Demonstrate a well-serviced productive history

By Jeff Winke

The life of asphalt pavers is demanding. They do not just move asphalt mixtures–a highly abrasive material–they push, shove, heat, flatten and smooth it using a long chain of interdependent subsystems. One break in the chain and there is a non-functional paver and truckloads of hot asphalt with nowhere to go. To get the most out of their investment, contractors often push the outer limits on hours and tonnages laid.

Today’s asphalt paver will see a minimum of 750 to 1,000 hours and an average of around 1,200 hours per year. But the length of the paving season is largely determined by what part of the country it is in. In Pennsylvania, the paving season may run from April 15 to November 1. That same paver in Phoenix is going to run at least 11 months out of the year.

There comes a point when the trusty paving machine needs to be replaced.

“Hours of use is the main reason for replacing an asphalt paver,” stated Paul A. Puckett, president of Puckett Equipment, Inc., Loganville, Ga. “The contractor-owner will know how many hours to expect based on the typical jobs and conditions they operate in.”

It would be nice to know at the time of investing in a new paver how soon after the ink has dried on the purchase check that one should start looking to replace the machine.

“This answer is up to the user, and their market, weather conditions, applications and sometimes it’s just a matter of their growth and they need a more productive machine to move forward,” said Bryce Davis, Jr., director of sales, LeeBoy, Inc., Lincolnton, N.C. “Some customers will trade in a machine every two, three, or four years and some customers keep them for 10 years or longer. Some contractors go by hours of use–every 2,500, 3,000 or 5,000 hours, and then they trade in. There is no wrong answer here, it’s what works for your business and is the most profitable way to handle it.”
Sometimes the answer of when to replace can be quite simple. Puckett said: “Unload a paver when downtime and repairs become more than the cost of a new unit.”

What steps should an asphalt paver owner take to maximize the machine’s trade-in value?
It all starts after taking delivery of the new machine. A brand-new paver is in top working condition and very clean.

“The best practice any owner of a paver can do to help ensure its optimal value would be to keep the machine clean,” Davis stated. “Cleaning it at the end of the day is easily said, but sometimes hard to do, with job site conditions, weather and trucking. But, cleaning a machine while it’s still warm is easier and takes less time versus doing it when the material is cold and hardened in place.”

A thorough cleaning means cleansing the augers, hopper and drive train. And spraying down all surfaces that come into contact with hot mix asphalt with an asphalt release agent to prevent build up and impaired performance. In addition to this daily maintenance, at least twice a month, it is wise to complete a routine wash down of the machine.

If the old asphalt is not cleaned out, the heat of the new asphalt the next day can loosen up cold chunks which could cause conveyor chains to jump or even worse, break. Once that happens, the machine could be down for hours.

After each cleaning, the paver should be inspected to ensure there are no leaks, electrical problems, loose bolts or other issues that could negatively affect production.

Performing regular maintenance will keep an asphalt paver performing at its best.

“Keep logs of maintenance and repairs,” Puckett said.

“If you have an option to add telematics to your paving machine, we recommend doing this,” stated Davis. “It can help with keeping good internal records that show all maintenance performed during the life of ownership with your machine.”

The machine operator can be the key to making certain the paver is in prime operating condition. An operator knows how the equipment performs each day and will be paramount to understanding when something isn’t right. This is why they should be the ones to perform the daily maintenance checks on the machine. If it’s running rough, steering erratically, making un-suspected noise, the equipment operator will know it. Additionally, with many pieces of heavy equipment, daily checks can basically all be done from the dashboard now. When the paver is started up, fault codes can let the operator know if coolant, engine oil, hydraulic oil, and fuel system levels are low. Even still, operators should complete a visual of the inspection of the machine before it leaves for the day.

A machine walk around inspection can detect things like loose fasteners, damaged components, oil leaks, frayed wiring, and making certain the screed is level prior to paving. It’s clear that asphalt pavers have components in high heat, working with highly abrasive material, and will wear out.

“When the time comes to unload a paver, owners generally will have a good sense of its worth,” Davis said. “And checking equipment auction results is a great way to double check that your thinking is on target.”

Davis continued: “All equipment dealerships that handle paving equipment will have a service department that can complete a thorough, accurate final inspection report on your paving machine, not just at the time of trade in, but this can be performed annually or semi-annually demonstrating a high level of machine care.”

After a life of profit-producing service, all equipment reaches a point where it should be replaced by a paver with the newest technology and more productive capabilities. One can hope that the old machine’s project application history will serve as a legacy of having been a wise equipment investment.

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through