More states ban ET-Plus guardrail system
The list of state department of transportations to have removed the controversial guardrail end-terminal model (ET-Plus) from its approved highway-products list continues to grow. Ten states (and counting) have now removed the model, including Vermont, Hawaii, Colorado, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia.
The ET-Plus model has a steel fixture that is meant to absorb a vehicle’s impact. However, the fixture has instead allegedly acted as a deadly spear, impaling vehicles.
“We’re not allowing any more to be installed until we have more information about their safety,” said ODOT spokesman Dave Thompson.
In a letter to the President of Trinity Highway Products, Federal Highway Administration’s acting Administrator Gregory Nadeau said the company has until the end of the month to provide a crash testing plan or the eligibility of the guardrail, called the ET-Plus system, could be suspended or revoked.
Trinity Industries, parent company to Trinity Highway Products, has already been ordered to pay $175 million in damages. That money is expected to triple by statutory mandate after jurors decided the company had defrauded the government several years ago by altering an approved guardrail end terminal design in 2005. The company failed to tell the federal government or state transportation departments about the changes until questions were raised in 2012.
The modifications made in 2005 including shortening ET-Plus end terminals from five inches to four inches. That change is believed to cause the guardrail to jam up, and act as a spear.
“In 2000 VDOT did approve ET plus guardrails systems made by Trinity Industries” said VDOT Public Relation Representative Marshall Herman. ”The older design was 5 inches wide. But these ones are only 4.”
Herman says Virginia has had over 11,000 guardrails and end treatments installed since 2006. However, VDOT is in the process of replacing the ones deemed deadly.
As more and more states become aware of the potential dangers of the ET-Plus model, it is becoming increasingly clear that safety is of the utmost importance.
“Our number one priority is safety,” Nadeau said.
Majority of construction firms have a hard time finding skilled workers
The problem of not being able to find enough skilled craft workers is reaching nearly universal levels in the U.S. construction industry, according to a new survey. In response, the Associated General Contractors of America today released a workforce development plan aimed at repairing what it calls a “decimated” pipeline of qualified workers to the industry.
Of more than 1,000 construction firms across the U.S. surveyed by the Associated General Contractors of America, 83 percent say they are struggling to find enough craft workers, including carpenters, equipment operators and laborers. That number is up from 74 percent one year ago.
Carpenters top the list of craft positions hardest to fill with 66 percent of firms reporting difficulty. Roofers are next at 64 percent, followed by equipment operators at 59 percent, plumbers at 54 percent and electricians at 52 percent.
But the difficulties don’t stop at the jobsite. Of the firms surveyed, 61 percent say they’re having trouble filling professional positions including project supervisors, estimators and engineers. That figure is up from 53 percent one year ago.
Looking forward to the next 12 months, 40 percent of these firms said they believe it will continue to be hard finding skilled workers, while 30 percent said they expect it to become even harder. (You can view the results of all survey questions here.)
As TV personality Mike Rowe has done in the past, the AGC of A points to education in the U.S. as the main culprit for the construction industry’s current difficulty. ”Considering how much the nation’s educational focus has moved away from teaching students career and technical skills during the past few decades, it is easy to understand why the construction industry is facing such severe labor shortages,” AGC chief economist Ken Simonson said in a prepared statement.
The problem has been a hot topic of conversation in the industry for about a year now as news reports of worker shortages have popped up all across the country, illustrating just how widespread the difficulty is becoming. It’s a particularly confounding problem since the industry lost 2 million workers during the economic downturn. However, many of those workers have been lured away for good by the promise of steadier jobs in other industries or they have retired.
And the impact is already being seen. Beyond the detriment of not being able to meet the growing demand for construction services in the U.S.—demand that should be fueling a healthy recovery from the downturn—a separate AGC study released in August found that 30 percent of U.S. firms had turned down work due to the labor shortage.
That means that the industry will have to attract new blood—and a lot of it—if it wants to fully recover. Meanwhile, more than half of the survey’s respondents said they feel the current quality of their local pipeline for training new construction workers was below average to poor. In response to the new survey, the AGC of A also released today its solution to the problem, which it calls a “workforce development plan for the 21st Century.”
The AGC faults “a series of policy, education, demographic and economic factors that have decimated the once robust education pipeline for training new construction workers.” Among the main factors the association points to are the “dismantling of public vocational and technical educational programs, declining participation in union apprenticeship training,” coupled with high schools placing a higher priority on college prep.
