Utility poles: Out there in the wilderness and on roadsides they stand, stoically marching through small towns and big cities all over the U.S. They are invisible to most, unsightly to others, but typically out of mind. However, ignoring them can prove to be a costly mistake for pole owners. A helpful best practice you can introduce into your utility pole management program is regular physical asset, utility pole audits. Actually seeing and evaluating a utility pole first-hand is an essential step in extending its life and ensuring the integrity of your grid.
A few items that physical pole audits enable utilities to do:
Audits extend the life of your assets. Accidents and acts of nature happen. Carpenter ants find a utility pole’s damp wood a perfect home. Passing automobiles clip utility poles regularly. Then there is the case of the poor soul who ran amuck in a bucket truck in New York in 2013, blacking out 6,000 customers on Long Island. Conducting regular visual inspections of the utility poles you own will help proactively recognize damage or deterioration that may affect the pole’s structure before it becomes an issue or causes a widespread outage.
Audits banish bootleggers. Unauthorized, unsupervised bootleg attachments are a burden, and not just to your bottom line. These pirates of the utility world damage the integrity of utility poles, place additional stress on their structure and make it difficult for legal attachers to pay for lawful rental space. All of this impedes the pole owner in recouping vital rental revenue. Use of a detailed, connected joint use management software system and related services helps owners track lawful attachers easily over time after audits are complete, making collecting rental fees faster and simpler.
Audits improve lifecycle planning. Every utility pole has a life expectancy. Some sources state 20-45 years, while some poles are rated for 75 years or more. No matter the projection, however, a well-kept pole will last longer in the field. Periodic checks to evaluate the condition of utility poles can help owners be better prepared to evaluate if replacement is necessary and set maintenance in motion before a small problem becomes a big hassle.
Audits aid in compliance. Compliance with regulatory obligations and corporate governance requirements are vital to keeping you on the right side of the law and help avoid fines and penalties. Verifying what assets you own and where each is located via a physical inspection is essential for complying with regulatory guidelines mandated by NESC and other local regulatory agencies. Utilizing a hand-held field capture tool and storing the information in a joint use management database will help to ensure that your plant is in compliance.
From the comfort of your office, it is impossible to know the extent of what is going on out there on, in, and around your utility poles and other field assets. As in most things, seeing for yourself is key. Conducting regular physical audits of all assets in the field is vital to operations, safety and revenue generation. Schedule one today.