Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Enjoy the Small Stuff

(from the December Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

My editorial notes to you rarely sway from industry topics, but this month’s issue is so full of heady material and industry forecasts that I had to give you and me a break. What better time of year to slow down for a moment and enjoy a bit of peace and tranquility than the advent of the holidays? As this issue lands in your mailboxes, you’re probably polishing off the last of the pumpkin pie and turkey sandwiches from Thanksgiving. I have an African Grey parrot who joins you in that. She is addicted to pumpkin pie, and while she’s not old enough to form full words yet, she recognizes what words precede yummy treats.

Something else is happening as the State of the Industry issue arrives this year. The United States, as a nation, is recovering from an economic recession. Because I live in a continual state of paranoia, I won’t be rushing out to invest in anything just yet, but it does my heart good to hear pundits on the news stations advising Americans that the housing market will turn around next and the time to buy stock is now and so on and so on. It gives us hope where there previously has been too much fear.

I don’t want to linger on the subject of funding here, but that’s where our minds wander when we wonder about recovery. The construction sector of this country builds more than infrastructure; it builds families, communities, local economies and that "hope" I mentioned above. Just a few days before I sent this letter to press, The Journal of Commerce reported that 6,547 projects were under way thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Another 3,500 or so had been approved. Think of the number of men and women working on those projects. It may seem only a drop in the bucket, but it’s 6,547 more projects—and that many more workers—than we had in motion prior to the act’s passage in February.

Also at this time, I’m preparing to celebrate Christmas, which always raises my spirits. Don’t let my profession of Christianity frighten you. I have plenty of friends who practice other religions who are celebrating other holidays at this time of year. I wish all of us a peaceful, loving, hope-filled season with loved ones gathered around us. It’s been a difficult year for some. I know of losses we’ve suffered in this industry, in our families. It’s a good time to reflect on those lives and reach out to our friends in love and comfort. It’s a good time to worship with friends and family and thank our God for His provision. It’s a good time to pause and enjoy the small stuff.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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The Answer: We Must Stop Driving

(from the November Editor's Note of AsphaltPro Magazine)

Shortly, you will see how simple it is. The answer to our country’s economic problems lies in the fact that we all own cars. What selfish pigs we are to expect freedom.

Let me delve into reality for just a moment. At press time, Congress had voted to extend the currently expired SAFETEA-LU program another seven weeks. That means, by the time you receive this in the mail, we’ve got just more than a month (through Dec. 18) for legislators to come up with a new plan to get funding in place to keep additional monies flowing for federal highways, to accept an 18-month extension, to accept a six-month extension, to accept an extension to Dec. 31, or to accept Oberstar’s approximately $500 billion six-year bill.

At first blush, it seems like a lot of options are on the table and we should be swimming right along with keeping infrastructure up to par. Unfortunately, when the last bill expired Sept. 30, states felt a jolt. Money was rescinded. Some people in this country who have a difficult time understanding the very real need for a healthy and safe highway and roadway system have suggested this is for the best because we shouldn’t be driving cars anyway.

A byproduct of the current rescission of $8.7 billion in federal transportation funds that I don’t think anti-roads lobbyists expected is the cancellation of green projects. For instance, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) reported that officials at the Tennessee Department of Transportation (DOT) pulled $30 million out of its coffers for enhancement grants. That means:
* no restoration of old train stations
* no new bike trails and
* no new sidewalks.
AASHTO also reported that Nevada DOT officials are cutting $8 million from transportation enhancements. They’re also cutting $4 million from their federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) projects and another $4 million from the Safe Routes to School Program.

These are not positive developments, but state money movers have little choice. Back in 2007, Congress decreed that when state officials make cuts (rescind funds) from programs, they have to do so proportionally. That means if you take a little from this road, you have to take a little from that CMAQ project, too.

Even with the worry building around whether or not Congress understands the process involved in realistic transportation, there’s some ray of hope for motorists. Note that states can still let state projects (if there’s a state budget for that). Counties can still let county projects (if there’s a county budget for that). Cities can still work on city projects (if there’s a city budget for that). You catch my drift.

The problem is everyone gets nervous when you talk about cutting his or her budget for next year in half. And rightly so. What’s worse is we’re talking about cutting the budget in half for “who knows how long?” Folks suddenly worry about all their projects.

