April 14, 2024

Business Bib

Business & Finance Blog

5 Common Challenges of Utility Pole Management

5 min read

Utility poles are a key part of the infrastructure that makes modern life possible. They support power lines and internet equipment, as well as cellular facilities and telephone lines. But as critical as they are, the poles themselves are often neglected until there’s a problem.

Many utility poles are joint use poles. This means that the pole itself is typically owned by a single entity while municipalities, states, private organizations, service carriers, and so on rent space to attach their equipment to the pole.

Utility pole management requires the cooperation of many parties to ensure that utility poles are well-maintained, safe, and functioning correctly. Unfortunately, challenges often arise that make it difficult for companies to work together effectively. The task of managing utility poles includes inventory management, maintenance, replacement, and more. These common challenges may seem daunting at first, but they are manageable with the right tools and processes in place.

Here are five common challenges associated with utility pole management:

1.   Attachment Permit Backlog

Pole owners receive thousands of requests each year from companies that want to attach their equipment to poles. But attachment applications are complicated and take time to process due to a variety of reasons.

For one, the application process varies by state and locality, which means there’s no standardized form or system for requesting attachments. Some types of attachments require more paperwork than others (for example, aerial cables), which adds to the complexity of the application process. Additionally, applicants sometimes need to submit multiple applications for a single project.

While some pole owners may be able to keep up with new requests, they often struggle to address all of them. This is because there are so many different types of attachments that need to be maintained by each utility company.

For example, wireline telecommunications companies may have thousands or even millions of pole attachments, each with its own set of rules and regulations regarding how attachments can be installed and maintained (or removed).

If a wireline communications company needs to remove an attachment from one of its poles and reinstall it on another pole, or if it wants to install a new attachment, it will have to go through all the same steps again: submitting a request, getting approval from the pole owner, and paying fees and taxes.

2.   Unauthorized Attachments

Utility poles are not just used to support power lines. As mentioned, they support other types of attached equipment. This is done under a joint use agreement between the owner of the pole (typically the local power company) and the third-party attacher (typically a communications company like Comcast or Lumen).

However, sometimes attachments are installed by a communication company’s contractor without properly requesting a permit from the pole owner. These attachments can disrupt the pole’s structural integrity and pose a threat to the safety of those who live in the area around the pole—and they can be difficult to remove once they’ve been installed. Unauthorized attachments can also cause damage to other equipment, which may lead to inconvenience for customers who may experience service interruptions due to these attachments.

3.   Damage

Damage is a common problem for many pole owners, but it’s often overlooked by companies that don’t know how to identify it.

Utility poles are often located in proximity to power lines and other utilities, such as gas lines and cable communication lines. These utilities can be damaged by improper maintenance or installation of new lines or by vandalism and theft.

Utility poles are also subject to deterioration over time due to weather conditions and wear and tear. The wood used in most pole structures can be damaged by moisture and insects as well as physical damage from falling objects or car accidents.

Underground lines are often damaged when they come into contact with other objects underground, such as buried pipes or concrete slabs that were placed at some point during construction without being marked properly beforehand. This can lead to serious problems in the future if left unchecked.

4.   Overloading

A common challenge of utility pole management is overloading. This happens if someone doesn’t follow the rules, and it’s a serious violation of the attachment agreement if an attacher causes it. Utility poles should be able to handle the weight of all the equipment being placed on them, but overloading can be a problem during adverse weather conditions or other natural disasters such as earthquakes or tornadoes. When this happens, it can cause power outages for customers who rely on electric, internet, and cellphone services.

5.   Double Poles

This usually results from a delay in a project. When a pole needs to be replaced, moved, or upgraded, all the attached equipment must be transferred to a new pole. If one of the attachers doesn’t get their work done on time, the other attachers have to wait, and so does everyone else involved in the project, such as road construction crews. In the meantime, both the new and old poles are necessary to maintain services, resulting in double poles. This kind of delay has a lot of time and money at stake, not to mention angry municipalities, other communication providers, and the pole owner.

Double poles are an issue for more than just the teams involved. They can cause safety concerns for pedestrians and drivers, who may not see both utility poles at once, which could lead to accidents if someone tries crossing between them or drives into one of them with their vehicle.

Utility Pole Management Solutions

Utility poles require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure they are safe for the public, workers, and the environment. Ultimately, it is the pole owner that is liable for public safety. It’s their responsibility to overcome the many challenges that make this task difficult.

Utility pole management software, such as Joint Use 365, can help utilities streamline the logistical processes required to maintain utility pole attachments and manage new ones in a cost-effective manner. The right system can simplify the make-ready, pole replacement, and pole maintenance processes, make asset tracking and auditing easier, prevent data siloes, and help utilities stay on top of attachment requests. It can also track pole details, making it easier to restore and communicate restoration activities with the attachers in a catastrophic event that knocks down a lot of poles.

Joint Use 365 is the best software on the market for managing all aspects of a utility pole’s life cycle. Whether you need to coordinate with attachers or contractors, we have what you need to easily manage your poles and attachments.