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Thread: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

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    Senior Member Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Default It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Bretheren, these systems are over 30 years old in some states. They were not perfect then, but something had to be done to give some semblance of order. Now we have contractors boring in mile upon mile of fibre, electric rebuids for entire neighbourhoods, and more phony emergency tix from the big boys than you can shake a stick at.

    The old system wasn't designed for this because a lot of it didn't exist around 1976. So what can be done. Or more specific, what would you like to see revamped?

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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    I would like to see tickets need to be better described. A law to prevent these contractors to call in entire address for planting one tree. And, most importantly, a law that states that the phone number on the ticket is for the contractor doing the work and they can be contacted. That would be my first few suggestions.

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    Junior Member Inspired's Avatar
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Quote Originally Posted by alsoran17 View Post
    I would like to see tickets need to be better described. A law to prevent these contractors to call in entire address for planting one tree. And, most importantly, a law that states that the phone number on the ticket is for the contractor doing the work and they can be contacted. That would be my first few suggestions.
    Are you saying you don't like marking the whole lot or that you don't feel like you get paid enough?

    Here in Arizona, the contractors contact name and number appear on every ticket. Locators here use them all the time.
    I think some sort of education program is needed. Most people (contractors and property owners alike) don't really understand how the system works and how to use it properly. I often find myself explaining to contractors the difference between private and public locating.

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    Premium Member daman1's Avatar
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    I will mark anything a ticket asks. Most excavators will work with you if they have your trust and respect. The frustration comes from marking a half mile worth of road only to have the marks destroyed the within hours. Then a new ticket gets called in for the same area (often as a short notice or emergency). They don't seem to understand that they are not the only pressing issue for the locators. Either that or they just don't care. I quit counting the times I've listened to some arrogant excavator explaining to me how I "HAVE" to get the area remarked within 48hrs. "It's the law" ! Grrrrrrrr...... I've had emergencies called in just so an excavator could give an estimate to a homeowner. They use the free public locating service as an entitlement and demand more than is required to do the job "just in case we change our minds" and want to re-route.
    I've seen them standing there with stop watches, shovels ready, raring to dig at the 48th hour when they know for a fact there are things buried there. With the new directional boring technology, they can complete thousands of feet per day making it impossible to keep up marking just one utility, let alone four or five. God forbid you have a facility that won't tone. Then they tell their bosses the locator is slowing them down. This gets passed on to the utility company and suddenly you're defending yourself for being lazy or incompetent when you just got done busting your ass for the last 12 hours. GRRRRRR.....
    All the time and effort that goes into covering your ass, documenting every last detail, and taking so many pics really eats into your productivity. If every locator honestly completed every step required to ensure an accurate and quality locate on every ticket, the company could never keep up with the summer ticket load. They know that but it's their asses on the line if jobs begin to go past due.
    Of all my complaints about this industry, this has to be the most frustrating. I think reforming the One Call system is only half the battle. I've never been one to invite government regulation but someone has to reign these folks in. I have sat in my truck watching as a backhoe is tearing into the road just inches above an HP gas main. You try to stop them, they blow you off. After a call to my superiors I learned that no locator has the power to halt an excavator. Then the main gets hit and they're only too eager to tell the utility company you didn't have it marked. If you didn't take good pics, your company will not be able to defend you.
    Wouldn't it be nice if commercial construction companies had to submit an actual manageable work plan. If they stray from that plan they must first submit a revision. Possibly requiring the marks be maintained BY THE EXCAVATOR for the time the ticket is valid. Remarks can be called in at the end of this period. Locators maybe given real authority to halt unsafe practices. Just a thought. I know everyone's just trying to make good money but the public safety is at risk here. At least when natural gas is involved, it's about more than money.

