PCA forecast: Cement consumption to see growth through 2016

PCA summer forecast 2014According to the latest forecast from the Portland Cement Association (PCA), cement consumption in the U.S. will see steady gains over the next three years.

As far back as the World of Concrete show in January and again in the Spring, PCA chief economist Ed Sullivan has forecasted 8-percent growth in cement consumption and that forecast holds steady as autumn takes hold. The latest PCA forecast expects 7.9 percent growth in 2014, to a consumption of 86.1 million tons.

In 2015 consumption is forecast to increase 8.4 percent to 93.3 million tons and in 2016 10.7 percent to 103.2 million tons.

In a prepared statement, Sullivan said cement consumption is up 8.4 percent through July of this year and that the pace of consumption has strengthened as the year has progressed due to economic growth driven by gains in the labor market, low consumer debt and increased consumer wealth.

Sullivan expects residential and nonresidential construction to strengthen over the next three years alongside government construction projects.

“While there is concern that the economic growth dynamics have changed as a result of the recession, there are also ample reasons to suggest the economy has weathered the healing process and is just now beginning to transition to a stronger growth plateau,” Sullivan said. “Keep in mind that the recession  generated  tremendous pent-up demand, which will add strength to economic growth rates going forward.”

This article was written by Wayne Grayson, Online Managing Editor for Equipment World.

80-thousand pounds of sand and gravel dumped on highway

Image source: Radio NB

Image source: Radio NB

 

A little bit of sand and gravel usually doesn’t cause any problems for drivers, but 80-thousand pounds of sand and gravel can cause a ton of problems!

Transportation officials were forced to stop traffic on southbound I-35, north of New Braunfels, TX when a dump truck accidentally dropped huge load of sand on the main lanes of the highway. Exactly how much sand was lost on the highway is not exactly know, but it’s estimated to be around 80-thousand pounds.

Police and fire department crews kept the highway closed while they worked tirelessly to push the sand and gravel off of the road. After a few hours the sand had been cleared and the highway was reopened.

Thankfully no accidents occurred from the incident.

Using drones to help in highway and bridge construction

drone_9Centuries ago some people thought the world would be taken over by robots and flying cars by now. They may not have been 100 percent correct, but they weren’t completely wrong either. When it comes to highway and bridge construction, flying robots may start playing huge roles.

Javier Irizarry, associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Building and Construction, and director of CONECTech construction technology lab, received a $75,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) last year to study the potential uses of drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles)  in highway construction.

Unfortunately, Irizarry’s work did not come without criticism. The term “drone” seems to freak some people out. The term carries negative connotations — many of them militaristic. The term is also frequently used incorrectly.

Georgia Tech associate professor and director of the CONECTech construction technology lab Javier Irizarry.

Georgia Tech associate professor and director of the CONECTech construction technology lab Javier Irizarry.

 

“It’s unmanned, not completely autonomous” Irizarry says. He explains that the term drone, technically, only applies to aircraft that fly independently of human control. “What we have been looking at for our research here is the UAV. Not the autonomous vehicles.”

Whether you want to call the little flying robots drones or UAVs, it didn’t affect Irizarry’s research. Irizarry and his students spent about a year exploring ways the UAVs could make everyday DOT tasks more efficient.

To create a running list of tasks to try out with UAVs, the research team interviewed about 20 people at various levels within the GDOT. Of the tasks mentioned by GDOT employees, many had to do with ways to more easily monitor and manage traffic such as using UAVs to assist in traffic light programming, getting fast and more comprehensive views of wrecks and even monitoring how well airports accommodate landing aircraft.

Two of the tasks Irizarry and his students grappled with involved road construction. One involved using UAVs to visually verify steps in road work such as counting the number of stripes painted along a newly paved road or counting the number of guard rails installed. The other involved making bridge inspections easier and more thorough.

“There’s a job the DOT has to do that requires inspectors to visually inspect the underside of bridges. They can do that from underneath from the supports but that only allows you to see only so much, particularly if the bridge is long and over water,” Irizarry says. He explains that by flying UAVs beneath the bridge, inspectors can get a detailed view of the bridge components in far less time.

Picture taken by a drone in Salvador.

Picture taken by a drone in Salvador.

Irizarry will be publishing much of his lab’s findings from the DOT study in the next year. And though that study has ended, he and his students are still running experiments and exploring use cases of UAVs on construction jobsites, focusing mainly on safety management applications.

UAV technology will only get better with time. Irizarry says he expects things to only get better in the next five or 10 years. However, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) must first change its regulations on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Right now the FAA prohibits the use of all unmanned aircraft for commercial use without the agency’s express approval. But those guidelines were originally designed for model aircraft and the definition of “commercial use” isn’t always cut and dry.

With the exception of a few experimental and academic research approvals granted by the agency, the result has been several UAV pilots receiving cease-and-desist letters and, in some cases, lawsuits from the FAA, though at least one of those incidents have been struck down by federal judges. Even drone schools, degree programs where students learn to pilot the aircraft, aren’t allowed to fly drones at all, forcing instructors to teach using simulators.

