Electronic tickets are a natural progression in the delivery of modern concrete.
Command Alkon Electronic tickets are a natural progression in the delivery of modern concrete.

Until recently ASTM C94, Standard Specification for Ready Mixed Concrete, contained a statement that “The manufacturer of the concrete shall furnish to the purchaser with each batch of concrete before unloading at the site, a delivery ticket on which is printed, stamped, or written (author emphasis added), information concerning said concrete as follows.” This wording substantially required the use of a physical paper delivery ticket.

A recent successful ballot to a change in C94 has removed the phrase “printed, stamped, or written,” opening the door to the use of electronic tickets. Electronic tickets seem like a great idea. After all, UPS and Fedex have been using them for years.

Now smaller companies, like electricians and pest control services are using electronic tickets and receipts. Many hotels and stores now provide electronic receipts to speed customers on their way. Testing laboratories routinely send test results to their customers via email. At last the ready-mix concrete industry has a chance to join the 21st century.

Paper or Pixels

As part of the balloting process, an ASTM C09.40 Task Group assembled negatives and comments on the C94 ballot item and realized there were some potential “gotchas” when switching to electronic tickets. But as anyone who has worked in the field when concrete was delivered knows, paper tickets have their “gotchas,” too.

When a ready-mix truck arrives at the jobsite, someone must receive the concrete, note any water added to the load, initial the multi-part delivery ticket, and store it. Often, the paper ticket is stuck in a pocket, clamped to a clipboard, or jabbed onto a coat hanger. Sometimes the ticket gets rained on, mud-spattered, or walks away in someone’s pocket. Sometimes, typically due to old stock or a defective printer, the last copy of the multi-part ticket is illegible.

After the concrete placement, the ticket is returned to the office where it is either stuck in a file folder or scanned and stored on a computer. This labor-intensive process is fraught with potential for loss and error.

Electronic tickets seem like a natural progression in delivering modern concrete. With current electronic ticket software, when a concrete producer batches a load of concrete, the load and delivery information is transmitted to an electronic device such as a cell phone or tablet in the driver’s cab. With today’s mobile technology, the driver and the person receiving the concrete can click, tap, or hand-write in any required information. Then that information is incorporated into the delivery ticket, which is emailed to the designated email address.

This overcomes many problems with paper tickets. They won’t get wet, dirty, or lost. The recipient can automatically file them using rules or filters in the receiving email client. Since multiple email addresses can be specified in the software, several people, including purchasers, designers, code officials, and laboratories, can receive originals of the delivery ticket simultaneously.

After the ballot on electronic tickets went out to the ASTM C09.40 subcommittee and later the full C09 committee, it became obvious that not only did electronic tickets have a similar potential for problems, they brought a whole new category of situations that must be addressed. Below are some of the topics that were the basis for negative ballots and comments.

What does "furnish" mean?

With a paper ticket, it's obvious that “furnishing” a ticket means that the driver hands a paper ticket to the person receiving the concrete. This can be a contractor, subcontractor, pump operator, laboratory, or owner’s representative.

For an electronic ticket, this actually occurs in two steps: first by providing the information on an electronic device to the person receiving the concrete, followed by transmitting the electronic ticket to the designated recipient. Since it is the producer’s responsibility to furnish the ticket, the producer must make certain they have the infrastructure to provide the ticket, such as a tablet and Internet access, and that the purchaser of the concrete provides an email address for the ticket to go to.

Electronic tickets won’t get wet, dirty, or lost. The recipient can automatically file them using rules or filters in the receiving email client.
Command Alkon Electronic tickets won’t get wet, dirty, or lost. The recipient can automatically file them using rules or filters in the receiving email client.

This implies that the concrete producer must first obtain an agreement from the purchaser that they will accept an electronic ticket and that the provided email address is acceptable for the producer to send the ticket to. This also implies that the concrete producer can’t just send the delivery ticket to the email address from the last project.

The producer must confirm that the purchaser can and will receive the ticket at the designated address. A customer’s agreement to receive an electronic ticket and their designated email address should be a specific requirement in the producer’s Terms and Conditions and the customer’s Purchase Order or verbal order.

Problems Furnishing the Ticket

There is always the possibility that the electronic device might be damaged, preventing the driver from processing the ticket. While the batch and delivery information would still be available from the batch plant, it would not be able to be furnished via the electronic device at the time of delivery. This could be resolved by allowing drivers to maintain a backup copy of the delivery software on their cell phones, but many concrete producers do not allow cell phones in their trucks.

Another alternative might be to have a waiver form in the truck that allows immediate delivery of the concrete as well as capture the customer’s signature and provides for later transmitting the ticket information to the customer.

Some electronic ticketing options may require a live internet connection. If there is no internet service at the jobsite, this could prevent the producer from furnishing the ticket. An alternative would be to have the ticket information cached on the electronic device when the concrete is batched. The ticket could then be displayed to the recipient, who could sign the ticket electronically. The ticket would then be transmitted to the customer when internet access is restored.

There may be customers and projects, such as military bases or secure locations, where electronic devices are not allowed. In these cases, arrangements must be made between the producer, the customer, and the group in charge of the site to determine how the ticket is to be furnished. If the problem is simply that most electronic devices have cameras that are not allowed on the site, it may be justifiable to buy devices without cameras.

How Testing Technicians get the Ticket

The most common negative ballot concerned the ability of the testing technician and laboratory to access the ticket information. With a paper ticket, even if the lab technician is at the top of a building taking samples at the end of a pump line, the technician can always come down to the ground later and view the paper ticket when testing is complete. This may not be the case with an electronic ticket since the person who received the concrete may have already signed the ticket and transmitted it to its final destination.

Of course, the electronic ticket could be immediately transmitted to the technician at the top of the building, providing instant access to the information. Conversely, the ticket could be transmitted to a central laboratory email address that the technician could access. Note that ASTM only requires that the delivery ticket be furnished by the manufacturer to the purchaser. If there are other requirements for furnishing the ticket on the project, they must be spelled out in the contract documents or other agreements, such as at a preconstruction conference.

Electronic Tickets will Become the Norm

Just as other organizations and processes have migrated to electronic document delivery, the delivery ticket is certain to go that way as well. The cost of providing an electronic delivery ticket is usually less than the cost of the paper ticket, especially when the logistics and labor are included in the cost. There are now at least three software developers that have electronic ticketing software for the concrete industry. As more companies penetrate that software market, prices should decline.

Between the desire to be green and the demands of Building Information Modeling, electronic tickets will be both desirable and a necessity. The fact that electronic tickets can contain all the information found in printed tickets and more, while being delivered to as many recipients as desired is a huge bonus.

Delivery tickets can even become smart tickets, automatically recalculating the water/cement ratio as water is added to the truck, or providing more or less information on the ticket, depending on the requirements of the job. Since more trucks are being outfitted with electronic devices to organize geographical information via GPS, truck status, and other data, the incremental cost of equipping a truck for electronic delivery tickets can be small.

There may be situations where using electronic delivery tickets may be problematic, but those will be dealt with, people will learn, and the systems will be improved.

The writing is on the wall. Electronic tickets are coming. We must determine the best way to implement them.

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