The Early History of the Heavy/Highway Special Interest Group

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was a member of the CFMA National Membership Committee. Susan Dunham, CFMA’s Membership Director, was able to break out the current General Members by their company’s business focus. It turned out there were many heavy/highway (H/H) contractors who had signed up as a GC instead of as an H/H member (myself included). We discussed how to grow our number of H/H members, as well as grow our overall membership, and felt by focusing on specific industry types that we could provide better information and grow the overall membership. In addition, we wanted to grow the number of H/H participants for the Construction Financial Benchmarker.

We then reached out to a number of CFMA members and asked for their help in putting together a Heavy/Highway Special Interest Group. Many contractors and stakeholders in the H/H space expressed their desire for more specific information and were ready to help. Specific areas of interest were equipment (fixed and mobile) and fleet management accounting, shop repair and maintenance costs, unit costs focus, self–performing work, risk management (roadway exposures and trucking), fuel costs (hedging) and system, process, and technology needs.

At the 2004 Annual Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans, the Heavy/Highway Special Interest Group and CFMA held the first session at an annual conference. Seventy-eight H/H members met for a dawn peer group meeting consisting of a panel, informative talks, and an open forum. Our first Talking Heavy Newsletter was announced and then published that August.  The first issue detailed our initial meeting, goals of the newly formed Heavy/Highway Special Interest Group, and five articles specifically for H/H participants. John Cooney (Reed and Reed) and Brian Cooney (Barriere Construction) were Co-Chairs of this initial program. Scott Humrickhouse (FMI) was Chair of the newsletter and Susan Dunham (CFMA) was Director of Membership.

Brian Cooney, Scott Humrickhouse, John Cooney, Bill Zobel, and Tim Christie at the 2004 Annual Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans.

In addition to John and myself, Tim Christie (Ranger), Bill Zobel (Banks Construction), Rich King (Schlouch Incorporated), Phil Wagner (E.J. Breneman Inc.)  and many other contractors were instrumental in getting the group up and running. Scott Humrickhouse (FMI), Christian Burger (Burger Consulting), Robert Davidson, Greg Steffan (Arch) and Preston Ingalls (TPR Strategies) were also instrumental and very supportive of our group through both newsletter articles and speakers at our early sessions. 

A few months after the 2004 Annual Conference & Exhibition, Rich King and Phil Wagner moderated the first HH/H session at the CFMA Mid–Atlantic Regional Conference in September of 2004.  At the conference Rich and Phil discussed the current goals (listed below) for the H/H sector.

Goals and Objectives:

  1. Increase Heavy/Highway members this year by 10%.
  2. Bring back 5% of the approx. 500 Heavy/Highway members.
  3. Education Track at National Conference
  4. Education Opportunities at Regional and Chapter Levels (Heavy/Highway Subcommittee)

The Heavy/Highway Special Interest Group was on its way.  FMI was a great help in generating the newsletter, our membership increased, and vendors took notice and started to focus on our equipment and other specific needs.

We had 90 minute mini-conferences in 2005 and 2006 and a separate track was established for H/H and Sub-Specialty in 2007.  In 2008, H/H had its own track at the Conference. It was during this time that we had Talking Heavy badges made so we could further network during the Conference.

There have been many individuals who have stepped up to improve the information available for our niche and we thank everyone for their assistance. The Heavy/Highway Special Interest Group is 17 years old and going strong thanks to the many CFMA members volunteering their expertise and time to inform and educate their fellow members.  It is a great volunteer opportunity — you and your company will become better because of your participation.

The Heavy/Highway Committee remains a strong force within CFMA serving approximately 500 CFMA members that designate themselves as H/H. The current committee consists of 22 members that meet monthly. Historical projects include publishing Talking Heavy and working on the annual conference sessions with H/H focus. Recently, the Heavy/Highway Committee has added an online webinar (more to come) and is working jointly with AEMP developing equipment KPIs for H/H.

The author would like to acknowledge and thank the contributions of Rich King & Doug Smith for this article.


About the Author

Brian J. Cooney

Brian J. Cooney, retired as Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration at Barriere Construction Company, LLC, a heavy/highway contractor in Southeastern Louisiana.

Read full bio