Fish stops bridge construction in Oklahoma

Image source: Patrick Richardson/MNR

Image source: Patrick Richardson/MNR

A stop-work order has been issued on Stepps Ford bridge in Ottawa County, Oklahoma because construction methods might be damaging the habitat of the endangered madtom catfish.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has expressed two major concerns with the construction. First and foremost, the original permit was for a five-span bridge and the current design is for a seven-span bridge. The increased length makes it necessary for two more sets of piers.

The endangered Madtom Catfish

The endangered Madtom Catfish

The contractor also had planed to build a cofferdam (a wall to keep water out) around the pier and pump the water out for a dry work area. Fish and Wildlife says dewatering around the piers could completely wipe out the madtom catfish population in the area.

The contractor will now have to sit down with Fish and Wildlife to form a new plan of construction for the bridge.

There are methods that can be used without harming the endangered fish. One method is to drill the hole for the piers in the water,  insert casements and pump water out of the casements prior to pouring concrete.

Hyundai introduces full line of hydraulic breakers

Hyundai's new HDB210 breaker.

Hyundai’s new HDB210 breaker.

Hyundai Construction Equipment has introduced a full line of hydraulic breakers. The line consists of 14 different models HDB10 through HDB800. The all new HDB series breakers perfectly complement Hyundai’s excavators of all sizes.

Hyundai’s HDB series breakers come with a large chisel diameter from 1.6 to 7.9 inches. Operating weights range from 271 pounds to 12,401 pounds and overall lengths range from 44.4 inches to 159.8 inches. It offers four chisel options including moil, wedge, blunt or conical.

Hyundai's HDB210 breaker in action.

Hyundai’s HDB210 breaker in action.

Hyundai’s HDB series breakers are engineered with an Anti Blank Firing (ABF) system, which prevents the breaker from continuing to strike once material has been demolished.

For maximum productivity, a Two Stroke Selector System comes standard on the HDB50-HDB180 models. This feature allows operators to change from long to short strokes according to their preference.

On the HDB600 and HDB800 models, an Energy Regeneration Valve is provided to increase efficiency.

The HDB models feature only NOK oil seals leading to a longer seal life. On the HDB210 to HDB800 models, an additional square buffer was added to increase the durability of the gas seals, step seals and the piston.

An optional Auto Grease Bracket Mounted system is available on the HDB140 to HDB800 models, which allows for automatic greasing several times a day contributing to longer machine life, particularly for the chisel.

New law aimed to protect road workers

road construction signMinnesota has passed a new law aimed at protecting road workers. The law will enforce slower speeds in work zones, and set a definitive fine for those who don’t obey.

The typical “fines will be doubled” signs will be replaced by signs clearly starting a minimum fine of $300. When workers are present, speed limits will drop to 45 miles per hour.

It’s the first major change to Minnesota’s road construction work zone safety law in nearly 15 years. Before the change, fines averaged anywhere from $50 to over $600. The average fine in 2013 was $212.

Since 2010 Minnesota has seen 31 fatal crashes, six resulting in the deaths of road workers.

The $300 fine puts Minnesota in line with most other states. But drop to 45 mph is much stricter than most states. It will require drivers to drop more than 10 mph under the normal speed limit.

Unfortunately, deaths to members of road crews are becoming an all-to-common occurrence. Just recently a worker was killed picking up construction cones.

Congress passes Highway Trust Fund patch

US_House_Committee-CongressJust hours after the House turned down the Senate’s highway funding bill, Congress has passed a $10.8 billion bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund. Without the temporary patch, the HTF would have run dry in the next month or so. The bill is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama and should allow continued funding for road, highway and bridge construction through May 2015.

Although it’s nice to hear the House and the Senate could agree on something, it’s hardly the agreement everyone was hoping for.

“We commend the House and Senate for preserving the continuity of federal highway and transit funding to the states with a short-term revenue patch.  That, no doubt, temporarily saved many Americans their jobs.  We want to be clear, however, that we find no reason for anyone to celebrate what amounts to a last minute first down pass,” American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President & CEO Pete Ruane said in a statement.

Now that Congress has patched a temporary fix, it is extremely important to work out a long-term agreement. Without a multi-year deal, states are hesitant to start any major road projects in fear of funding running out before completion.

“It is incumbent on the Congress to now focus full-bore on the end zone—enacting a long-term, sustainable revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund before the end of this year,” Ruane said.  ”That will allow the Congress to then focus on developing and passing a long-term surface transportation program reauthorization bill before the eight-month May extension deadline that was just set expires.  There is no reason why a funding solution needs to wait for a reauthorization bill.  That’s putting the cart before the horse.”

House votes down Senate’s highway bill, sets up must-act situation for Senate

RoadToCapitol-BetterRoadsThe Senate now must choose Friday whether to accept the House’s 10-month highway funding patch or allow the Highway Trust Fund to go bankrupt, which would be construction projects around the country at risk, along with an estimated 700,000 jobs.