The plan first calls for reform of the Carl D. Perkins Career & Technical education Act which serves as the primary funding vehicle for technical education programs. The plan calls for Congress to boost funding to the Perkins Act from its current level of $1.12 billion to $1.3 billion. The plan also calls for the act to be amended to “give states increased flexibility to select and fund high-quality training programs in response to labor market needs.”
The AGC would also like the Perkins Act to be able to give states autonomy for establishing sector partnerships “focused on promoting collaboration among secondary and post-secondary training programs.”
Private funding for craft training programs is another thrust of the plan. The AGC calls for Congress to pass legislation that would expand an exception in federal antitrust laws to open-shop contractors that would allow them to enter into multi-employer agreements to provide funding for craft training programs. The idea is that this type of private funding would reduce the industry’s need for public support.
The plan also calls for changes to the Workforce Investment Act; an extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to make it easier for construction firms to hire veterans; increased partnerships between apprenticeship programs and community colleges; immigration reform; and offering community college career and technical programs to high school students free of charge.
This article was written by Wayne Grayson, Online Managing Editor of Equipment World.
Terex Finlay launches 3 new machines, previews 5 others
Terex Finlay has announced the launch of three new products to dealers and end users. These products include the J-1175 dual power jaw crusher, C-1540 dual power cone crusher and the 693+ inclined screen incorporating innovative Spaleck screen box.
The dual powered crushers are electrically driven allowing users to run from electrical supply with the aim of giving significant savings on energy costs. These machines are also fitted with an onboard gen-set allowing the operator to move and use the machine where there is no electric supply giving the flexibility and versatility of current standard models. The machines join the 694+ dual powered inclined screener that was launched in 2013.
With the new product launches, Terex Finlay can now offer operators a full mobile crushing and screening train that can be powered from mains electric and has the flexibility to run self-powered if required. In applications where a full train is powered by the on-board gen-set configuration, the crushers generate sufficient energy to enable the operator to run the 694+ dual power inclined screen for ‘free’ when used in conjunction with the J-1175 dual power jaw crusher.
The third new product launch was the 693+ inclined screen incorporating Spaleck screening technology. It features a unique flip-flow top and bottom deck guaranteeing first class screening of materials including; wet, moist, dry and mixed materials including recycling and skip waste, fines material, compost, waste wood, timber, aggregates and ores.
In addition to the new machine launches, the company has previewed the following five new prototype models:
- 873 heavy duty screen
The 873 heavy duty screen was built to work as a primary screen in quarry, demolition, C&D Recycling, landfill material, topsoil, sand and gravel, coal, slag, ore processing and aggregates. When launched it will offer small and medium sized operators an aggressive, flexible and class leading machine with a wide range of available screening media configurations.
- J-1170AS jaw crusher
The J-1170AS jaw crusher will provide the flexibility of a crushing and screening plant on one machine. It features a detachable on-board sizing screen that gives operators the capability of producing two spec sized products. It will be launched in Q1, 2015.
- V-2050 vertical impact crusher
The V-2050 vertical shaft impact crusher has been designed for operators who require a high specification product and large production tonnages. The machine incorporates the Canica V-2050 chamber with unique ‘Dual Flow’ configuration for high tonnage throughput with low production costs.
- C-1554 cone crusher
The C-1554 cone crusher has been engineered for operators who require a highly aggressive cone with a high reduction ratio. The machine incorporates the MVP450X Screw Cone chamber. The highly efficient cone chamber produces a higher percentage of sized products in a single pass generating less fines material and therefore a more valuable product with increased profitability.
- C-1545 cone crusher
The C-1545 cone crusher is for operators who require a medium sized cone crusher with large throughput capacity whilst offering the flexibility of direct feeding or the ability to remove or bypass fines from the chamber via on-board pre-screen module.
Bay Bridge construction project suspended after causing major traffic issues
Caltrans crews were in the process of replacing a number of aging expansion joints on the western section of the bridge after an inspection discovered several cracks. The plates, about an inch and a half thick, were used to cover the construction zones during commute hours.
Unfortunately, most motorists who drove over the first plate, would end up slowing down significantly as they approached the second plate. As a result, there were major traffic delays in the area.
At first Caltrans officials said they were planning to increase the scope of their public awareness campaign, and that that drivers would eventually get used to the uneven pavement.
Now Caltrans officials are taking a different approach. The project has been put on hold and the plates have been removed. Caltrans engineers are brainstorming different approaches to the joint replacement project that has less of an impact on traffic congestion.
