The May issue of Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction looks at some diversification options for pavement marking contractors, including raised marker installation specialists, M.A.S. Markers, Lebanon, IN, owned by Michele Johnson; husband Steve is operations manager and runs the crews.
Steve Johnson started working at James Drew in 1985, the first year the company entered the marker business, and he started as a foreman of a crew installing markers. By 1990 James Drew had three crews installing pavement markers and several crews replacing reflectors in existing markers.
In 1997 James Drew Corp. decided it wanted out of the marker installation business and offered Steve Johnson a chance to buy that part of the company. He wasn't interested but Michele took a closer look at the operation and she thought it was a business she'd like to take a crack at running. So she acquired that part of the company, and with Steve as operations manager they were installing and replacing markers right from the start.
When Michele acquired the marker installation business from James Drew Corp. in 1997, she decided not to make cuts in equipment or staff to inflate the bottom line. Instead, she took a long-term view, investing in the operation, improving existing equipment and buying new equipment.
"When she bought Drew Corp. out she had enough capacity equipment-wise for two marker installation crews and two reflector replacement crews," Steve Johnson says. "Today we have the capacity for four marker installation crews and four reflector crews."
Steve says M.A.S. Markers, which uses markers from Ennis Paint, currently has the capacity to install "every single raised marker in all of Indiana and Kentucky. And we have the capacity to change all of reflectors in all of Indiana, western Kentucky, and the southern two-thirds of Illinois."
Since 1997 M.A.S. Markers has tackled jobs in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas. And business in 2008 was good, with 25 jobs carried over from 2007. Michele Johnson says M.A.S. completed more than 120 jobs in 2008 and carried another 40 accepted bids into 2009.
Johnson says 75% of M.A.S. Markers' work is done on state highways, 20% is done on interstates, and the remaining 5% is done for cities and counties. M.A.S. customer base is virtually entirely public agencies at the local and state levels. In the peak summer season M.A.S. historically has run three crews of five people each, but last summer the contractor added a fourth crew to help finish out the season.
To learn more how M.A.S. Markers improved its efficiency, productivity, and bottom line, look for the "Reflecting on Raised Markers" article in the May issue of Pavement. To learn how Michele and Steve emphasize safety and how they run their traffic control operations, read on.
Safety and traffic control
Because virtually all their work is done amidst live traffic, a significant aspect of their operation is traffic control. "We move along at 2 mph," says Steve Johnson. "There's nothing standing still and you have to have experience when it comes to that kind of work."
He says that the company's emphasis on safety and its focus on traffic control have resulted in only one worker hurt on the job since 1985, and it was a minor accident. "We've had people hit our TMAs but everyone walked away unharmed."
Every year all M.A.S. employees work through Flagger Certification via the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). The foremen and other key people on the job receive training in ATSSA safety supervisor courses, as well as on-the-job training.
All interstate work in Indiana is night work, while most interstate work in Illinois is daytime work. M.A.S. crews do not use any special lighting other than the halogen headlights on the equipment.