The American Concrete Pumping Association (ACPA) was created to advocate for the concrete pumping industry with a particular emphasis on safety. In 1974, when the association began, one of the biggest challenges was persuading contractors to accept the concept of a concrete pump over crane and bucket, truck dumping, or other concrete laying methods. At that time, the pumping equipment was not as reliable as it is today, but over the years there have been numerous innovations in concrete pumping equipment.
The development in concrete pump equipment helps the ACPA members perform better and reach further success. As the machines became larger, faster, and more powerful, the importance of safety has increased. And safety is the now the primary mission of the ACPA. It is still a strong advocate for the industry with regards to tax and regulatory issues, but now it focuses on the larger picture of concrete promotion rather than specifically concrete pumping.
“We look at it as, the more concrete that is produced and placed, the more opportunity we have to pump it, so our challenge today would be the recent ICC vote to allow tall wood into the model building code of 2021, that’s going to have an impact on the concrete industry,” says ACPA Executive Director Christi Collins.
The International Code Council (ICC) has proposed code changes for what is known as ‘tall wood’ construction – buildings up to eighteen stories high that use wood or wood composites as their structural members. The changes will be made to the 2021 version of the International Building Code.
Green building advocates point out that mass timber building methods are easier and faster than conventional concrete structures and have a lower carbon footprint. Others fear that wood may not be durable or strong enough for buildings of such heights and that, for all the precautions, may present an increased risk of fire.
The ACPA is looking for ways to oppose some of the new building codes, which may require working at a local level, and in the meantime, it is also working on its certification program for concrete pump operators. This is the only industry-accepted certification program for concrete pump operators, and companies that use this standard for training and safety have the ACPA logo somewhere on their machines.
The association has transformed its training materials to become more comprehensive and interactive – as opposed to classroom learning – since operators are typically more hands-on learners. The logical decision to direct training programs to serve the kind of people who concrete pumping companies are looking to employ will surely improve training efforts.
The ACPA is particularly excited about the level at which it is training operators. Last year was a record year for training, as over 730 new concrete pump operators were trained in fifteen cities across the United States. It is difficult to calculate the impact of safety changes on the industry, but the ACPA monitors accidents and the general attitude surrounding new safety measures through social media pages.
“When we see operators talking about some of the safety materials that we’ve put out and actually see them following the safety rules, there’s a lot of satisfaction that comes with that because we feel like we are making a difference,” says Collins.
The national association represents the seven hundred members including concrete pavement contractors, cement companies, manufacturers of equipment, and suppliers. From establishing new business contacts to professional credibility, insurance packages and educational programs, members of the organization receive many benefits by being part of the ACPA, so the annual dues are an investment that gives great returns.
“We were recently successful at getting hours of service exemption. We’re working on a tax credit, and we have successfully worked with the IRS to maintain and to achieve some big tax benefits,” says Collins.
Members receive reduced membership rates for ACPA projects and establish new business contacts as a result of the ACPA affiliation. In addition to these perks, membership gives concrete contractors a voice and the opportunity to help shape the future of the industry.
In an ever-changing market like construction, it is important to keep up to date with the latest technology and the best in management techniques. Other benefits of becoming a member of the ACPA are its educational conferences where all the seminars are tailored especially for a concrete pumping company and focus on specific issues such as developing a safety culture, navigating hours of service, and financial planning. Approximately one month ago at the World of Concrete exposition the ACPA hosted a free seminar about contractual risk transfer.
The ACPA has a workforce development coordinator to assist with the industry’s largest problem nationwide: finding labor. “We have a workforce developer that’s doing nothing but highlighting concrete pumping job opportunities for our industry. We’ve also partnered with Recruitmilitary, and we’re going to work with some trade schools, trucking schools, and vocational schools,” says Collins. The ACPA uses social media to raise awareness about the available job positions for potential operators, dispatchers, and mechanics.
The ACPA recently launched its ‘A Day in the Life of a Concrete Pump Operator’ DVD to align with its workforce development push. It had already produced some video material that describes what a concrete pump operator is and the availability of positions across the country to attract potential employees. The new film has much more detail and can be watched by interested applicants to show them what a work day is like. The video shows the positive and negative aspects of the job to ensure the applicant is fully aware of what they are getting into. This decreases the time that is expended on people who will not stick with the position once training is complete and the real job begins.
Concrete pump operating is not a career that is suited to everyone since they must work amongst the elements, mostly alone, and are entirely in command of the machine. Therefore they must be self-starters who like to take control. The position also requires long, inconsistent hours; it is not a regular nine-to-five workday.
However, the rewards of concrete pump operating are also well laid out in the video, including the excellent pay rate and the tendency for the position to become a lifelong career. For most operators, once they are fully trained in the position, it simply becomes a way of life.
As the ACPA continues to expand its membership, it receives plenty of validation about the success of its training and safety programs, and there is more member participation every day. “We’re on a really good track, and we have a lot of great membership support behind us. We also have a terrific board of directors with a lot of up and coming leaders in the industry getting involved. They’re bringing new ideas and new concepts, and that’s something I’m excited for in this coming year,” says Collins.
The ACPA hopes to increase the concrete and paving market to expand the opportunities that are available to its members while continuing to make the industry safer through videos, operator certifications, advertisements, effective communication tools, and seminars.
The ACPA delivers the message that concrete pumping is the most efficient, cost-effective method of placing concrete. It is looking forward to working with the next generation of concrete pumpers who are joining the industry full of energy and ideas. The next step is to evolve with its members to keep pace with the rapidly changing construction market.