Feeling Refreshed After Long Overdue Face-to-Face Tradeshow

Spending almost 10 hours and 644 miles behind the wheel of my car might sound monotonous to you. For me, it was well worth the trip to rekindle relationships and absorb new knowledge I get to share with you about the pavement industry.

Associate Editor, Dormie Roberts breaks down the PWX.
Associate Editor, Dormie Roberts breaks down the PWX.

I had nine hours and 30-minutes of windshield time between Monday and Tuesday this week, on my way to St. Louis, MO to attend my first PWX (Public Works Expo). I could not be more excited to make my way to my first in person tradeshow since CONEXPO at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the event looked a little different, masks were required for all attendees and manufactures along with fist bumps and hand sanitiser every 10-feet, it was a great experience to be back on the show floor.

Walking into the convention hall you could feel the excitement throughout the exposition. According to a release by APWA, 2,400 public works professional attended and more than 340 companies occupied nearly 75,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. Those who were in attendance seemed eager to talk with manufactures about the latest technologies and product advancements that were invented to combat the issues that keep contractors up at night.

Labor Shortage Struggle AddressedThis DCL500SM, non-CDL, self contained debris collector is manufactured by ODB.This DCL500SM, non-CDL, self contained debris collector is manufactured by ODB.

Manufactures are investigating ways to help you withstand the labor crisis while opening a whole new pool of workers to work, particularly in the sweeping segment.

Attendees could clearly see which sweepers would qualify for non-CDL operators.Attendees could clearly see which sweepers would qualify for non-CDL operators.The concept of lighter sweepers, non-CDL required machines have been around since the 1990's however, there is more of a focus on this type of equipment to help contractors fill vacancies with employees that do not have a CDL that could still complete sweeping jobs.

Lower operating and maintenance costs and total cost of ownership generally favors the non-CDL equipment. These smaller sweepers tend to be more user-friendly or more symbol based controls, making training new operators easier.

I heard from the manufactures I talked to that just because the machine is smaller, it doesn't mean they are not strong enough to get the job done. Usually the hopper capacity tends to be smaller so the machine doesn't go over the 26,000-lb threshold.

Technology or Innovation Shouldn't be Scary Words

"It's the way we have always done it" should go down in history as the most overused, outdated way to think about your business operations. Engineers and manufactures are designing innovations to help you be more equipped for anything that might get thrown your way.

  • Integrated data logging is becoming more prevalent in the industry. If it's paint and beat monitoring on your paint truck or line striper, to live fleet GPS tracking to understand where you fleet is at any given moment.
  • Property measurement tools to streamline operations is emerging. The days of printing out a Google map image and color coded highlighters are in the past. Software is out there to help contractors measure and bid more efficiently, cutting down on back and forth trips to the property to the office while providing you a professional plan to show your client.
  • Asphalt build up on tools, boots and equipment is inevitable. Contractors resort to using diesel fuel to release the buildup off theseShovel on the left was treated with diesel fuel a few hours prior. Shovel on the right was treated with a biodegradable asphalt solvent for easy cleanup.Shovel on the left was treated with diesel fuel a few hours prior. Shovel on the right was treated with a biodegradable asphalt solvent for easy cleanup. tools, however that is outdated and detrimental for the environment. There are biodegradable products out on the market that work just as well as a release agent and aid in not contaminating the area or risking a fine and lost production costs due to non-compliance.   
  • Cold applied asphalt and paving materials are on the rise. These products aid contractors in pothole, road maintenance, bridge joint repair and come in a variety of sizes per bag or pail. Some you add water to, some you just tamp into place. This type of product would speed up the repair process and keep you moving from job to job with little down time like waiting for materials. Three different patching products were seen in action at PWX.Three different patching products were seen in action at PWX.   

Safety and Operator Comfort

Safety is everyone's job while on the jobsite and includes paying attention physical and environmental hazards. Here is a variety of safety and operator comfort products I saw this week.

  • More ergonomic, lighter weight handles are being developed on equipment.
  • Dash cameras aid in liability coverage inside and around your fleet, providing answers if an incident occurs.
  • Portable radar speed signs and message boards that are now connected to the Cloud to provide transportation safety and parking challenges updated quickly, keeping workers protected.
  • OSHA’s requires employers to take steps to protect workers from exposure to silica dust. This affects nearly any part of the construction industry that produces dust, asphalt millings to concrete grinding, manufactures are trying to help the contractor protect themselves from the dust and be OSHA compliant. Including water soluble additives to suppress dust, which is a really neat advancement.

There is nothing that can compete with face-to-face networking and education, especially about equipment technology that is being developed to make your jobs and lives easier. Manufactures are on your side, they are improving their products to help you endure everyday challenges or shortages many of you are experiencing. For me, the 644 mile road trip was well worth the time and I can't wait for National Pavement ExpoWorld of Asphalt and all of the other in person conferences and tradeshows to come!

Did you attend PWX? What was your favorite part? What tradeshows will you be at in the coming months or next year? My inbox is always open and would love to have a conversation with you: [email protected].