AED/NUCA survey: Work key to getting contractors in a buying mood
The 2008 tax breaks contractors can get under the Economic Stimulus Act are fine – but they don’t address construction’s real problem this year: lack of work.
A joint survey conducted by the Associated Equipment Distributors and the National Utility Contractors Association concludes that to really prompt contractor hiring and equipment purchasing, Congress needs to “feed a starving market,” says Eben Wyman, vice president of government affairs for NUCA.
If Congress got busy and addressed water infrastructure needs this year, the economic stimulus would be “immediate and positive,” says AED. Seventy-one percent of survey respondents said they would be more likely to hire additional employees this year if the feds increased water infrastructure funding. And 72 percent said such funding would make them more likely to buy equipment in 2008.
But the immediate problem is work, as evidenced by the comments the survey generated. “Projects first, then incentives,” wrote one respondent, “not the other way around. In fact, if the economy is doing well we don’t need incentives.” Said another: “We still have approximately 25 percent of our existing equipment fleet sitting idle because of the lack of construction projects. It makes no sense to buy more equipment regardless of how great the incentives are if we are unable to put it to use.”
Still, the incentives have generated some buying. About one-third of respondents said they’d purchased equipment in the first half of this year because of the incentives, and another 27 percent said they planned to buy in the second half.
And although there are no serious discussions about an ESA extension into next year, the survey floated a trial balloon: it asked if such an extension would prompt respondents to buy more equipment next year. Seventy-six percent said yes.
– Marcia Gruver
Other key findings:
- 90 percent of respondents said the housing market had affected their business, 64 percent said the impact was “major.”
- Around 85 percent said they were aware of ESA’s capital expenditure incentives.
- 12 percent: How much respondents figure into their utility bids for equipment costs – including purchase, rental, leasing and dealer-performed equipment repairs.
Methodology: Survey conducted during July 7-24 and sent to 1,350 NUCA members, with 78 respondents.
Cummins to add SCR to its engine technology
On August 13, Cummins announced plans to add selective catalytic reduction (SCR) aftertreatment to its heavy-duty products, including the 15-liter, heavy-duty ISX engine, to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 emissions regulations. Cummins Emissions Solutions, provider of SCR systems, will supply the integrated exhaust aftertreament systems for Cummins mid-range and heavy-duty engines.
Cummins previously said it would use exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) technology to combat nitrogen oxide emissions, but then decided to also use SCR, which requires the chemical additive, urea, to reduce heavy-duty engine emissions.
The company will combine copper zeolite catalyst technology with its XPI fuel system, cooled EGR, Cummins variable geometry turbocharger, Cummins particulate filter and advanced electronic controls to meet EPA regulations and provide up to a 5 percent improvement in fuel economy, depending on application and duty cycles. Cummins claims it chose copper zeolite technology because it has shown better thermal durability compared to iron zeolite technology typical of common catalytic systems.
“With diesel costs averaging between $4 and $5 a gallon, even a 1 percent savings in fuel costs can be tremendous for truck fleets,” says Jeff Jones, vice president, sales and marketing, Cummins. If a truck burns 20,000 gallons of fuel a year, Jones explains, then a 1 percent increase in fuel economy will equate to $1,000 per truck added annually to the company’s bottom line.
Currently, Cummins has more than 200,000 SCR-equipped engines running in heavy-duty commercial truck applications in Europe. The company believes this will leverage its knowledge when developing the 2010 North American product lines.
– Barbara Cox
Ecology, jobsite environments gain Intermat emphasis
Intermat – the Paris leg of the construction equipment global trade show troika that includes ConExpo-Con/Agg and Bauma – takes place April 20-25, 2009.
The 2006 version of the show was a record breaker – more than 209,032 visitors saw 1,320 exhibitors from 43 countries – and show organizers promise even more in 2009. New exhibits include:
- ECO Public Works Showcase, an open forum where visitors and exhibitors can discuss jobsite environmental approaches.
- Life on the Worksite, examining safety and technical issues – and associated equipment. Also included are construction site items such as modular units, fire safety and anti-theft systems.
- Mines, Quarries, Drilling and Boring section for quarry professionals. The initiative includes quarry visits before the show.
In addition, Intermat’s premier Innovation Awards will now include a sustainable development prize, plus what the show terms as an “avant-garde vision of the equipment of tomorrow.” The awards will be announced at the Pre-Intermat press event in January and awarded at the show.
Veteran contractor says organization key to success in cleanup
When the Cedar River reached record levels on June 12, residents of Palo, Iowa, a small community in the Cedar Rapids metropolitan area, were already thinking about the cleanup effort. The town appointed Tom Watson, a long-time Palo contractor, as the point person for the effort. By the time FEMA arrived to help, local contractors had been hauling off debris in donated Terex wheel loaders, at a speed Watson says helped maintain the health and safety of the community.
“There was something corrosive in the water,” Watson says. “I’ve never seen damage like this to electrical components.” Having participated in Iowa’s 1993 flood cleanup, he was able to make the right calls and connections to get the equipment needed and begin work quickly. Air quality control became important in the town’s lift stations, which were filled with muck and had to be cleaned out with jetter trucks before the pumps could be repaired. The contractors mobilized immediately as people realized the magnitude of the disaster – of the town’s 428 homes, all but six had water damage, and all 10 of the town’s small businesses were lost to the flood.
