Careful observers may have noticed a subtle change in the way Nulca presents itself these days. Originally chartered as the National Utility Locating Contractors
Association (NULCA), the organization has formally changed its identity to Nulca – Underground Utility Locating Professionals.
Why does it matter? Or, as Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” In this case, the answer is “quite a lot.” The change to Nulca is actually quite significant.
Not only does the new name do a better job of reflecting the current makeup of its membership, it also points to the current and future direction of the organization. A direction of interest to those associated with underground utilities in general, and damage prevention and public safety in particular.
How it got Here – Today’s Nulca Membership
The organization known today as Nulca was founded in 1994 by several contract locating companies.
Its initial purpose was to advance the contract locating industry and the professionalism of contract locators throughout North America.
Inevitably, however, that relatively narrow purpose became inextricably linked to much broader issues and trends. The issues the organization faced affected not only contract locators, but also facility owners who performed their own in-house underground locating functions.
Over time, as Nulca became more active in a broad range of underground locating issues, its membership also evolved. Nulca membership now includes stakeholders’ in-house locate technicians, pipeline suppliers, private locate firms, SUE companies, vacuum excavation specialists,
excavating contractors, regulators, One Call system operators, surveyors, consultants, developers
and manufacturers of GPS locating technology, paint manufacturers, electromagnetic manufacturers
and other manufacturers who supply much of the damage prevention technology in the United
Today, in fact, companies in the contract locating business actually account for a relatively small
percentage of the total number of Nulca member organizations. The new name reflects that evolution, as Nulca today represents a broad spectrum of organizations and individuals who share a mutual interest and involvement in the underground utility locating profession.
Establishing Standards and Raising the Bar
As Nulca’s membership changed, so did the organization’s focus and function. Over the years,
more and more activities involved working closely with other industry associations and organizations
to prevent utility damages, promote safety and enhance communication in general. Nulca became recognized as an active advocate for improved training and consistent standards industry-wide, above and beyond individual state laws and local customs.
As part of that effort, Nulca published the first edition of its Competence Standards for Locating Professionals in 1996. Now in its fifth revision, this document has become a widely recognized national standard for underground utility locating performance and professionalism.
As a consequence, many regulatory agencies refer to the Nulca Standards by name as part of their licensing and permitting processes. Contracts between facility owners and contractors also frequently contain language that specifies adherence to the Nulca Standards as a performance requirement.
While the Nulca Board of Directors recognized the need to change the organization’s name to more
accurately reflect its membership and priorities, it was also sensitive to the widespread industry disruption and administrative headaches a total name change could cause. The board opted to retain the name “Nulca,” but in a generic sense, rather than as an acronym – a subtle but significant change.
Third-party Accreditation – A Critical Component
The most recent milestone in Nulca’s evolution was the 2016 launch of a new third-party accreditation program. The new accreditation program is designed to help regulators, facility owners, contractors and other stakeholders ensure that the underground locating professionals employed have been trained in a program that has been verified as compliant with the Nulca Competence Standards. This program illustrates the broader focus and wider reach that the new name represents.
The launch of the accreditation program was a proactive response to a widely recognized need in the industry. The past 10-12 years have seen a growing demand from state and federal regulators, as well as from utility operators and other facility owners, for a credible process for validating the competencies of locating professionals. The accreditation process was developed by Nulca in response to these concerns.
The program uses a qualified and objective third party to review member training materials and programs, and verify those that are found to be in compliance with the Nulca Competence Standards. The programs are independently reviewed by NSF International Strategic Registrations (NSF-ISR), a wholly-owned subsidiary of NSF International, a global organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products and processes in a broad range of industries related to public health and safety.
This independent professional review is essential to the accreditation process since it offers an objective, third-party assessment of each contractor’s training regimen by a qualified, impartial reviewer. The accreditation program allows locating organizations, both contractor and in-house, to
validate the training they provide to their technicians meets recognized industry standards. This,
in turn, enables facility owners to demonstrate to regulators they are not only meeting regulatory
requirements, but are also taking active steps to ensure the safety of the public and surrounding
Nulca Today – A Strong Advocate
While the development and launch of the accreditation program had been a priority of the Nulca Board of Directors for some time, it actually represents only one aspect of its current mission and
envisioned future. In addition to member accreditation, Nulca is actively involved in a broad range of
issues related to the underground utility industry.
Nulca works closely with the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) and has participating members on
all CGA committees. It also maintains strong, positive relationships with numerous state and local
regulatory bodies, as well as with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous
Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and other relevant federal agencies.
Nulca members also have access to our national legislative monitoring database. This database allows members to follow proposed legislation and pending bills on the local, state and federal levels,
and also enables them to advocate for their concerns using Nulca’s interactive program.
Above all, Nulca stands as a highly visible and vocal advocate for damage prevention and public safety. These, after all, are the highest priorities of its members and will continue to be the driving
focus of the organization as it looks to the future.
The Nulca Board of Directors invites all underground locating professionals, along with utility
operators, facility owners, excavators, contractors, and anyone else with a professional interest
in damage prevention and public safety, to learn more about the future direction of this important
For more information about Nulca, its mission, and additional membership benefits, visit nulca.org, or contact Executive Director Ron Peterson at 888-685-2246, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.