Utility Pole Data: 4 Must-Have Facts

Posted by Ashley Little on March 7, 2014

utility_pole_data_4_must_have_factsIncreasing demands on the utilities industry brings an increase in the need for accurate asset data. Consider the following situation:

A utility company receives a request from another company to rent space for attachments on several hundred utility poles. In order to determine if these attachments are permissible, the utility company must first determine their ownership of all the poles in question, and then if each pole can allow the weight of an additional attachment based on each pole’s measurements and current load. In addition, pole owners have a limited amount of time to make these determinations due to potential penalties for not responding to attachment requests in a timely manner. Determining ownership and pole capacity after a request is made takes too long and costs too much, but accepting the attachments without the data verifying sufficient capacity of the pole can lead to potential future public safety problems and the costly replacement of downed utility poles.

This is just one scenario that illustrates the importance of utility pole data, and while there are many different types of work processes that require the use and access to data, the following four facts are important to a wide range of utility pole operational and maintenance events.

  1. GPS Location Coordinates – GPS location coordinates provide the geo-spatial positioning of a utility pole. These latitude and longitude coordinates of a utility pole pinpoints the exact location of the pole, making it easy to translate this data into a digital map. These digital maps, in turn, can improve crew dispatching. For example, in the case of an emergency, field asset records readily accessible can help determine which utility crew is closest (when trucks are equipped with GPS receivers) so workers can be sent to the appropriate location quickly, reducing outage times.

  2. Utility Pole Measurements – Pole measurements, including height, diameter and load, must be available for many situations, including responding to attachment requests, as outlined above. This information is also important when replacing a pole after a transfer has occurred.

  3. Existing Attachments – Keeping an accurate record of existing utility pole attachments, including those self-owned and foreign-owned, allows for easier pole transfer and equipment replacement. Accurate records also help to avoid lost rental revenue from bootleg and other non-permitted pole attachments.  Unauthorized attachments can lead to safety hazards from overloaded poles as well as penalties and fines if they are violating NESC regulations.

  4. Vehicular Accidents – The NESC and other regulating bodies outline the rules regarding utility pole location in terms of how far poles are required to be placed from the roadway. However, there are “highly vulnerable locations,” where a car may be more likely to leave the road and strike a pole, despite its appropriate distance. Pole owners can be deemed liable for accidents and injuries involved with these poles. By updating utility pole records to include all vehicle accidents with poles, owners can take note of high crash locations that may highlight the need for the removal or relocation of poles.

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