Conflicting Business Incentives
In taking a closer look, the Technology Committee highlighted “conflicting business models and incentives” as an additional barrier to the adoption of combined locating-mapping technologies. Whether in-house or contracted, the objective for locators is to complete markouts for pending excavation work, subject to timelines in state regulations, and move on to the next worksite. Although combining mapping with locating would have long-term benefits for the facility owner, there could be short-term costs for locators in the form of additional time per locate.
The locating industry already has well-documented challenges in keeping up with demand for on-time locating. This leads to questions of who makes the investment in the technology and who covers the cost of added time in the field. These technologies can make the process of combining locating and mapping faster and cheaper, but at present they seem best suited to niche uses such as complex locating situations, SUE/design projects and privately-owned facilities, rather than day-to-day utility locating.
Other real or perceived barriers to adoption of new technologies include:
- Resistance to change: This is the way we’ve always done it, and we need to protect our turf.
- Vested interests: This could lead to our business becoming obsolete.
- Wait and see: Let others go first and demonstrate success before we try it.
- Lack of understanding of the technology.
- Wedded to already-approved programs: Need approvals, budget, contracts and coordination with other departments.
- Need to prove return on investment.
- Regulatory: It may conflict with state or federal regulations (which may be outdated).
It is past time to advance the pace of technology adoption, application and integration in U.S. damage prevention. The technologies to help us achieve zero damages exist. The barriers facing the industry are not technological. They are driven by financial assessments that do not take into consideration the long-term benefits of investing up front, along with political and institutional challenges. Leaders in damage prevention must prioritize strategic technology investments in order to meaningfully advance the industry.