Driving the Concrete Pavement Industry Forward

American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA)

In the realm of surface transportation construction, the decision about which type of pavement material is used for highways, roads, airports and other facilities comes down to either concrete or asphalt pavement materials. Pavement surface type may be binary, but the choice is based on many subset decisions around many factors. Those factors may include initial cost, ownership or life-cycle cost, maintenance of traffic, network asset management, sustainability, and other considerations that tip the balance for the pavement type.
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While creating demand for its products is an essential aspect of any business, an industry requires slightly more in order to be sustained and develop continuously. An industry that is supported, advocated for and promoted will be infinitely more far-reaching than one where its companies either choose to or are left to fend for themselves. For concrete paving, this is where the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) thrives.

Pavement selection decisions involve public policy and funding considerations, and so, the decision process necessitates strong advocacy to inform, educate, and communicate to policy makers. Concrete pavement industry companies have a strong advocate in the ACPA, which for 56 years has served as the voice of the concrete pavement industry. Jerry Voigt, P.E., President and CEO of ACPA, explains the association’s position further.

“We are a non-profit trade association and we represent any type of company or individual that is involved in using concrete pavement, so that covers highway work, major airport work, city streets and roads, industrial facilities and so forth – any area where concrete pavement is involved. We are contractor-based, but also represent all of the major elements, whether it is equipment manufacturers, or material suppliers, such as steel, cement, or ready mix,” he explains.

ACPA and its network of state and regional affiliates work closely together to represent the industry before agencies and owners who are responsible for building, rehabilitating and preserving the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure.

ACPA is the sole trade association that represents the concrete paving industry nationally and can offer insight and support to all facets of the industry. “What we bring to the table on behalf of our members is our unique relationships with federal and state agencies,” Voigt says. “If our members are facing challenging issues, we advocate on their behalf and we can set the bar for high industry standards. Over the years we have developed the experience and expertise to address technical matters. These include specifications, best practices, design, and construction, as well as broader issues such as policies for inter-industry competition, transportation funding, sustainability and resiliency, all of which affect the decision-making process,” he explains.

“We draw from our more than 125 years of combined technical experience with ACPA staff and a geometric amount of experience that exists among our chapters,” Voigt says, adding, “we work diligently to identify emerging issues and opportunities, while also supporting agencies/owners, engineers, and our contractors with solutions to their challenges.”

The association is currently implementing a plan to expand upon a key element of its advocacy efforts: national and local promotion. ACPA, with financial support of the Portland Cement Association (PCA), is currently implementing a new plan to strengthen its promotional efforts. The plan includes investing in new personnel, while also aligning existing resources to scale up pavement promotion programs at the national level. At the local level the plan will increase “Boots on Ground” promotion in states identified through a detailed state situation analysis.

Tied to this plan, ACPA also has an eye on shaping the future of concrete pavements in what it is calling “Vision2040.”

“Twenty years ago, the association brought together members of the industry, public sector and academia to map out the future of concrete pavements,” Voigt says, adding, “The result of that initiative was a successful concrete pavement road map, an action plan that made concrete pavements better, answered agency challenges, and taught valuable lessons for the power of trade association advocacy.”

Last year ACPA assembled another blue-ribbon panel of 28 experts for a facilitated discussion. “When we looked back to ask ourselves how we did after 20 years, we discovered that we accomplished about 80 percent of what we set out to do. So, we thought we should do it again because we know from our experience that we can be successful. We asked our blue-ribbon panel far-reaching questions: what does the future of transportation look like? What will owner/agencies’ needs be in the future? How can concrete and pavement support those needs? And how can we go about shaping the future, knowing that we had done it before?”

The outcome of this collaborative process became Vision2040, which the association now points to as a comprehensive vision of the future of concrete pavement in the evolving U.S. transportation system. Vision2040 is a plan, a guide and an aspirational document which attempts to drive the industry forward into the future, Voigt says.

Although new markets and products will always emerge and set new challenges for any industry, Voigt is confident that the concrete pavement industry is in a strong position to grow with future developments.

“In 20 years, emerging technologies will likely redefine the role of pavements beyond transporting people and goods,” Voigt says. “Highways of the future may play a role in power generation, autonomous vehicle technology, navigation, communications and more. The durability and other inherent features of concrete pavements make them an ideal choice for enveloping many of these technologies, especially those geared toward dedicated lanes for autonomous trucks,” he says.

“As it relates to the technology advancements, we remain excited about the current research and technology development being pursued at the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center on performance engineered mixtures (PEM), which will yield concrete that provides consistent quality every time,” he says. “We are also watching with great interest and enthusiasm the efforts to develop self-healing pavements, automated quality monitoring and reporting systems, machine and device automation advancements, and other efforts that our member companies are researching now to improve concrete placing equipment, materials, and paving processes.”

While ACPA pursues its new and ambitious plans, the association also remains hard at work on its core, proactive effort to educate and inform agencies, owners and consultants about the benefits of inter-industry competition. “Competition is the tool that agencies can use to extend the buying power of their program dollars, improve the quality of their paving work by promoting healthy and productive industries, and motivate the concrete and asphalt paving industries to pursue the research and development to shape the future,” he says, adding, “It’s what will help make Vision2040 a reality.”

ACPA points to research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to support their assertion on the value of inter-industry competition. After studying 10 years of DOT bid-pricing data from 47 states, including 164,000 projects and 298,000 concrete and asphalt paving pay items, MIT concludes that in states where inter-industry competition exists, pavement costs are significantly lower than in areas where there is no competition or little competition.

“The MIT data shows that states that have policies that foster inter-industry competition produce more pavements for the same dollar and get all the other benefits that healthy industries provide investment, quality, and innovation,” he says.

“We are excited about shaping the future for our industry. There are many exciting things to pursue and challenges to overcome, not the least of which is workforce development.”

As an industry, ACPA is looking for new and innovative ways to motivate new people, including young engineers and workers, to look at the concrete pavement construction industry. According to Voigt, “we are in an exciting time for our industry and that should help us bring this excitement to new people.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 12, 2019, 10:33 AM EST