I’m a proponent for cautious creative funding (I’ll call it CCF). If you’re a state DOT official, you’ve got to get creative with your project funding. There are interstates and bridges that need repair. There are asphalt roadways that might not need repair yet, but by performing preventive maintenance on them, you extend the pavement’s life. You make a small investment now to keep a larger investment from happening 10 or 20 years from now. But if your budget’s just been slashed, what on earth is going to compel you to run out and perform anything but the absolute worst-case reconstructs?

Some municipalities have raised their own bond measures, sales taxes and property taxes to pay for everything from specific road projects to maintenance of specified areas of the grid. What this leads to is shiny streets and well-kept utilities right up to the federal-funded interstate that’s causing high car-maintenance bills for those folks who just voted to have their taxes raised. I bet those citizens won’t be too keen on another tax hike next election season.

Some counties have seen toll measures pass. Funds for future repairs, enhancements and preventive maintenance start rolling in, but motorists unwilling to add $5 to $10 to their weekly commute take alternate routes not built for the increased traffic loads. Safety problems, repair costs and user delays rise on the parallel routes.

The solution to all of this has been suggested already. We must stop driving. Anti-roads lobbyists have actually suggested that people in both rural and urban settings must get out of their cars and into buses (although I’m not sure what the buses will be driving on), trains, trolleys and other people movers. While I can see a logical pattern to mass transit in city situations, it boggles the mind to think this would work in rural areas. But this is the suggestion put forth to clear cars from roadways, thus getting us “off” that horrid road and oil dependency we have.

Obviously, we have to raise taxes and spend inordinate amounts of money to build a metallic people-moving infrastructure. While we’re at it, I suggest we train ourselves to be lackadaisical about deadlines and meeting times because, coming from a purely cynical point of view, I don’t think these things are going to run in a timely fashion. They’re being created by legislative action, after all.

If we recycled our cars into something else (and I’m sure there are people in Canada and Switzerland working on that “something” now) and all moved into cities where the mayors have magically raised the funds to build superfragicagilisticexpialodociocidous (I changed it so as not to get sued) mass transit services to move people around, why, there would be no need for cars or roads or road R&D or safety or innovation or jobs or any of those crazy things that the Federal Highway Fund has been encouraging.

All our goods would be delivered by train because trains never have accidents thus don’t require funding to find ways to make them safer or more efficient or to ensure none of their operators (remote or otherwise) have sleep apnea. And we can conduct all business meetings by teleconference and Internet now so we no longer need airplanes. No one actually has to see their loved ones in person when we have Webcams. Besides, once the current generations kick off, people will be living in those insular inbred cities anyway. There’ll be no need to travel far…

So why is it important to renew funding for transportation? Why think of CCF ideas to supplement a gas-tax-based funding program? Why worry about a road that needs repair? Why worry about bridges that crumble into the waters beneath them? Why make plans to resurface and keep asphalt pavements in pristine condition for maximum safety and perpetual life? I mean, isn’t the world ending December of 2012 anyway?
Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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New Oil and Sea Turtles

(from the October Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

My name is Sandy Lender and I’m an environmentalist. It’s good to see I’m among friends here in the asphalt industry. Truly, if you’re a member of the asphalt industry, you’re an environmentalist. You’re a conservationist.

I could harp on this industry’s care of the land we mine for aggregates, our caution keeping dust out of the air, our excellent track record keeping contaminants out of the ground, or our successes protecting workers from what minimal fume our end product emits, but people reading this column already know these things. Instead I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you a little bit.

I’m what you would call a “raving” environmentalist. Yes, I abhor the plastic water bottles. I carry cloth bags with me to the grocery store. In fact, when my first novel was published, I had cloth bags with my book cover printed on them made up to hand out as promotional items to help with that whole “Down With Plastic Bags!” movement. I participate in coastal cleanup days and I volunteer with a sea turtle conservation project called Turtle Time.

That brings us around to the Gulf of Mexico, the large body of water near which I live. I moved here from the Midwest for one reason, but stayed for the conservationist opportunities available to me here. I’m not saying you can’t find worthy and rewarding causes to aid in the upper states—and I encourage everyone to get involved in a cause that brings you a sense of accomplishment and joy—but my heart is at home with the marine issues.

Recently, some workers for BP drilling way out by the Keathly Canyon in the Gulf found an incredibly deep, and incredibly flush, reserve of oil. When I say incredibly deep, I mean that they sunk the drill to the depth of the height of Mount Everest (or a little further). That’s how far into the planet the workers probed to extract the blood we need.

