The Global Locate Summit

Moderator:
Ron Peterson – Executive Director, Nulca

Panelists:
– Jim Plasynski – Chief Revenue Officer, KorTerra
– Donavon Busta – Regional Opeations Manager, Blood Hound
– Shawn Hailey, President, LineQuest LLC

Sponsored by KorTerra and LSAW

Record breaking locate ticket numbers are hitting Notification Centers across the country. With that there’s been a natural increase in the demand for consistent, high performing locate technicians in the field to perform those locates. It’s long been an issue, but never has it been more at the forefront: What is the best approach for attracting and keeping good locators?

Jim Plansynski of KorTerra, Donavon Busta of Blood Hound, and Shawn Haily of LineQuest LLC – with the moderating guidance of Ron Peterson of Nulca – explored that question at The Global Locate Summit during Global Excavation Safety Conference 2022 in Phoenix.

THE ISSUES

Hiring

• Locate Technician pay, in general, is low. While there are notable exceptions to this, the sentiment from locators themselves is that the pay is low.

• Attrition happens as early as the training process. Ron Peterson notes a previous experience of hiring 16 locators, losing 8 during training, then another 4 more once actual field work began. Retaining just 25% of hires is wasteful and discouraging.

Unfriendly Laws

• States with no limits on the scope of a locate can create difficult or even impossible conditions for a locate. Donavon Busta of Blood Hound notes Texas law, which puts no limit on the scope of a locate. A locate could be requested for 100 miles, which would require the entire 100 miles to be located in just two business days. These requests put undo stress on locate companies who are trying to manage the workforce.

Technical Issues

• 65% of buried utilities are private facilities, which are not covered by an 811 call. These are less likely to identified by permanent markers and may require GPR to locate.

Leadership

• Having well trained managers is a key to keeping locate technicians. This means that it is critical to have a first layer of managers that are well trained as good leaders.

• Ongoing training can be an issue. Process and policy changes require updated training.

• Leadership leans in and takes full ownership of a stressful situation on a damage when a locator performed their job appropriately.

Stress

• There can be a great deal of stress associated with being a locate technician which can make it hard to keep them.

• Trying to determine which candidates can handle the stress of locating during the interview process is important, but difficult.

• Locate technicians paint/flag and leave, and are not present during excavation. Any uncertainty, even if small, can cause large amounts of stress.

• High workloads and busy seasons.

• Hard conditions. Working occurs on or near roads and in inclement weather.

• Persistent fear of contributing to an expensive damage or an injury if they mislocate a facility. Per an audience member, there was a $2,000,000 damage claim paid on a sewer line damage in CA. This was the result of a bad locate. There is a persistent issue in the profession that stems from only being recognized or acknowledged when something goes wrong.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

The issue of locator retention isn’t likely to be solved simply nor swiftly, but the panelists had a few ideas that could begin to address the issue.

1. Use social media to acknowledge the crucial work that locate technicians perform every day. Even a small gesture can instill the deserved pride in the locate profession that is deserved. A great place to start is celebrating Locator Safety & Appreciation Week (LSAW). Learn more at LocatorSafety.com.

2. Keep locators at the same pay rate to avoid job hopping and discontent.

3. Empower private locators to sell services and earn commission.

4. Reduce individual ticket volumes by reducing the number of facilities managed per locator.

5. Establish a moratorium on contract locate customers hiring the best locaters away from their contract locators. This poaching practice has put extra pressure on the contract locators to keep hiring.

6. Better trained managers that operate as good leaders.

7. Ongoing training from good management. Many of the field frustrations could be solved with higher competence and efficiency. That comes with training.

Have an idea to address attraction and retention issues in utility locating? We’d love to hear it! Email info@ir-savinglives.com with your name and idea(s).

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