AGC Survey Reveals Weaknesses in 811 Utility Locating Processes

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

While 99 percent of professional excavators are familiar with their local 811 program requirements, three-fourths of respondents to a recent AGC of America survey identified the lack of accurate utility locating by facility owner/operators as the weakest element in the process.

The survey was completed by heavy water/wastewater, highway/bridge, telecom, gas transmission/distribution and energy infrastructure contractors.

In addition to the lack of accurate utility locating by facility owner/operators (78 percent of those responding), other weakest elements in the process, as identified by survey respondents, include utility owner/operator response time (56 percent) and wait time for facility owner/operator to clear a locate request (52 percent) as issues.

Forty-three percent of respondents indicated that abandoned facilities are seldomly marked by utility owner/operators and treated as live lines. A total of 53 percent who responded found unmarked or mismarked facilities in response to a locate request as the most frequent cause of damages or near-miss events.

According to the AGC, the estimated U.S. economic impact from breakdowns in the 811 process is $30 billion annually through direct costs such as facility repair and through indirect costs such as property damage and medical expenses.

While the AGC of America national survey didn’t indicate specific costs tied to Missouri and Illinois, it did report that over the past two years, breakdowns in the 811 locating process have included a failure to respond to tens of thousands of locate requests as required by law. For example, over the past two years Minnesota reported 78,000 late or no-show responses, 30,000 in Arizona and 20,000 in Michigan.

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