The surveying profession is rapidly changing from both a business and technological standpoint. Competitive pressures and the tremendous advances in technology and software are increasing the complexities of serving the built industry. Now more than ever, engineers and surveyors must work together to turn these challenging times into opportunity.

As the June 30 expiration date looms on yet another transportation bill extension, the American Council of Engineer Companies (ACEC) is hard at work urging House and Senate negotiators to finalize a long-term bill. “The infrastructure investments and program reforms in this bill will reap huge economic dividends across the country and should be enacted as soon as possible,” ACEC President Dave Raymond wrote to members of the House-Senate Conference Committee negotiating the bill.

The self-described “voice of the engineering industry,” ACEC has long been advocating for robust funding levels, aggressive project delivery reforms, increased contracting for engineering services and expanded financing options in the final bill. But it’s not just engineers that stand to benefit; surveyors and geospatial professionals would also gain work from a long-term bill.

Indeed, ACEC is an organization that advocates for the entire built industry. Through the Council of Professional Surveyors (COPS), a coalition within ACEC representing the survey and geospatial professions, ACEC is also an effective advocacy and business organization for the survey/geospatial sector. Within the bylaws of the ACEC, the two professions are interchangeably written as “Engineer/Surveyor.” However, leveraging this strength requires geospatial professionals to speak with a louder voice.

Of the more than 5,100 ACEC member firms, approximately 1,600 offer survey or geospatial services. The COPS coalition was developed to strengthen the business environment and image of these groups and organizations, with a focus on quality professional geospatial services in a competitive global market.

Advocacy is a major focus within ACEC. The organization’s political action committee raises $1.4 million annually and has five full-time staff members, and the ACEC government affairs department effectively supports issues that affect the geospatial profession at the federal level. In addition to the transportation bill, other key issues include supporting expanded domestic production of energy sources, pushing for investments in water infrastructure, and maximizing the use and innovation of the private sector. COPS gives surveyors a seat at the table on these and other issues relating to legislation and regulatory reform. ACEC has also fought diligently for qualifications-based selection (QBS)–an issue that affects geospatial professionals as well as engineers. For our services to be recognized as professional rather than being viewed as a commodity, our voices need to be heard on this topic.

In addition to advocacy, ACEC and COPS develop business tools that can help firms better manage their businesses and assets, implement health and safety training, streamline procedures and increase profitability. For example, a six-month forecasting tool provides survey managers with the ability to determine total staffing needs by individual and classification on a month-by-month basis based on data input for up to 10 separate ongoing projects and eight promotional or proposed projects. Other worksheets can help firms make go/no-go decisions for jobs with private and public clients. Sample contracts, health and safety resources, marketing materials and other resources are also available through COPS and the broader ACEC organization.

Importantly, COPS is in a position to bring awareness to the larger engineering community regarding the appropriate collection, use and management of geospatial data. One example is machine control. Working closely with engineers, the COPS Steering Committee developed a position statement recommending that professional engineers state in construction plans and specifications they prepare that professional land surveyors or engineers must be in responsible charge of the digital terrain model creation and site calibration. ACEC/COPS also developed a draft of suggested language for use in construction plans and contracts involving machine guidance. These documents are made available for comment by all ACEC member firms.

Surveyors and engineers depend on each other. ACEC already recognizes this truth. By growing and elevating COPS within ACEC, geospatial professionals will achieve even greater collaboration with the engineering community on the legislative and business issues that affect all of us. It’s time for our voices to be heard.