Shortage: Three Innovations to Mitigate the Impact
A challenge that all ready mix producers are facing is a shortage of qualified truck drivers. The U.S. National Ready Mixed Concrete Assn.’s, www.nrmca.org, Silver Spring, Md., 2017 Mixer Driver Recruitment and Retention Survey reported that respondents overwhelmingly noted their biggest hiring challenge was finding drivers with ready mix concrete experience. Ready mix producers are having to turn down business, and the shortage is forecasted to continue for another decade.
So, what can ready mix producers do to mitigate the impact of this shortage on their operations?
The concrete industry is undergoing its own technological revolution. Today, there are a wide variety of high-tech tools available that can reduce the impact of the driver shortage on ready mix operations. When a ready mix driver is hired, they have to be trained on safety, use of the vehicle, customer service, and delivery. Technology can diminish the amount of training needed and improve safety, increasing qualified drivers and reducing turnover.
While technology cannot entirely solve the driver shortage, here are three innovations that can help the ready mix industry survive it:
- In-transit concrete-management systems: Ready mix trucks equipped with an in-transit concrete-management system eliminate the need for the driver to be trained in the mixing of concrete. The automated system takes over the responsibility of slump measurement and management. This enables the driver to be focused on safety and productivity. Now that the driver no longer needs to be trained on how to manage what’s happening inside the drum, the eligible driver pool increases.
- Electronic ticketing: Trucker paper work is costly, labor-intensive, and error prone. Finally, the ready mix concrete industry has adopted electronic tickets. With electronic ticketing, the driver simply presents the customer with a tablet to sign the paperwork and it goes back to a server. Implementing electronic-ticketing systems speeds up the order acceptance process and again reduces training and management responsibilities for the driver.
- Automated truck wash & ladder-less trucks: When a ready mix truck gets loaded in the plant a lot of cement gets on the truck, requiring the driver to climb up the truck ladder to wash down the outside of the truck as well as the drum blades. Many accidents occur. Companies are now launching automated drum washout systems that may eventually eliminate the need for a ladder, reducing ladder slips and falls and increasing efficiency. Most importantly, evolving to ladder-less trucks and self-washing systems will improve driver safety, recruitment, morale, and retention.
Technology is now being viewed as an important new asset to the entire ready mix process. It improves efficiency and accuracy, but is often overlooked as a tool for recruitment and retention. In concrete construction, for the longest time, there was very little technology on a ready mix truck. As one of the last industries to adopt tech advancement, ready-mix producers are continuing to learn how to best leverage new automation technology and connected devices. It is critical to look beyond the day-to-day functionality of the devices to how they can support other aspects of operations, including addressing the driver shortage. Technology is transforming the ready mix driver position by changing the qualifications and training, thus expanding the pool of eligible ready mix drivers.