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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    the contractor name and phone number is listed on our tickets too. A lot of tmes it is the girl in the office name and number who called the ticket in or the guy who supervises the crews. Seldom is it the crew chief. I call the number and just get voice mail. Also most people just do the easiest thing, by calling in the entire property they do not have to figure out just where is needed

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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Here's a short list of some changes I'd like to see:

    - Require any job longer than 500 ft (yes, only 500 ft) called in as a contractor meet, with prints given out, phone numbers exchanged, and a site locating plan in place.
    - Require every bore job to be called in as a contractor meet. These jobs are getting too long and involved not to have everyone on the same page.
    - I'd like to see any contractor that calls in false emergency requests be fined.
    - I'd like to see some pushback on contractors that provide fake phone numbers or do not return phone calls & emails regularly.
    - Make it mandatory to automatically call in a refresh ticket any time there is more than 2" of snowfall.
    - Obligate contractors to be as specific as possible on their locate requests (ex. how many trees, exact route of new service line, precise location of sewer break, etc.) and require white lining on every job.
    - For the major road projects, plant rebuilds, etc., require that contractors and facility owners involve locate companies in pre-construction meetings.
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America


    Hey Robot - As a locator, my first 11 years of throwing paint was a stressful excursion of chasing due dates and times. Since the Missouri on-call inception, Missouri utility locators got a minimum of 1 full day to complete tickets called in for locates. The greatest improvement in the one-call system in my state happened when the true 48 hour response time was extended.

    Now, completed locates are due a period of two working days that begins at 12:00 a.m. following when the request is made. With the new law, Missouri locators get a minimum of 2 full working days to get the Routine and Renewal tickets completed as opposed to the minimum 1 full day before the change.

    That change was put in effect January 2009 and made all the difference for me as a locator; routing, prioritizing, completing. The 11 years of my stress focusing on ticket deadlines is now a stress focused on completing a locate accurately. I can safely say, the day the 2 full working day change was instigated is when locating became truly enjoyable for me.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Quote Originally Posted by Wingfoot View Post

    Hey Robot - As a locator, my first 11 years of throwing paint was a stressful excursion of chasing due dates and times. Since the Missouri on-call inception, Missouri utility locators got a minimum of 1 full day to complete tickets called in for locates. The greatest improvement in the one-call system in my state happened when the true 48 hour response time was extended.

    Now, completed locates are due a period of two working days that begins at 12:00 a.m. following when the request is made. With the new law, Missouri locators get a minimum of 2 full working days to get the Routine and Renewal tickets completed as opposed to the minimum 1 full day before the change.

    That change was put in effect January 2009 and made all the difference for me as a locator; routing, prioritizing, completing. The 11 years of my stress focusing on ticket deadlines is now a stress focused on completing a locate accurately. I can safely say, the day the 2 full working day change was instigated is when locating became truly enjoyable for me.

    ---------------------------------------------------------
    Wng, I am very happy that somewhere there has been some concrete progress for the locator. Thank you for giving us some insight on how things work in your neck of the woods! Now if we could just get Wis. IL and IN updated in some meaningful way...
    T

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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    My idea about this is fairly simple. Require the member utilities to return to zero. Assume ALL responsibility for their plant. No more dishing off the liability to a third party. We can complain about contractors all day and all night, but human nature is such that most guys are going to do whatever it takes to get those bucks into the wallet. Lie, cheat, steal....it is all in a day's work. The one call systems in my area of the Midwest ( and this goes double for the state of Illinois..) have taken to applying an overkill approach to many tickets. Example, homeowner wants to plant lilac in front of his bay window in front of house. He calls one call, and gives that exact information. One call processes ticket as mark entire front of property. Locator shows up, starts marking entire front of property. Homeowner storms out of house freaking out because his entire front yard is painted because he has a TON of plant in front, and in both side easements. He calls one call to get this rectified. And you guessed it.. the ticket comes back as MARK ENTIRE PROPERTY. When I show up ( to inform him that he is clear for us mind you..) he goes off like a roman candle about how he cannot believe that a system that is supposed to be all about safety and communication is so broken down that it can't even function on a basic level. His words, not mine. I explain to him that I empathize with him, and that we too are frustrated as well. And that is usually how it winds up. This is happening more and more each year, and the member utilities are very much aware of the situation. Yet they do nothing, because they have divested themselves of the responsibility, and they have the backing of the local, state and federal government.

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    Senior Member Turk182's Avatar
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    One of the biggest abusers of the emergency one call system round here is one of the utilities themselves.

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    Mke
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Hey Daman, I would check the state law books, usually there is a small blurb that in effect states " A contractor can not willing damage a utility" This coupled with the legal jargon of the 48hr rule " Locator has 48hrs to respond to a locate request." You can legally call a contractor and let him know that there is utilities in his proposed dig area, and that you are not able to mark it within the 48hrs, that you will be there at at another reasonable proposed time, and by law they can't dig. Companies usually don't like the locators to throw this around to willy nilly, but it can be done. Just verify with the state law books, I know that WA and OR both have this language.

