EDC-6 to Impact Asphalt Production Facilities

The Federal Highway Administration Every Day Counts initiative added e-ticketing to their innovation acceleration program

Gallagher Asphalt, Thornton, IL, uses a paperless process for truck planning, scheduling, e‐Ticketing, digital timecards and faster invoicing/payment
Gallagher Asphalt, Thornton, IL, uses a paperless process for truck planning, scheduling, e‐Ticketing, digital timecards
and faster invoicing/payment

Since 2009, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has supported new and better ideas to get highways planned, designed, built and maintained with the Every Day Counts (EDC) program. Through this strategic innovation initiative, FHWA works with stakeholders throughout the country to identify a new collection of proven, yet underutilized, innovations every two years.

Now in its sixth cycle, EDC-6 Innovations for 2021-2022 includes several initiatives that FHWA feels will positively impact the industry and electronic ticketing is one of them that will directly impact asphalt plant owners and mix producers. 

"Highway construction projects produce massive amounts of valuable data. Historically, information such as materials tickets and as-built plans were communicated via paper," FHWA says. "Today's transportation agencies are improving on these paper processes by integrating them into electronic and digital workflows. Electronic ticketing (e-Ticketing) improves the tracking, exchange, and archiving of materials tickets. Digital information, such as 3D design models and other metadata, can enhance the value of contract documents and the future usability of the as-built plans for operations, maintenance and asset management. Both can increase project safety and quality through efficient data gathering and sharing."

More than a dozen state DOTs, including Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, Delaware and Pennsylvania, currently use e-Ticketing for construction contracts with 43 states committing to trying some form of the technology by 2022. 

Due to the related safety concerns with COVID-19, State DOTs began to introduce specific e-Ticketing guidelines with a greater sense of urgency. Material producers took many steps to transition their scalehouse operations to e-Ticketing to promote social distancing. These regulations are providing a clear path for contractors to implement an electronic ticketing platform, sooner rather than later. Will your plant be ready to comply?

States Take Initiative 

Because of its benefits, many states have been piloting the e-Ticketing platforms since long before COVID and are seeing the benefits. 

"The state of Delaware (DelDot) right now has all of their hot mix asphalt producers and plants up and running fully digital," Matthew Valle, VP of Industry Relations at HaulHub, Inc. says. "That's 16 plants in Delaware that are now feeding into Delaware DOT's electronic portal."

The benefits of e-ticketing for states include: 

  1. Increased safety: Removing the need for on-site ticket collection.

  2. Labor savings: Less paperwork and manual tabulation of material costs.

  3. Smoother roads: A paver that is low on material and begins to cool down can leave a bumpy surface. Knowing when new material will arrive allows for a more consistent flow of material to the paver, resulting in smoother roads.

  4. Accurate accounting: Better record-keeping of material usage improves planning for future projects.

  5. Reduced risk: Mitigates disputes over which plant the material came from and whether appropriate haul routes were used.

The entire e-Ticketing process can enhance project delivery for an industry that is struggling with how to keep up with an increasing amount of work. 

"Right now, 41% of the industry will be retiring from construction over the next 10 years," Valle says. "We need to find ways to bridge that talent gap. We're going to have designers that aren't going to be here, field inspectors that aren't going to be here. So we need to start putting pieces in place now to help with this massive drain that's occurring in the industry that's not attracting new people. Digital tools can help project owners and contractors do more with less."

The Minnesota DOT (MnDOT) has been ramping up the use of paperless technology for tracking deliveries of hot mix asphalt since 2018. MnDOT has seen the process improve safety and efficiency on road projects.

"MnDOT construction projects require tons of hot mix asphalt each year, with over 188 road and bridge projects in the 2020 construction season alone," the Department said

E-ticketing was used on 29 MnDOT projects in 2020, including work on Interstate 494, I-94, and I-35W, according to MnDOT. That’s up from seven projects in 2019 and three in 2018, the department noted. MnDOT is facilitating an e-ticketing task force that includes the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), contractors, auditors, labor officials, asphalt producers and others. The group is developing recommendations for AASHTO MP39-19, intelligent construction file format specifications used by state DOTs. Once e-ticketing recommendations are defined, they will be voted on by all 50 states and refined over the next seven years.

As a complement to the AASHTO group (which is developing the specifications), The National Construction Materials e-Ticketing Task Force, advised by Former FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau is facilitating the discussion on the practical implementation across the US. The Task Force, and public and private sector members, are working together to discuss and tackle the numerous practical challenges that come with moving from a paper-based world to a digital world.

Rapid Growth Expected

With COVID expediting the use of e-Ticketing technology, the changes for the asphalt industry are going to happen very rapidly. 

"Nobody wanted to be the first one to do it," Valle says. "Now that there are DOTs that have a fairly robust system and framework for success set up,  these things are starting to come together extremely rapidly. DOTs are saying, 'okay, there are solutions out there, that can then help us get fully up and running and on board in very short order, so let's do it.'"

Change in the asphalt industry tends to happen slowly, but states are finding contractors who are willing to collaborate with them to get the process moving. 

"Pennsylvania has an e-Ticketing portal and are working with companies like Lindy Paving to get that data they need and into the portal in a manner that makes sense for the department," Valle says. "Between the asphalt paving associations, the DOT, e-ticketing vendors and producers, we're all working together to get that information seamlessly transitioned for the departments in an efficient and standardized way."

That data is beneficial to the DOT, but also to the producers. 

"Right now, this structured data lives for the most part in a relational database stored at the plant level and not all the time is that data even aggregated or accessible," Valle says. "e-Ticketing, facilitates the unlocking of that information that lays latent in that database and what this does is provides the producers and contractors with better insights into their customer base and their productivity. So instead of looking at manual printouts and spreadsheets, they can start to get those productivity insights in real-time to learn what they can be doing better to help service their customers and understand those customer dynamics."

With this collaboration, the model is now being set across the country for DOTs to work with associations and contractors to get everyone on the same page. Contractors will begin seeing the impact of this at an extremely rapid pace and they shouldn't be afraid to embrace it. 

"With technology accelerating rapidly these days, minds are being opened to the value of new ways of looking at old problems such as optimizing coordination and communication on the jobsite ," Valle says, "It's the stuff that can actually help us be more productive and more intelligent by using the data to give us better insights into the daily work in the field. We see this push now not only from the DOTs but also from the producers and contractors who are gaining valuable insight to conduct their business in a more efficient way."

Painless Implementation

As with any new process, contractors are reluctant to invest because of the cost and time associated with the change.  With e-Ticketing however, both perceived barriers to entry are easily mitigated. 

"Change can be hard but once contractors and producers experience how this can streamline their operations, they usually will understand this is something they need," Valle says. "It will help make them better communicators, help them get paid faster and help keep everyone safe as well. This technology is really providing that key insight and data into how you can be running your business more effectively."

And once you decide to proceed with implementation, vendors can get your company up and running right away. 

"We have an implementation team that will work with contractors and producers to get them going and get the information in the right spots and integrated into the necessary systems," Valle says. "Our training teams will work with them and get them all trained up so they are fully supported all along the way. So it's a fairly painless process that can be ready to go in about a week."

As more states ramp up their e-Ticketing requirements, producers need to be ready to comply.