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Old 02-11-2009, 05:53 PM   #1
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


I have only been a mixer driver for a couple years, but in that time, I've seen a lot of things. There are a lot of different types of concrete pours, and a lot of different types of contractors handling them. Here now are a few things that will not only keep your mixer driver happy, but will make your pour a lot easier to deal with.

Our job as mixer drivers is to safely transport concrete to our customers, all the while keeping it in spec, staying punctual, and protecting the environment. You'll notice the word "safely" was bolded and underlined. I will never do something I deem to not be safe. You can sign all the waivers you want, you can show me a signed letter from Jesus himself, I will not do something I feel will injure myself or anyone else. Concrete mixers are carrying a moving liquid load with a high center of gravity: They occasionally tip over.

Assessing Your Job Site

This is easier for contractors that work exclusively with concrete, because they have a pretty good idea what a mixer will and won't do. This is more aimed toward the homeowner and occasional concrete pourer. It is the contractor's responsibility to make sure the site is safe and has adequate access.

It's fine, I got my pickup truck back there.

I'm glad you did. However, your pickup truck is, best case scenario, half as long as my mixer. It also weighs 1/10th as much. And is half as tall. Please make sure that the ground is sturdy enough to support up to 80,000 lbs.



Otherwise, this happens. I had a damage waiver signed, so the 2 foot deep rut I left was the responsibility of the contractor. Luckily, I was able to be pulled out by another of our trucks, so he avoided a several-hundred-dollar tow bill.

Also, be aware of the grade of the slope you wish us to drive on. If it is steep, request a manual transmission truck: Many new trucks are automatic, and don't have the same compression braking as manuals do. We had a job recently at my company that an experienced driver refused to drive his automatic truck into because it was too steep and muddy. If it leans over to one side or the other, we may not even drive on it. In that instance, it may be beneficial to have a company representative go to your jobsite to make sure it is safe to put a truck on.

Do You Need a Pump?

Most of the time, if you have to ask, yes you do. The chutes only go up so high, and concrete doesn't flow uphill. There is also only 12 feet of them (16 in front discharge mixers), and don't even ask: We won't put on extra chutes. The extra weight of the concrete will collapse them like drinking straws, and anybody in the way will be hurt. This goes along with the "if it isn't safe, I won't do it" thing.

When considering a pump, look out for overhead obstacles, such as trees and especially power lines. If power lines make it impossible with a boom pump, get a line pump.

Cleanup Areas

I can only speak for my state, Washington, but concrete slurry is a big deal. The state of Washington has deemed the ground (yes, any part of it) as part of the "waters of the state." Concrete slurry is a severe alkaline, therefore knocking the pH of the water around it all out of whack. Simply put, its a $10,000 fine per offense for getting concrete slurry on the ground. We need to have an area that is lined with an impermiable substance, such as visqueen, in order to keep our washout mess contained. And remember that we can use up to 40 gallons of water, so make sure the hole or pan is large enough. I cannot clean out in a 5-gallon bucket. Trust me, I've been asked to.

The Day of the Pour

So you've set up your forms, made sure access is acceptable, got your tools and crew ready. Now its time to make sure everything goes as easy as possible. Make sure you move all your cars and trucks out of the way. We may be able to get by them, but its a lot easier if we don't have to get too close. If we're pouring from inside the truck, its just one less thing we have to worry about.

Also, don't be insulted if we ask you to sign a waiver. Our company requires one whenever we leave asphalt. Its not that we don't trust you, its just that we're trying to cover our butts. And most of the time, nothing happens.

During the Pour

Many times, I go to houses where the homeowner is DIYing some concrete, and this great. But make sure you protect what is important.

The best place for children is inside looking out the window!

Most children don't grasp the danger of concrete mixers. I've had them ride their bikes inches from my front bumper. Another driver at my plant had to slam on his brakes when he saw a soccer ball come out into the road followed by, you guessed it, the younger kicker of said ball. Keep them inside please, or at very least, behind a fence or barrier or some kind. If I were to hurt one of them, nobody involved would ever be the same, and I don't think I'm being over dramatic by saying it.

Same goes for dogs. I've had several run into fresh concrete.

A word about "handprints:" Concrete will burn your hands and irritate your skin. If you must sign your slab, hose your finger off right away.

Assuming you're using a rear discharge mixer, you have to run the chute. Don't yell out directions, we can't hear you. You must use hand signals. Here they are:



The only one I don't see on this list is the "lock/unlock chute" sign, which is like the "hang loose" hand sign, thumb and pinky out shaking your hand.

Remember, we (usually) don't have backup cameras, so we can't see you when you're directly behind the truck. Make sure I can see your signal, otherwise I will assume that you want me to continue what I'm doing. Sometimes, when you camp out behind the drum for long periods of time, I'll stop discharging to make sure everything is okay. I will not move the truck if I don't see you signaling.

