Rock Products - The Leading Voice of the Aggregate Industries.

Rock Products 120th Anniversary - Part 9


IN THIS SPECIAL YEAR-LONG SERIES CELEBRATING OUR 120TH YEAR PUBLISHING MILESTONE, ROCK PRODUCTS PRESENTS A HISTORY OF THE AGGREGATES INDUSTRY.
In This Issue, We Cover The Years 1971-1980.

26 120YEARS 400As Rock Products entered its 75th year of covering the aggregate and cement industries, the U.S. Bureau of Census released a report stating that nearly 30 percent of all U.S. households had at least two cars. Nearly 113 million motor vehicles were registered in 1971, a gain of 4.5 million in just one year.

Engineers and city planners were told in the early 1970s by the Department of Transportation to give greater consideration to buses, not automobiles, when developing city roads and coping with mounting traffic problems. The department insisted that the key to handling traffic was to put the focus of city planning in terms of moving people, instead of cars in and out of a downtown area.

Aside from traffic hang-ups, the ever-increasing number of vehicles on the road was placing a serious strain on domestic oil and gas supplies and forcing the United States to rely more on imported petroleum products. Most imported oil came from a collection of Arab nations known as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The Energy Crisis

Shortly after the outbreak of an Arab-Israeli war in 1973, an Arab oil embargo was directed against Europe, Japan and the United States. Since the federal government had seriously curbed an Atomic Energy Commission’s project to find peaceful uses for nuclear energy, such as power, an energy crunch blanketed the nation.

By 1974, the crisis was in full swing. A 100-person task force was formed by Bailey Meter Co. to find ways to help the cement industry save fuel. At the same time, government agencies began experiments using scrap tires as an alternative fossil fuel source, with cement kiln operators keeping a close watch on the results.

While his impeachment hearings were opening, President Nixon signed into law the creation of a Federal Energy Administration with a goal of developing and implementing national policy and programs to save energy.

Legislation was introduced in 1974 to permit state and local officials to charge bridge tolls to promote more efficient use of highway and transit systems. The hope was that tolls would do one of two things: raise money for new transit construction and discourage travel by car, thus encouraging carpooling and transit ridership.

Equipment manufacturers, fearing decreased sales, began sending literature to buyers dealing with energy savings. In particular, Caterpillar launched its “War On Waste” campaign, offering its customers practical tips for conserving fuel, parts, and machines.

The previously mentioned abundance of cars also meant the need for a major overhauling of the nation’s highways. In 1971, highway construction costs jumped more than 10 percent; 30,600 miles of the 42,500-mile Nations System of Interstate and Defense Highways were open to traffic, with construction under way on another 4,853 miles.

Dust in the Wind

The subject of dust and noise control became a frequently discussed topic at most industry meetings in this decade. Reports began coming in to Rock Products that cement companies, in particular, were forced to boost significantly pollution-control expenditures, since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had promised to devote 80 percent of its $2.45 billion 1972 budget to waste water treatment research and enforcement, with air pollution control ranking second.

Looking to get ahead of the game, Caterpillar introduced a new diesel truck engine that is said met 1974 EPA exhaust emissions regulations.

The EPA also proposed for the first time federal air pollution standards for treatment plants as well as incinerators. Soon after, many advertisements for the dust collectors began to appear in the pages of Rock Products.

54 120th 400However, many of the EPA’s standards and inspection methods, particularly in the area of air quality, were not holding up in court. In several cases the EPA was told it was not giving strong enough consideration as to whether new source air pollution standards were even realistically achievable.

One way to combat some forms of air and water pollution, it turned out, is the use of lime. At the National Lime Association’s 1974 annual meeting, producers were applauding the “rebirth” of lime thanks to new regulations allowing lime to be used in scrubbing stack gases and for treating industrial and mine wastes.

Anti-noise measures to control noise pollution began showing up in Congress at the turn of the decade, culminating in President Nixon signing the Noise Control Act of 1972, giving the EPA the go-ahead to publish limits on noise emissions from construction equipment, transportation equipment, motors and engines, and electrical equipment.

Employee safety took center stage with the passage of the Federal Occupational Health and Safety measure. Soon after, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was formed to develop criteria for standards; research psychological investigations; and provide technical assistance and training. In 1973, the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration became effective, and by 1978, it eventually evolved into what is now the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

In 1973, the Department of Transportation began a study on ways to make diesel truck engines less noisy and enlisted the help of several engine manufacturers. Even government agencies couldn’t agree on maximum industrial noise levels, as the EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) spent many months battling over the maximum decibel exposure per 8-hour work day.

