyler Bristow

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