This looks like it’s going to bring in about 3 billion barrels of domestic oil once it’s producing. Now, that’s not going to happen until about 2015, give or take, but it’s supposed to make life nicer around these parts.

Some might say the Tiber Project has really come through.

I stopped to consider what I thought of that. Are the folks at BP putting responsible practices in place for pulling that much product up and getting it to shore? We’ve got a declining loggerhead sea turtle population along the Gulf shores of Florida right now. Will increased activity a few years from now worry those turtles right away from one of their few ideal nesting grounds? Maybe the canyon is far enough away, being about 250 miles southeast of Houston, that the turtles will just gracefully glide on by. Maybe the officers at BP care about marine life management enough to take such things into consideration while they plan for increased profits and increased traffic. I’ll be one of the members of the environmentalist asphalt industry watching to see how they handle it.

Stay Safe
Editor, Sandy Lender (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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Monday, August 24, 2009

What Green Job Do Your Workers Participate In?

The article titled "Green Job Safety" from the August/September 2009 issue of AsphaltPro Magazine asked what environmentally responsible practices have introduced new work habits to your work force. Do your crews participate in green jobs such as:
* Shingle grinding?
* WMA production?
* RAP stockpiling?
* Running mills or rubblizers?
These and other environmentally responsible asphalt industry practices force workers to step out of the normal routine. How does that put them at risk? Have you trained your workers for the new steps in the otherwise daily operation? Let’s discuss it at here at The Asphalt Forum. There's no password needed to participate in this open dialogue, so click on the "comment" link below to voice your opinion or concern.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Prevent Shorts in Automation Controls at the Hot Mix Asphalt Plant

From your AsphaltPro Staff and Participating Members of the Automation/Controls Industry

For the August/September issue of AsphaltPro Magazine, we included an informational article on cleaning and maintaining automation controls for minimum downtime and maximum safety. Here are some extra tips from the folks at Systems Equipment, Waukon, Iowa, for preventing shorts or malfunctions in automation controls:

1) Purchase controls that are pre-fabricated, documented units, such as a burner control or silo control.
2) Have your equipment installed by a qualified technician with knowledge of both the control and your equipment.
3) Be sure that all of the old equipment and wiring are removed as part of the installation process.
4) Replace all questionable cables and components. Remember the new controls are only as good as the equipment and cables they are controlling. A new control panel will not correct a bad limit, meter or probe.
5) Have your equipment serviced by a qualified technician with knowledge of both the control and your equipment.

We’d like to thank the automation controls manufacturers who participated in bringing our readers useful, how-to information in the automation article. They are, in alphabetical order:
ADM contact Steve Shawd
B&S Light contact Richard Young
Libra Systems contact Ken Cardy
Systems Equipment contact company
Thermal Cable and Wire contact Joe Dougherty

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Should We Grow the Ultimately Green Product?

(from the August/September 2009 Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

I’ll start this opinion piece with a surprising question, just to get your fingers itching to respond. What do you think of legalizing marijuana?

I told you it would get you itching to respond. Before you call me irresponsible, let me tell you why I ask. The asphalt industry could get some intriguing benefits from the Cannabis sativa L. plant.

Now, before anyone gets too nervous, I’ll share that I have my reservations about a flat legalization of hemp growth. I’m paranoid enough about our youth and that group’s propensity for using a gateway drug to get into serious trouble with health (and the law) to suggest that any legalization of Cannabis sativa would have to come with close regulations and actual enforcement of those regulations. So when I ask if we should legalize marijuana, I’m not talking about handing a baggie and some rolling papers to a teenager. I’m talking about an ultimate green product for the asphalt industry.

According to the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH), the Cannabis sativa plant produces more protein, oil and fiber than any other plant on earth. It’s that “oil” concept that caught my attention. Because the CRRH Web site makes grossly inaccurate, sweeping statements about petroleum, I double-checked its facts about the plant’s benefits against white papers and grant-funded research. Lo and behold, those people are onto something. I also learned that the permit-holding growers who produce medicinal marijuana do so with environmentally responsible practices, whereas the illegal growers are left to literally poison water supplies and animals with their unlawful habits. This leads me to think that legalization and regulation offer yet another benefit to the environment.