Front Discharge Vs. Rear Discharge

Most regions in the U.S. run either one or the other. There are front discharge:



And rear discharge (conventional):



If you are lucky enough to have a choice (as you are with my company), there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Front Discharge:

- Six wheel drive
- Taller chute than conventional
- Four more feet of chute than conventional
- Hydraulically controlled chutes, which means you don't have to run them
However, the aren't as manuverable since they are quite a bit longer than a conventional. They are also taller and heavier.

Rear Discharge:

- Somewhat ligher (not much)
- More configurations (conveyer, tractor trailer, composite drums, etc.)
- Many jobs are set up for them
However, the chute must be controlled by a finisher. The communication between driver and finisher is also compromised, since they are at opposite ends of the truck.

I hope this has given the DIYer a few tips to make your concrete pour go a bit smoother. The most important thing is to be in a good mood. If everybody is ticked off, it just makes it that much tougher on everybody.

So there you go. Happy concrete spilling.

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Old 02-11-2009, 06:47 PM   #2
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


Thanks for contributing that Mort! I think a lot of DIYers don't understand how easy it can be to deal with concrete companies and having the concrete delivered to their project. I often walk on homeowners' jobsites and find 3 or 4 pallets of sackrete, and it makes me wonder why they're so resistant to calling and ordering it ready to place.

It can also be very cost effective compared to the bagged stuff too!

Good info.

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Old 02-11-2009, 07:22 PM   #3
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


Mort,
Can you give us more information on pours. How does a homeowner know that his sidewalk pour is the right type of pour. Or how can he tell if the contractor is working the pour correctly.
My sidewalk is spalling but not as much as the first season after it was poured. I did patch it up last Spring and put down some sealer on it but I noticed anothers piece broke away this winter. About 8 years ago, I had my rear driveway re-done and never did any thing to protect it and it has not spalled. Years ago, in Philadelphia, Pa, sidewalks had 1/2 to 3/4 inch gravel mix and now I noticed that they don't seem to use it anymore. My sidewalk has about 1/4 inch pieces of stone material that reminds me of slate. I don't think this is as strong as the gravel mix. Your Thoughts?
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Old 02-11-2009, 10:04 PM   #4
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


This is a great idea for a how-to subject. I didn't know I knew so little about pouring cement.

You said cement mixer trucks occasionally tip over. As you are driving one of these trucks down a road, are there things other drivers (of cars, SUV's, etc.) should be aware of or do differently when we're driving near a cement truck? For example, for our own safety, Semi truck drivers don't want us driving in their blind spot or pulling up on the right side of their truck at an intersection when they are trying to make a wide right turn.
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Old 02-12-2009, 12:45 AM   #5
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


Gma2rjc, just be aware that their weight is staggering. The weight of the concrete in an 11 yard load is nearly 40,000 pounds. That doesn't stop on a dime in traffic, and it will leave nice ruts in your yard!

Rjordan392, placing concrete is a science and an art. Mix design, time frame, placement methods, finishing practices and weather all can greatly effect the end result. For example, exposing freshly finished (wet) concrete to wind/breezes can be catastrophic to the slab, even on what appears to be a perfect day. Extremes of cold and heat can be damaging if precautions are not taken. The spalling you're experiencing could be caused by a number of things having to do with the mix, the finishing, salt damage, etc.......
I'm hoping that in the near future we can get a "how to place a concrete driveway/sidewalk/patio" thread started, and can cover all the do's and don'ts and the how's and why's of why people have concrete problems like you're having. I did 5 years of college that was highly focused on concrete construction, have worked around it for years, and I still don't claim to understand everything about it.
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Old 02-12-2009, 07:37 AM   #6
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


I nearly had to laugh....this is great advice for people dealing with a ready mix truck for the first time, but as a contractor, it is the other way around. The driver keeps me happy or they loose the account.

Just a little humor there....
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Old 02-12-2009, 08:15 AM   #7
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


Great write up Mort... thanks!
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Old 02-12-2009, 09:56 AM   #8
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


Quote:
Originally Posted by thekctermite View Post
Thanks for contributing that Mort! I think a lot of DIYers don't understand how easy it can be to deal with concrete companies and having the concrete delivered to their project. I often walk on homeowners' jobsites and find 3 or 4 pallets of sackrete, and it makes me wonder why they're so resistant to calling and ordering it ready to place.

It can also be very cost effective compared to the bagged stuff too!

Good info.
Amen to the cost part. I had a complex, section-by-section job that just wasn't set up for a one-time quick pour with a truck. I elected to do it with bagged conctete and a small job site mixer. I sure wish there had been any other way, but.....

