How government and industry leaders came together to help overcome hurdles and mainstream digital construction.
By Angie Schmitt
In 2020, conversations regarding the significance of e-Ticketing were beginning to take place in the Northeast, and interest was growing in moving toward digitization of the construction process.
The sixth round of the federal Every Day Counts program focused on encouraging the adoption of e-ticketing was released in the spring of 2021. States like Vermont and Massachusetts were taking a hard look at it, but concerns remained.
Suppliers and contractors needed to be convinced and trained. There were concerns about the availability of cell phone reception, especially in more rural areas. A series of semi-formal discussions had begun taking place between suppliers and officials from different state DOTs.
In 2021, Gregory Nadeau, a former FHWA administrator and publisher of InfraTalk America, was brought on to help. From there, the group began thinking about how to take things national. As a result, The National Construction Materials e-Ticketing Task Force was born.
“Really it was about bringing together like-minded folks that had this very nebulous goal: e-ticketing — we want to move toward this concept,” said Matthew Valle, vice president for industry affairs and government relations at HaulHub, who serves on the task force, “And boiling it down to how do we actually get this implemented.”
The Task Force’s goal is to eliminate paper tickets and streamline back-office operations for the infrastructure construction sector. Because e-ticketing has so many benefits but requires overhauling certain procedures and coordinating with private sector partners, it can be intimidating for both government and private sector leaders.
In the Task Force’s short history, e-Ticketing adoption has come a long way, according to Karyn Le Blanc, CEO at KGL Communications, who formerly directed communications at the District Department of Transportation and has worked with the Task Force since the beginning.
“It’s moved now from just researching to the state DOTs actually adopting it,” said Le Blanc. “I’ve also seen an uptick in articles and industry publications that are writing about e-ticketing. It’s evolving now into more the norm instead of using paper ticketing.”
Le Blanc believes the Task Force fills a need for discussion among peers and an exchange of learning. In its short 1.5-year history, the group has grown to include dozens of professionals from around the country. Currently, 10 states and an all-star roster of private firms participate as sponsors of the Task Force.
Since its founding, the team has brought on Janet Treadway, e-construction lead at the Ohio Department of Transportation. Leaders from the private sector, like Keith Onchuck, CIO at Ozinga Bros Inc., a concrete supplier, and Dan Ganoe, Vice President of Operations at Lindy Paving Inc., — among others — were invited to provide an industry perspective and help bring the private sector along.
One of the early successes of the Task Force has been outreach to leaders in the hot-mix asphalt industry. According to Valle, outreach and discussions with the National Asphalt Pavement Association have helped lead to widespread acceptance of the technology in that industry. The concrete industry, which is much less concentrated and relies heavily on mom-and-pop companies, is looking at the success in the asphalt industry and making steady progress.
The Task Force’s efforts have also been important in helping work through the organizational challenges. Many DOTs are using very dated systems, “20 or 30 years old going back to MSDOS,” said Valle. Point of sale systems have to be integrated in a standardized way. Every state DOT shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel; the task force can share model practices that can be more readily adopted.
Transformation of an industry takes time, but the Task Force will continue to serve a need for expert advice and peer-to-peer learning as long as it’s needed.
“While progress has been made there’s a lot left to do,” said Le Blanc. “Everyone has not embraced it. You want those areas that have not been able to have the same opportunity to be able to do it because all the benefits are so great.”