The House voted 272-150 on a motion to “disagree” with the Senate’s changes to its bill. The House is now adjourned for a five-week recess.

The Senate is in session Friday, Aug. 1, before taking its recess, and unless it passes the House’s version of the highway funding patch as-is, the Department of Transportation will begin restricting reimbursements to states for highway projects, as the Highway Trust fund is projected to run dry in August.

The Senate passed its short-term funding patch Tuesday, but slightly changed the revenue source (from the House’s “pension smoothing” option) and shortened it from May to December.

That bill then went back to the House, where the lower chamber opted against changing its original bill, which was passed earlier this month.

The Senate version was preferred by trucking trade groups, because it would force Congressional action this year, rather than dragging out the debate into the spring.

This post was written by James Jaillet, Associate Editor of Overdrive Online.

Sales tax holiday brings freedom from construction

Georgia roadsGood news, Georgia shoppers! You will be getting a break from road construction this weekend!

The Georgia Department of Transportation has decided to suspend all roadwork within 5 miles of shopping malls or major shopping districts on all interstates and major state routes from 8 a.m. Friday (Aug. 1) until 10 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 2).

This weekend marks Georgia’s annual sales tax holiday. During the holiday, shoppers can purchase certain clothing items, computers and computer accessories tax free. Georgia DOT expects big spikes in traffic, especially at shopping centers.

“The sales tax holiday is an opportunity for Georgians to save a little money during these challenging economic times,” said Georgia DOT Commissioner Keith Golden. “The Department is glad to offer some relief from lane closures as families prepare for school.”

 

Martin Marietta reports huge 2nd quarter profits

martin-marietta-materials-inc-logoMartin Marietta Materials has reported strong second quarter earnings of $1.34 per share compared to 89 cents per share in the second quarter of 2013.

Revenue for the company totaled $669.2 million, up from $561.3 million during the same period last year. Net sales hit a record $601.9 million, up from $507.1 million.

The company kept busy during the second quarter of 2014, shipping 12.7 percent more materials this period than the same period last year. Nonresidential construction shipments were up 16 percent compared to the second quarter of 2013.

“We continue to see numerous positive indicators that underpin our confidence in the momentum and growth trajectory of our business,” CEO Ward Nye said in a statement.

The company did admit that infrastructure shipments during the rest of the year could be down if a new Highway Trust Fund bill isn’t passed soon.

DOT warns about fraudulent letters seeking bank information

Click here to see a copy of the letter.

Click here to see a copy of the letter.

Carriers should be on the lookout for fraudulent letters appearing to be from “Equifax Credit Information Services — Government division,” said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration this week in letters issued to its field offices.

The letters will be dated July 11, 2014, and signed by Thad Brown, FMCSA says, and they seek to obtain banking information for the companies targeted.

It states that the “records show” the letter recipients are “registered as a prospective contractor for procurements issued by” the federal government, and that financial information is needed to proceed.

Anyone who receives the letter is encouraged by FMCSA to contact tom.frazier@dot.gov or bob.thomasson@dot.gov, who are in the agency’s investigative support unit.

Editor’s note: This post was originally written by James Jaillet, Associate Editor at Overdrive Online.

OSHA official: Further increase in construction deaths likely; triggered by uptick in activity, less-experienced workers

shutterstock_70153810

If it seems like you’re hearing about a lot more construction-related deaths lately, you’re not alone. Anyone who pays close attention to news concerning the industry has likely noticed reports of construction worker deaths in the U.S. have come across the wire at a consistent click so far this year.

Officials with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration have taken notice as well.

“We recently investigated deaths at jobsites in Kansas City, Missouri; Framingham, Massachusetts; Brookhaven, Georgia; Bellevue, Washington and Albuquerque, New Mexico,” said Dean McKenzie, the deputy director of OSHA’s directorate for construction.

“And that was just one week.”

And the frequency of deaths hasn’t been limited to the national perspective. At least three regions of the U.S. this year have seen a concentrated amount of construction-related deaths in a short period of time.

According to a recent report from the Sun-Sentinel, four construction workers have been killed in the last month in Broward County, Florida. And in May, the deaths of four construction workers in a span of four days spurred the California arm of OSHA to launch a special investigation across jobsites in and around San Francisco.

Finally, earlier this month, OSHA sent extra enforcement staff to North Dakota due to a rash of worker deaths in the oil and gas and construction industries. The 34 worker deaths since 2012 have accounted for 84 percent of all workplace deaths in North Dakota.

Despite the apparent increase in construction death reports, there are no hard numbers for 2014 or 2013 to verifty the notion just yet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is tasked with keeping a tally of workplace deaths in its annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (COFOI). These numbers come out twice for each year: a preliminary tally of the previous year is released in October with the finalized numbers landing the next April. The main reason these reports take so long to tabulate is that they’re very thorough. McKenzie explained that the CFOI pulls from multiple sources to tally construction deaths and must confirm each one in at least two ways, be it through a morgue report or investigation of the incident itself.

