Skip to content


The top 5 damage causes make up

70% of total damages reported


In September 2021, Common Ground Alliance (CGA) published its 2020 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report, which analyzed all 2020 damage and near-miss data submitted voluntarily by facility operators, utility locating companies, one call centers, contractors, regulators, and others from the U.S. and Canada. 

The top 5 damage root causes:

1. No notification made to one call center/811

Failure to notify the one-call center (811) is the single largest individual root cause, contributing to 32% of damages.

2. Excavator dug prior to verifying marks by test-hole (pothole)

Excavator dug prior to verifying marks by test-hole (pothole) combined with Failure to maintain clearance make up the most consistent causes of damage due to excavator error in the field.

3. Facility marked inaccurately due to abandoned facility

There may be damages related to mapping, tracer wire, and abandoned facility hidden in the “Locator Error” category according to the DIRT report.

Therefore, such errors should not always be interpreted to conclude that the technician is the responsible party. Inaccurate maps, broken tracer locate wire, abandoned facility, etc. could lead to an inaccurate locate even if the locator followed all proper procedures.

4. Facility not marked due to excavator error

There may be instances where an excavator may have contacted the notification center, but may not have provided sufficient information, or the excavator did not provide sufficient notification time according to requirements and guidelines.

Ex: Excavator was excavating outside of the located area

5. Excavator failed to maintain clearance after verifying marks

Excavator failed to maintain clearance (defined by applicable guidelines, law, and facility owners) from underground facilities when using power/ mechanical equipment.

Damages continue to occur, and the major root cause groupings are still roughly equal to one another. The data reinforces that we still have important work to do to drive down the estimated $30 billion dollars in societal costs that result from damages to critical underground infrastructure in communities across the country. Implementing more effective education and training across stakeholder groups about the importance of adhering to damage prevention practices can potentially result in a significant reduction in damages, which means companies can reduce their environmental footprint as well as negative impacts on communities.