Finding Profit Stability in a Climate of Rising Costs

by Tensar International , on May 17, 2022

Group of Civil Engineers In the ancient days (P.C. – that is, pre-Covid), all was right in the land. Workers worked. Drivers drove. And a transportation contractor or road-owner could call a supplier and have a reasonable expectation that the order would be filled and arrive on time (and at a non-gouging price.) But then, a scourge spread across the land, and you couldn’t count on anything anymore. And, even in post-pandemic times, the situation is probably not going to soon stabilize.

The construction industry is facing significant challenges as limited workforce availability, rising material costs, and a declining number of available contracts plague the field, according to Kenneth D. Simonson, Chief Economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. Simonson discussed many of those issues during his keynote at Tensar's recent Contractor's Virtual Road Show last year. Since the shutdown of March of 2020, the cost of inputs for non-residential construction increased by an average of ten percent. He pointed out that the price of copper, which many see as a predictor of the cost of a broad mix of construction inputs, continued to skyrocket. That, along with other indicators, led him to predict that contractors should not expect relief on material costs anytime soon.

Simultaneously, new project contract bid prices for road construction basically remained stagnant, if only dropping by a marginal 0.1%. Simonson warned that a combination of stagnant bid prices and skyrocketing materials cost is a formula for some contractors to go out of business. Still, the economist did offer some reason for long-term optimism as the Biden administration turns its attention to infrastructure projects. 

The new administration is expected to focus less on "shovel ready" projects favored by the Obama administration during the 2009 recovery and place more focus on vital long-term work. Since these types of projects are subject to lengthier planning and approval cycles, Simonson doesn’t expect the new work to come immediately. 

Cost-containment begins below ground

Even as the industry faces headwinds, individual contractors have opportunities to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by finding new yet proven ways to contain costs. Tensar geogrid technology presents one such opportunity to decrease material costs, reduce time-to-build, and reduced truck rolls.

Tensar geogrid’s superior soil stabilization performance reduces the amount of aggregate required on a roadbed and the thickness of the asphalt necessary to achieve the original design life. A reduction in those required materials directly translates into lower costs and less dependence on raw material suppliers. That's a significant advantage as supply remains uncertain and material costs continue to fluctuate.

Easier, faster, safer installations

The ease of geogrid's deployment over other stabilization methods translates into fewer work hours on-site, reducing on-site work hours and a contractor's dependence on uncertain labor availability. With weather uncertainty on the rise, hours and days lost to suboptimal conditions are also a growing concern. Mechanical stabilization methods can help a contractor recover job days lost to inclement weather and lead to a safer work environment. Tensar geogrid can be deployed even when a worksite is saturated from precipitation. In contrast, chemical stabilization methods can only be deployed in very specific conditions, sometimes holding up jobs for days or weeks.

Finally, using ash or lime for chemical stabilization introduces pollutants into the environment, which can leech out of the roadbed into the local aquifer, possibly impacting community health in the long term. Geogrid’s mechanical stabilization method avoids those long-term environmental impacts.

Tensar’s geogrid offers contractors many advantages in the current challenging marketplace. Reduced dependence on materials, lowered material and labor costs, greater flexibility in work conditions, and less environmental impact are valuable tools to consider when planning roadway construction. Getting back to normal will require a lot of hard work and some real innovation, but with some creative problem solving, contractors can come through the COVID shutdown and the ensuing uncertainty in a position of strength. Tensar’s geogrid is part of the road to that future.

How can Tensar help you get ahead? We offer free project reviews to uncover hidden cost savings and add more profit to your bottom line. Contact us and find out what you could be missing. Or visit our website to learn more about the advantages of stabilizing soils with Tensar geogrid.