    Robot, I like the idea of going back to zero, but the utilities will never do that. The sole reason they contract out locating services is to get rid of the liability. They can tell you its because they respect the abilities of locating contractors and their knowledge of locating........but its B.S..

    What it comes down to is giving the locator time. Time to contact the appropriate contacts, Time verify locate instructions, Time to properly locate the area, and most importantly time to learn the industry.
    Once a locator learns the way their area works, and the different types of requests they can manage the requests better.

    What we need is to boot the current representatives off the local one-call agencies and put actual locators on the board. I've been to numerous One-call meetings, and the only people who show up are the Utilities (Gas Company, City Workers, Power Company, and if your luck one locating company might send their claims guy who usually isn't the one that should be trusted to uphold what the field locators need). We need companies to let some of their lead locators attend the state and local meetings inorder to guide the one-call agency.

    Just a couple of thoughts.

    mke

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    Senior Member sprayandpray's Avatar
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Remember guys, the Utility companies basically own the one-call systems, at least here in Texas. Also, the companies often require us to be more responsive than the Law requires. Lastly, the One-Call system doesn't enact laws -the State Legislature does and where does their campaign money come from?
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    It's another agency that forms its rules based on theory. Perhaps the people writing these laws took a one day training class.

    In theory, the weather is ALWAYS good to put paint down. In theory, the equipment should locate ALL utilities accurately(within 18"-24"), regardless of utility congestion. In theory, you should be able to call the contractor to "work" with them. In theory, the excavator will not call in more area than necessary. In theory, the excavator will wait to hear from all utilities before starting.

    REALITY??
    Until the Codes are re-written by people who actually perform the work(no, the guy behind the desk isn't the authority to consult with), these laws/codes will remain outdated & useless.
    What about these changes:
    1- an enforcement agency that drives by random "emergency" jobs and fines the excavator for non-emergency work or not showing up to the job that day.
    2- One Call - stop accepting tickets during major weather advisory days, unless they provide more than 96 hours start date notice
    3- One Call - VOID ALL tickets called in prior to a snow storm and make the excavator update these notices
    4- One Call - stop letting excavators call in tickets that state "mark inter and go 200' in all directions". If they need more than 50' in "ALL" directions, they can call in 4 tickets.
    5- One Call - EMERGENCY tickets must have a field REP phone number. Many times the job can be cleared from the office if you can get more detailed dig info. Some locators drive 2 hours to get to a site and then clear the job.
    6- One Call - Landscape jobs cannot be accepted as an emergency. Neither can fence, pool, design or sidewalks. STOP ACCEPTING THESE or START fining the contractor.

    I would love to see the One Call, the Utility Company, or the Politicians consult the people who perform this work day in and day out. Till then, keep your marks straight and work up to date...
    --MarkedRight

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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Mark it once. Then if they call it back in. Charge them what the contract rate is. As far as emergency. Only valid emergencys get marked. Not some contractor who forgot to call it in. No fence or landscape jobs etc etc.
    I'm tired of marking the same job over and over. Just because Billy Bob couldn't get to the job that week. If they had to pay out of their pocket they would only call in what they could do.

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    Senior Member headcipher's Avatar
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Sounds like the states that you guys work in either have crappy laws in place or fail to enforce them. In Colorado we have 2 business days, not counting the day called, to respond to a locate request. Digging without locates $200 fine that can be applied by each utility in the area. A damage without locates, or before locates are completed 1st time $5,000, 2nd $25,000, 3rd $75,000. Failure for a facility owner to locate utilities in allotted time period after notification that leads to a damage is the same. Any job that is longer than 600 ft or that requires more than 1 hour a day is considered a continuous job, which only requires a response of 1 hour a day or 600 ft a day whichever comes first.(Handy for forcing a contractor to tell you what is really needed)
    I too am frustrated with "locate entire lot" BS. I deal with it by talking to the homeowners, and informing them that their contractor asked for me to paint up their nice landscaping because they are too lazy to specify a dig area. I also make sure that if a contractor continues to call in excessive locate areas that I paint very heavily(to be sure that they will be able to see the marks for their entire 30 days the locates will be good for).
    I wish that our laws would change to a premark only basis like Arizona.

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