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

  1. #16
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    MarkedRight- you are correct on your theoretical assessments- I have actually had a State Regulator tell me that the "box that I put on the ground, must tell me everything that i need to know to mark accurately." I patiently explained EM theory to him, and explained the limitations of EM equipment.

    Reality-as you point out is quite different, I agree with Bad Robot in that One Call Laws in ALL 50 STATES need to be reset, IMHO they should be reset to CGA Best Practices so that we are all playing on the same field, whether you are an excavator or a utility locator, the laws should be consistent wherever you work.

    2-6 on your reality list, have nothing to do with the Call Centers, the Call Centers that I am familiar with are not allowed to refuse any locate requests or make judgement calls on what does or does not constitute an emergency. I agree that these are all issues but these types of changes would come from lawmakers in each State, and enforcement would come from the entity designated by lawmakers to enforce the rules. In most states, that would be the Public Utilities Commissions or comparable agency. With regards to stopping those issues it seems to me that it would be up to us as a representative to our customers to report this information to our customers, and have them report abuse and lobby for change.

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

    In Colorado a ticket can only be classified as an emergency if someone is out of service.

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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

    In Texas an Emergency ticket is supposed to " be an immediate need to protect life or property".
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    Senior Member Bad Robot'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 headcipher View Post
    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.
    Holy smokes friend, Colorado does indeed sound like they have at least some of this together! Are they actually fining folks in those amounts? And can you give us some more info on the Arizona premark basis? Thanks for your input!

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    Senior Member Bad Robot'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 sprayandpray View Post
    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?
    Spray, excellent points as always. The one call systems here are of course unduly influenced by the member utilities. Power companies seem to wield the biggest clout, as a matter of fact Com Ed, NIPSCO and Wisconsin Energies sometimes seem like they are members of the same crime family! Nicor ( the gas provider in IL) is actually kind of an aberation. They have several people in place that deal directly with locators and contractors in the field, esp. on long projects, or when dealing with large diameter or high pressure mains. It's nice that some utilities actually have a real point of contact sometimes. Most of the power, phone and cable companies here seem to have enough going on most times with their own work to keep a seperate contract company busy! I do not understand how USIC, Consolidated or whoever can keep up with the regular tickets and projects, and then be expected to drop everything and perform a 2000 ft. "emergency" locate on something that they have been calling in a repair ticket on for months! We all seem to be familiar with that routine, eh? Each state seems to have it's own setup, rules, enforcement, etc. Some are harder to deal with than others. I hear tell that Texas is by far one of the toughest, and that the contractors run pretty roughshod on you guys in the Lone Star State.

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    Senior Member Bad Robot'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 Mke View Post
    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
    Mke, your points are well stated as usual, and I am grateful that you took the time to post them. I am firmly with you in the belief that actual locators need to be on these one-call boards. Although I can tell you that they probably do not want to hear what any lead locator in this area has to say. And if it's one of the contract guys I know, someone might end up with a fat lip!! The reason I put out the return to zero blurb is simple. I know these guys have no intention of changing this system. They have circumvented the laws to absolve themselves of the cost and responsibilities of running their business. And those in goverment continue to allow it, even though everyone in the industry knows that they are living on borrowed time. I just think that it's time for everyone to adopt a legitimate austerity program in this country. Let's rebuild infrastructure, including the grid, and the gas transmission systems. Let's rebuild our roads, railroads and waterways. And let's put in place a realistic set of checks and balances to regulate this, instead of playing the usual political insider BS that penalizes those who live and work outside the bubble. A man can dream.