The FAA has said that it plans to allow commercial UAS use once it has drawn up proper regulations for the aircraft. The deadline for those regulations is some time in 2015.

“Once the FAA finalizes its regulations, a gun’s going to go off and everybody’s going to race. There are already academic programs that we’ve seen. (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) already has a drone degree,” Irizarry explains. “I’m sure that you know how surveyors used to use a simple measuring line. Now they use total stations and GPS rovers. You can imagine a specialty trade would adopt something like this to maybe do surveys with UAVs. Some will add the technology to professions that already exist but new professions or trades could arise that use just the UAV.”

Editor’s note: This article was written with research done by Wayne Grayson, Online Managing Editor of Equipment World.

Man dies after pedestrian bridge collapses

Photo credit: Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News

Photo credit: Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News

 

One man is dead after a pedestrian bridge in Detroit collapsed onto Southfield Freeway. The collapse happened after the bridge was struck by an oversized truck. Investigators say there were no structural issues with the bridge.

Nobody was on the bridge or under the bridge at the time of the accident. However the driver of the truck, who’s described as an African-American male in his late 40s, was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Due to heavy traffic in the area, it took emergency crews around 35 minutes to arrive.

“We received a call that some type of waste hauler had hit the pedestrian overpass with its boom up,” Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman Diane Cross said. “It struck the overpass and knocked out the entire structure. No one was on the overpass or driving beneath it at the time.”

The twisted form of the pedestrian overpass was stretched across both directions of the Southfield freeway. It was scheduled to be removed as soon as the investigation was complete.

Two construction workers injured in big-rig accident

China_steel_rebar200911112220157Two construction workers were injured in an accident involving a big-rig U.S. Highway 101 in Petaluma, California. The big-rig struck a bundle of steel rods that hit them while they were working on the Petaluma River Bridge construction project.

The construction crew was off-loading steel rebar rods on a crane. The far left lane of the highway was closed but the second lane was open. The big-rig struck the bundle of rebar when it swayed into the second lane, Rebar fell onto both lanes of the highway and into the center divide, striking the two men.

Vincent Solano, 28, suffered major injuries when he was struck by the flying rods. He suffered a broken femur and head lacerations. Wayne Reed, 47, of Elk Grove, also was injured and taken to the same hospital as Solano.

The 42-year-old male who was driving the big-rig was not injured in the accident. However, his vehicle was damaged from the collision.

Accidents happen every day which put road workers at risk. Click here for some simple steps to help avoid work zone injuries and deaths.

 

Truckers worried Hudson River bridge project will drive up fees

best-tappan-zeeNew York State’s leading trucking organization is questioning how a new bridge over the Hudson River will be financed, suggesting it could cost all commercial vehicles more money.

Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association (NYSMTA), said her organization supports construction of a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge on I-87/I-287. But, she has concerns how the state will pay for it, and worries the $3.9 billion project could eventually lead to higher tolls on the New York State Thruway system.

While NYSMTA has no formal opinion on how the 3.1-mile-long bridge should be financed, Hems said the process needs to be open. She said that the team that was supposed address those issues has never been formed.

“No one disagrees it (the bridge) has to happen,” said Hems. “But there has been no discussion of the financing in the public forum.”

She said if the state does plan to increase tolls, she doesn’t expect any announcement between now and November, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces reelection. But, Hems does not rule out some sort of discussion of an increase after that.

Toll increases for commercial vehicles are nothing new. Hems said her organization and other state business groups successfully fended off a 2011 proposal that would have increased tolls for commercial vehicles by 45 percent.

The Tappan Zee bridge project, planned to be completed in 2018, is not all that concerns Hems about possible toll increases for commercial vehicles. She said the New York State Thruway Authority is not properly funded, and carries the added burden of maintaining the state’s canal system.

The authority’s use of toll revenues to fund the canal system was the subject of a class action lawsuitbrought by the American Trucking Associations in 2013. That suit was thrown out of federal court last month on procedural grounds.

“The Thruway is the best maintained road in New York state,” said Hems. “The safest road in New York state. But, if we are to continue to pay tolls, we need to be sure that toll revenues are used responsibly and for the Thruway.”

The Tappan Zee opened in late 1955 at a cost of $80.8 million. Discussions about a replacement have been going on for some 15 years. Now, some 130,000 vehicles cross the Tappan Zee daily.

This article was written by David Hollis, Online Managing Editor of Truckers News.

Caterpillar launches E2 Series mini hydraulic excavators

Cat 308E2

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Cat 308E2

Caterpillar unveiled today five new mini hydraulic excavators, all of which will benefit from a new hydraulic system and will be produced at the company’s new Athens, Georgia facility.

Cat-E2-series-mini-hydraulic-excavator-cab

The redesigned cab of the E2 series mini hydraulic excavators features a wider opening and a more ergonomic control layout.

The new E2 Series machines include the 303.5E2, 304E2, 305E2, 305.5E2 and 308E2. Each of the new machines will feature Cat’s new High Definition Hydraulic System which allows operators to be more precise through load sensing and flow sharing capabilities. The new system also boosts efficiency through a simplified valve architecture which reduces heat and hydraulic instability.

