Improving Accurate and On-time Locates

Picture of DPC of TExas

DPC of TExas

Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the stakeholder-driven organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them and their communities, recently released its second White Paper, titled “Insights into Improving the Delivery of Accurate, On-Time Locates.” The White Paper analyzes recent research CGA conducted, including a quantitative survey of more than 400 U.S.-based locate technicians and in-depth interviews with 20 locating industry decision-makers, to provide valuable insights into the challenges facing this stakeholder group, as well as potential solutions to improve the damage prevention process as a whole. 

With 28% of total damages to buried utilities in the U.S. in 2019 attributed to locating issues (Source: 2019 CGA DIRT Report), the locating industry is certainly a critical stakeholder group.  Using the invaluable input provided by locate technicians and industry decision-makers in CGA’s research, the White Paper identifies four key takeaways to help the damage prevention industry better understand the pressures on locating stakeholders, as well as how all stakeholders can share the responsibility in achieving timely and accurate locates, and ultimately drive damages down. 

The first key takeaway is, “The volume and variability of tickets are huge challenges for the locating industry.” One of the largest challenges identified by both locate technicians and those who manage locators is the sheer volume of notifications. Nearly one in five locate technicians say that their daily workload is unmanageable, and locator supervisors cite the inefficiency and variability of ticketing processes as the primary challenge for adequate staffing. Finding ways to control ticket volume and reduce the variability of tickets could be key to helping the industry more effectively reduce damages related to locating issues. 

The White Paper’s second key takeaway is that, “White-lining and updated facility maps may be the damage prevention industry’s most effective paths to timelier and more accurate locates.” There is overw

helming agreement among locate technicians and decision-makers that white-lining and updated facility maps will improve the accuracy and timeliness of locates. Locate technicians identify updated facility maps, mandatory white-lining and increased communication between the excavator and locate technician as the three most effective actions to improve locating. Those who oversee locate technicians agree, with 19 of 20 saying white-lining solves ticket issues by narrowing ticket scopes or size. While there is an appetite for mandatory white-lining via legislation, these practices can also be implemented immediately by excavator and facility owner stakeholders to improve locate outcomes in the short-term.  

The third key takeaway focuses on how, “Retaining an experienced workforce is likely to produce better safety outcomes.” Locating is described by supervisors as a challenging job with heavy workloads, low wages and a lack of awareness of the profession, all of which contribute to challenges with workforce retention. Both high employee turnover and lack of ongoing training are reported as locate technicians’ top four challenges facing the damage prevention industry. Greater training opportunities is a popular solution to increase locate technician experience and draw them deeper into the profession, and 94% of technicians say more training would improve the accuracy and timeliness of locates. Highlighting locating as a career may also help improve perception of the profession and attract more to the workforce. 

 The final key takeaway identified in the White Paper is, “Reimagining relationships between key stakeholders can dramatically move the industry forward.” On the jobsite, this means improved communication between locate technicians and excavators; at the industry level, it calls for high-level discussions with other damage prevention stakeholder groups to address systemic issues that impact the locating industry and lead to damages. Overall, it’s clear that improving damage prevention outcomes will require shared responsibility among all industry stakeholders. 

Locating is just one area of damage prevention where new strides can be made to reduce damages to underground utilities, and collaboration should be encouraged across the entire safe digging process to facilitate more accurate and timely locates in the future. To download CGA’s complete Locator White Paper and resources to share these insights with your network, visit 

For additional information: or 512-963-0034 

Common Ground Alliance

Published October 2020