The grossly inaccurate, sweeping statements CRRH officers made about petroleum and diesel make me uneasy, though. I’m not going to call anyone a conspiracy theorist (mostly for fear of getting sued), but it sounds a wee bit reactionary of the CRRH organizers to accuse the petrochemical industry as a whole of causing the prohibition of marijuana. I imagine there are some religious groups who fall into lock-step with the concept that teens and tweens getting their hands on readily accessible pot is a negative idea. I would agree with them. I believe in the gateway drug concept. Seen it in practice. Do I believe there are ways to use hemp for good without putting the pretty leaves in the public domain where teens and others will grab it for dangerous entertainment? Of course. And that’s what I’d like to discuss here.

If we as an industry can come up with a suggestion for growing Cannabis sativa plants for positive, productive byproducts such as biofuels, fibers, medicine, etc., do you think we should draft the motion and put it before legislators? California’s looking for a way to tax it already. Find me a legislator who doesn’t like that concept these days. So what do you think? Is this country ready to legalize the growth and use of hemp? Do you think legislators could do it without legalizing the death-use of it?

I’m not suggesting we get into bed with folks who, at first blush, look like lying conspiracy theorists, but instead we could make our own friends in the alternate fuels arena to draft a concept legislators will actually read. Getting oil from alternate, renewable sources is a big win for an industry dependent on oil supply. When that source is something that can also produce fibers and medicines, it looks quite “green.” We just need a way to keep it from getting out of control and harming the population we wish to enhance and protect with our product—good roads.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Asphalt Wins in the Stormwater Management Arena

(from the June/July Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

This is an opinion piece. So here’s my opinion. If you’re going to build a pavement that allows proper stormwater management, the right material to use is hot mix asphalt (HMA) or warm mix asphalt (WMA). I’m basing this opinion on my subjective bias and some pertinent facts, the latter of which I’ll outline now.

First, the idea of using porous asphalt pavements precludes using pervious concrete structures. There’s sound reasoning behind this. I’m not telling you anything new when I remind you that one of the elements in the design of a typical concrete pavement is a steel structure or grid. But consider this: Rebar doesn’t play nicely with water, so allowing stormwater to filter through a concrete pavement, trickling playfully across rusting infrastructure is unwise. Thus the concrete industry left this internal structure out of its pervious concrete design.

As it turns out, some pervious concrete sections placed in Denver metropolitan parking lots looked “unstructured” enough to members of the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (UDFCD) back in 2008 that they asked Thompson Materials Engineers, Inc., to check out a few of the failing pervious concrete sections. In June 2008, engineers cut samples from four areas. One of the areas was fine, exhibiting no signs of distress. This area, Site A, was used as the control. The other three areas they chose exhibited signs of distress from “minimal” to “significant.”

You can read the entire findings for yourself in the technical paper of Project CT14,571-356 titled Pervious Concrete Evaluation Materials Investigation Denver, Colorado in the downloads section of, (or try but one of the sections that stood out to me alluded to concrete’s inability to serve as a viable option in stormwater management.

"Our data indicates elevated chloride concentrations in the bottom portion of the samples for two of the sites. The other two sites exhibit the elevated chloride concentrations near the surface of the sample. Deicing salts (e.g., chlorides) are deleterious to concrete. They are absorbed into the concrete as it dries, and the absorbed salt strongly attracts water during subsequent wet weather events. If the ambient temperature is cold enough, and the sample does not have sufficient drainage capabilities, the water freezes in spite of the deicer, and will contribute to accelerated deterioration from freeze-thaw conditions."

Luckily, the asphalt industry has an answer for agencies and owners who want to control stormwater in an environmentally responsible manner. It’s called porous asphalt and these structures have been constructed, tested and proved since the late 1970s, according to the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA). Researchers have shown that by designing and constructing a porous asphalt pavement properly, you have a pavement that doesn’t fail. Period.

Another plus researchers have found for these pavements is a reduction in winter maintenance costs. Snow and ice naturally melt more quickly on a porous pavement. If you find it necessary to apply deicing compounds such as salt or liquid deicer, you can reduce quantities from past maintenance practices and you don’t have the fear of negative reactions found with concrete pavements. Researchers warn agencies and public works departments not to use sand or ash on the surface because clogging of the open graded friction course can occur, thus negating the infiltration ability of the structure. So there’s another winter maintenance cost savings porous asphalt offers.

