By Mike Anderson
Gaga is perhaps an exaggerated description for a 50-something man, especially a construction pro with 30 or so years of boots-in-the-dirt experience under him.
But after sitting beside the gent for a couple of days at the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s Asphalt In Depth conference last month, gaga remains the most accurate adjective I can come up with for him. That’s because this guy, a senior official with a huge Florida-based contractor, absolutely rekindled any waning fire I may have had for the construction equipment industry. It’s probably just regular CONEXPO-CON/AGG hangover, but since the industry extravaganza in March there’s been a slight dip in my level of enthusiasm for products.
But this time around, at least for me, any slight depression ended much more abruptly. In that hotel conference room in Nashville, the malaise was promptly . . . well . . . paved over.
While the Asphalt In Depth presentations were solid – kudos to NAPA for a thoughtful, well-organized, well-executed event – as is typical of industry conferences it is the casual conversations during breaks, or over lunch, or at the bar at night, that truly make the event memorable. True enough, everyone goes home with great expert information. But, equally if not more significantly, attendees also go home with nuggets of anecdotes, advice and perhaps even scuttlebutt from their peers. For the road contracting crowd, it’s the bonus, if you will.
Well, when making conversation with the guy from Florida during program breaks, I casually tossed out the questions we here at Better Roads so often ask: What makes and models of equipment do you operate? How do they compare with what you had before? What would you buy next time?
He lit up. Details of his milling machines, pavers, rollers, dozers, excavators, backhoes, heck even skid steers were enhanced with passionate, incredibly positive comments: Why, for roadbuilding, this paver is the best he’s ever seen, while a competitive planer is second to none; why, for earthmoving, one actual equipment type, not just make, is being replaced by another that until recently was considered too niche, too small to do what he needs it to do. What changed in the latter case, he says, is one particular manufacturer is just flat out doing its job better. His admiration for the brands he works with today is as convincing as every marketing campaign in the history of the industry combined. He’s … well … gaga over them.
Since his was a purely subjective viewpoint, we’ll spare you the names he trumpeted, but rest assured there is at least one absolutely huge fan of today’s construction and roadbuilding equipment. I know. I’ve met him.