How new healthcare laws will affect worker’s compensation care
The new health care reform law will have both negative and positive effects on worker’s compensation systems throughout the nation, Dr. David Deitz, national medical director of commercial insurance strategic practices at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. in Boston, told attendees during the Disability Management Employer Coalition in Las Vegas.
In his keynote presentation, Dietz pointed out that because worker’s compensation regulations vary by state that also means those covered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will have differing benefits.
Although Dietz couldn’t say whether there would be a negative or positive impact, he said that with more people covered under PPACA, employers could see general reduction in “the number of uninsured workers who are going to look for worker’s compensation because they have no other health coverage,” according to Business Insurance coverage from the convention.
There could be “trickle-down” effects from this because it could spur employers to shift from hiring full-time employees to hiring part-time employees, Dietz pointed out during his speech. He also said that because part-time workers typically have higher rates of workers compensation filings and more injuries, this could mean consequences.
This also brings up concerns of access to care in some states because it varies how each state reimburses doctors.
Have you had any issues with worker’s compensation in the past? Are you nervous going forward knowing about these changes? Let me know at email@example.com.
ARTBA now accepting 2015 Globe Awards nominees
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) has announces it’s now accepting nominations for its 2015 Globe Awards program. The annual competition recognizes surface transportation projects and transportation construction firms that utilize exemplary environmental processes to protect or enhance the natural environment.The Globe Awards competition is structured into the following two categories:
Project awards recognize private-sector firms and public-sector transportation agencies that do an outstanding job in protecting and/or enhancing the natural environment in the planning, design and construction of U.S. transportation infrastructure projects.
Nominations may be made for projects in the following seven categories: highways, local or secondary roads, bridges, public transit, airports, railroads, and waterways and ports.
Process awards honor companies that have exhibited environmentally responsible manufacturing, production, resource extraction or other processes related to surface transportation construction. Such organizations may include:
- Heavy construction equipment and transportation safety product manufacturers (environmentally responsible manufacturing); or
- Materials companies (environmentally responsible resource extraction and/or production).
Nominations for the 2015 Globe Awards program must be submitted online at www.artbatdf.org by January 30.
HCEA advances plan for National Construction Equipment Museum
Long out of space at its cramped 7,000-square-foot headquarters, the Historical Construction Equipment Association launched a new campaign this month to fund the 20,000-square-foot National Construction Equipment Museum. The goal: to have a grand opening of the $1.5 million building in September, 2016, during the group’s annual convention.
Plans for the museum have shifted, says Thomas Berry, HCEA archivist. “We previously wanted to add on to our existing building, but now we have a whole new approach.” HCEA’s present building at the group’s headquarters in Bowling Green, Ohio, will be converted to a storage facility, and a new building will take center stage as the museum.
“We’ve basically been the victim of success,” says Don Frantz, an HCEA national director. “For example, one of our members restored a Koehring paver, and we’re going to have to take machines out of our present building to make room for it.” Several other machines are also sitting outside.
The new facility will include:
- A machinery hall with a clear span vaulted ceiling to allow cranes and shovels to be displayed with booms raised.
- A visitor’s center, including a merchandise store and an area for meetings and special displays.
- A 1,200-square-foot education center that will include interactive displays.
- A 1,200-square-foot archives annex, offering climate controlled storage for seldom-accessed material.
Working under David Munson, its director of development, HCEA began the 375 Club campaign this month, directed to its approximately 4,000 members with this logic: If each member donates $375, funding for the building is assured. “There are national museums for cars, trains and trucks, but not for the equipment that built this nation,” Frantz says. “It’s time.”
Donations have already started; others are doing in-kind efforts. For example, HCEA member Phil Rudolph, vice president of business development with general contractor Rudolph/Libbe , Walbridge, Ohio, donated the design of the steel building, Frantz says. Another critical donation came closer to home: Frantz’s son Vincent put his company’s skills to work to create the group’s new video promoting the museum (see below).
This article was written by Editorial Director, Marcia Gruver Doyle.
Iowa DOT adds new colors to 511 road conditions map
The Iowa Department of Transportation has made some color changes to its 511 road conditions map.
Purple will now mean that ”travel is not advised” and light blue will be used to show “wet” conditions. Below is what all of the colors will mean on the Iowa conditions map.
Dry = green.
Wet = light blue.
Partially covered = blue.
Completely covered = pink.
Travel not advised = purple.
Closed = red.
