Page 13 - Mississippi 811 issue 2
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This article is not saying that locators and/or locating com- panies do everything right. But I am saying they don’t do everything wrong. As the Executive Sec- retary for the Mississippi Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Board, I routinely receive complaints from the excavating community that a locate request is late or that it wasn’t located at all, consequently, the locating com- pany is reported as being in violation of current state law.
I routinely hear stakeholders state that the solution to late locates is a simple one. “Just hire more people,” they say. Recently, an excavator remarked to me, “All I know is that it is not my problem. I’m tired of waiting and mark or no mark, I’m going to dig.”
Is getting on the same page a possibil- ity in these tense times? Yes, it is and let me give you an example. Recently,
I received several complaints from a nationally known excavation compa-
ny. They submitted these complaints against a large utility company who
had secured the services of a third-par- ty locating company. The complaints were levied against the utility for failing to respond to a locate request. Upon investigation, I found that neither group had the other group’s contact informa- tion. As you can imagine, frustration set in and complaints followed closely behind. Getting the two sides together and getting out of their way proved to be helpful to both sides.
faith effort, both sides agreed that the civil penalties that would have almost assuredly been levied against the utility company would not serve either side’s purpose.
My phone rang a few days later. It was the excavator who stated that their meeting was productive and that they had a really good conversation. He then wanted to know if it was possible to withdraw the earlier complaints that would have resulted in civil penalties for the utility company represented
by the locating company. I explained that the complaint could be rescinded by notifying the Executive Secretary in writing his desire to withdraw the complaint.
I realize that is an option but often it doesn’t end well. And even if that job site escapes additional downtime and damages, such behavior will not solve the issue of late locates.
Many times, the
So. The question is asked, “In this par- ticular case, did enforcement play a part in the resolution?” Probably helped in some ways, but even more importantly, the goal of enforcement was served by the two stakeholder groups getting to- gether and arriving at a workable plan for both sides.
Clearly, with the impact of broadband and the infrastructure bill in general, locators and their companies are an easy topic of discussion. And mostly, it is a discussion that involves late locates, mismarked utility lines and under- staffed companies.
wait times are self-
It is often said that the goal of enforce- ment is to foster better communication and to change behaviors. Both of those goals can be accomplished without en- forcement as in this example. Enforce- ment is not for those who are willing to work together, but it is necessary for those who will not come to the table.
As a result of such discussions, the excavating community and the under- ground facility owners themselves seem to undervalue locators as a whole, and seemingly, very few people understand the obstacles that must be overcome
to get the job site located in a timely fashion.
Recently a national study funded by a multi-stakeholder group that includ-
ed excavators, utility associations and the national utility locator association identified one of the greatest sources
of waste and cost overruns largely
was created when utility locators and/ or third-party locators are routinely sent out to locate lines for construction projects that then do not happen, un- clear instructions given to locators and projects called in with no boundaries causing wasted time or additional work; locate marks destroyed by construc- tion and then needing to be remarked. Many times, the wait times are self-in- flicted, in part because the locator and the excavator are not on the same page.
the locator
inflicted, in
part because
and the
These locators will still face significant obstacles in the field that all locators face. Crowded right of ways and the close proximity of utility lines to one another makes locating very difficult. Commonly bonded utilities make for a difficult day in that it is often hard to identify the target line. The depth of the utility creates a real challenge to lo- cating lines. Unreasonable timelines on large projects, including locating entire subdivisions within the locate by time and then finding out you can’t contact someone on site to try and meet the demands of the locate request are an everyday occurrence for many locators.
And then in the midst of such chaos, the opportunity to work together with the excavator on a level playing field happens and the world is at peace, if only for a moment. We actually begin to believe that this is a worthwhile effort.
And for one very good reason... It is!
are not on
the same
They had a lot of things in common. Neither side wanted damages, both sides wanted to make sure that marks were down and accurate. The one thing they didn’t have was neither supervisor had the other supervisor’s cell phone number, so they couldn’t communicate with one another.
Following that first face to face meet- ing, both sides sat down and worked out an agreed-upon plan together to ensure better communication in the future. Not only that but with a good
2023, Issue 2 Mississippi 811 • 11

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