Your Turn – Dig into New Research on Utility Locating

Khrysanne Kerr April is National Safe Digging Month, and the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) is celebrating by highlighting the importance of locating in the damage prevention process.

A new “CGA White Paper, “Insights into Improving the Delivery of Accurate, On-Time Locates” analyzes data from a survey of more than 400 locate technicians, information gleaned from in-depth interviews with 20 locating managers and industry decision-makers, and damage data from CGA’s 2019 DIRT Report to paint a picture of how the locating industry is working to manage the increasing volume and complexity of tickets.

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“Locating is at the very core of the damage prevention process, and the DIRT data indicates it faces specific pressures in the damage prevention system,” says Sarah K. Magruder Lyle, president and CEO of CGA. “Our new Locator White Paper is a powerful tool for the industry as we look for ways to make damage prevention more effective and efficient. The Paper illuminates the locating industry’s commitment to safety, as well as its challenges in managing ticket volume and retaining an experienced workforce. I encourage all damage prevention stakeholders to consider the key takeaways and insights.”

As CGA’s 2019 DIRT Report details, one call transmissions continue to rise, and in 2019, each construction dollar spent resulted in more one call transmissions than in years prior. At the same time, damages trended upward for a fifth consecutive year and were estimated to have a societal cost of $30 billion in 2019 alone. Root cause analysis identified locating issues as contributing to 28 percent of damages to buried utilities last year. Taken alongside the detailed quantitative and qualitative research among locating technicians and decision-makers from the Locator White Paper, CGA’s most recent data indicates an often-overburdened locating process is negatively impacting the entire damage prevention system.

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The new “CGA White Paper: Insights into Improving the Delivery of Accurate, On-Time Locates” summarizes the findings of CGA’s recent survey of locate technicians and one-on-one interviews with locating managers and decision-makers and shares four key takeaways that the damage prevention industry can leverage to achieve timely, accurate locates:

  1. The volume and variability of tickets are huge challenges for the locating industry.

  2. White-lining and updated facility maps may be the damage prevention industry’s most effective paths to timelier and more accurate locates.

  3. Retaining an experienced workforce is likely to produce better safety outcomes.

  4. Reimagining relationships between key stakeholders can dramatically move the industry forward.

“As we see damage root cause groups equalizing in the 2019 DIRT Report, it’s never been more important for us to consider how we can strengthen each part of the damage prevention process,” says Josh Hinrichs of ELM Companies and vice-chair of the CGA Board of Directors. “On behalf of CGA, I’d like to thank the locate technicians, locating managers and utility company representatives who oversee locating functions for their enthusiastic participation in the research that informed this White Paper. The locating industry’s eagerness to partner on solutions that drive better safety outcomes is certainly reflected in CGA’s second White Paper, as are several thoughtful suggestions for improving locate accuracy and timeliness.”

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The “CGA White Paper: Insights into Improving the Delivery of Accurate, On-Time Locates” is available to non-members of CGA throughout National Safe Digging Month at

To learn more about CGA and damage prevention, visit

Khrysanne Kerr is vice president of marketing and outreach for the Common Ground Alliance.

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Editor’s Note: Your Turn is a new column in Pipe Cleaning PRO.  It highlights important issues in the sewer and drain cleaning, inspection and repair industry. If you have an idea for a “Your Turn” article, email Mike Kezdi, managing editor, at

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