That means the most up-to-date figure we have is the final report for 2012 which was released just a few months ago in April. We won’t even know the preliminary 2013 figures until this October. And our first look at 2014′s numbers won’t come until October 2015. So we talked with McKenzie to gain a bit of insight on OSHA’s expectation regarding whether construction deaths have increased or not in the last two years.

In 2012, 806 construction workers died on the job, according to the 2012 CFOI. McKenzie said that number alone was enough to get OSHA’s attention as it represented a 9 percent gain over 2011′s total of 738 deaths and the first increase in six years.

McKenzie said construction workers represent about 7 percent of the total U.S. workforce. But according to the 2012 CFOI, they account for 17 pecent of all workplace deaths. That knowledge combined with a upward trend in residential construction deaths (the number rose from 72 to 89 in 2012) has OSHA officals “concerned.”

“We have been aware of trends in residential between 2011 and 2012. And from what we’ve been able to gather from 2013, we’re concerned,” McKenzie said.

Despite no hard numbers from the BLS to back it up, McKenzie said the theory that construction deaths have increased in the last couple of years is logical and actually has historical basis.

“We’ve seen the industry come around a bit during the great recession and we’ve seen the housing starts continue to climb and construction activity in general is growing,” he said. “And logic would tell you the fatalaties will continue to climb alongside activity.”

McKenzie said an increase in construction-related deaths in the past two years would also likely also related to more inexperienced workers entering the industry.

“The increase of construction activity is a normal cycle and we’ve been able to historically document that after a downturn in the market and work picks back up you get a lot of people going back into an early workplace market,” he said. “And just because you go in doesn’t mean you have the experience and training to be in that role.”

In the wake of the recession, thousands upon thousands of skilled tradesmen walked away from the industry for good, retiring or finding more stable work in other industries such as oil and gas. A survey done last year by the Associated General Contractors of America found that 74 percent of contractors in the U.S. are having trouble finding skilled workers.

As far as how the agency is responding to these concerns, McKenzie noted its fall prevention efforts as one example. Now in its third year, the campaign was the focus of a recent National Safety Stand-Down. Running June 2-6, construction companies across the country spent the week talking about fall prevention and studying free education and training resources provided by OSHA. More than a quarter of construction-related deaths in 2012, 281, were caused by falls, McKenzie said.

As far as responding more localized concerns, McKenzie said that while it can be hard for the national agency to be quite as agile as it would like to be in those cases, the regional agencies are a big help in that regard as was seen in the rash of deaths in the San Francsisco area.

“But we do try to push as many buttons for these issues as we can,” he said, noting the national agency’s response to the collapse of a building undergoing demolition in Philadelphia that killed six people last year. McKenzie said the agency worked with the city’s government officials to “help them rewrite their permitting requirements to make sure the engineering surveys and the requirements of our standards were implemented as much as they could be in their city codes.” The agency also hosted training for city and government workers and continues to work with the city on the issue.

He noted another case that came late last year when the agency stepped in during the demolition of a three-and-a-half-story building in Connecticut that had the potential of collapsing. “It was a brick building built in the early 1900s that they were trying to rehabilitate. The contractor had taken all the interior floor joists that tie the building together so all he had was a brick box,” McKenzie said. “Compliance officers called our engineering office to get our support on how weak this structure would really be and we shut it down until the job could be done safely.

McKenzie said the agency also keeps an eye out for big events that could increase construction work in a particular region. “In Denver after a large hailstorm recently, thousands of roofs had to be replaced,” he said. “We sent our compliance officers in and, it was incredible, they simply stood on a hill and scanned the rooftops and could see dozens and dozens of roofs being worked on and no one had fall protection on.”

McKenzie asked contractors to “pay attention” and stressed the importance of having a safety plan in place.

“Rates came down and fatalities were down in 2010 and 2011 and we liked seeing those numbers. This is an opportunity for us to dedicate more energy to protecting workers and eliminating some of these hazards,” he said. “But a good safety plan is good for your bottom line, it’s good for profit and it’s good for worker retention.”

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

Senate passes highway bill, vote sent back to house

US-capitol-building-Better-RoadsThe Senate has voted to pass a bill that would keep money flowing into the Highway Trust Fund for at least a few more months. The bill was in response to one that the House passed earlier in July.

There were key legislation changes to the bill passed by the Senate which means a vote will be sent back to the House. Most importantly the Senate reduced the $10.8 billion bill to just $8.1 billion. The House’s bill would have kept things running through May 2015, the new bill would maybe make it through December.

The Senate voted 66-31 to reduce the bill. The vote to pass the bill was 79-18.

The House will be forced to make a quick decision to either pass the bill or send it back to the Senate. Congress’ summer recess begins Friday, August 1st. The House is not expected to pass the bill.

“I just want to make clear: If the Senate sends a highway bill over here with those provisions, we’re just going to strip it out,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. 

If both sides can’t agree on a new bill, the HTF is expected to run dry within the next month or so.

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