With the seemingly endless stream of measures to curb energy waste, pollution, and employee injuries, many aggregate and cement producers were forced to put aside plant-expansion plans and focus on compliance.

To help readers combat at least one set of anticipated regulations, Rock Products published guidelines to successful reclamation and recommended that quarry operators reclaim their lands “before compulsory legislation is passed and the ecology banners start flying.”

New Equipment

In the equipment arena, C.E. Tyler introduced a reduced-noise vibrating screen that used vinyl enclosures fitting tightly over the operating head, absorbing low-frequency noise outputs.

Sand and gravel producer Livingston-Graham designed a mini-computer system for aggregate truck dispatching. The trucks weighed themselves, and the computer automatically read the scale readout and printed the bill of loading.

To meet the demands of large-volume material handling, Caterpillar introduced a tractor arrangement in 1971 consisting of two tractors coupled together side by side pushing a single 24-ft.-wide blade. In the same year, Smith Engineering introduced a 2,000-tph portable primary plant, the world’s largest-capacity primary plant to date.

Also in 1971, Rock Products first reported on Computer Sciences Corp.’s package of application programs for the construction industry through its nationwide time-sharing service, called INFONET, an early version of the internet, where subscribers could communicate with the nearest applications facility via telephone circuits from remote devices installed at their offices.

Terrorism

Other government-related actions of the early 1970s included a way to combat possible terrorist activity. Manufacturers, importers, or dealers of explosives were told they must be licensed by the Internal Revenue Service’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division. A separate license had to be obtained for any interstate transportation of explosives.

President Nixon also signed the Emergency Facilities Act in this era, authorizing $1 billion in federal sewer and water construction grants, which helped boost the public works market.

A U.S. Geological Survey report said the nation’s known deposits of mineral raw materials were seriously depleted, and future supplies must come from subeconomic deposits or from potential resources yet to be discovered.

Other milestones in the aggregate industry included the world’s first offshore pipeline shipboard loading facilities, which began operation in 1972 as iron sands were loaded by submarine pipeline to ocean vessels off the coast of New Zealand: the National Crushed Stone Association (NCSA) and the National Lime Institute (NLI), and a small item in the May 1973 Rock Products mentioned a cement producer in Mexico, Cementos Mexiconos (Cemex), which, at the time, owned three plants a total of 4,500 tpd.

By the end of 1974, the same year OPEC oil embargo was lifted, motor fuel consumption in the United States actually went down in the first time since 1943. Oil prices continued to rise, however, since OPEC prices settled on a 10-percent price hike at the cost of $2 billion to the United States. Although the energy crisis was far from over, the aggregate industry, along with the rest of the country, was making the necessary adjustments to cope with it.

But the industry paid the price: aggregate consumption fell in 1974 by about 100 million tons; cement consumption dropped 4 million tons. Two years earlier, in a much better year for aggregate production, crushed stone production surpassed sand and gravel for the first time, taking a lead that has yet to be lost and is continuing to grow.

For the Birds: 1975-1980

With the countless bicentennial celebrations held around the nation and the election of a new down-home-style president, Jimmy Carter, in 1976, Americans found it easier to forget, if not actually solve, the energy crunch for a time.

ROCK PRODUCTS

production

Year

Crushed Stone

Sand & Gravel

Cement

1971

874

803

75.02

1972

919

885

78.79

1973

1058

955

81.49

1974

1042

876

77.83

1975

902

762

65.21

1976

900

855

69.68

1977

954

898

74.93

1978

1050

963

79.88

1979

1100

946

80.66

1980

984

763

72.17

Source: US Geological Survey   million short tons

For the aggregate industry, the mid-1970s began with the EPA issuing guidelines to protect wetlands, marshes and other waters from harm or destruction due to filling or disposal of dredged material. The agency was also contemplating wastewater effluent limitations and possibly issuing a “no discharge” role. The subject of the environment also took center stage at many association meetings throughout the decade,

Which is not to say the industry was fighting all environmental improvements. In 1977, an Atlantic Cement Co. plant in New York became the first portland cement producer to receive the EPA’s Flag of Achievement for “outstanding contribution toward an improved environment.”

By 1978, the EPA had issued proposed new source air pollution limits for non-metallic mineral processing plants. Under these limits, visible emissions would have to be nonexistent 90 percent of the time.

Along with environmental concerns came talk of reclamation. The NCSA held its first nationwide contest for stone quarry beautification and reclamation. By 1978, environmental preplanning, including final grading plans, mine restoration and species protection, was required in many states before a new aggregate operation was allowed to open.

Another hot topic at the time was automation, in particular integrating computers as a major part of the day-to-day operations of aggregate and cement plants. At a NCSA meeting, it was proposed that the group bring together knowledgeable computer experts within the industry to improve utilization and assist small aggregate companies in employing computer technology.

