Anybody taking the temperature of the construction economy should be encouraged by CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014.
Attendance numbers at construction's big triennial trade show, held in Las Vegas March 4 through 8, reflect the industry's energy. Show organizers, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), had set a goal of 125,000 visitors; they achieved it by the show's half-way point. Total attendance of 129,364 fell just short of the show record, but CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014 set new records for exhibit space, number of exhibitors and education tickets sold.
The U.S. Census Bureau's numbers for total January construction spending, released the day before the show opened, outpaced 2013 by 9 percent. And the strengthening housing market has Terex CEO Ron DeFeo anticipating pull-through demand for nonresidential construction. But show attendees were talking about the construction economy's big question-mark: federal highway-construction funding -- in a Case-sponsored Dire States panel that featured a former chairman of the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman, James Oberstar. And wherever the 2014 outlook was being discussed.
Most product news from the biggest names in construction-equipment manufacturing hung close to development required by emissions compliance. There were lots of machines on the show floor with engine upgrades in the 175- to 750-hp band that were required to comply with U.S. EPA's Tier 4 Final exhaust regulations in January. For example:
- Caterpillar exhibited its 336F H -- the Tier-4-Final second generation of its hybrid excavator
- Hitachi boosted the payload of its smallest haul truck, the EH1100-5, to 70 tons
- Volvo introduced the Tier-4-Final version of its two-pass loader for highway trucks, the L250H that premiered at CONEXPO in 2011
Ambitious smaller players made some bold moves. For example:
- Wacker Neuson waded into the skid-steer fray with two wheeled and two tracked models, the SW 24 and SW 28, and the ST 35 and ST 45
- JLG trumped Genie's claim to "world's tallest boom" by exceeding the 180-ft. SX-180 with the 185-ft. 1850SJ (both are 30 ft. higher than the next tallest models)
- Astec introduced a pair of industry firsts with the Roadtec SP-100e Stealth Paver with gravity-fed hopper and the Astec RAP King, the only 100-percent-RAP asphalt plant available