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Tom Hoff, founder, President and CEO of One Call Concepts (OCC), was looking for a unique way to convey the message of damage prevention. OCC was nearing its 30th anniversary in business. “The 811 Bike really grew out of a sincere desire to give something meaningful back to the industry that has supported our employees and customers for so much of my professional life,” Hoff says, “Getting the 811 Bike built was the easiest part of the process. The hardest part was figuring out just what the ‘something’ was.”
The damage prevention industry has undergone some significant changes since people of Hoff’s generation started their work life. There is a tendency for those within the industry to think the changes have only been in the technology used in the damage prevention process. While it is true that the continuous increases in computing power since the 1980’s have made it possible to handle the sheer volume of locate requests that modern one call centers are required to handle, there have been many more changes. The entire approach to outreach is much different today than it was 40 years ago. Capturing the public attention with the message of damage prevention has become increasingly difficult in a world where people are constantly bombarded with a mix of competing messages. The damage prevention industry itself continues to grow ever-larger, more sophisticated and increasingly fragmented. How do we best attract attention spans that have grown so short that the briefest of competing messages often distract people from completing the simplest thought?
As he was casting about for ideas, Hoff recalled the techniques that the utility industry used to build recognition during the heyday of “Ma Bell”. “Each industry had an iconic figure that it tried to associate with itself,” Hoff remembers. He began thinking of some of the most common ones, a few of which survive in some form today: the Blue Flame of the Natural Gas industry; the ambassador of the Electric industry, Reddy Kilowatt; the ubiquitous Bell that symbolized a unified Bell System and Willie Waterdrop, spokesman for Water System operators all over the country. Hoff reasoned that the genius of the 811 message was in the way it distilled the whole ‘call before you dig’ message to three easy-to-remember numbers. The 811 logo helps reinforce that message. “What seemed to be missing,” he says, “is some kind of emotional connection.” If the industry had an iconic figure that had the lasting impact that these “old-school” figures did, he knew it could help bring the message of damage prevention to a much wider audience in an easier way.
One sleepless night a little less than a year ago, Hoff found his inspiration. “Like a lot of boys who grew up in America when I did, I was fascinated by cars, motorcycles and just about any kind of mechanized transportation,” he says. “That attraction stayed with me as I got older. I was a dyed-in-the-wool gearhead and found myself watching those ‘how they do it’ shows on cable. When I came across American Chopper, I was hooked.” With that realization, the idea for the 811 Bike was born. “In hindsight, it should have been obvious. Given the tremendous popularity of American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior, it was inevitable that working with Paul Jr. on a damage prevention themed bike would be a great way to reach a new audience about the importance of knowing what’s below before you dig.”
With between 2.5 and 3 million viewers per episode, American Chopper is consistently one of the highest rated shows on cable television. A show about the construction of an 811 Bike would easily reach a large target group that might never be exposed to the damage prevention message. Fans of “American Chopper” will instantly recognize the irony of “OCC” commissioning a custom built bike from PJD. No sooner was the project announced than Tweeters and bloggers who followed the show began joking about the initials shared by One Call Concepts and Orange County Choppers, Paul Jr’s previous place of employment.
Work on the project began in mid-September, with a series of R&D teleconferences and face-to-face meetings. After that, construction proceeded “behind closed doors” under terms of strictest secrecy. Everything was kept “under wraps” until the evening of November 3rd, 2011 at the Greater Chesapeake Damage Prevention Training Conference. There, before an enthusiastic crowd of over five-hundred people, Paul Jr. unveiled the 811 Bike. After the initial unveiling, the 811 Bike took to the road and made several appearances around the country. Recently, it appeared at the Texas Damage Prevention Summit from February 6th – 8th, 2012. The episode of American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior featuring the 811 Bike originally aired on February 20th and 27th, 2012. If you would like to see the finished product for yourself, you can go to the Discovery Channel website and search for the episode titled: “The Apprentice Bike.” (Aftershow talk can be found HERE)
Paul Jr. and the 811 Bike recently appeared at the CGA Conference Safety Conference and Expo, held at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas on March 6th – 8th. Additionally, the 811 Bike appeared at the Louisiana Damage Prevention Summit on April 16th – 18th 2012.
“A lot of folks both inside and outside of our industry are looking forward to seeing it,” said Hoff. He points out that the show’s fans will tune in, in anticipation of watching the creative process that the PJD team went through to create the 811 Bike. “At the same time, they will be learning about the importance of 811 in a fresh, enjoyable and creative way. Ever since we announced we were working with PJD to build the 811 Bike, we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of positive feedback from many people outside of our industry,” says Hoff, “We’re glad that they are excited about something we think will carry the message of damage prevention to an entirely new group of people.”
Jimmy The Bike Wrangler
James Jennings, Area Supervisor, OCCLS
James (Jimmy) Jennings joined the One Call Concepts Locating Service in 1997, and currently serves as an Area Supervisor, overseeing the day-to-day operations of a group of locators and pipeline inspectors in the Maryland & D.C. area. Jimmy also serves as the official 811 Bike Wrangler. His wrangling duties have taken him far and wide, helping the 811 Bike spread damage prevention awareness across America.
Jimmy is an avid biker himself, which made him a perfect choice for the role of “Bike Wrangler.” When not riding the 811 Bike, J.T.B.W. enjoys cruising on his Harley Softail Custom with his wife, Malissa. Other favorite activities include spending time with their granddaughter Kyleigh, and catching a Redskins game with his favorite beer in hand.
811 Bike Details and Specs
Click the image below and see the details of the 811 Bike!