DIRT Report

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Executive Summary

Damage and Root Cause Trends

  • Statistical models used for three-year trend analysis point to an overall plateau or slight increase in damages since 2019.
  • Increased construction spending has consistently proven to correlate with an increase in damages. Anticipated funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directed to communities across the U.S. is predicted to stress an already inundated damage prevention system.
  • Locate requests to 811 centers (one call centers) increased by 8% over the previous year, with 811 centers seeing a significant shift in locate request methodology toward electronic rather than voice.
  • Led by water and followed closely by sewer and telecom, utility work is the most prevalent type of work performed when damages occur. 
  • No notification made to 811 center remains the top root cause with over a quarter of all damages still attributed to no notification. CGA excavator research tells us that professional excavator awareness of 811 is very high,[1] yet 60% of all damages due to no notification can be attributed to professional excavators. It is important to note that 36% of those professional excavators failing to contact 811 were likely working on projects associated with utilities (natural gas, electric, telecommunications) and/or municipalities (water, sewer, road, sidewalks, etc.). 
  • Many damages involving Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) can be attributed to facility operators, or their subcontractors, hitting each other and/or themselves.
  • Root cause analysis continues to paint a very clear picture. The vast majority of damages are caused by a limited number of issues: (1) digging without notification to the one call center/811; (2) excavators failing to pothole and failing to maintain sufficient clearance between digging equipment and buried facilities; and (3) facilities not being marked or being marked inaccurately due to locator error and/or incorrect facility records/maps.  

Spotlights on Key Facility Types (Natural Gas vs. Telecom) and Event Submitters (Excavators, Road Builders and Engineering)

  • Natural gas and telecommunications (including cable TV) are the facility types which incur the most damages, with excavation practices contributing to the majority of natural gas damages and locating practices contributing to the majority of telecom damages. Telecom facilities are damaged at shallower depths and by facility owners themselves, their subcontractors, or other service providers within their own industry about twice as often as natural gas facilities.
  • When excavators, road builders and engineering firms enter damages directly into DIRT, their reports have a much higher DQI than reports attributed to those sources submitted through 811 centers. These stakeholder groups are most likely to report damaging telecommunications facilities and point to locating practices as the root cause. Nearly a quarter of damages reported by excavators included downtime but improving the overall quality of excavator reports could help better quantify work stoppages incurred when utilities are damaged on the jobsite. 

Impact of Data Quality

  • Improving the quality of DIRT reports would give the industry a much clearer picture of how and why damages occur, and therefore more effective recommendations for reducing damages and near misses.
  • Leaving fields blank and/or selecting “unknown/other” dramatically reduces the DQI of DIRT reports and the usefulness of the information.
  • Several organizations with high DQI scores are profiled to reveal best practices in achieving informative datasets.

[1] 84% of professional excavators are aware of 811, according to CGA’s 2019 national excavator survey.

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