Discussion: View Thread

  • 1.  PE-Practicing Land Surveying

    Posted 09-22-2018 11:11 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-22-2018 11:11 AM

    When I received my PE,  I was allowed to practice Land Surveying as it was part of engineering, particularly Civil Engineering.  In the practice of Land Surveying, I signed and sealed many plats with my PE seal.  In 1975, the RLS wanted to do incidental engineering within subdivisions and wanted only RLS to do land surveying.  A lot of us that were PE's objected to this change.  The law was changed with the stipulation that PE's who were capable to do Land Surveying were issued a RLS license.

    In the past couple of years it has come to the attention that RLS, now PLS, are not a "learned" profession as they do not have the requirements of a four-year college degree to be a "learned" profession.  We have had a case in North Carolina's courts where a PLS was sued by his client and the jury assessed client damages in the sum of $ 90,000.  The judge then ordered triple damages ($270,000) plus court costs because the PLS was not a "learned"  professional.

    The average age of PLS in North Carolina is approximately 61 years. In April of 2018, we had two members to pass the exam to become certified Professional Land Surveyors.  At this rate, the professional engineers who design our infrastructure will be at the mercy of the PLS because only they are allowed to do land surveying on our projects. All projects will require at least a boundary survey, which can only be performed by a PLS.  

    Therefore, it is critical that professional engineers be allowed to practice land surveying under their PE license as they were allowed to do prior to 1975.


    How can we as Civil Engineers draw attention to this issue at a state level?

    Charles D. Averette P.E., P.L.S., M.ASCE
    Averette Engineering Co., P.A.
    Raeford NC


  • 2.  RE: PE-Practicing Land Surveying

    Posted 09-23-2018 07:47 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-23-2018 07:47 PM
    I think that if you have proper training and experience, you  should probably be allowed to continue with surveying.
    I believe that all civil engineering college degrees include at least one surveying course. The math and science training to become a civil engineer is more advanced than that required to get a surveying degree. Further, if I remember properly that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were self taught surveyors and  architects. Washington was one of the richest men in America and much of his fortune came from land surveying and land speculation.

    Both common sense and American history suggest that licensed civil engineers should do well as surveyors for at least ordinary jobs. According to the internet there are now NASA high tech programs for using space satellites with lidar and GPS for surveying. At  that level perhaps you need  special training and experience.

    My personal problem is that my background is in electrical and aeronautical engineering. I started a small consulting business in 1985 and took the PE exam to  enhance my business prospects. I took and passed the mechanical license exam since there was no aeronautical PE in Pennsylvania. Now that I am retired I own property and would benefit for being involved with the civil engineering and surveying profession since work is easily available at a local level if I want to dabble on a part-time basis or do volunteer work. It was always the case when I was working that every time you lost a job, you had to sell your house and move to Texas or California to get another one. When I first became  enthusiastic about airplanes and space, I did not consider the fact that  most  aerospace jobs are with very large corporations with military contracts. With civil engineering there is always another bridge to be built just down the street. As they say in Amish country, " too soon old and too late civil engineering."
    I bought a $400 transit and surveying for dummies book. Now I can exactly locate  my tomato plants in my back  yard and call the township if my  neighbor builds his dog house across my property border. More seriously, I have interest in a 300-acre farm in western PA that has not been surveyed for 100 years and everything is located with reference to "iron pins" at rock piles. My next investment will be a good metal detector. Perhaps I will find one of Colonel Washington's cannons abandoned at Fort Necessity.

    Ronald Nave A.M.ASCE
    R&V Associates
    Horsham PA

  • 3.  RE: PE-Practicing Land Surveying

    Posted 09-24-2018 10:03 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-24-2018 10:02 AM
    Here in Wisconsin, it has always been the case that they are separate professions with separate licensing. I would cringe at the idea of any licensed civil engineer, most with only one college class in land surveying, stamping or performing surveys. There are many specialties within civil engineering, not all of which have as deep a knowledge of surveying as <g class="gr_ gr_222 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim Grammar multiReplace" id="222" data-gr-id="222">a RLS</g>. Surveyors, on the other hand, specialize in surveying. They can get a bachelor's degree in surveying but they should have ten full years of land surveying experience. Ten years experience is a lot of knowledge.

    Sure, if an engineer has enough practical land surveying experience, then they should get dual licensure. It would water down the legitimacy of the surveying profession and perhaps the engineering profession to have any licensed engineer perform surveys. The court case you mention seems odd but without details, it is hard to imagine an engineer taken to the courts for the same problem would have fared better.

  • 4.  RE: PE-Practicing Land Surveying

    Posted 09-24-2018 04:06 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-24-2018 04:05 PM
    Engineers and Land Surveyors are licensed separately in the states.  Each profession has it's own licensing requirements and these do vary from state.   In 2005, the North Carolina Society of Surveyors successfully advocated for legislation to increase the licensing requirements for surveyors.  The changes became effective for new licensees starting in 2013. 

    The law changed the minimum experience and education requirements to become a surveyor in North Carolina.  Applicants who had passed the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam prior to 2013 were grandfathered in and allowed to practice under the pre-2013 requirements.   The North Carolina Section of ASCE is aware of some concerns surrounding these changes, and is considering creating a task force to explore possible solutions.   In the meantime, ASCE government relations will work with the appropriate Institutes to look into this as well.    

