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Driver Shortages

Innovations to mitigate the impact on the ready mix industry

BY SUSAN DALTON, GCP APPLIED TECHNOLOGIES
A MEMBER OF MULTIPLE AGC CHAPTERS

A challenge that all ready mix producers are facing is a shortage of qualified truck drivers, causing them to turn down business. This trend is forecasted to continue for another decade. So, what can ready mix producers do to mitigate the impact on their operations?

EIGHTY PERCENT OF CONTRACTORS REPORT DIFFICULTY FINDING QUALIFIED CRAFT WORKERS TO HIRE AS ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR MEASURES TO REBUILD WORKFORCE


Eighty percent of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce, according to the results of an industry-wide survey released today by Autodesk and AGC of America. Association officials said shortages pose a significant risk to future economic growth and they released a new workforce development plan to solve the growing problem. To access the survey results, visit https://www.agc.org/news/2018/08/29/eighty-percent-contractors-report-difficulty-finding-qualified-craft-workers-hire.

Today, there are a wide variety of high-tech tools available that can reduce the impact of the driver shortage on ready mix operations. When a ready mix driver is hired, they have to be trained on safety, use of the vehicle, customer service and delivery. Technology can diminish the amount of training needed and improve safety, increasing qualified drivers and reducing turnover.

While technology cannot entirely solve the driver shortage, here are three innovations that can help the ready mix industry survive it:

  1. In-transit concrete management systems: Ready mix trucks equipped with an in-transit concrete management system eliminate the need for the driver to be trained in the mixing of concrete. The automated system takes over the responsibility of slump measurement and management. This enables the driver to be focused on safety and productivity. Now that the driver no longer needs to be trained on how to manage what’s happening inside the drum, the eligible driver pool increases.
  • Electronic ticketing: Trucker paper work is costly, labor-intensive and error prone. Finally, the ready mix concrete industry has adopted electronic tickets. With electronic ticketing, the driver simply presents the customer with a tablet to sign the paperwork and it goes back to a server. Implementing electronic ticketing systems speeds up the order acceptance process and again reduces training and management responsibilities for the driver.
  • Automated truck wash and ladder-less trucks: When a ready mix truck gets loaded in the plant a lot of cement gets on the truck, requiring the driver to climb up the truck ladder to wash down the outside of the truck as well as the drum blades. Many accidents occur. Companies are now launching automated drum washout systems that may eventually eliminate the need for a ladder, reducing ladder slips and falls and increasing efficiency. Most importantly, evolving to ladder-less trucks and self-washing systems will improve driver safety, recruitment, morale and retention.

Technology is now being viewed as an important new asset to the entire ready mix process. It improves efficiency and accuracy, but is often overlooked as a tool for recruitment and retention. In concrete construction, for the longest time, there was very little technology on a ready mix truck. Ready mix producers are now learning how to best leverage new automation technology and connected devices. It is critical to look beyond the day-to-day functionality of the devices to how they can support other aspects of operations, including addressing the driver shortage. Technology is transforming the ready mix driver position by changing the qualifications and training, thus expanding the pool of eligible ready mix drivers.

Susan Dalton is the vice president of Smart Technology and IoT at GCP Applied Technologies, a member of multiple AGC chapters. She led the creation of a new category in the specialty construction industry that combines sensor technology with predictive analytics to measure and manage concrete in transit known as VERIFI®.

EMPOWERING TOMORROWS LEADERS AND BUILDING THE FUTURE OF OUR INDUSTRY TODAY

AGC considers “workforce development” as a broad umbrella that encompasses both those activities that encourage students in elementary, middle or high school to consider the potential of a career in construction and those that help prepare young people for their first jobs in the industry, either through craft training or a two- or four-year degree. Industry recruitment and retention are essential to the future of the construction industry. Just as important as finding craft workers, project managers and supervisors is ensuring that these essential workers are properly educated and trained. Efforts through AGC and its network of Chapters and industry partners are focused on the goal to attract, retain and train the future construction industry workforce. For more information, visit https://workforce.agc.org.