An Interview with Dan Scherschligt of Kansas Asphalt Pavement Association
The Kansas Asphalt Pavement Association, based in Topeka, Kansas, and has 18 asphalt producer members, which accounts for about 95 percent of the asphalt production companies in Kansas. KAPA was formed in 1955 and, for the past four years, Dan Scherschligt has served as KAPA’s executive director.
Scherschligt has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from South Dakota State University, and despite growing up in South Dakota, has spent his entire professional career in Kansas.
KAPA holds its annual member’s meeting each January, a summer meeting in Colorado in July, a fall forum in October and an annual asphalt conference in November. The association’s Fall Forum, which is an 8-hour workshop with training from members and customers, has been growing steadily and last year had more than 100 people in attendance.
AsphaltPro spent some time getting to know Scherschligt and learning about KAPA’s story, members and successes.
What has KAPA done to expand its membership in the past few years?
We try to let the association speak for itself. We have developed strong relationships with the DOT, counties and cities. We are also active with the consulting engineering community. We have a voice in the development of specifications. We visit and listen to our members. We believe these attributes all provide value in the membership.
We also try to be visible at the state universities, as getting young engineers interested in asphalt is vital to the future of our industry. Our annual asphalt conference is held at the University of Kansas, and KAPA is active in superpave and inspector training at Kansas State University.
How many member asphalt projects and plant tours do you typically visit each year?
I take a lot of interest in visiting projects. During the paving season I try to get out at least twice a month to visit project sites. To me this is the best tool in being visible to our members.
I visit asphalt plants usually the same time I visit projects, so basically twice a month during the paving season. Visiting asphalt plants as part of a tour does not happen very often, although this year we are in the planning stages to visit an asphalt plant with legislators as part of an awareness tour in planning for the next comprehensive highway program.
About how many state agency or DOT meetings do you attend per year?
KAPA is very active with the DOT. Being a retired DOT Director, I have many relationships with the DOT, and hence am part of many meetings including specification meetings, project meetings, and construction program meetings. I probably am at the DOT at least twice a month.
On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being none at all; 5 being very much), how much of a threat to your members’ marketshare/livelihood is the concrete industry in your state?
3. Kansas very rarely does white topping. However, 4 years ago a district elected to do a 3-inch concrete overlay on a section of interstate. It did not perform, and the agency has already performed joint repair and pop out repair. I guess in the overall scheme of things this overlay was positive to the asphalt industry as now the DOT has another example of why not to white top!
On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being none at all; 5 being very much), how much difficulty are your members having in finding qualified workers for their asphalt paving or production crews?
5. It is just difficult to not only hire qualified workers who are willing to do the demanding work involved in a paving crew, and retaining workers is just as difficult.
KAPA partners with the Local Transportation Assistance Program (LTAP) in their annual asphalt workshops, typically five workshops over a 2-week period in February. Each workshop is a daylong instructional seminar attended by city and county employees and member companies. KAPA, along with the DOT and member companies, also hosts an asphalt plant class every other year.
On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being none at all; 5 being very much), how involved are your state elected officials in transportation issues such as funding and infrastructure improvements?
5. Highway programs are funded by the legislature, hence elected officials are very involved in highway funding.
On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being none at all; 5 being very much), how involved are your asphalt members in transportation issues such as funding and infrastructure improvements?
3. Some members are more involved in others, depending on their location and their mix of private/public work.
Could you share an example of a time when your state APA hosted elected officials to educate them on the need for highway funding, asphalt materials, construction workforce development, etc.?
This past legislative session, KAPA participated in a bus tour that took legislators to several locations to view highway needs. It was very well received and planning is underway for more bus tours across the state next year to lay the ground work for a new transportation program.
Why did you join the asphalt industry?
I was recruited by the previous KAPA Executive Director. The timing seemed right as I was retirement eligible with the DOT. The previous positions I held with the DOT including District Engineer and Director of Engineering and Design gave me the background and contacts that I thought would be an asset to being Executive Director of the asphalt association.
What do you see as the most important part of your job?
There are many important parts to my position and it’s difficult to single out just one. The bottom line is that it is important to be a part of making the members of the association successful. This includes everything from increasing tonnage each year, partnering with our clients to enable the members to make a quality product, and displaying to taxpayers the quality of asphalt so they continue to fund transportation.
What is the most challenging part of your job, and why do you think it’s a challenge in your state, economy or industry?
Educating owners on the quality and durability of asphalt, and getting them to reflect that in Life Cycle calculations. Today’s asphalt is not the same as yesterday’s asphalt. It performs better and lasts longer. Our product is continually evolving and improving.
Superpave is a great example. Binder performance and testing is another. Warm mix is another. We are continually tweaking volumetrics. Liquid asphalt prices are at 10-year-lows. I could cite more examples, but the bottom line is that today’s asphalt performs better than yesterday’s asphalt, is less expensive, and needs to be reflected in life cycle costing.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I really enjoy seeing my members being successful and being part of their team. I think it is important and I enjoy getting to know the people in the industry and establishing relationships. They are a great group and without a doubt are dedicated to quality. This dedication to quality shows in the final product and ultimately leads to asphalt being chosen as the pavement of choice.