Strength in adversity: SCRA news December 2020
By Mike Chalmers and Alex Dahm25 March 2021
SC&RA remained dedicated to working for the interests of its members in 2020 while continuing to productively navigate what ultimately has become a “new normal.”
Perhaps no single effort speaks more to the Association’s commitment to its members than one of the largest advocacy wins of the year. Within a week of the pandemic’s emergence, SC&RA advocated for and received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that the crane, rigging and specialized transportation industry, and its workers, would be considered essential critical infrastructure.
SC&RA also quickly established its Covid-19 Crisis Command Center, allowing members to navigate and understand new enforcement and changes due to the pandemic.
In-person challenges being what they were, SC&RA had to cancel its 2020 Annual Conference in April but, in the months that followed, a comprehensive effort was put forth to develop and offer a virtual Crane and Rigging Workshop, which Association staff, along with partners, were able to present to members in September.
“Having to cancel a couple live meetings put a dent in our networking and education efforts, as well as bringing people together, which has always been one of our great strengths,” said Joel Dandrea, CEO. “Essentially, we had to recraft the way we went about 2020, and the virtual Workshop was a result of that thinking.”
Ultimately, explained Dandrea, a key takeaway from the Workshop was that most members agree: there’s no substitute for live events. With that in mind, the Association developed SC&RA Safe Protocol. It is a set of measures that align with CDC, state and local jurisdiction health guidelines and hotel biosafety measures – representing extra steps SC&RA is taking to enhance health and safety measures to reassure attendees and increase confidence in attending in-person events.
Ready to act
Tower crane signage garnered added attention this year, resulting in the recent publication of SC&RA’s Tower Crane Signage Guidelines, which is available in the members-only section of the SC&RA website – where an ever-increasing collection of innovative tools continues to emerge as a free benefit of membership.
“Additionally, early next year, SC&RA will be releasing guidance on tower crane contract language, providing not only education regarding terms and conditions, but highlighting their impact on the industry overall,” said Beth O’Quinn, senior vice president, crane and rigging.
Also on the docket is the January release of SC&RA’s Truck Crane and All Terrain Crane Boom Dolly Best Practices – available via SC&RA’s online Training Center. And likely available by the end of this year, the Association’s revamped Toolbox Safety Talks will be available to members via downloadable PDFs, featuring different topics, including fire safety, fall protection and PPE, which could help members meet their training requirements for OSHA.
To that end, the Association will be working on an industry-specific OSHA legal defence guide as well. O’Quinn added that SC&RA is also awaiting the compliance directive on cranes and derricks and has been in contact with the Department of Labor’s director of OSHA’s Directorate of Construction. “We’re ready to act once it’s unveiled,” she confirmed.
Picking up speed
On the transportation side, UPT2021 continued to pick up speed this year. Developed to establish harmonisation between all 50 U.S. states on OS/OW envelope vehicle configurations by the end of 2021, two of the primary goals for UPT2021 are to encourage all states to allow minimum weight thresholds, and to analyse and issue permits via automated permit systems, 24-7.
This year, advancements toward UPT2021 occurred in Texas and Indiana, and by the end of 2020, North Carolina will be the 37th state to begin issuing single-trip oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits.
“While new to the Association, I’m familiar with these issues and the importance of continuing the focus on harmonisation, uniformity, automation and strong partnerships with the state and federal officials, which have led to our current successes,” said Chris Smith, SC&RA vice president, transportation. “The Permit Policy Committee, and all of the members in both transportation and crane and rigging that have and continue to be involved in UPT2021, have a great deal to be proud of and much work ahead to maintain our momentum.”
Members will also take note of an additional SC&RA win in 2020 involving the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publishing the final rule on changes to hours-of-service regulations. The changes reflect some of the sentiments of SC&RA both in formal comments submitted last fall and in a private meeting between Association leadership and FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen in February 2020. SC&RA submitted comments to FMCSA in the Fall of 2019 and asked for more flexibility on the split sleeper berth. The new changes did improve to 7+3 (SC&RA sought 6+4).
Given the complexity of 2020, Dandrea pointed out that SC&RA was able to hold true and steady on its advocacy initiatives with regard to both transportation and crane and rigging.
As a result, he emphasised that membership loyalty remains strong and feedback positive. “When you consider a testy election cycle, the timing of vaccines, the infrastructure package, any upcoming stimulus packages – there’s a lot on everyone’s minds, but membership has remained committed,” he indicated.
The infrastructure package, said Dandrea, is high on SC&RA’s agenda. “A lot of organisations have been pushing legislation on this for a number of years. Both sides agree with the need for an infrastructure package and it’s just been about hammering out the details, putting aside the politics and not worrying about who gets credit. This being an election year, we’re hopeful that once the dust settles, the administration will sit down with Congress in the next few months and make a deal. It’s essential for our entire industry.”
Also essential is the ongoing workforce issue, and the Association’s workforce development arm, Lift & Move USA – administered by the SC&R Foundation – faced its own challenges this year, as large gatherings were cancelled – a key element to the endeavour’s success.
But Lift & Move USA rallied in October, in honour of Careers in Construction Month, with its governing committee developing “Lift and Move in a Box.” Committee Chair Stephanie Bragg explained, “This guidebook, or ‘action plan,’ along with the resources on the Lift & Move USA website, give member companies the tools and directions to successfully forge new relationships with their local community, host a small-scale event and utilise tangible ways to promote career opportunities in the industry.”
Bragg stressed that the endeavour is “…a wonderful way to get involved with workforce development at a grassroots level and begin recruiting for the crane, rigging and transportation industries.” More information is at: www.liftandmoveusa.scr-foundation.org
Rounding out 2020, SC&RA members will notice the newly developed Environmental Policy Committee. “Over the past few years,” noted Dandrea, “because of regulatory issues, both federal and state, that affect manufacturers and end-users on environmental controls and regulation, there’s been more discussion and more interest. So, we’re getting this committee started in order to be more proactive and take a look at some of these environmental issues, and from an advocacy standpoint, weigh in and help educate our members accordingly.”
He added, “Big picture – as we look back on 2020, almost everyone has had to navigate some kind of challenge. But the support, interest and participation from members has been strong. It goes without saying: we’re encouraged, and we’re going to keep pushing forward.”