Jul 25, 2022
This Too Shall Pass
BY Sandy Lender
After preparing a handful of angst-filled editor notes detailing the effects precision schedule railroading (PSR) has on the supply of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) and petroleum, flipping out about a government to our south preventing aggregate production for Summit Materials, and suggesting a federal gas tax holiday gives us no actual relief now in exchange for big problems later, I recognized I was being a bit too negative. I was debating whether to quote Otto Von Bismarck. You all know I’m getting into dark and foreboding territory when I’m quoting the first chancellor of the German Empire amid it all.
We have enough negativity without a magazine editor pointing out challenges.
What I’d like to do here is remind professionals in the asphalt industry: this too shall pass. That’s not a trite expression from a Southern Belle or someone’s grandmother. It’s a truism I’d like to hear more of us put on repeat.
The asphalt industry has seen ups and downs in prices of materials—some of those highs have been in recent memory. I’ll point to the summer of 2008 and quickly move on. We’ve fought multiple battles in Washington for transportation bills to become law for the survival of not just our industry, but also our infrastructure system. Our proactive task forces have engineered safeguards that protect workers from fume and silica dust at the job site. We’re not strangers to adversity.
We’re problem solvers.
Allow me to pull one sentiment from the notes I prepped for this aggregates issue of AsphaltPro and share how the state of Florida is showing off its problem-solving chops. During spring 2022, it became “difficult” to acquire a reliable stream of aggregate for projects in different portions of the state. One producer shared that it felt like playing a game of whack-a-mole to get the railroads to deliver rock and lime in a timely fashion.
The problem, which Tim Carter, director of quality control at P&S Paving, Daytona Beach, stated succinctly, is the supply chain issues we’re facing nationally have manifested in the inability to sustain regular, reliable shipments of aggregates into the state. One solution, Carter shared, is the cooperation of industry and Florida DOT.
For example, the DOT is allowing up to 45% RAP in polymer-modified mixes as of press time, which lessens the burden of acquiring virgin materials. Carter told me the state association and DOT work together, “throwing mud against the wall” to see what sticks and to come up with ideas that will lessen pain for the contractor while safeguarding quality for the taxpayers.
That kind of cooperative spirit showed up in the price escalators built into contracts “back in the day” and continued today for many states. That kind of cooperative spirit sees co-workers carpooling to work and job sites to save on fuel; sees plant managers developing creative conveyance systems to ensure material gets from Point A to Point B most efficiently around the quarry and plant; sees trucking foremen planning routes so mix is delivered with least fuel consumption; and so on.
Like I said above, this industry is made up of problem solvers who have seen and survived difficult times. The good news is the cooperative and creative businesses will make it through again. Those owners know, this too shall pass.