“Each year we try to improve the system by listening to what our customers tell us and making adjustments. Last year there was some confusion about the ‘travel not advised’ statement. This year we are dedicating a road color (purple) on the map to ‘travel not advised’ to assure people can clearly see the seriousness of the situation on the roadway. Customers also wanted to know how much snow and ice was on the pavement. That is now included in the comments when a road is designated as ‘travel not advised,’” said Sinclair Stolle, Iowa DOT 511 administrator.
MnDOT up a creek without a paddle due to mine expansion
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is now paying for a decision it made nearly a half century ago. Back then, MnDOT decided to save some time and money by cutting a deal with the local mining companies to lease the stretch of land leading into Virginia instead of buying it outright.
For five decades it was a great deal for MnDOT. The state got free use of the land while the property owners focused on iron deposits that were bigger and richer than the low-grade taconite under all the asphalt.
Now, however, the older mines are all played out and the taconite under the highway through the state’s Iron Range is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and mining it could extend the life of an operation that employs 514 people.
But there’s a problem, rerouting the four-lane highway is not going to be easy. Hwy. 53 links Duluth to International Falls and it binds the Quad Cities of the Iron Range — Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, and Mountain Iron — together.
Shutting down the highway could kill several businesses in the area.
“You sever that, you cut me off,” said Bill Aho, who owns a Super 8 Motel in Eveleth and an AmericInn Lodge in Virginia, just off the highway on opposite sides of the future mine site. Like others in the region, he’s been waiting and worrying over the highway relocation for years. Without Hwy. 53, he said, “We would be shut off. It would be devastating.”
To make matters worse, MnDOT only has until 2017 to come up with a solution.
“If it was easy, or clear, we would have already made a decision. But it’s not,” said Patrick Huston, MnDOT’s Hwy. 53 project director. “It’s a tremendous challenge.”
MnDOT is currently weighing its options which range from building the tallest bridge in Minnesota over some of the hardest rock on the planet to letting the highway dead-end at the mine. The state could also opt to ignore the situation, but that would likely result in a lawsuit from the landowners.
None of MnDOT’s options are ideal, and none of them are cheap. Right now all MnDOT can do is pick the lesser of all evils.
Asphalt pavement mixes are greener, more sustainable than ever
According to a survey of asphalt mix producers conducted by the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 106.4 million tons of warm-mix asphalt was used during the 2013 construction season. That’s nearly a third of all asphalt pavement mix production.
The results of the survey mark a greater than 533 percent increase in the use of warm mix since 2009.
Warm-mix asphalt is produced with a range of technologies that reduce the production and placement temperature of asphalt pavement mixtures. A variety of environmental, worker safety, and construction benefits have been realized through the adoption of warm-mix asphalt.
“Innovation is an important principle for the asphalt pavement industry. The use of warm-mix technologies, as well as recycled materials, helps us improve both the quality and sustainability of asphalt pavements,” said Bill Ensor, NAPA 2014 Chairman and President of Maryland Paving Inc. “These latest survey results reveal just how cool and green today’s asphalt pavements are, but we continue to seek greater use and adoption of these technologies.”
In 2013, approximately 72 million tons of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) and 1.7 million tons of reclaimed asphalt shingles (RAS) were used in new asphalt pavement mixes in the United States. Reclaiming and reusing the asphalt cement in RAP and RAS saved about $2 billion in 2013 compared to the use of virgin asphalt binder. The use of RAP also conserved more than 68 million tons of virgin aggregate.
“These latest survey results reveal just how cool and green today’s asphalt pavements are…”Producers involved in the survey were asked about ground tire rubber, steel and blast furnace slag, and other waste material repurposed into pavements. Although national estimates of usage were not calculated, survey respondents reported using nearly 1.2 million tons of these materials in 2013 in the production of more than 6.6 million tons of asphalt pavement mixes.
“In the decade since warm mix was introduced to the U.S., its adoption by industry and agencies has been remarkable,” said NAPA President Mike Acott. “Now we are looking to focus research and engineering on using warm mix in combination with greater levels of recycled materials to make our long-lasting, high performance asphalt pavements even more sustainable.”
The tons of asphalt pavement mixtures produced using recycled and reclaimed materials was predominately flat from 2012 to 2013, despite a 2.5 percent drop in total tons of asphalt produced during 2013 compared to 2012. However, the percentage of tons produced using these materials was greater in 2013 than 2012.
The survey was conducted in mid-2014. Results from 249 companies with 1,281 plants in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, along with data from State Asphalt Pavement Associations for 38 states were used to compile the report.
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