How to profit by making the switch from ready-mix trucks
by Mark Rinehart
June 20, 2018

Nearly every facet of the construction industry uses concrete, from building major highways to decorative landscaping. No matter how small or large the job, the traditional method of concrete delivery has remained the same—drum mixers bring in a load from the batch plant. Sometimes, they arrive late. Sometimes, they bring too much or too little. Other times, the quality varies from batch to batch.

The truck-based volumetric mixer has solved these and many other problems. It is essentially a batch plant on wheels that produces a high-quality, custom-made mix at the jobsite. This type of mixing involves two basic principles:

  • Having all the materials needed to provide a customized mix at the pour site
  • Using advanced technology to ensure a precise mix and exact quantity with every pour

The volumetric mixer provides a fresh pour every time, eliminating time spent waiting for the drum mixer and worrying about hot loads or overages. Contractors have discovered that on-demand volumetric mixing is less costly, more time efficient, more versatile and offers a better return on investment. Additionally, it allows many of them to expand their business to serve both their own needs and the needs of other contractors.

Expand Your Options

Volumetric mixers are best suited for jobs from 1 to 30 yards per pour where a quality product and precise placement is critical. The size of the pour doesn’t matter—20, 100 or 400 yards can be poured from the same mixer.

Those pouring 1,500 to 2,000 or more yards per year see the biggest return on their investment when switching from the method of pouring a comparable amount via a third-party ready-mix provider.

Infrastructure repair work is one of the biggest markets for volumetric mixers, including roads, sidewalks, bridges and bridge overlays. Other applications include structure repair, utility work, curb and gutter work, hardscaping, swimming pool work, drainage ditch work, foundation work, concrete leveling and other jobs that require accurate placement of small
concrete loads.

Own the Schedule

Because construction schedules can vary so much, contractors like the ability to have all the concrete they need on-site when they’re ready to use it, rather than waiting for the ready-mix truck. With volumetric mixers, contractors can perform flat work and move to several locations in a day without worrying about aging or wasted materials. This flexibility is the primary differentiator between ready-mix and volumetric trucks. A contractor may pour a sidewalk that needs fiber, or they may need flowable fill or lean concrete for utility work. A backyard patio may need color tint. Chances are, this won’t all be done at one time, but it can be done at different sites on the same day with a volumetric truck.

Volumetric concrete trucks also provide a great opportunity for contractors to keep certain disciplines in-house that were previously outsourced. Asphalt paving companies can use the mixers for curb and gutter work, allowing them to keep the whole project in-house. Utility contractors need this type of solution as well, as they are typically in the excavation business and frequently buy short loads from the local ready-mix supplier. With the ability to produce all the concrete themselves, they save both time and money.

Know Where to Start

It’s easy for many contractors to bring volumetric mixers into their business, starting with a volumetric mixing truck. If a contractor is already receiving rock and sand, it’s not difficult to put in a silo for cement powder so that they have all the basic raw materials needed to make concrete. Many contractors already employ drivers with CDL licenses, who drive larger-class dump trucks within the existing fleet.

Build the Bottom Line

Sand, stone, cement and water are all in separate compartments of the volumetric mixing truck, so the mix is always fresh. Some mixers offer the ability to make up to five types of concrete in one truck—standard, fiber reinforced, lean or self-consolidating concrete (SCC), gunite and color mixes. This replaces the need to have separate ready-mix deliveries and trips back to the batch plant, as well as customization at one or multiple jobsites. The volumetric mixer can also dispense flowable fill materials in addition to standard concrete mixes.

Discover the ROI

Buying raw materials, such as sand, rock and cement in bulk can save 40 to 50 percent per yard versus using ready mix concrete. A cubic yard of ready mix costs $100, but you can make it yourself for $50 to $60 with a volumetric mixer, with no short-load fees, no overages or waste and no rejection of hot loads. The driver is the concrete producer, reducing labor costs. Because the crew does not have to wait for the ready-mix truck, more work is done in less time, meaning more jobs can be completed in one day. Consequently, contractors pouring only 1,500 yards each year can recover their truck and materials investment in about two years.

Explore Other Benefits

  • Further time flexibility—You can set up at the site and start pouring within minutes, as concrete can be mixed in off-hours. High-speed mixing with an auger solution means faster clean out as well.
  • Quality—Volumetric mixers allow production of a fresh mix one pour at a time. Current technologies allow all the variables to be programmed ahead of the pour so that there is no operatorerror. The water to cement ratio is always correct, so no water has to be added to the solution. A number of third-party tests have proven that the strength of concrete from volumetric mixers matches or exceeds concrete from drum trucks.
  • Less waste—A drum truck has 60 to 90 minutes before it has to dump the load. After that, it can be turned away from a jobsite, and concrete is wasted, as is the fuel and labor used to transport it. Volumetric mixers not only reduce wasted materials, such as sand, rock and cement powder; they also reduce the amount of water needed for mixing and washing down, and having fewer batch plants and drum trucks on the road reduces emissions.

Reduce Risk

Some contractors are concerned about the risk involved with manufacturing and pouring volumetric concrete. One of the latest advancements—volumetric mixers with automated gate controls—has helped to solve this issue. Locking in the aggregate amounts maintains the proper proportions of material in the mix and allows virtually any operator to become a skilled concrete professional. Preprogrammed mix designs eliminate the need for additional concrete experts on-site, and information is stored for each job and mix. An electronic panel controls all functions, including automated washout and digital displays, which provide detailed information before, during and after the pour.

To further reduce risk, make sure the mixer manufacturer offers training, as well as on-site startup and mix design assistance. Readily available parts and ongoing technical support also keep equipment in top operating condition.

Plan for the Future

Concrete will always be in demand. Investing in labor and time-saving technology like volumetric mixers can be a good diversification strategy if you’re looking for more profit down the road.