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

    You all must have been keeping track of everything that goes on in Kansas! We experience all the above. I have been in this business 12 years now. I have gone to The One-Call meetings every year and Mr. Put Me To Sleep keeps saying the same things of improvements and changes to the allowable dig area per ticket, better clarification, ect. Nothing significant has changed. Like you all have said, the system is ran by the paying members, the utilities. They are the ones with the creditable voice in congress that makes the changes. If it does not benefit them it won't get changed. Face it the locator is the bottom feeder in this big pond and all the poopo runs down hill. 99% of the examples that are given for damages in the meetings are directed at locator failures which gives the audience the impression that most damages happen because of locator error. The audience ?, You guessed it, is the same people, (contractors, and utilities) that create grief to our daily jobs. We have had One-Call dinners every year until last year and it was pop and snacks only. The attendance difference was about 1/4 that of the dinners. So why do the contractors go, not to listen to the message, it's to feed their face for free! If some one would put together a petition based for each state loocators concerns and positive changes to the system, and have possibly through Cablevine process as many locator signatures as possible, (state specific). Those of us that frequent C/V pass the word on to our partners in the in the field to sign up. Then have several locator representatives deliver the petition to their respective state congressmen. Here is the rub. In order for this to work, we have to do our part. Face it no one, not even a 15 year veteran in MO. are perfect at locating. We all have our faults, bad habits, short cuts, ect. We must concentrate on the locate we are on as the most important locate of the day. You are probably saying right now, "JRL, stick it in the paint can, we are tired of hearing that and the negative 'git er done crap' from our sups". Hear me out ! If we can make difference on the ground, it will make a legitimate voice when we want to see changes in our favor. Again I by no mean am not an ace locator but I have challenged myself to a no damage year. I know I can do it. There is many that do each year, you can too! We can gripe and complain about all the above or we can come together to improve the system which will improve OUR JOBS!

  8. #23
    Mke
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Thanks for the compliment Robot. I truely am behind a restructuring of the One-Call System. Unfortuneately I take a realistic, and somewhat pessimistic view on the indsutry. I know I've only been in the industry for almost 12 years, and most of that time was in Private locating where things are ran a bit differently then you public guys. I however have not lost sight of where I started, and where most if not all locators have started, and that is the Public one-call stuff. In my current role, I work for a state agency that owns its own utilities, and we are responsible for all locates on our utilities as well as verifing all the paint other locators put down for all of our projects. I attend most of the pre-construction meetings and lay down expectations for calling in all one-calls, and how to appropriately use the One-Call System. I have even designed a handout for the contrators that have contact #'s for the utilities and a written guideline of when to call for remarks, and the importance of using the locators to specifically mark the requested areas.

    It going to take people in my position and people in management position in the contract locating companies to work with the utilities to guide them into the understanding on how to properly use the locator. The biggest thing the locators need right now is Support from the utilities they are marking. Support in the form of monitary reimbursement for the time and effort it takes to accurately mark and maintain the facilities. Support in the form of the power to stop contractors in their tracks, may it be with fines or the actual power to shut down the excavation. Even if the utility didn't trust the locators, make sure there is a utility rep that would step in and arbitrate the situation with the concerns of the utility in mind.

    Random thoughts

    Mke

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

    Utilitrack,
    2-6 were my One Call WISH List. I should have given it a proper header. I will not hold my breath for those changes as it requires common sense and a desire to save money - lawmakers possess neither.

  10. #25
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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 Bad Robot View Post
    Mke, your points are well stated as usual, and I am grateful that you took the time to post them. I am firmly with you in the belief that actual locators need to be on these one-call boards. Although I can tell you that they probably do not want to hear what any lead locator in this area has to say. And if it's one of the contract guys I know, someone might end up with a fat lip!! The reason I put out the return to zero blurb is simple. I know these guys have no intention of changing this system. They have circumvented the laws to absolve themselves of the cost and responsibilities of running their business. And those in goverment continue to allow it, even though everyone in the industry knows that they are living on borrowed time. I just think that it's time for everyone to adopt a legitimate austerity program in this country. Let's rebuild infrastructure, including the grid, and the gas transmission systems. Let's rebuild our roads, railroads and waterways. And let's put in place a realistic set of checks and balances to regulate this, instead of playing the usual political insider BS that penalizes those who live and work outside the bubble. A man can dream.
    Allot of these laws ARE actually in place. I've heard of them they just aren't enforced by the state and the excavators aren't even aware of them. There is no central controlling authority that I'm aware of.
    Hey headsipher.....Colorado actually does fine excavators?!!!!!? Wow ! How has it affected damages state-wide?

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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 Mke View Post
    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
    Sorry, meant to respond to mke. Oops

    Allot of these laws ARE actually in place. I've heard of them they just aren't enforced by the state and the excavators aren't even aware of them. There is no central controlling authority that I'm aware of.
    Hey headsipher.....Colorado actually does fine excavators?!!!!!? Wow ! How has it affected damages state-wide?

  12. #27
    Mke
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    Hey Daman, The laws are enacted by the state, but enforced by the people who they are intended to protect. I have a small box of "Standards Manuals" from the state one-call center. I have gone through a large portion of this box and highlighted the ORS's (Oregon Revised Statutes) that pertain to the main points I want to convey to the contractors. When ever I get a lippy contractor who is trying to skirt the laws, I have no issue slapping a law book down and showing him the passage of concern.

