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Every year the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety holds an educational conference for industry professionals. This networking event is intended for pipeline operators, underground utility technicians and damage prevention specialists. During the two-and-a-half-day event, industry professionals learn about about new products, services and updated regulations. One of the more colorful aspects of this conference is the Utility Locate Rodeo.

Utility locators are a vital but often overlooked part of America’s infrastructure apparatus and the 811 process. They employ a highly-specialized skill set. Their job is difficult, dangerous, and the consequences of sloppy workmanship can be catastrophic. Without their bright paint and pin flags present at a worksite, excavators would have no way of knowing where it is safe to dig. They are essential in keeping our neighborhoods safe and the utilities that power our lives and businesses flowing uninterrupted.

The Utility Locate Rodeo is a great opportunity for these safety professionals to put their skills to the test, and earn some well-deserved bragging rights while they’re at it. It also provides a little extra incentive to keep themselves well practiced and to stay on the cutting edge of their field.

Here’s how it works: Each competitor is given a 12-minute window to use locating equipment to determine the location of an underground facility. Then, as accurately as possible, they record the utility’s location in relation to a central point in the field of play (known as the “locate wheel” due to its circular shape). Competitors are strictly forbidden from viewing the locate wheel before their turn arrives, so as not to provide any unfair advantages. Participants are then judged based on the accuracy of their markings, with awards being assigned to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd best competitors. In the event of a tie, the faster locator wins.

This year’s winners are:

  • First place: Josh Harper, of Q3 Contracting
  • Second place: Barrett Bartos, of Centerpoint Energy
  • Third place: Steve Langum, of USIC


The Utility Locate Rodeo and the overall conference are good examples of the utility industry’s dedication to ensuring the safety of our underground infrastructure. For more information about the conference, visit MNOPS’s website at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ops/Pages/default.aspx

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