Of course there are oodles more reasons to select a porous asphalt pavement for stormwater management, and NAPA offers publications that outline these. The association also offers publications that assist engineers in designing proper porous asphalt pavement structures. You can find these publications at

Now, what kind of publication would AsphaltPro be if we left you with just this idea? For this special Best Paving Practices issue, you can turn to page 24 to read a professional engineer’s article on how to construct a porous asphalt pavement—from the subbase up.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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Outfit Your Crew With the Tools for the Project

(This article from the November 2008 issue of AsphaltPro magazine is referenced in the current June/July article titled "Pave Like it Affects Your Pay". It has been edited considerably to fit a blog format. Contact the home office for a subscription to AsphaltPro or for back issues, at 573-499-1830.)

by John Ball
When it comes to top quality paving practices, having the right equipment for the job is essential for success. As the project manager or foreman, you want to make sure the members of your crew have the tools they need to perform well. Here are some of the basic items your team needs to make the paving shift go smoothly.

Putty Knife
Don't underestimate how important the average putty knife is. Make sure the members of your team each have one that is about 3 inches wide. It's go to be stiff. It can't be flexible because you're going to be cleaning the lute, the shovel, the endgate, etc. The two people who'll use the putty knife the most are the lute and shovel guys. These laborers do all the raking and make sure the asphalt is smooth. We don't use diesel fuel to keep tools clean any longer. Instead, get them hot by dipping them in the asphalt; pull them out and scrape them off quickly with the putty knife.

Four-foot Level
The four-foot level is used to check the slope. Metal four-foot levels dont work very well because they heat up and warp. Instead, use a wooden four-foot level. A good one will range from $50 to $80 and will last a long time. Use it in conjunction with the 12-foot straight edge. First, put the 12-foot straight edge down parallel with the transverse joint to determine if you have any deterioration, if the extensions are lined up properly, etc. Place the four-foot level on top of the straight edge to read the slope. Paving crews also use a smart level, which is a battery-operated level made of plastic and metal. it's important to also use this device with the 12-foot straight edge to avoid constant contact with the hot mat.

Measuring Wheel
One of the most important aspects of managing a project is watching your yield. A measuring wheel measures out each load, telling you where you are. It's a necessary tool for the guy on the paver, especially the guy running the screed. He needs to know how many tons are coming in, but he also needs to know the placement. How far is the load going? What is his yield?

Ball of String and Paint
For marking after measuring with the measuring wheel, I recommend something as simple as a ball of string and paint. And I don't mean just a can of paint; I mean a marking stick to ensure the crew member marks a straight line. Be sure the string you choose is nylon string with about a quarter of an inch thickness.

30-foot Wheel Tape
Even with a measuring wheel to help a crew stay on the mark, a 30-foot wheel tape-or measuring tape-is important as well. We use the 30-foot tape because it enables us to go across two mats.

Four-foot Wooden Folding Ruler
The four-foot wooden folding ruler is much like a carpenter's ruler. I always recommend the Lukins Model #1066-D. This one is thicker than other brands and won't break as easily. It features inches on one side, hundredths and tenths on the other side. If I want 2 percent slope, I can actually read the slope on the engineer's side.

Release Agent
Back in the old days, we used to have a 5-gallon pail of diesel for regular cleaning. Crew members used to dip the shovel, lutes and rakes in there. Now we use a biodegradable solution in spray containers. The 5-gallon pail has been replaced with a 3-gallon sprayer.

The project manager is responsible for thousands of details before the project even begins, but making sure crew members have the right tools to take care of details on the project goes a long way toward getting the job done right.

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Tell Our Good Story to Your Representatives

(from the April/May Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

I’ve got a friend in the asphalt industry who gets excited about seeing celebrities. I don’t want to embarrass him by throwing his name down in print, but it’s as if the celebrity has some superior element about him or her that non-celebrities don’t. I’ve got another friend who says he could never visit his Congressman because the guy is too “official”. Too important in the world. It’s as if the Congressman has some superior element about him or her that we non-Congressmen don’t.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we ignore the authority of an elected official’s position, but I’d like to remind everyone that our representatives are people just like us. We gave them their jobs when we voted for them, so we shouldn’t be intimidated when it’s time to sit down and visit with them; especially when that visit is over something as important as infrastructure funding.

This is the last issue of AsphaltPro that you’ll receive prior to the May 19 through 20 legislative fly-in to Washington. Can you afford not to send someone from your company to discuss the importance of transportation funding with your representatives? (Visit for details on the fly-in.)

Let me tell you who will fill the void you leave if you don’t participate: multiple members of special interest groups with extreme anti-infrastructure ideas. When Former Speaker of the House Trent Lott spoke to the audience at the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) meeting in San Diego in January, he informed us that for every couple of construction representatives calling him to promote safe roadway funding, he could have at least a dozen overly exuberant folks calling for an end to more roads and what they perceived as urban sprawl.

