The only app that will help companies comply with all municipal environmental requirements
By Michael Downes
With life returning to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic — and the economy on turbo — construction of all kinds is ramping up across the country.
Utilities and roads are being upgraded, warehouses and skyscrapers are under construction and homebuilders can’t keep up with demand.
With all that activity, the question arises, what happens to all of the excess dirt from these projects — and other materials like asphalt millings and concrete?
If records aren’t kept to prove where they are dumped, land owners, general contractors, and trucking companies all can face stiff penalties, including felony charges in some states.
Soil Connect, a leader in leveraging technology to make construction-related dirt transactions easier, recently launched a new product that will revolutionize the regulatory side of transporting dirt and other construction materials, according to the company’s founder and CEO Cliff Fetner.
Cliff’s vision for soil connect is a one-stop shop for any and all of your dirt needs. The eRegulatory product is the next in their toolkit that helps users solve issues with paper manifests and regulatory needs.
“This is something we knew we had to tackle, because, as everybody knows, municipal and environmental laws only get stricter,” Cliff said.
The new technology will help land owners, general contractors, builders and trucking firms comply with federal and state record-keeping requirements, while streamlining the process of transporting the materials and keeping everyone safe.
The idea for eRegulatory came to Cliff after a local news story about an unscrupulous trucking company.
“A couple of guys got caught taking materials where they weren’t supposed to,” he said. “They were hired to take contaminated soil from New York to a dump in Pennsylvania, but they decided they didn’t want to drive that far, and the material wound up in a park. The State of New York rewrote the laws to make that a felony.”
He said most states require trucking companies to deliver landscape and construction debris to different facilities anyway, and most states require a manifest that lists where the dirt originates, the name and company that transports it, and who receives the dirt.
“The whole system is antiquated. For years, these have been manual, hand-written manifests,” Cliff said. “We digitized the entire workflow, capturing information on where the truck starts, what highway they get on, each turn along the way, and ultimately where the dirt gets dumped. One of the biggest benefits is that by documenting this information, eRegulatory will help mitigate risks for not only owners of land builders, but insurance carriers as well.”
The patent-pending eRegulatory app, which is the first-of-its-kind in the market, makes all of that information available in real-time to all stakeholders — the sending and receiving companies, as well as the trucking company. It can be made available to regulatory authorities in the event of an audit to prove the materials were handled responsibly.
The product’s beta testing took place in New York, where Cliff’s family has been in the construction industry for generations. The revolutionary eRegulatory product is currently available in the New York Metro Area, with plans for rapid expansion in the next few months. As an introductory offer, Soil Connect is giving users the opportunity to try it free for the first 14 days.
Cliff, who founded the company and launched their first product in 2018, said feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from the construction companies, excavators and trucking companies who have signed up in the last few months.
“We are documenting every step along the way, and as long as the truck driver does what he’s supposed to do, the company has less risk because it’s all documented,” Cliff said. “They get updates the second the truck route is complete.”
Lessons from COVID-19
As regulations surrounding the pandemic begin to wane, lessons learned during that time have changed how we interact with each other, and some changes may have a lasting effect. One of the other Soil Connect offerings — a necessity during the pandemic — turns out to have benefits beyond preventing the spread of the disease.
The first product Soil Connect launched was eTicketing, and it has had major benefits during and after the pandemic.
“What’s interesting about eTicketing is we are digitizing the entire workflow,” Cliff said. “The old method for keeping track of dirt coming and going is all hand-written tickets. At the end of the week, someone collects and reviews all these pieces of paper and uses them to generate invoices. It’s so labor intensive.”
On the other hand, eTickietng digitizes workflow, and depending on the size of their operation, users can save thousands of dollars a week, a month or a year in administrative costs.
During the darkest part of the pandemic, work on mission-critical infrastructure projects proceeded as planned, but with additional precautions for workers. Soil Connect’s eTicketing app helped keep truckers and excavators safe by not requiring a pen-and-paper signature, or any other personal contact.
As it turns out, keeping truckers in their cab helps protect them from other hazards, too.
“In the middle of COVID, we created a contactless eTicketing product to keep drivers away from everybody in the field,” Cliff said. “We quickly realized it’s safer overall to keep the driver in their truck.”
Cliff reached out to the insurance industry and found out more than 80 percent of truck driver accidents and injuries happen within 25 feet of the truck.
“With the old paper system, they have to jump out of the truck to get a signature and fall over a rock and get injured,” he said. “The contactless eTicketing feature was designed just for COVID, but it’s just safer. And it’s been well received by the trucking industry.”
And with the quick ticket feature, truckers can create a ticket right from their phones in the cab. They can also login and make changes to a ticket without having to call back to the office and print out yet another sheet of paper.
No risk to try
Cliff said Soil Connect is giving new customers a 14-day free trial of each of their software offerings, on top of the always-free Soil Connect Marketplace — the soil clearinghouse that started it all.
“The Marketplace is free, and eTickets and eRegulatory are free for the first month. We are really trying to innovate the old school world. We use the term ‘gently disrupt’ to describe our revolution,” Cliff said. “We’ve been doing things the same way for a thousand years. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘I’ve been doing this the same way for 40 years’ and now the technology is here to make everyone’s job easier.”