Each of the new E2 models feature a redesigned cab with a wider opening, suspension seat, adjustable arm rests and a more ergonomic control layout. The machines also feature a new interlocking front window system and an update to the machine’s control interface.

Cat has also added its Smart engine technology to the 303.5E2′s 23.5-horsepower engine. Cat says the 303.5E2 is now 8 percent more fuel efficient and 7 percent more efficient than its E series predecessor.

The machines also feature a blade float function as well as automatic two-speed which allows the operator to place the machine into “high speed” without having to worry about manually kicking back down to low gear when turning, digging, or roading in tough conditions.

All E2 series models also feature Cat’s Complete Operation, Maintenance, Performance, and Security System (COMPASS) monitor for mini excavators. The monitor features an anti-theft system which requires a password to start a machine, an automatic idle control and an adjustable auxiliary-flow control for work tools.

You can view specs for each of the machines by clicking the image below.

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 10.15.45 AM

This article was written by Wayne Grayson, Online Managing Editor of Equipment World.

PHOTOS: Directional drill dives from trailer, dangles over Dallas freeway

drill-overturn-dallas-1

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Photo credit: Dallas PD Maj. Max Geron/@MaxDPD Twitter

 

Dallas-area law enforcement got some unwanted experience with uprighting an overturned directional drill after one fell from a flatbed trailer and then dangled from the side of the side of an overpass.

According to a report from the Dallas Morning-News, the drill overturned while being hauled over a ramp that links the eastbound President George Bush turnpike to the northbound Dallas North Tollway. The toppling of the drill caused quite the situation as traffic was backed up with cars “stalling and running out of gas left and right.”

Beyond getting the drill uprighted, the machine then began leaking fuel which had to be cleaned up as well. By the end of the day, officials from the Dallas Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, Dallas Fire-Rescue and North Texas Tollway Authority had all responded to the scene.

To make sure the crane didn’t complete its fall over the turnpike before it could be righted, crews secured it with cables which involved lifting a worker out and over top the drill.. A crane was then used to lift the drill back onto the ramp. The whole thing was documented by Dallas PD Maj. Max Geron on Twitter. You can see his photos above and don’t miss the Associated Press video below.

 

This article was written by Wayne Grayson, Online Managing Editor of Equipment World.

Ohio to start largest single construction project in state history

odot, ohioThe Portsmouth Gateway Group is set to begin building the largest single construction project the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has ever seen.

Construction won’t be cheap – it’ll cost around $429 million to construct the entire Portsmouth Bypass, which is a 16-mile, four-lane limited access highway from U.S. 23 north of Lucasville to U.S. 52 near Sciotoville. The new roadway will complete the missing link of the Appalachian Development Highway System in Ohio.

In addition to being the largest project in ODOT history, it’s also the first-ever Public-Private Partnership (P3). Since 2012, ODOT engineers and technical experts have been working to develop a P3 to construct the new road. By using a P3, ODOT is able to accelerate the entire project by decades, and the department can avoid rising costs by taking advantage of current competitive economic conditions.

Before construction can officially begin, ODOT must still take additional steps to evaluate the financial proposal and ensure the bid is complete. If all goes well, construction will begin in the summer of 2015.

Salt prices to hurt road budgets

1920px-Salt_truck_MilwaukeeWith winter right around the corner, cold-weather states are starting to stockpile on rock salt to fight icy conditions. Unfortunately, several states will have to squeeze budgets due to skyrocketing prices.

In Michigan, Ann Arbor area municipalities, school systems and road commissions are paying $76.58 per ton of rock salt. That’s more than double last year’s price of $34.50.

“It’s supply and demand economics,” Washtenaw County Road Commission director of field operations Jim Harmon said.

“What we have been informed is that the unusually harsh winter last year played a part in the cost increases. The vendors, there are a handful of them, have not been able to sufficiently rebuild their stockpiles and this drove the price up.”

After its initial deliveries the local area will be forced to pay $53.07 a ton for additional salt, which is a 46 percent increase over 2013.

“The reality is that if we use all of this we’re going to incur $500,000 to $600,000 more in expense than what we had originally expected or projected,” Harmon said. “But clearing the roads takes priority.”

The North American Salt Co. also called Compass Minerals, is the company that fills salt orders for the state of Michigan. Company spokeswoman Tara Hart says the entire industry has been forced to raise salt prices. She says last year’s record-breaking snow levels has depleted rock salt around the country.

Michigan isn’t the only state suffering from the high cost of rock salt. The Midwest region in general is looking at higher costs compared to previous years. States like Ohio are looking at anywhere from $80 to $100 a ton.

Transportation safety should always be the No. 1 priority.Regardless of the prices, clearing roads for transportation safety should always be the No. 1 priority.

“This inflation in salt prices just compounds the challenges before us. The larger problem is getting worse not better; the infrastructure is continuing to deteriorate, and the more money we have to put into winter maintenance the less we have to fix the roads and bridges,” Harmon said. However, he added that “clearing the roads takes priority.”

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