That’s one reason why the good environmental messages of the asphalt industry are so important to get across to our representatives as we make our case for reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). As recently as March 31, Mike Acott, president of NAPA, sat before the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation to brief members on the technologies of asphalt recycling, warm mix, Perpetual Pavement and porous asphalt that offer a sustainable future for the transportation grid of our nation. Acott told representatives: “Within five years, I believe you will see full deployment of warm mix, much higher rates of recycling, and development and application of Perpetual Pavement and porous asphalt technologies leading to a substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental and economic benefits within the asphalt pavement sector.”

As you can see, there are myriad talking points, but the main point is we should each be talking.
For the article “Spread it Around: Black is the New Green” on page 24, industry leaders discussed different safe and sound practices they’ve tried or seen for enhancing air quality, improving neighbor relations, reducing carbon footprint, etc. For the article “Asphalt Proves Correct Choice for LEED Project Credits” on page 20, we show how asphalt products can gain points for engineers designing projects eligible for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighborhood Development certification. And, my personal favorite this month, in “When It’s the Right Thing to Do” on page 28, the S.T. Wooten family shares their experiences setting up an ecological masterpiece in Southwest Florida. These are the kind of positive stories and ideas we should be sharing openly and often with not only legislators, but also with the public in general.

Jay Hansen, vice president of government affairs for NAPA, has asked that, even if you can’t make it to the legislative fly-in in Washington, make it a point to meet with your representative in your district office, away from the distractions of D.C. Make it a point to share with representatives that asphalt products can help in mitigating the impact of transportation infrastructure on the environment. Make it a point to let your representative know that environmental issues matter to you as a member of the asphalt industry that can help support economic growth and safe corridors for transportation in this nation.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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Save the Environment, Bottom Line by Increasing Your Recycling Efforts

(from the March 2009 Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

I’m not talking about plastic here. Anyone can put a filter on their kitchen faucet and feel better about saving our landfills from a plastic bottle invasion, but it’s the members of the asphalt industry who can participate in the big carbon footprint savings. We get to work with the No. 1 recycled item in the world: recycled asphalt pavement (RAP). We re-use the liquid asphalt cement (AC) and the aggregate that’s in RAP. We’ve even found a way to do it while decreasing the production temperature of the new mix.

But how much RAP are you, specifically, running at your hot mix asphalt (HMA) facility? What percentage of RAP did you put in that state mix last spring? If the department of transportation (DOT) allows 15 percent in the surface course, did you use 15 percent, or did you over-cautiously only add 5 percent?

It’s perfectly safe to jump on the recycling bandwagon and save yourself some money. Based on the fictional numbers I’ve run in the Economic Example sidebar below, using 5 percent RAP in a mix would save a producer good cash per ton. Imagine how much more he’d save if he increased the amount of RAP further, thus decreasing the amount of virgin materials. And look at the Environmental Example to see how much virgin material he leaves for some other project.

Even if your state agency hasn’t given the green light to run high percentages of RAP, the trend is under way. In fact, as CalTrans’ Terrie Bressette and NCAT’s Andrea Kvasnak pointed out during their presentations at the 54th annual National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) meeting, many states have higher RAP allowed percentages than producers and contractors take advantage of.

And that’s a shame. We know RAP supplies are easily processed, cleaned materials that present quality mix components. Long gone are the days when shingles contained asbestos or millings came from questionable mixes.

It helps the asphalt industry when we each take positive, proactive steps toward advancing higher percentages of RAP in mixes. Showing progressive state agencies that we, as an industry, are willing and able to tackle those higher percentages is a win-win for us. NAPA has even identified that as an important point on its journey to doubling the amount of RAP used in asphalt mixes during the next five years. Does that sound like a tall order? It’s one of the association’s six core strategies for 2009 and it sounds quite plausible when you read through the enormous list of steps NAPA staff has outlined to bring the dream to fruition.

As with any industry goal, it will involve participation from all segments of industry—and that includes readers of AsphaltPro. Do you think your plant can run high RAP (greater than 50 percent) mixes? Do you think you’re ready to put a “very high RAP content” (70 percent) mix on your next commercial project? Whatever RAP project you’re working on, are you taking measurements and making notes to share with NAPA and AsphaltPro staff? We’ve got to get the word out to others that recycling not only “saves” the environment, but your bottom line as well. Isn’t that something worth increasing?

