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Honoring Barry Wendt

nssga200x92March 24, 2011 – To honor the memory of the late Barry K. Wendt, who tirelessly devoted his energy to advance the causes of the aggregates industry, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) presents an annual scholarship to a student from an engineering school who plans to pursue a career in the aggregates industry. I knew Barry, who died suddenly in 1997, during his tenure at Cedarapids. He was the kind of straight shooter that those of us in the trade press appreciate: He told you when you were doing a good job, and when he didn't think you were, he gave you hell and told you how to do it better. I miss Barry's candor and counsel, and I wholeheartedly support NSSGA's Wendt Memorial Scholarship. Applications are open to all members and non-members. The deadline for applications is June 6, 2011.   Please click here for instructions and click here for an application form.

Fatality #5

FatalityMay 23, 2011 – MSHA reports that on April 25, 2011, a 31 year- old drill operator with six weeks of experience was killed at an underground crushed stone operation. He was walking in a crosscut when a slab of roof, approximately 5 ft. wide x 6 ft. long x 10 in. thick, struck him. This is the fifth fatality reported in calendar year 2011 in the metal and nonmetal mining sectors. As of this date in 2010, there were three fatalities reported in these sectors. MSHA Best Practices specific to this fatality include: Train workers to identify work place hazards and take action to correct them; design, install, and maintain a support system to control the ground in places where employees work or travel; examine and test ground conditions in areas where work is to be performed prior to work commencing and as ground conditions warrant during the shift; when ground conditions create a hazard to workers, install additional ground support before other work is permitted in the affected area; and be alert to any change of ground conditions.

First Quarter Sneak Peak

usgsMay 19, 2011 – USGS has released preliminary data on the first quarter of 2011, and year-over-year, market performance is weak. In the first quarter of 2011, domestic production for selected construction materials (cement, construction sand and gravel, and crushed stone) decreased compared with those of the fourth quarter of 2010, primarily owing to seasonal variation. Cement decreased 26 percent;  Sand and gravel was down 36 percent; and Crushed Stone was off 29 percent. Decreases in production for some mineral commodities in the first quarter of 2011 compared with production in the same quarter of 2010 may be attributed to decreases in total construction spending, which declined by 7.8 percent during the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that privately owned housing starts for the first quarter 2011 were 9.9 percent below those for the same period of 2010.

Highway Funds by the Mile

gas_pricesMay 18, 2011 – Just when you thought there was no new ideas for generating revenue for infrastructure improvement, along comes the "vehicle miles travelled" tax. According to an article on CNN Money, Washington lawmakers are kicking around a new idea to help raise funds: a national driving tax charging motorists by the mile. A driving tax could either replace the current 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax or possibly add to it. The idea is being floated because greater fuel economy is letting motorists drive more miles using less gas, thus lowering the amount of money going into the Highway Trust Fund. A driving tax, officially known as a "vehicle miles traveled" tax, could close that gap. While many see a driving tax as more efficient than the gas tax, there are privacy concerns over how driving information would be collected. Plus, lawmakers opposed to the idea say it places a heavier burden on motorists from rural states. I want to know who the lawmakers are kicking that around, so I can kick them around.

Young Leaders a Great Event

Dragline_BucketMay 16, 2011 – The NSSGA Young Leaders (YL) Annual Meeting took place this past weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  I am glad I was able to take part in such a great event. The YL meeting is a way for the younger generation (age 40 and below) to develop leadership and management skills, build a national network of industry professionals and to discuss/address industry topics. This was my first YL event AND my first visit to CEMEX FEC Quarry. As the photo of the dragline bucket depicts, I had a blast at the quarry and well, even witnessed a blast while I was there. Beyond the quarry fun, there were educational meetings, a community project with Feeding South Florida and a lot of relationship-building, which I hope turns into life-long friendships. Stay tuned for a more detailed account of my experience at the YL meeting in our upcoming issue of Rock Products. -- Josephine Smith