July 31, 2012
FEATURE | Site Services
Patience a key ingredient to a ready-mix concrete driver’s day
Without concrete, there would be no construction and without ready-mix drivers the concrete would never get to jobsites.
It’s a job which requires considerable patience and the ability to deal with stress, says driver Fernando Pereira, citing the sometimes frustrating traffic conditions and long waits at job sites.
Although ready-mix drivers should be fit to cope with the physical demands — such as lifting and climbing — the job is more mentally draining, says Pereira, who works from Lafarge North America’s Milton Ontario plant.
“We are dealing with different issues throughout the day<0x2026> traffic, job site issues, customers etc. You need to have a friendly approach as we are providing a service. A sense of humour would be good as well. It helps when dealing with customers and their different personalities.”
On an average day, Pereira drives 120 to 150 kilometres on round trips from the plant to a variety of construction sites in Brampton, Oakville, Mississauga, and occasionally, Burlington.
It’s a day that begins at 6 a.m. after he’s already driven 40 kilometres from his home in Cambridge. As a unionized employee with the most seniority he has the choice of starting times.
The first task is a comprehensive 20-minute checklist safety inspection of the truck. Once that has been completed, Pereira alerts the plant dispatcher and then the concrete is poured. After that he washes down the truck of debris and checks the slump of the concrete before heading out.
As Pereira usually makes, on average, four round trips daily during a standard 10-hour day, the wash-down procedure is repeated more than once.
As most of the sites to which he delivers are within about a 30-minute radius of the Milton plant, he usually makes the first delivery between 7 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. depending on the traffic, where the job is and the route required to get there.
“Traffic is definitely a pressure because you have a product that has shelf life which needs to get to the site and unloaded within a certain amount of time.”
Then there are the often long waits at the job site as drivers queue in line. When that happens the concrete has to be constantly monitored to ensure it doesn’t dry up, he says.
“In the summer months this adds a lot of pressure because the heat will cause the concrete to harden much quicker.”
Pereira recalls the time a compaction roller broke down at one site and the ready-mix drivers had to queue anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. It was a situation which required constantly monitoring the load to make sure it had the proper slump, he says.
And the demands of the job don’t end when the line-up does. Once on site, drivers have to be extremely careful and always be aware of the activity around them. Smaller sites where there is minimal room to manoeuvre can be extremely challenging and require very precise handling of the truck. “It can add to stress.”
A union steward and safety representative who has been a Lafarge driver for 18 years, Pereira says he copes with that stress in a number of ways.
The company provides defensive driving and other training courses and he’s fully aware that contractors have their own responsibilities.
“I look at what some of the customers are going through to get the job ready for us and how hard they are working, and that usually helps me deal with the pressures that I may be having.”
It’s not all tension on the job site. In fact, Pereira says that over the years he has developed good relations with customers who range from contractors on large office tower sites to small residential firms building swimming pools and patios.
“(It’s very gratifying) when I deliver a load to a customer and he is happy to see me because he’s confident he will receive exceptional service. As drivers, we build our own relationships with the customers and it’s nice when they tell us personally that they are happy to see us, and that we’re doing a good job.”
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