“Things like this are going to continue to happen,” says Tim Karnitz, west central region manager, Terex Construction. “It’s essential to have someone in the middle of the crisis who has an understanding of what to do.” Terex has facilities in both Cedar Rapids and Waverly, so when 50 of the company’s families were flooded out, it was a natural for the company to play a role in the cleanup. Karnitz says discussion is underway about forming disaster “SWAT” teams made up of individuals with experience in cleanup who can plan a structured response.
Watson says the speed and the structured response minimized illnesses sometimes associated with floodwater, which can contain not only bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella, but also contains hazardous materials such as fertilizer or fuels. “Five or six people were out between three and four days with flu-like symptoms,” Watson says. “So far, long-term mold has not been a problem for us.” Watson says everyone who entered the flood zone received a Hepatitis B vaccination and a Tetanus shot, and the majority of people were back in their homes within two days. To handle the mold – which must be removed, rather than just killed – Watson recommended a borate preparation. While bleach is a good spot cleaner, mold can still grow after cleaning. Borax, however, remains behind following cleanup and acts as a fungicide.
Most importantly, the cleanup crew kept people informed, letting them know what was being done to help them. “PR isn’t the number one job, but it’s the most important job,” Watson says.
– Amy Materson
When exposed to contaminated water or floodwater, OSHA recommends the following precautions:
Reduce the exposure to splash or aerosolized liquid hazards by limiting the number of people in the area and having those in the area stay upwind of water discharge areas;
Ensure that good hygiene, especially hand washing, is practiced before eating, drinking and smoking. If clean water is not available, use an alternative such as hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes;
Ensure that cuts and bruises are protected from contact with contaminated water;
Clean areas of the body that come in contact with contaminated water with soap and water, hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes.
Additionally, use personal protective equipment such as goggles (if routinely working near splashing floodwater), N, R, or P95 respirators when exposed to contaminated water that may become aerosolized, watertight boots with steel toe and insoles and waterproof gloves.
Manufacturers step up
Many manufacturers donated equipment, money and personnel for the Midwest flood cleanup effort, including Bridgestone Firestone North America, Case, John Deere, Doosan, Godwin Pumps, Monsanto, New Holland and Wacker Neuson among others.
Mack, Volvo plan to restructure
Mack and Volvo Trucks North America have announced a major restructuring plan that includes consolidation of its assembly plants, a new central warehouse and other investments in production.
As part of the restructure, Mack intends to invest $50 million on a new engine block machining line for the Hagerstown, Maryland, powertrain facility to complement the Volvo Group’s global capacity and reduce logistics costs.
To consolidate assembly of the entire product line, assembly of all Mack highway vehicles will be transferred from the Virginia New River Valley plant to the Macungie, Pennsylvania, plant where Mack’s construction and refuse vehicles are currently assembled. An investment of approximately $20 million is planned to improve the Macungie plant’s paint operation, according to Mack. The New River Valley plant will continue to produce all Volvo Trucks North America’s vehicles.
Mack’s administrative headquarters and most support functions will move from Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Greensboro, North Carolina, to join its existing support functions, including information technology, human resources, finance and parts logistics.
Product development and purchasing functions at Mack’s engineering development and test center in Allentown will also be consolidated to the technical center in Greensboro. The Allentown facility will then be converted into a customer demonstration/reception center, and will house personnel supporting Macungie production.
In addition, Mack plans to restructure its parts distribution network by creating a new Volvo Group North America central warehouse in a location to be determined by the company; close its Columbus and Dallas warehouses and downsize its Baltimore, Chicago, Jacksonville and Memphis facilities.
Fourth annual Careers in Construction Week kicks off
Careers in Construction Week, an effort encouraging construction-related promotional events, is slated for October 13-17. Sponsored by the National Center for Construction Education and Research, the event also fosters relationships between educators and construction professionals.
Last year, Careers in Construction Week featured events in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Vermont, Indiana, Maryland, Kansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.
This year, the Associated General Contractors of America and the National Building Museum plan to sponsor the Festival of the Building Arts, scheduled for October 11, in Washington, D.C., as part of the national Careers in Construction Week.
Crossland Construction, based in Columbus, Kansas, also hosts events every year during Careers in Construction Week. The company planned four events this year, including a field trip to a nearby cement company for high school students enrolled in construction technology courses.
In addition to raising awareness about the week, NCCER developed the 2008 Build Your Future career awareness video for schools, industry organizations and contractors to distribute during CCW. To order a free copy of the Build Your Future video, visit www.careers.nccer.org.
– Barbara Cox
The most popular items on Equipment World’s website for July 2008:
Top news story viewed – Caterpillar and BHP Billiton to build robotic mining trucks
Top product viewed – Backhoe loaders
Note: Pettibone changed its Traverse Series Model T10056, mentioned in the May 2008 issue of Equipment World, to Model T1157 after press time.