Cost me almost 2/3 more. But the time I would have tied up a truck just wasn't workable, I just had to bite the bullet. Was a heck of a lot of work, too.
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Old 02-12-2009, 09:54 PM   #9
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


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Originally Posted by rjordan392 View Post
Mort,
Can you give us more information on pours. How does a homeowner know that his sidewalk pour is the right type of pour. Or how can he tell if the contractor is working the pour correctly.
My sidewalk is spalling but not as much as the first season after it was poured. I did patch it up last Spring and put down some sealer on it but I noticed anothers piece broke away this winter. About 8 years ago, I had my rear driveway re-done and never did any thing to protect it and it has not spalled. Years ago, in Philadelphia, Pa, sidewalks had 1/2 to 3/4 inch gravel mix and now I noticed that they don't seem to use it anymore. My sidewalk has about 1/4 inch pieces of stone material that reminds me of slate. I don't think this is as strong as the gravel mix. Your Thoughts?
Without knowing the specifics on how it was placed, my guess would be that the contractor put too much water in the concrete. The more water you add when mixing it, the easier it is to work with, but that has the disadvantage of making it weaker.

As far as the rock size, standard sidewalks that I pour are a 4000psi 3/4 rock mix. They mix it that strong because the cost of putting rebar in all that would be restrictive. If your sidewalk is exposed aggregate or stamped, it is most likely 3/8" pea gravel, which is standard.

gma2rjc - Just remember, they don't turn, they don't accelerate, and they don't stop. If you want to get an idea how they drive, rent a 26' cube truck and load everything in the top left side. Then turn a corner.

joasis, I'm glad I could make you laugh. Just remember that it goes easier if everybody is happy. There's a lot of contractors, but how many redimix companies...?
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Old 02-15-2009, 07:32 AM   #10
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


wish it were mort who always show'd up on our pours,,, more'n once i've call'd dispatch & put a driver on the bann'd list.

mort, you just listed all the stuff from your common sense list ',,, if more people used it, we wouldn't have 1/2 the problems not on

ly in conc but in the world.

thanks for the smiles, btw - enjoy'd reading it !
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Old 02-15-2009, 07:42 AM   #11
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Some great advice there, Mort. By keeping the driver happy, the contractor actually makes his own job easier.
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Old 02-15-2009, 07:46 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjordan392 View Post
Mort,
Can you give us more information on pours. How does a homeowner know that his sidewalk pour is the right type of pour. Or how can he tell if the contractor is working the pour correctly.
My sidewalk is spalling but not as much as the first season after it was poured. I did patch it up last Spring and put down some sealer on it but I noticed anothers piece broke away this winter. About 8 years ago, I had my rear driveway re-done and never did any thing to protect it and it has not spalled. Years ago, in Philadelphia, Pa, sidewalks had 1/2 to 3/4 inch gravel mix and now I noticed that they don't seem to use it anymore. My sidewalk has about 1/4 inch pieces of stone material that reminds me of slate. I don't think this is as strong as the gravel mix. Your Thoughts?
I agree that it could be that too much water was added to the mix. Although, was any type of ice melter used on the sidewalk? That will also make concrete peel.
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Old 02-15-2009, 08:44 AM   #13
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How To Keep Your Concrete Mixer Driver Happy


I believe so too. The cement company probally added too much water. But the contractor should have known this and rejected the mix. I placed Ice melter on both my driveway and pavement 4 to 6 months after the pour and only the pavement has spalled. The contractor who work the pour let me know he was annoyed that he had to make two trips to install new concrete. I had a problem with a large tree root that was in the way and needed to be cut out. I told him initially that he would have to break the concrete first and then I need to rent a tree stump remover to cut it out. Then afterwards, he would be allowed to come back and order the concrete and install it. When he complained on the day of the pour, I reminded him of what I wanted done before he took the job.
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Old 02-16-2009, 01:50 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by rjordan392 View Post
I believe so too. The cement company probally added too much water. But the contractor should have known this and rejected the mix.
Its been my experience (and I bet BillyCement could back me up on this) that it is the contractor that often wants the concrete a lot wetter than the specs allow. They'll order a 4" slump and want to pour around a 6-7" slump, so its easier to work with (afterall, they'll be long gone when it starts to crack). Personally, as long it comes out of my drum, I don't really care how stiff you pour it.
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Old 02-16-2009, 07:20 AM   #15
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Mort,
I am a bit confused on the concrete terminology. For Instance; the truck driver pours the concrete and the contractor directs the pour. So how does a contractor order a 4 inch slump and turn it into a 6 or 7 inch slump. I watched the pour and do not recall my house supply water being used to water down the pour. I think the only time I seen water being used was by the truck driver to clean the chute. I believe he had his own water supply.
I am just slightly familiar with the word slump as I did a search a way back and there is a commercial tool thats used to measure slump I believe. Is that correct? The contractor did not use any tool to measure slump. He just used the regular tools to smooth out the concrete and then strike lines into it to form blocks.

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