    Aaron Castelo
    Director, State and Local Government Relations
    American Society of Civil Engineers

  • 5.  RE: PE-Practicing Land Surveying

    Posted 09-25-2018 10:33 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-25-2018 10:32 AM
    When I first read the basis of this thread, I thought it was going to go a totally different way.  In Texas, like most places in the US, the average age of surveyors is near 65, and the median is even higher.  This is a problem on it's own.  I agree that most civil engineers should not be doing surveying.  I also believe that if we do not find a way to lower the average age of surveyors from 65 to a more appropriate 40 or so, we as civil engineers are in for a big hurt.  Because, we can't do civil engineering without good, reliable surveying

    When these 65 year old surveyors start retiring, or passing away, civil engineering in Texas will have three options.
    1. We will have to work without surveyors, effectively becoming surveyors without the seal.  This is a violation of the board rules in Texas, and will get you rejected as both a civil engineer  and surveyor.
    2. We will have to lower the standards of surveyors, effectively making the title of surveyor useless.  This would be a horrible answer.  Our projects would suffer from quality issues, and I think we would default back to item 1 to avoid this.
    3. We will have to encourage the creation of more surveyors by paying them larger quantities of money over long periods of time to encourage college kids to want to become surveyors.  To the average 18-year old, working outside for 4-8 years before you can take a test to become a surveyor does not sound like a lot of fun.  I can easily foresee the time when the highest paid engineering-related graduates are land surveyors-in-training, not engineers-in-training.

    Currently civil engineering projects pay 2-3% of the total construction cost to surveying.  I can easily see that doubling over the next 10 years.  In times of feast like now in Texas, surveyors set the price, quality, and delivery time.  Good, independent surveyors have become one of the critical resources for the small engineering firm, and are becoming difficult to find. 

    If anyone else can see this future, but has alternative suggestions for how to solve it, please respond, because I believe that this will soon be a crisis.

    Dwayne Culp, Ph.D., P.E., P.Eng, M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Rosenberg TX

  • 6.  RE: PE-Practicing Land Surveying

    Posted 09-26-2018 10:30 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-26-2018 10:29 AM
    Something to keep an eye on will be increasing adoption of new technologies: drone photogrammetry and LiDAR.  I was amazed to see work being done in Minnesota while at a conference last January.  Collins Engineering and MnDOT have issued some reports about using drones to perform bridge inspections. 

    Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Bridge Inspection Demonstration Project
    State remove preview
    Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Bridge Inspection Demonstration Project
    View this on State >

    Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Bridge Inspection Demonstration Project - Phase II
    State remove preview
    Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Bridge Inspection Demonstration Project - Phase II
    View this on State >

    They're creating 3D models just using drone photos / video, processed through software (I think Pix4D in their case, but there are multiple options out there).  The application would seem to be similar for surveying.  The objective is to have a 3D spatial georeferenced map.  Surveying would be easier in some ways (potentially lower precision requirements) and harder in others (may need to deal with line-of-sight obstructions to key reference points).  I think we're still pretty early in this, though, and the kinks will get worked out.  Timeline dependent on financial incentives.

    I expect that as the technology advances, the surveying field will be able to do more with less (in terms of human capital, but balanced against investments in hardware and software).  Surveying may just end up getting absorbed into Civil Engineering.  Civil programs already typically include sophomore level courses in surveying (at least mine did at Tennessee when I took it in 1998, and we're still currently requiring it for our BSCE at Nebraska).  Upper division coursework in water resources engineering typically has at least some exposure to GIS, too.

    What's the Real Opportunity for Drones in the Surveying Industry? - Commercial UAV News
    Commercial UAV News remove preview
    What's the Real Opportunity for Drones in the Surveying Industry? - Commercial UAV News
    Discussions about the potential impact of drones in industries like agriculture and first response have been going on for a long time now, and there are clear benefits and efficiencies that drones will be able to bring to these industries.
    View this on Commercial UAV News >

    Just my two cents.

    Joshua Steelman Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Assistant Professor
    University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    Lincoln NE

  • 7.  RE: PE-Practicing Land Surveying

    Posted 09-26-2018 10:30 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-26-2018 10:30 AM
    Under certain conditions ​Texas PE Board Rule allows engineers performing certain engineering survey. See the rule citations below:

    Section 1001.003. Practice of Engineering

    (a) In this section:

                (2) "Engineering survey" includes any survey activity required to support the sound conception, planning, design, construction, maintenance, or operation of an engineered project. The term does not include the surveying of real property or other activity regulated under Chapter 1071.

    (c) The practice of engineering includes:

               (6) performing an engineering survey or study;

    Frank Zeng P.E., M.ASCE
    Texas Commission On Environmental Quality
    Austin TX

  • 8.  RE: PE-Practicing Land Surveying

    Posted 08-16-2023 12:50 PM

    I see that this is an older thread, but the topic is very much still relevant.

    I have been in the coastal field of civil engineering for only a few years now (+5) and I have found that the majority of near-shore or navigable waterway projects are almost entirely dependent on survey work. Now the survey work may vary whether the project is strictly a navigable waterway, and the primary objectives are the design or maintenance of the channel or a coastal nourishment project where the primary objective is to place dredged material as armament on a beach or such. The first would normally only involve bathymetric survey work whereas the second would involve both topographic and bathymetric however in general neither would involve property boundary surveys. 

    Now, as mentioned above, I have been told by others that a licensed P.E. can certify survey data as long as the data is not being used for property boundary considerations and the engineer has a knowledge of surveying principles and practices. Given the two types of projects I mentioned above (near-shore and navigable waterways) I would assume that an engineer could certify survey data for both project types, provide no property boundaries of course.

    My question is which states allow this other than Texas?


    Nick Norris, P.E.

    Nick Norris P.E., M.ASCE
    Coastal Engineer
    St Petersburg FL