State transportation departments around the country have experimented with paperless material delivery systems on road projects for several years, but in most cases, they still required paper tickets exchanged between material producers, haulers and contractors.
The coronavirus is changing that.
Now, some DOTs are throwing out the paper requirement. Others have gone so far as to refuse paper tickets altogether to prevent the virus’ spread.
That, along with their own desires to contain COVID-19, has sent contractors and material producers scrambling to go digital. In response, e-ticketing companies are offering free services and discounts during the pandemic and seeing a big increase in demand for their products.
“It was increasing before this,” says Larry Baker, CEO of Earthwave, which developed FleetWatcher truck-tracking and e-ticketing system. “… We were growing at a pretty significant trajectory already, and this just took it to an unpredicted, unprecedented level.”
Baker said the company was integrating three to five material plants per week before the virus and is now integrating three to five per day. It’s also providing webinars to help its customers. Those fill up rapidly, and the company plans to add more, he says.
At the same time, he’s hearing from some contractors and producers that are having to lay off workers and renegotiate bills. So the company decided to offer its e-ticketing app as a free service for the rest of the year.
“It’s an incentive to help in any way we can and not have somebody worrying about what the cost is,” he said.
Other e-ticketing companies are doing the same.
“The heavy construction community needs digital capabilities across their supply chains now more than ever,” says Phil Ramsey, CEO at Command Alkon, which is also offering free e-ticketing until the end of 2020.
DOTs rejecting paper
The Alabama Department of Transportation is among the DOTs instituting paperless material-delivery tickets because of the virus. It has been piloting e-ticketing projects over the years, says State Construction Engineer Skip Powe.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we discontinued the practice of accepting paper tickets when materials are delivered to the site, and requested our contractors and suppliers to accelerate their implementation of e-ticketing,” Powe said in an email. “Some contractors were already using e-ticketing, and others were rapidly looking for the right system to meet their needs.”
In an April 8 memo to its district engineers, the Florida Department of Transportation set out guidelines for “contactless ticketing.”
“To ensure social distancing and to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 via physical contact, paper delivery tickets for construction materials may no longer by exchanged by hand at the project site,” the FDOT memo says. The FDOT is allowing its inspectors to receive direct electronic delivery tickets from the plant and e-ticketing for asphalt deliveries, among other methods that prevent human-to-human contact with paper.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is also no longer accepting paper tickets and is accepting e-tickets.
The Indiana DOT has halted its requirement for paper delivery tickets during the pandemic and is allowing contractors to use e-ticketing systems instead of paper tickets “once the system is approved and inspectors are trained.” Mississippi’s DOT has implemented a similar policy.
Several other state DOTs say they are working to establish e-ticketing policies.
Before the virus, the impetus for many of the DOTs’ decision to try e-ticketing was efficiency. But COVID-19 has added a whole new safety factor to the mix.
“We have producers that want to eliminate all tickets out of their scale,” Baker says. “In this world right now, they want to get rid of that risk and safety exposure of handing that ticket out.”
He believes e-ticketing will continue to expand, with more DOTs accepting the practice because of the virus. There will be some glitches, especially for older material plants, some of which don’t even have internet access. “There will have to be exceptions to some for a while,” Baker says. “But at some point, you’ll have to upgrade that or you’re not paving for the state.”
As for full, nationwide implementation of e-ticketing by DOTs, Baker believes that will take another year or two.
“I don’t think there will be 100 percent adoption until 2021 or 2022,” he says.
Companies offering free services
Already a competitive market, companies that provide e-ticketing services are ramping up the promotions to help contractors. Here’s a look at some of the companies offering e-ticketing services at no cost during the pandemic:
Command Alkon is providing its CONNEX Platform e-ticketing free through 2020 for those who sign up before June 30. CONNEX provides electronic, real-time exchanges of material delivery tickets. Command Alkon is also partnering with other companies to offer free combined services to contractors and material producers through June 30. Those services include Infotech’s Doc Express, which allows for documents to be signed and managed, and HCSS’s free Trucking Software, which allows truck tracking on the jobsite and the digital recording of loads and timecards via tablet or smartphone.
Earthwave is providing its FleetWatcher Electronic Ticketing system, which produces individual scale tickets and provides material haul summaries for state-funded road projects, at no cost through 2020. Tickets and summary reports are sent to the cloud for access by those who have permission, including DOTs. The e-ticketing component is packaged with the company’s GPS truck-tracking system, but for the first time, the company is offering the ticketing service separately for free.
TruckIT is offering 90 days of free e-ticketing during the pandemic. Its AirTicket system integrates with material handling systems, such as APEX, and does not require hardwiring for providing e-tickets, the company says.
Ruckit is offering free e-ticketing services through July 1. The app-based service provides electronic proof of delivery in real time, the company says. E-tickets can be accessed on the cloud. The service also includes invoice reconciliation of scale tickets along with third-party tickets. An import tool for tracking and managing external tickets, and live load tracking and cycle time reporting.
Libra Systems, a provider of plant automation, scale ticketing and business integration solutions for the aggregate, asphalt and concrete industries, has launched its “COVID-19 Care Initiative” in which it is offering free e-ticketing. Libra says it also offers other “hands-free solutions” that help maintain social distancing. These include Self-Service Kiosks, Remote Printer Terminals, and Camera ID.
Also, Trimble is offering its e-ticketing service for free to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Trimble e-Tickets comes at no cost with the company’s Loadrite L3180 SmartScale and InsightHQ products. Trimble Loadrite L3180 loader scales have two forms of eTickets: a load ticket and load summary with cloud reporting provided by InsightHQ. The load ticket details one specific truckload. The load summary totals all the loads from midnight to midday, the company says.