    And you are right, most contractors have never read the laws pertaining to the underground utilities. And most of the time, after showing them the law, they still don't care. What it does do is lay the ground work for you to use the laws in your favor at a later time. The contractor can no longer state "I had no idea."

    And usually each state has a PUC (Public utilities commission) and those guys are the ones that are able to enforce the fines. The reason they don't is because it takes time and money to go through the process. What also happens with the fines is the corprate version of "Three card monte". The PUC Fines Contractor, contractor folds the fine into the cost of the job and tries to pass it to the utility or the people requesting the work, and if that is a utility receiving that, they then put the squeeze on the contract locating companies to help soften the blow.... and thats why its not worth getting the fines issued because it comes right back to the locators.

    You have to treat contractors with the impression of force. For example, my brother has and had some really fast vehicles in is time. He's had everything from Old Muscle cars (69 charger) to his current love (2010 Suzuki G-SXR 1000). He once told me, that he wasn't really into speed, because most of the time you can't do 100mph on the road, he was into the "Impression of Speed". He said if you look fast and sound fast, and know what you are talking about. Most people would just assume you were fast. The Point is, when you go out to a site and locate 50% of the job is knowing the equipment and spraying paint, the other 50% is convincing the contractors that you know what you are doing. You have to show them that you know what is going on, and that they are not the only ones in the construction field. My co-worker has been talked into overmarking by contractors almost on a daily basis, just because he goes out on site and becomes their whiping boy. The only thing you have to watch out for is being over confident, know your place. Our main goal is to protect the utility, not get out of work.

    Mke

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

    I was given a pamphlet of state regulations one time in '98 and again in '02. Haven't gotten one since. I've requested them at least once a year but I haven't seen a current one in years. It's been so long I've forgotten allot of what's in there. It's usually not the established larger companies that are the worst offenders. They can absorb the fines. It's the smaller one or two crew shows. There are a thousand fly-by nights that come and go and this has to be argued out with each one of them. Proving you established contact prior to the start time can be hard and "I left a message" is even harder to prove. I suppose there are phone records but when it's a $1000 damage the cost of litigating it can be much higher. A company can easily decide to just pay it off and chalk up a damage to the locator.

    You are right. If you've established yourself in an area, the excavators and utilities will not be so quick to assume a damage is your fault. Leave a bunch of short-cut locates around town for the utilities to see and no one's gonna be willing to stick their necks out for you. You just have to let the professionals in your area know that when you are trying to reduce the scope of a ticket it's not because you don't want to do the work, it's because you need to budget your time to get the most accomplished in a day. They have to do the same thing in their work. Besides, it's harder to throw someone under the bus if you've established a working relationship with them.

    I understand the "impression of speed" but I know an awful lot of locators who talk a good game. It usually comes to light on a tough job where the standard locate proceedures aren't working. I used to have a '68 Chevelle. If you had 10 seconds and a half mile of road to spare, the only impression you'd get is when your belly button touched your spine . Point taken though. Let folks know you actually do know what you're doing and they'll find someone else to test.

  14. #29
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    Default Re: It is time to overhaull the One Call systems of the United States of America

    I work LP in Georgia and part of my job is to meet with the contractor on highway and road projects. in theory they discuss where they are going to be starting work or working first so you can better plan out your locate ( my average project length is 3 miles). With most contractors this works. However, I have one project that the contractor told me they were going to be working on the North side of the road. To which I said " great.... all I have are a couple of street crossings... if it were the other side of the road it is a mine field" this was on tuesday..... to thursday... they decided to bring the water main down the south side of the road... an area which I had not located at that point because I needed a purge on a manhole in front of a CEV. He was suppose to be "potholing" for the utilities.... and he was doing this with a Kamotsu track hoe. then to top it off.... he was getting pissed at me because I didn't have all the phone lines and a splice pit marked and flagged out yet... then you add on top of that I had a 4" Pl gas main that kept bleeding off on a retired 900 pr because of broken trace wires... this made this job turn into a real pain... the Ideas I read are good ideas, and as a former operator... I know how bad it sucks when you hit something, but this whole CYA mentality is causing us locators to have to sacrifice accuracy for speed. This one contractor I have referred to called in to have the entire stretch of the project located including the ROW, and 200 ft of every intersection... and I am to get this done in 2 days, get it esketched, and pictures taken... on a busy road where they commonly drive through doing 50+ mph... c'mon......

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