Shane Mattix, Solutions Engineer, Irth
What does the future of 811 ticket management look like? The best way to answer that question is by first looking at today’s challenges. At Irth, we’re constantly looking for ways to make our damage prevention software solutions more efficient and effective through innovation and acquisitions. As we focus on delivering what you need today, we have an eye on the future of 811 ticket management, so you’ll have what you need to protect your critical network infrastructure tomorrow.
As every industry deals with the fallout and ongoing effects of the COVID pandemic, the field of damage prevention is contending with an especially perfect storm: There’s too much work to do and not nearly enough people and resources available to do it well. And the problem keeps compounding.
Why is there so much work to do? In 2021, Congress passed a bill investing billions in the nation’s aging infrastructure. As a result, there has been a surge in utility companies, telecoms, and other organizations needing to dig. Plus, with fiber companies overbuilding on top of each other to deliver high-speed internet, including to underserved areas, there aren’t just more locates to perform. Many of them are on the outskirts of town, where it’s harder to respond to tickets promptly.
Pile that on top of the usual slate of homeowners who need to call before they dig in their yards, and you’ve got quite a workload for 811 responders. Some of our clients have seen a 30% to 40% increase in ticket volume, year over year. And in a sense, the 811 ticket system has been a victim of its success — 70% of people and entities who need to dig comply with the requirement to first call 811 and open a ticket. Most understand the importance of doing so, which is great, but this presents a real issue when there aren’t enough people to respond to all those tickets.
The onset of the pandemic caused a whole lot of people to reassess their careers and recalibrate what they wanted and needed out of a job. The Great Resignation, combined with people leaving the workforce due to illness or disability, led to a smaller pool of workers for damage prevention firms to pull from.
They’ve had to pay as much as 50% more to fill the gaps than they did before the pandemic. This, of course, means damage prevention carries a higher operational cost for organizations already needing to tighten their belts. It’s gotten harder to fit damage prevention into their budgets without showing that it can directly reduce costs.
In short, they need to find ways to streamline their damage prevention operations and reduce ticket counts.
Some cities are making 811 ticket management more efficient by forming utility coordinating commissions and consortiums. For example, in Edmonton and Calgary, utility members have banded together to coordinate their work and collectively hire one company to handle locates for their respective territories. This allows the members to share costs and the increased communication ensures that the number of one call tickets goes down. Rather than driving all over to respond to individual tickets as they come in, damage prevention experts get the bigger picture and can plan to respond more efficiently.
Another key solution is to use better data to drive better results. Irth’s cloud-based software platform, UtiliSphere™, has several features that help companies do that. Damage Risk Analysis lets businesses use historical data to better understand the risks associated with each ticket. SmartScore clearly defines and quantifies those risks to prioritize those needing more attention and automates processes, such as creating and scheduling tasks, for simpler tickets.
Irth’s Insights with AI allows companies to leverage predictive analytics to improve accuracy and efficiency when identifying high-risk tickets. It can even clear some tickets without requiring human intervention at all. When a business doesn’t need its workers to spend time on straightforward 811 tickets, it can use those hours more efficiently and effectively on complicated cases.
Finally, in Canada and much of Europe, home builders and large contractors can privately hire a vendor to perform all necessary locates, simplifying the process and easing the burden on local utilities to respond to those tickets.
So, what does the future of 811 ticket management look like? Ideally, it looks a lot like it already does in parts of Canada and Europe. Utility members can push for coordinating committees and consortiums in their local communities. They can adopt the practice of letting builders and contractors take on the costs and logistics of performing locates for major projects. Of course, those are big-picture changes requiring buy-in from other entities and are likely to be medium- or long-term solutions in most areas. So, in the meantime, businesses can make the shorter-term play to adopt modern 811 ticket management software, such as UtiliSphere.
Irth's market-leading SaaS platform improves resilience and reduces risk in the sustainable delivery of essential services that millions of people and businesses rely on every day. Energy, utility, and telecom companies across the U.S. and Canada trust Irth for damage prevention, training, asset inspections, and land management solutions. Powered by business intelligence, analytics, and geospatial data, our platform helps deliver the 360-degree situational awareness needed to proactively mitigate and manage risk of critical network infrastructure in a changing environment. Irth has been the top provider for 811 (one call) ticket management and utility locating software since 1995.