The first mention of using computers to improve blasting by analyzing geologic formations, zoning and operating restrictions appeared in Rock Products in 1978. Computerized dispatching systems began popping up across the country to handle ticket writing, scheduling and inventory.

In 1979, the U.S. Bureau of Mines published its first source book of computer programs gleaned from mining companies, suppliers, consultants, research organizations and government agencies.

Energy Concerns

The nation was still fully submerged in energy conservation. In mid-1977, President Carter signed an act creating a new Cabinet-level Department of Energy: the Federal Energy Administration (FEA). The FEA’s Office of Energy Conservation and Environment co-sponsored a series of seminars with the Portland Cement Association (PCA) dealing with saving energy in cement production.

At a PCA luncheon in 1976, representatives from the American Petroleum Institute warned that unless Washington, D.C., did something to control or influence OPEC’s accelerated power growth, the United States may become as much as 70 percent dependent on it for oil. An executive with Vulcan Materials Co. spoke even more pessimistically about the government by saying, “There’s no way to solve the energy crisis. Governmental and environmental regulations will get even worse.”

These sentiments, as extreme as they may sound today, reflected the thoughts of many in the aggregate and cement industries at the time. The pages of Rock Products were filled less with stories of individual achievement in production or equipment development and more with advice on getting the most from your fuel dollar, and how to pass environmental or safety compliance inspections.

Some producers tried to solve their own energy problems. May cement plants installed equipment that offered greater fuel versatility so they could use natural gas, fuel oil, coal, or a combination of gas and oil.
At its annual meeting in 1977, the Expanded Shale Clay and Slate Institute celebrated its 25th anniversary by revealing an upturn in sales and a 15.1 percent reduction in energy consumption in one year.

Cement manufacturers from the United States, Great Britain, Sweden and West Germany announced in 1978 plans to spend $1.5 million over three years to investigate energy savings in cement production. Aspects of the study included kiln fuel reduction, blended cements, sulfate specifications, and the use of low alkali cements.

Barge operators, including those shipping aggregate and cement, were hit hard by diesel fuel shortages in many areas. Supplies set aside for barge travel in 1979 along the Mississippi were almost depleted by mid-year. In other areas, suppliers were either on formal allotments or were receiving a fraction of their needs. By late spring 1979, diesel fuel prices for barges had jumped 100 percent since the start of the year.

The newly formed Federal Energy Commission singled out the “stone, clay and glass products” industries as ones that should reduce energy consumption by 17 percent by Jan. 1, 1980.

The National Lime Association, among others, at is 1977 annual convention, recommended a 10-cent nationwide gas tax. Revenue generated from this tax would go to the highway trust fund for all federally financed roads, with 90 percent of this returned to the states for highway construction and maintenance. By the end of the 1970s, most states had approved motor fuel tax boosts.

On the association front, the first-ever meeting of representatives of NCSA, National Ready Mix Concrete Association (NRMCA), the National Sand and Gravel Association (NSGA) took place in 1975 to coordinate lobbying and other governmental activity for greater effectiveness and reduced duplication of efforts. The bond of these three industry giants was tested sooner than many had expected with the creation of MSHA.

In 1976, a House-Senate conference committee recommended that OSHA simplify its standards, adopt a cooperative rather than vindictive approach to inspections, and place more emphasis on industrial health.

As if to emphasize this new attitude toward inspection being less vindictive, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that OSHA inspectors must present a warrant to enter job premises if refused normal entry. However, since inspectors could get warrants in advance and did not have to prove suspicion of violation, the decision had little actual effect, despite its good intentions.

MSHA Rears its Head

The all-inclusive federal Mine Safety and Health Act went into effect in 1978, providing the subsequently created MSHA with 40 percent greater inspection capacity than OSHA.

Soon after, producers at the NCSA operations meeting complained about MSHA inspections and penalties, which were expected to total $80 million, in addition to $55 million for mandatory training and $75 million for recordkeeping.

58 120th 400MSHA attempted to respond to some of these complaints by making concessions in it training regulations for the non-metallic minerals industries. Among the compromises: the full range of training applied only to workers regularly exposed to or having “substantial presence” at extraction or processing locations and special permits could be obtained to allow new miners to work under supervision before training was completed.

The associations did not believe the concessions were enough and by the end of 1978, NSGA, NCSA, NRMCA had taken legal action with regard to the regulations.

Adding to producer grief, MSHA ended 1978 with a ruling stating that air conditioning and heating must be installed in all enclosed cabs operating in “extreme” temperatures. Since “extreme” was not defined in the new regulation, companies accused MSHA of being vague in order to boost penalties.

