Dig Different Dave with GPR

Utility Locator Finding New Ways to Serve Customers

Cory Dellenbach
April 26, 2018
California's Spearhead Locating Services finds niche in serving solar installation companies and sees growth potential.
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Dave thinking
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Dave thinking
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Growing Services

When he first started the company, Marzio offered only electromagnetic utility locating and CCTV services. “I went with the ones that I needed for directional drilling work first,” he says. The company added GPR services a year later, calling it another tool in the arsenal. Now Marzio uses both electromagnetic and GPR locators on jobs. With rocky soil conditions in California, the GPR unit can have limited results, but he still finds it a useful backup and often uses it to locate underground tanks. “A lot of customers ask for GPR just because there’s a lot of materials that are not conductive,” Marzio says. “The GPR gets used all the time.” For utility locating, Marzio uses vScan (Vivax-Metrotech), Pipehorn 800 (Pipehorn Utility Tool), and RIDGID SR-20 locators. The company also has a camera system from Hathorn for CCTV work. “On most jobs, a push camera is all that is needed to locate sewer laterals, but on bigger jobs such as a gas line replacement throughout a neighborhood, the CCTV crawler is used,” Marzio says, “and for city sewer mainline inspections.”

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Marzio started his company after working for 30 years in the manufacturing engineering industry.

Rays of Sunlight

A big piece of Spearhead Locating Services’ business comes from solar energy contractors installing large solar panels at private mobile home parks, schools and government centers. “They’re installing carport-sized solar panels,” Marzio says. The solar arrays have 2-foot holes drilled up to 16 feet deep. “So where they are drilling needs to be located. Then, most of the time they need horizontal drilling done to tie all the arrays together, so the bore paths have to be scanned for utilities.” The public utility locators — through the 811 and One Call services — only locate up to the meters, leaving the rest to the private locators like Marzio. “The solar companies go far, anywhere from San Francisco down to San Diego, and I’ll travel anywhere they send me,” Marzio says. While a majority of the company’s work comes from contractors, Marzio is starting to see residential calls pick up thanks to his website. “I’ve been getting more residential calls to locate waterlines or gas lines,” he says. “They tend to be smaller ticket jobs, but the volume of work more than makes up for that.”

Excited for the future

With continuous calls for his utility locating services, Marzio says he’s looking forward to what his company will do in the future. Marzio has always had a goal of having three to five locators on staff who can go out and he can trust to perform quality locates. “That’s as big as I’d like to get,” he says. “I don’t want to let it get too large and to where I can’t control what is going on out there. Maintaining our high level of accuracy and professionalism as we grow is our primary focus.”

Not Mixing Signals

This article originally appeared in print as Finding a New Path in the May/June 2018 issue of Dig Different and online as Utility Locator Finding New Ways to Serve Customers at their website www.digdifferent.com.

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