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Safety on the March in March

MulzerMarch 21, 2011 – I am blogging live from Las Vegas, in the run-up to ConExpo-Con/Agg 2011. If you haven't packed yet, bring a jacket! The forecast has dropped by 10 degrees, and today is extremely windy. Nice weather if you want to fly a kite, lousy if you want to walk around the Gold Lot. One of things I am going to be looking at out here are products and services related to safety. However Mulzer Crushed Stone might not need our advice. I just learned that 13 Mulzer Crushed Stone, Inc., plants and quarries were awarded the prestigious Gold “Excellence in Mining” (E.I.M.) Award at the Annual Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association (IMAA) Winter Workshop in Carmel, Ind. E.I.M. awards are presented each year to IMAA producer member companies that excel in the following categories: Environmental Programs, Safety Programs, Employee and Community Relations. These awards are sponsored by the IMAA Public Information and Education (P.I.E.) Committee to promote pride in the programs at local plants and quarries. Congratulations to Mulzer Stone.

Caterpillar Debuts Vocational Truck

catMarch 20, 2011 – Live from Las Vegas, it is day two of the Caterpillar pre-ConExpo-Con/Agg press preview. Yesterday, we heard about more than a dozen new Cat machines that will make their North American debut at the show, including the new G Series 775 off-highway truck which is the first Cat machine to go into production with a Tier 4 Final emissions solution. Many of the other new machines, such as the redesigned H Series 627 wheel tractor-scraper, will showcase a Tier 4 Interim solution. Tana Utley, Cat's chief technology officer, talked about how Cat has integrated emissions-reduction technologies into the machine design. This allows Cat Tier 4-ready products to perform at peak production while reducing emissions by approximately 90 percent, she said. The Cat K Series midsize wheel loaders, ranging from the 950K to the 980K, were also debuted to the trade press. All five of the loaders feature improved performance and fuel efficiency, and each has a totally new cab for greater operator comfort andproductivity. Cat E Series hydraulic excavators also will make their North American debut at ConExpo-Con/Agg. The new Cat vocational truck, the CT660, was the highlight of today's session. To be sold and serviced by North American Cat dealers, the CT660 will be offered in a variety of configurations. It's a serious aggregates-hauling machine.

Cat on the Prowl

Cat_logoMarch 19, 2011 – I am blogging live this weekend from Las Vegas, where prior to the kick-off of ConExpo-Con/Agg, Caterpillar is holding a press briefing on its latest product innovations. The company will launch a number of new machines at the show, including the 775G haul truck, 988H front-end loader, 374D excavator and 740B artic. Engineering innovations designed to enhance sustainability, operator comfort, safety and energy efficiency, not to mention productivity, are part of the company's extensive list of product developments. Of high priority is fuel economy, and as product manager David Campbell told me in an exclusive interview, "Our equipment puts the right tools in the hands of equipment owners so that they can take control of fuel economy based on the performance parameters they enter into the machine." Stay tuned for more as the weekend progresses.

You Heard it Here First

usgsMarch 17, 2011 – Rock Products yesterday was the first aggregates-industry magazine to break the news that final 2010 stone-production numbers, officially released by USGS, were even higher than previous estimates. The estimated annual output of aggregates (crushed stone plus sand and gravel) produced for consumption in 2010 was 2.0 billion metric tons (Gt), a slight increase compared with that of 2009. The previous estimate was 1.977 Gt. Cracking the 2.0 Gt level is a sort of psychological barrier, and given the enormous challenges the market faces, it offers a bit of good news and encouragement moving forward. According to Jason Willett, crushed stone commodity specialist for USGS, the estimated annual output of crushed stone produced for consumption in 2010 was 1.190 billion Gt, a 2 percent increase compared with that of 2009. The previous estimate was 1.177 billion Gt. The estimated U.S. output of construction sand and gravel produced for consumption in 2010 was 820 metric tons (Mt), a 2 percent decrease compared with that of 2009. The previous estimate was 800 million Mt. Onward and upward.

Take it To The Infrastructure Bank

nssgaMarch 16, 2011 – Some Senators are finally starting to stir the pot. Democratic Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) and Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) introduced bipartisan legislation on March 15 to create a federal infrastructure bank to fund projects around the nation. The legislation would create an American Infrastructure Financing Authority at an initial cost of about $10 billion. Its objective would be to provide loans and loan guarantees for large infrastructure projects. With the rejection of an increase in the gas user fee, this has been promoted as an alternative funding mechanism for surface transportation projects around the country, according to NSSGA. As proposed, the American Infrastructure Financing Authority would provide loans and loan guarantees for large infrastructure projects. Kerry has stressed that money from the bank would come in the form of loans – not grants – and that no more than 50 percent of the loan will be federal government money. They expect to leverage $600 billion or so in infrastructure investments over time. About $30 billion for the bank is included in the six-year, $556 billion transportation plan proposed by President Obama. With the Highway Trust Fund running short of cash and the federal budget running large deficits, lawmakers and the Obama administration are looking for ways to pay for improving the nation's aging infrastructure while getting new projects off the ground. Lawmakers are discussing public-private partnerships that can propel multiple modes of transportation such as improvements to highways, bridges, airports, railways and ports.