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)
(See print publication for sidebars referenced in this article.)

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(from the February 2009 Editor's Note of AsphaltPro Magazine)

We’ll have in-depth coverage of the recent National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) 54th annual meeting in our March issue, when there’s time to compile all the information for you properly, but I have to say that I came away from the conference sensing an air of anticipation in the asphalt industry. We’re waiting to see what happens with oil prices. We’re waiting to see what happens with transportation funding. We’re waiting to see which equipment manufacturers cut how many jobs. We’re waiting to see if the competitor down the street brings back all his crews or if he works short-handed this paving season.

This waiting around can be stressful if you’re a Type A personality like me.

What do all of the Type As and other interested business persons do while we wait? There’s an excellent opportunity to influence our destiny with legislation. By the time this issue hits the streets, the economic stimulus package should have passed, promising just about $30 billion for roads and bridges. I’ll provide you a breakdown of how that money gets divided among the states once it’s a sure thing—no point in counting the chickens before they’ve hatched.

We also have the 2009 Transportation Appropriations Bill to inject some funds into our coffers and the reauthorization act to get Congress to approve. It’s the reauthorization act that professionals all over the industry are focused on. This is the one we should be talking to our legislators about.

From the very nature of the word “reauthorization” you can guess that, as an industry, we’re asking Congress to give us what we’ve had in the past. But we need, and are asking for, additional funding. That’s going to take effort because no one really relishes the idea of raising the gas tax. Call it a user fee if you like; we’re still asking a legislative body to make people pay more at the pump. Of course, we’re asking for this money to protect those people—to give them safer roadways and economic growth. And that’s a message we need to send to our legislators. By investing in the highway industry, a Congressman invests in his or her constituents’ livelihoods. It’s not a stretch to figure out, but it will take a concerted effort to convince folks when part of the convincing involves money.

Luckily, raising money isn’t unprecedented right now. Look at the example Tulsa has set for us on page 9.

Former Speaker of the House Trent Lott spoke to the attendees at the NAPA meeting last month and told us that the public should participate in transportation funding because it’s in the public’s interest to have safe roads. That sounds like another excellent point to put before our legislators.

But who’s bringing these talking points to the representatives that cast the votes for reauthorization? Are you relying on the staff at NAPA to do all the work? Trust me, Jay Hansen is working hard, but he’s just one person. As Lott told the packed room in San Diego, “This is the time to step up.” Every member of the industry needs to be in communication with the members of Congress to let them know that we’re ready and able to help the economy recover. Funnel the money into the roads and bridges of this nation and we’ll do the rest. We’ll employ workers who buy goods. We’ll fix roads that keep motorists safe. We’ll build corridors that move products from point A to point B. We’ll bring industry to regions that were formerly without economic growth.

I encourage you to get on the phone and tell your legislators that the asphalt industry is, as Lott said, “an important part of our recovery.” If you don’t know how to reach your specific representatives, visit for a listing.

It’s going to take all of us to help the nation recover once funding funnels to project level. But first it’s going to take all of us to get that funding in place. I encourage you to do your part in controlling your destiny.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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Map Out Your Warm Mix Asphalt Plan

(from the January 2009 Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

It’s that time of year when people hand you champagne and ask, “What’s your new year’s resolution?” I typically dread the question because I avoid making resolutions. But if you’re going to make a goal for 2009, you should also make a plan to achieve that goal with rollicking success.

I have a two-part system for achieving long-term goals, even though I don’t call them resolutions or generally set them around Jan. 1. I start with a blank piece of paper on which I write the goal in a simple two- or three-word phrase. I then surround this phrase with a hodge-podge of random actions I’ll need to take to meet the central goal. For stage two, I organize all those actions into manageable lists. I don’t remember where I learned this, but I’ve been doing it since I got out of high school and it’s served me well. Let’s see if we can make it make sense to serve you, too.

Let’s say you want to jump into the warm mix asphalt (WMA) arena. Write “Run WMA” or something to that effect in the middle of your piece of blank paper. Now what are the actions you’ll need to take to achieve that goal? Hopefully, the ideas will come at you quickly and you’ll start writing like mad. Pay no attention to penmanship and margins. Start writing things such as “educate ground crew” or “check flighting” or “get new technology” or “bid WMA job” or “attend state seminar.” You see, at this stage of planning, it doesn’t matter in what order you write your ideas—it matters that you write them. You just want to splatter your action items on the page as quickly as you can.

