811 rules in your state compared to local customs for stump grinders

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Jim Colton

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I am just getting started stump grinding in Texas and on reviewing the Texas 811 excavator guide the definition of excavating includes the phrase "to remove or otherwise disturb soil to a depth of 16 or more inches." This has me thinking there might be no statutory legal requirement to call for locates if stump grinding to the depth (under 13") I will be doing nearly all of my grinding to.

1. Do you think you are probably required by law to call for locates for your shallow soil disturbances? (And where do you work)
2. Are you required by your liability insurance provider to call for locates for your shallow soil disturbances? (Assuming you want your coverage to be in force)
3. What anecdotes do you have to share regarding unforeseen or unforeseeable perils?
4. What do you wish you understood far earlier than you finally did?

I just got quotes for a policy that required locates and also required me to have all utilities on the premises disconnected prior to performing any grinding. I told the carrier Obsidian they were a hard pass. I am looking for liability insurance if anyone has recommendations.
 
Here's my experience. This is from watching stump grinding contractors, hiring the contractors, and discussions with 811 in TN.

1. Do you think you are probably required by law to call for locates for your shallow soil disturbances? (And where do you work) You are required to call in TN if you plan to disturb the soil through any type of intentional digging activity, to any depth, including stump grinding. The contractor doing the digging has to have their own ticket, it can't be under a ticket that the general contractor submitted.
2. Are you required by your liability insurance provider to call for locates for your shallow soil disturbances? (Assuming you want your coverage to be in force) I sub-contract grinding, and they have their own policy, so my GL does not cover nor is affected. However, I will tell you that I have never seen a grinding sub make a locate request even though law says they're required to. That is why I usually give the grinders contact info to customer and have the customer call them. I usually tell them to see who can get to it first, and say call "this guy" first.
3. What anecdotes do you have to share regarding unforeseen or unforeseeable perils? Having hit Comcast Cable lines at depths as shallow as on top of the ground (edit - just doing basic above ground type work), especially when run near tree roots, I can tell you I am cautious. Heck, I even call if I plan to be bombing logs from height - there's a lot of energy there. Whether I'm liable or not isn't always the issue. I don't want a customer going ballistic because I severed their Comcast line, or their shallow fiber optic. I severed an ATT fiber optic line once just by doing a zero turn on my tracked mini loader. The utility asked me a bunch of questions, but didn't give me any grief because it obviously wasn't buried to their required depth, but the line was down for 3-4 days. The same job had Comcast lines run over the top of the tree roots.
4. What do you wish you understood far earlier than you finally did? That stump grinding contractors don't bother to call when they should, and that the depth requirement one of my previous stump subs told was just BS. Anything they do, even though I'm not liable, reflects on my business. I had a previous sub graze a residential sewer pipe one time that was only a few inches below grade. I found it when I was raking up the chips. There was no damage, so I never spoke of it. But it sure opened my eyes.
 
Here's my experience. This is from watching stump grinding contractors, hiring the contractors, and discussions with 811 in TN.

1. Do you think you are probably required by law to call for locates for your shallow soil disturbances? (And where do you work) You are required to call in TN if you plan to disturb the soil through any type of intentional digging activity, to any depth, including stump grinding. The contractor doing the digging has to have their own ticket, it can't be under a ticket that the general contractor submitted.
2. Are you required by your liability insurance provider to call for locates for your shallow soil disturbances? (Assuming you want your coverage to be in force) I sub-contract grinding, and they have their own policy, so my GL does not cover nor is affected. However, I will tell you that I have never seen a grinding sub make a locate request even though law says they're required to. That is why I usually give the grinders contact info to customer and have the customer call them. I usually tell them to see who can get to it first, and say call "this guy" first.
3. What anecdotes do you have to share regarding unforeseen or unforeseeable perils? Having hit Comcast Cable lines at depths as shallow as on top of the ground, especially when run near tree roots, I can tell you I am cautious. Heck, I even call if I plan to be bombing logs from height - there's a lot of energy there. Whether I'm liable or not isn't always the issue. I don't want a customer going ballistic because I severed their Comcast line, or their shallow fiber optic. I severed an ATT fiber optic line once just by doing a zero turn on my tracked mini loader. The utility asked me a bunch of questions, but didn't give me any grief because it obviously wasn't buried to their required depth, but the line was down for 3-4 days. The same job had Comcast lines run over the top of the tree roots.
4. What do you wish you understood far earlier than you finally did? That stump grinding contractors don't bother to call when they should, and that the depth requirement one of my previous stump subs told was just BS. Anything they do, even though I'm not liable, reflects on my business. I had a previous sub graze a residential sewer pipe one time that was only a few inches below grade. I found it when I was raking up the chips. There was no damage, so I never spoke of it. But it sure opened my eyes.
I bet your insurance for tree removal will not cover underground ! If you hit a main FIOS cable, you could be liable for 50Grand or more! Call before you grind and get it all marked out. If you hit something that wasn't marked, it should be on them . I hit a shallow FIOS once because they didn't mark it and I still had to fight about paying for it. Be careful out there. We have gone as far as doing test digs with a shovel when grinding stumps that were marked for utilities so you know how deep you can go. Follow the letter of the law in the State you are in, or you could be liable for a huge amount!
 
I bet your insurance for tree removal will not cover underground ! If you hit a main FIOS cable, you could be liable for 50Grand or more! Call before you grind and get it all marked out. If you hit something that wasn't marked, it should be on them . I hit a shallow FIOS once because they didn't mark it and I still had to fight about paying for it. Be careful out there. We have gone as far as doing test digs with a shovel when grinding stumps that were marked for utilities so you know how deep you can go. Follow the letter of the law in the State you are in, or you could be liable for a huge amount!
Wolf, you're way ahead of the game in my book. And no, my tree insurance does not cover underground without a add-on for stump grinding - which I don't do anyway - which would likely require following state dig laws. That's one reason I never wanted to get a grinder because I've seen how easy it is to hit comm lines without even digging, and how many times I've seen them running across roots. I've approached this subject before with a couple of other people in the business around here, and every time I get what amounts to a blank stare, then some excuses about how they've never hit anything in like 100 years of business, lol. Thankfully, I don't grind and sub it out. I can't speak for the tree services that do their own stumps, but I know some of them don't either, because I sometimes ask the customer about it when I see a ground stump.
 
from working at the township for a short time, everything ground disturbing needed an 811 call. Didn't matter if it was hand work, excavator or even replacing the base of a street sign. We often had to dig test holes to determine depth by hand before doing any sort of major road or sewar repairs, even placing snow fence in fields needed a one call/811. We did plenty of marking for 811 as well. Was pretty often we had a mains storm drain running straight through a development, under back yards etc.
 
here in TN they require us to call 811 for anything related to the ground, so any digging, stump grinding, etc, no matter the depth, no exception for billy bobs stump grinding just wanting to go make a quick buck, you rip a line out and its gonna be an issue, if you call 811 first, either you know where to hand dig, or they get it wrong and you don't have to pay to fix it


I have had to hand dig around a few stumps to expose the roots as far as I was grinding, then grind the stump, one job comes to mind where there was about 10 different lines, power, cable, sewer, and a gutter drain, had to hand dig every stump out, somehow I never once saw a line while digging but it looked like the locator just poked the can of paint and threw it down, letting it spray wherever
 

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