A petition for Stay and Reconsideration of MSHA’s mandatory training standard was filed with MSHA by the Secretary of Labor, NSGA, NCSA, National Industrial Sand Association, and NRMCA. This action inspired support from more than 1,000 groups and firms with legal involvement and financial assistance.

Chief among the industry objections were: the obligation of producers to train outside contractors or shippers not under their control; extension of standards to dredging, already supervised by OSHA and the U.S. Coast Guard; and limits on operator discretion as to how and when miner training is accomplished.

Eventually, MSHA promised to move toward cooperation and compromise. One MSHA representative said at the time that he recognized wide variations in what constitutes hazard training exist.

In 1980, MSHA indicated that its staff would make certain courtesy inspections without citations or civil penalties ensuing. New mines, facilities or equipment; reopened properties, or those under changed ownership would be candidates for inequities. During these special visits, inspectors were only allowed to give out notices of violations, which had to receive prompt action and were checked during later visits.

MSHA also unveiled a new assessment ruling system, establishing minimal penalties for certain low-gravity violations. In addition, these violations would not be added to an operation’s record, creating possible “pattern of violation” status.

In the late-1970s, perhaps to improve its image in the eyes of the public, the aggregate industry began to look more aggressively at recycling and public relations. A comprehensive report on the recycling situation, entitled Waste Materials As Potential Replacements For Highway Aggregate was published. Written by scientists from Valley Forge Laboratories, the study attempted to tackle the 3.5 billion tpy of solid waste generated in America by evaluating 34 varieties of waste; the research indicated that 30 had highway-use potential.

In 1979, the American Concrete Paving Association reported that a Louisiana contractor had successfully recycled aggregate from concrete slab waste into a base material. The slab was crushed at a rate of 150 to 200 cu. yd. per day in a primary-secondary portable plant. At the primary, a 40-percent loamy dirt was added and the material was reduced to minus 4 in.; the secondary crushed to 2 in. a 200 mesh.

Although solid programs concerning community relations were not established by most aggregate firms until the 1980s, Rock Products ran a series of articles that addressed changing public perceptions and urging producers to recognize their place in the community. “Once a quarry didn’t have to justify its presence in the community, apologize for its activities, or curry favor with the neighbors and local government officials,” the author wrote. “The public wasn’t concerned with the issues of noise, dust, and other pollution. An onerous, zoning regulations were not a part of daily business.”

The cement industry suffered a media-relations blow of its own during this period. In 1976, the state of Arizona filed an antitrust suit against five cement manufacturers, 14 ready-mix operators, and the PCA, charging conspiracy and price-fixing. Soon after, a massive class action on behalf of firms and individuals was filed in Colorado against 43 cement firms and the PCA citing “conspiracy in unreasonable restraint” of interstate trade. Among the charges: increased cement prices; uniformity in freight allowances and credit terms; allowances and credit terms; and allocation of customers within territories and categories.

By 1979, nine states had joined the initial Arizona class action suit, and the Department of Justice began preliminary investigations into what was “the largest antitrust action in U.S. history” at the time. In addition to charges of collusion on pricing, the cement companies were accused of creating artificial shortages.

Products Hit the Market

Among the new products brought into the market in this period: air cannons used to inject air at high pressure to discharge material stuck in hoppers; and Komatsu’s 620-hp tractor with 20-ft.-wide blades, called the largest bulldozer in regular production.

New ear protection was introduced for workers on jobs involving blasting. Headphones electronically discriminated sound levels, allowing conversation and other sounds lower than 85 dB to be heard normally and dampening noises of higher ratings.

In 1977, a Department of Transportation study indicated that highway funding had been deteriorating, along with the state of the national road network – at the time rated as “fair.” (Performance declines more rapidly after the “fair” condition is reached.) The Federal Highway Administration estimated that nearly $400 billion would be required over a 15-year period just to maintain the quality of roads existing in 1975. But, funding was difficult to come by.

The 1970s ended in a severe recession. Budgetary restraints began to take their toll, and the country was beset with double-digit inflation and interest rates, largely caused by continually increasing energy costs and causing a substantial negative impact on residential construction. The Department of Transportation reported in 1980 that money entering the Highway Trust Fund would total less than $7 billion that year, the first annual decline in many years. One economic analyst summed up the end of the 1970s, “The demand is there, but other forces are holding it back, keeping it pent-up.”

Still, in 1980, forecasters were expecting an upturn the following year, the year that Ronald Reagan, who as Governor of California, spoke at a joint NSGA/NRMCA luncheon in 1971, began the first of his two terms as president.

Next Month: In the 1980s, production begins to rise.