The Value of a Professional Utility Locator

Every successful locate saves $4,000 in damages. Why are there so many unsuccessful ones?

The Value of a Professional Utility Locator

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Every year major league baseball players travel to Florida and Arizona in February to work on the fundamentals of the game.

They spend six weeks practicing the basics — hitting, fielding, pitching, catching, and teamwork. They do this even though they’re already at the pinnacle of success in their field. The average major leaguer earns $4.5 million per year. Roughly 1,200 players are able to reach this level — 40 players on the roster of each of the 30 teams. On average, each team is spending $180 million on salaries for professional baseball players. They only pay that kind of money for players who are the best that they can find.

A common definition of a professional is someone who does a job that requires special training, education, or skill. Playing baseball at the highest level is not a simple job that just anyone can do. To maintain the level of proficiency required to be a professional at the highest level, baseball players know they have to maintain their skills through weeks of practice or risk falling behind and losing their roster spot.

I lead with this because in its own way locating pipes and cables is similar to professional baseball. It’s not a simple job that can be done without the proper tools, training, and skills. We know this based on the data contained in the DIRT Report from the Common Ground Alliance, which tracks the root causes of excavation damages. According to the most recent DIRT Report, which examined data from 2017, 46,056, or 17% of reported damages in 2017 were caused by insufficient locating practices. At the DIRT Report average cost per damage of $4,000, this equates to $184 million in excavation damages that could have been avoided with better locating practices.

There are two important conclusions to draw from data. The first is that locating is not a simple task that can be easily performed by someone with inadequate tools. In fact, it is a challenging job that presents difficult situations such as distortion and congestion on a regular basis. Everything being located underground is invisible to the technician and must be identified using tools that are able to do the best job of identifying electromagnetic fields in challenging situations.

The second is that learning how to address difficult situations in locating is a continuous process. Professional locators, just like professional baseball players, must continually learn new and better ways to overcome the challenges they face. Regular training on how to use the best tools is needed. Baseball players don’t go to spring training every year because it’s fun; they go because it is absolutely necessary to success.  

Every successful locate saves $4,000 in damages. The opportunity cost of not having professional locators is $184 million in avoidable damages. Just think, with that money you could pay the salaries of a professional baseball team. Pretty amazing.

About the Author: Steve Nichols is regional sales manager for SPX Radiodetection.


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