When 2020 started, experts were optimistic that this year would be a strong one for construction businesses. Federal funding was going to remain stable and more state and local governments were continuing to move forward with critical transportation projects and that trend was expected to continue.
Then the world shut down in March of 2020 and billions of dollars worth of transportation projects were delayed or canceled across the country as state and local governments made spending cuts due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The news stories of 2020 definitely would have been quite different without the existence of COVID-19, but here's a look at the stories that shaped the year:
One of the most read articles in 2020 was our recently released State of the Road Building Industry. This article is full of insight for what 2021 will hold for contractors and our experts are optimistic that the new year will hold promise of an infrastructure bill that would create good paying jobs, improve every citizens quality of life and ensure economic vitality for many years to come.
Another story that piqued reader curiosity was of course about the impacts of the presidential election. Everyone wanted to know where both candidates stood on the topic of infrastructure and also what they would do to address funding and regulatory burden.
As advocates of the industry, we talk a lot about the Highway Trust Fund and about how to fund it on the show and it’s definitely a topic that people are interested in. One trending story was about the trust fund going broke by the end of next year. According to the congressional budget office, current baseline budget projections, spending from the governments collective trust funds is projected to exceed income by $18 billion in 2021, a deficit will grow to $502 billion by 2030 without congressional action to change how we manage this trust fund.
This year the Women of Asphalt group took time to shine a spotlight on the ladies of the asphalt industry and they created a list of 20 women to Watch in 2020 and you guys wanted to know who these ladies were! The twenty ladies selected are industry game changers. They are in leadership positions, influencers, thought leaders and even newcomers to the asphalt industry. All the winning nominees have demonstrated success in the asphalt industry, affected positive change, served as a mentor and given back to their community.
Whether your asphalt paving crew consists of five members or five hundred, COVID-19 impacted the way your company operated this year and one of the top stories on our website talked about five ways to do so safely. We talked about cleaning and sanitation, PPE, increasing communication and more in order to keep your company up and running during these uncertain times.
Hiring is another challenge that the industry has seen over the years and one story people were reading dealt with hiring the new generation of workers, Gen-Z. These workers are highly motivated, ready to learn and want to be mentored. They will be integral in helping move the industry forward in terms of technology adoption and while they may expect higher pay rates, they are known to be intensely loyal. Read the article for all the tips for recruiting these workers.
Another COVID-19 issue on the jobsite this year was safety as states started to ramp up mask requirements. Another trending article on our website talked about how to mitigate those challenges while keeping workers safe in hot weather. The article suggested workers should avoid overexertion by taking frequent water breaks when necessary but should ensure that they are not sharing water bottles or cups when hydrating. Another preventative measure that can be instituted by employers is to designate a specific individual to be present at the worksite to monitor workers, and environmental conditions, as the day progresses.Ellie Burgin/Pexels
PPP loans were a huge topic in 2020. Businesses needed to know how to apply for them and then be forgiven for those loans when congresses announced the program and experts say there may be some long-term revenue-generating challenges that come from taking advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program loan. Assuming that these loans are forgiven in 2021, this could dramatically effect billing rates and proposals starting 2022, when the 2021 rates will be approved. Depending on how a firm's contracts are structured, they may be required to adjust the prior year's billings to the audited overhead rate, or they may just start using the new rate when it is approved. Make sure you check out that article for more details.
Going all the way back to May, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced major changes to Hours of Service (HoS) regulations and this was the second most popular story this year on our website. The changes made the FMCSA Hours of Service rule better for the industry and gave truckers more options when planning their days. The revisions helped drivers reach their destination safely, without feeling like they’ve got to race against the clock to comply with federal mandates.
1. Construction Project Cancellations Sweeping the Nation as Coronavirus Intensifies Funding Shortfalls
And the top story of 2020 on ForConstructionPros.com/Asphalt was not surprising at all. In July at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, project cancellations were sweeping the nation and billions of dollars worth of transportation projects were being delayed or canceled as state and local governments made spending cuts due to the Coronavirus pandemic. At that time, at least fourteen states and 19 local authorities delayed or canceled road, transit and airport projects worth $8.58 billion.
Data in November showed that they country added 84,000 net new jobs in October. During the last six months, the industry added 789,000 jobs, recovering 73% of the jobs lost during earlier stages of the coronavirus pandemic so those projects are coming back.
With Congressional leaders finalizing another $900 billion Coronavirus relief plan and vaccines rolling out across the country, we are really hopeful 2021 will turn around and we’ll only have good news to share.