Why I Started a Locator Certification Program

An Easy Target?

There’s a meme that circulates on social media proclaiming, “I don’t always locate utilities, but when I do, I’m ten feet off.” This meme effectively summarizes what we’ve heard for years from excavators regarding the quality of the 811 marks. The locators who run 811 tickets might get a lot of flak from excavators, but is the quality of their work a lower level than that of other locators? 

811 locating is unique to the other groups of locating. The excavator, who initiates the work, doesn’t pay for the work, has no choice in who performs the work and has no remedy if the work is not performed in a timely fashion. Locators become the target of excavators’ ire because they are the only person in the 811 process the excavator sees.

Other locators come from private utility locating, engineering/survey locating and construction crew locating. Over a nearly 40-year period, I’ve been in front of thousands of locators in these groups, and I’d say there is virtually no quantifiable difference in the knowledge and skills of these locators when comparing them to 811 locators. 

Learning that many of the people who do private, engineering or construction locating started in 811 locating only serves to validate my conclusion.

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