Come back to the page often to read off the ideas and add more that come to you.

Once you feel you’ve exhausted your action ideas and have as many written down as you’re going to come up with, it’s time to organize them. Take a good look at which ones should go first, and which ones are going to involve secondary lists. For instance, if you’ve written “get new technology” as part of your plan to facilitate bringing your operation into the WMA revolution, you need to do some research.

Write that down and figure out where you want your research to start. Online? With fellow state association members who have already begun WMA projects? There are plant equipment manufacturers in the magazine you’re holding who employ experts in the area of WMA, additives and foaming, installation of new components, and modification of existing equipment. It’s in their best interest to guide you gently into this realm and to help you in the most cost-efficient manner possible, not to pressure you with a hard sell that leaves you winded and wondering, so don’t overlook what they can do to help you.

Let’s say you’ve written down something as easy as “attend state seminar” but your state’s annual meeting, complete with seminars on WMA, isn’t until November. Don’t wait until then to start. Use that seminar as a refresher after you’ve attended the NAPA mid-year meeting this July, or after you’ve attended World of Asphalt’s conference sessions in March, or after you’ve attended a state DOT’s continuing education program earlier in the year. The opportunities to learn about WMA abound, and you’ll be seeing more application stories right here in AsphaltPro as producers learn and share their stories with each other. Maybe you’ll be sharing your story by the time your state meeting rolls around.

The secret of the lists is to follow them. As with any new thing, having a partner who holds you accountable is a great way to stay on task, but, considering this is your business and WMA is the wave of the future, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble staying motivated if this is a resolution you’ve made.

Whatever your goals and plans for 2009, may you have a prosperous and blessed new year. It’s not supposed to be an easy one, we’ve all been told, but we have a transportation bill to come together on and plenty of business tips and strategies to help each other with. As the year progresses, I’m sure we’ll see ways to maximize our strengths while we work on our goals. I look forward to working on them with you.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor (sandy at theasphaltpro dot com)

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How Are You Doing?

(from the December 2008 Editor's Note in AsphaltPro Magazine)

It's difficult to avoid gluttonous imagery during the holiday season. By the time you read this, we'll have just recovered from a turkey coma and be hard-pressed to find a news station not bemoaning this year's consumer reports and what they mean for retailers. The focus around us is on "how much" we should be spending, taking in and consuming. No matter which religion you claim, I think this time of year should bring something more peaceful to mind instead.

In light of current market conditions, your AsphaltPro staff has offered cost-cutting strategies and equipment-stretching maintenance tips in the past few months. We'll continue to do so, but, this month, as you prepare for the holiday season, winter downtime, seasonal layoffs, end-of-year accounting, annual maintenance, etc., I wanted to ask a sensitive question.

How are you doing?

Are you taking the current down-swing in stride and working diligently toward the day when we start our up-swing? Are you making phone calls and sending e-mails to your representatives so they know how important the new highway funding bill will be? Are you keeping your equipment in tip-top shape so it performs beautifully for you on every commercial, residential, county, city or state job? Are you maintaining a positive attitude?

I know that positive affirmation stuff often comes off sounding trite. I've sat through a couple of those "power-up" seminars in my day. But let me tell you something. There are eyes in Washington watching our industry-watching for the signs of readiness. The great and wonderful news is that the asphalt industry sits poised and ready to pounce on the projects that will heal and protect our nation's infrastructure when funding rises to the occasion. The asphalt industry still researches and develops the environmentally safe, innovative ways to restore our roadways even while funding falters because we know to be ready. When funding slides back in place, we'll be there to come to the rescue.

That's a pretty positive picture.

In this issue of AsphaltPro, industry experts have offered not just their opinions on the state of the construction industry today, but their tips for getting through a prolonged downturn in the industry's cycle. I can't imagine how irresponsible a reporter would be to leave you with the gloom and doom of "we're in a down cycle." Instead, the folks who have offered their insights to you also offer words of wisdom to keep your spirits up. When I ask how you're doing, I want to know. I want to know how readers are implementing the ideas experts offer in AsphaltPro pages. I want to know how you're using ideas passed down through your family business. I want to know how you're keeping your positive attitude alive in your business-in your employees-as you stride through the current marketplace.

I also want to wish you a peaceful, hope-filled holiday season. There is much to be thankful for this year, no matter what the economists say. I'll start by thanking each one of you for reading the magazine. It's a pleasure to bring you industry information each month, and I look forward to spending the next year with you!

Stay safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor

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