Underground Operator

Underground Operators Clear the Way for Fiber Networks

Underground operators are an integral part of many of the internet services we know and love. Before a technician connects our homes and businesses to networks, underground operators must bury the infrastructure needed to carry signal, such as conduit and fiber cabling. This infrastructure is later expanded upon by other personnel to activate the equipment consumers rely on for internet connectivity. Underground operators help internet service providers and electric cooperatives by building out the fiber networks many communities need for broadband internet access.


Underground operators bury the product that keeps projects on track

An underground operator uses machinery such as mini-excavators, vibratory plows, and directional drills to perform a variety of tasks depending on the project needs. With National, the underground operator’s primary objective is to bury communications product in the ground. This allows protective conduit pipe containing fiber or coaxial cable to be deployed. Another part of the job involves safely hauling cable and conduit reels along their journey across long distances and burying them according to engineering design documentation.

An underground operator using a Ditch Witch JT20 directional drill

Some of the other responsibilities include:

  • Understanding how to proficiently set up the job (equipment placement, reel trailer placement)
  • Knowing how to expose (pothole) other utilities
  • Understanding the utility locate process, as well as verifying locates exist before performing work
  • Properly accounting for clearances from other utilities under the ground, road, highway, sidewalk, and non-pedestrian areas
  • Understanding and interpreting architectural, engineering and utility right-of-way grid maps

Underground operators perform many duties with the list above only being a few. Operators work exclusively outside and are susceptible to weather-related conditions such as dust and fluctuating temperatures. While performing the duties of this job, operators are required to use hands and fingers to handle, feel, or operate objects, tools, or controls, and reach with hands and arms. Underground operators are part of the Construction Division of National OnDemand and assist with associated projects.

"Pick a tool, any tool”

As aforementioned, underground operators use a variety of tools to complete their work. One of the primary tools they use is a multi-directional drill. This term can be used to describe any drill that does not drill solely in a single direction. This technology originated nearly 100 years ago. Although many correlate its use with oil and gas mining, it now is somewhat of a Swiss army knife in application. In the modern context, directional drilling is primarily used to install conduit under areas such as roads and sidewalks. This conduit is most commonly made from High Density Polyethylene, an exceptionally durable material. In addition to its strength, HDPE can also be installed in long and continuous channels. Target areas are strategically chosen to minimize impacting traffic. During installation, operators use high-pressure fluid jets and piping to drill a pilot hole, after which a rotating reamer is attached, and the conduit which will later house the fiber optic cabling is pulled back through the pre-reamed opening.

Another tool commonly used by underground operators is the underground plow. Underground plowing is primarily used in telecommunications as a method for coaxial or fiber optic cable placement. Underground plowing typically is less of a disturbance to the surface compared to typical trenching methods. It is used to simultaneously clear an opening and bury product at the same time.

A Vermeer RTX1250i2, one of the plows we use on our projects

By definition, a vibratory plow is an attachment that cuts the ground in a small diameter with the blade oscillating in such a fashion that makes the excavation process faster. As previously stated, this method is significantly less invasive compared to traditional methods. In plowing, jobs known as “long-haul” are a special designation for projects or installations across far distances. Since fiber optic cables are less susceptible to weather, not affected by electromagnetic interference, and simply weigh less, they can stretch extreme distances while allowing light signals to travel unimpeded. As part of the plowing process, vibratory plows are used in a long haul capacity to lay these cables miles at a time.

Previous experience may be necessary, but learning happens every day

Being an Underground operator for National OnDemand can require some level of previous experience, depending on the project needs. Aside from your ability to operate your assigned equipment, only a high school diploma (or its equivalent) is required. Basic experience in construction is preferred, but not required. Additionally, it is imperative you be able to pass a drug, background, DOT, and MVR screening. We do provide training as part of the onboarding process for our underground operators as resources allow. As a result, we equip our operators with the skills and experiences they need to succeed in their role.

Operating a Kubota KX033-4 Excavator in preparation for Directional Drilling

Underground operators receive industry-leading benefits with National OnDemand

Your qualifications, years of personal and professional experience, and even job-location will affect your overall pay range. Your income is predicted to increase as the need for underground operators continues to grow.

When working in the telecommunications industry, you may expect to receive benefits that could include medical insurance, sick leave, and vacation days. While working for National OnDemand, you will get all the above, plus more. You may receive a company vehicle with a fuel card, tools and apparel, disability insurance, free life insurance, paid time off, dental and vision coverage, and be able to utilize our Employee Assistance Program.

National OnDemand believes in investing in its employees through providing the resources they need to succeed at all times. Our comprehensive benefits package propels our team members to live their best personal and professional life. The bonuses, insurance, and perks we offer our employees demonstrate how much we care about and value our team. Additionally, our company vehicles and fuel cards reduce out-of-pocket costs to and from jobs. We are here to support our team members, Anytime. Anywhere.

Once you receive your first paycheck, you will be paid weekly thereafter. If you are interested in joining the National OnDemand team, visit nationalondemand.com/careers.

Start paving the way at National OnDemand today

Our underground operators pave the way for other roles as they contribute to many overarching infrastructure projects. They are fundamental in constructing the foundation that other jobs expand upon. You should be able to demonstrate proficiency operating your assigned machinery, with previous construction experience preferred.

If you are interested in being an underground operator, visit our careers page to learn how to become a part of our team as an employee, or check out open positions on the right side of the page. National OnDemand, Inc. prides itself on always maintaining ambitious standards and prioritizing safety on every project. Join our network of talented professionals and set yourself up for a long and successful career.

Current Openings

Plow Operator

Danville, KY

Post Date: 11/01/2022

Horizontal Directional Drill

Danville, KY

Post Date: 11/01/2022

Underground Construction Supervisor

Montross, VA

Post Date: 11/01/2022

Underground Construction Supervisor

Chase City, VA

Post Date: 11/01/2022

Underground Laborer

Danville, KY

Post Date: 11/01/2022

Underground Laborer

Terre Haute, IN

Post Date: 11/01/2022

Underground Laborer

Grandview, MO

Post Date: 11/01/2022

Underground Operator

Danville, KY

Post Date: 11/01/2022

Underground Operator

Terre Haute, IN

Post Date: 11/01/2022