Editor’s Comments: Slow Down

June 20, 2018

It’s extremely satisfying to look over a brand-new issue of Grading & Excavation Contractor before it reaches your hands and see the growing amount of technology our writers are covering in the feature articles. More and more of our industry relies on these innovations to recruit better, more skilled workers; increase efficiency; reduce costs; and, perhaps most importantly, be safer on the job.

The tech is going into everything from graders to excavators to dozers to wheel loaders. The problem is that so many of you are operating that equipment in highway work zones. And that’s when control of your own safety can be taken out of your hands.

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A recent study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) of highway work zones shows some disturbing numbers—54% of highway contractors reported that motor vehicles had crashed into their construction work zones during the past 12 months, 25% of work zone crashes injure construction workers, and 3% of those crashes kill them.

The report is based on a nationwide survey of more than 550 highway construction firms in April and May of this year. Ken Kubacki is the chair of AGC’s Highway and Transportation Division, and the Western Region projects executive of Granite Construction in Bakersfield, CA. He says, “There are simply too many cars crashing into too many work zones, putting too many lives at risk.”

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Work zone crashes also have a pronounced impact on construction schedules and costs—53% of the contractors responded that their highway projects have been delayed during the past 12 months because of work zone accidents. The study also shows that 74% of responding contractors report feeling that crashes in highway work zones pose a greater risk now than they did only a decade ago.

So can we order up some technology to tackle this particular safety problem? Kubacki says the AGC is going to start using targeted technology to urge motorists to slow down in highway work zones. It’s basically a new mobile advertising awareness campaign in which drivers who regularly pass through highway work zones in Pittsburgh, PA; St. Louis, MO; Birmingham, AL; and Evansville, IN, were sent mobile advertising with special safety messages. The ads show up only when the driver opens his or her mobile phone and either visits a web browser like Chrome or Safari or uses an app with advertisements. The campaign is crafted that way to avoid distracting drivers, instead reaching them when they can safely use their phones.

This is a giant step in the right direction. But I can’t help but feel that more can be done in a technological sense. Can we create better warning systems for both the highway driver and the work zone employee? Can they be put into the iron? Built into the cones? How can warning signage be improved? Is it possible to improve lighting up nighttime operations? We have to come up with better ways to slow down drivers as they pass through highway construction zones.

That’s the big two-word message of the AGC safety campaign. Slow down!

I’m interested in what steps you’ve found most effective in keeping your crews out of harm’s way. Please let me know at [email protected].