Knowing when to replace and upgrade your paver

By Jeff Winke

Price is a given. But there are other considerations when thinking about upgrading or changing out an asphalt paving machine.

“The expectation that the paver will perform and return a profit is the most important factor to any contractor when considering if it may be time to replace a machine,” stated Henry Polk, paver product and demo specialist for BOMAG Americas, Ridgeway, S.C. “There’s no set point for machine hours or condition that fits every contractor. You need to consider the repair and maintenance costs of your paver. When these expenses affect the overall efficiency and profitability required within your company, it’s time to make the decision to upgrade your paver.”

Paving contractors understand that the machine’s engine, transmission, and material conveyance systems can tell them that machine replacement is due.

“Engine hours on an asphalt paver are generally what is most considered,” Polk said. “Wear on internal components accelerate with time in service. Replacing these items can be very expensive. Pumps, motors, and drives wear on a constant rate. Oil samples and overall efficient checks are direct indicators of expected time in service.”

Certainly, the decision to replace a paver will also vary greatly based on the size of the company, the economy at the time and personal preference. Often, new technology which can enhance efficiency, productivity, and operating cost can be the enticement to change and upgrade an asphalt paver.

“In the 8ft and 10ft class pavers, ease of operation has come a long way,” said Matt Graves, director of marketing communications for Wirtgen America, Vögele Paving Products, Antioch, Tenn. “Skilled labor is getting more difficult to find, so manufacturers have invested greatly in implementing easy-to-learn operating systems on their pavers that incorporate many automated functions.”

“If you think about it, paving is an exhausting process, so we keep the crews needs in mind when designing a paver and focus on making the machine operator’s job easier. From ergonomics to keep the operator more comfortable during long days and nights, to short cuts when starting up or cleaning up, manufacturers are designing pavers to make the time on the jobsite more productive. Also, with more efficient components, fuel consumption, noise and heat have been reduced to decrease the impact on the environment and increase profitability.”

Innovative technology in new asphalt paving machines is what is driving efficiencies, operator comfort, productivity and ultimately profitability.
“New technology can make upgrading your asphalt paver enticing,” stated Nigel McKay, sales manager with Weiler, Knoxville, Iowa. “New automation features that are designed to make your workload easier and faster such as material feed and production speed. Plus, you want a machine that’s easy to operate, which can be a factor in today’s high worker turnover, simple operation helps in training new people quickly.”

According to Bryce L. Davis, Jr., director of sales for LeeBoy, Lincoln County, N.C. “It really comes down to the hours a paving contractor puts on their machine each year. We see pavers ranges from just a few hundred hours up to more than a thousand plus a year on a machine a year. This really depends on what the customer wants and the way their operation is set up. Also, if they finance or lease the paving equipment will make a difference of when to replace. Most contractors today seem to go four to five years on average to replace.”

Rather than replacing a paver, some contractors will choose to rebuild a paver that has produced the quality pavement they like and yielded healthy profits. The option of rebuilding can be a viable option.

“Rebuilding may not be possible if the machine is too old and parts availability limits a rebuilt,” stated McKay.

Davis offered a strong response to the option of rebuilding: “To be honest, I wish this option was never. Yes, you can always rebuild, but with today’s EPA and State regulations on engines, rebuilding Tier 1 and Tier 2 engine machines is getting tougher to do.”

And as Polk stated, “Take a look at a new paver and the features available. Investing in the rebuild and repair of an aged paver can be the less desirable option verses a new paver that comes with new technologies, warranty, parts, and dealer support.”

“Also, consider technology advancements outside of the paver. Changes in grade and slope automation control options, asphalt mix designs, trucking, and compaction results must be compatible with the paver. An aged paver might not be the best option to keep up with these new requirements.”

A new technology that’s hot (pun intended), according to Davis is the electric screed option that gives the screed an even heat–requiring no flame, no gas, less maintenance. It is designed to be more cost efficient over the life of the machine for the customer as well as safer for the machine operator.

The decision to upgrade and replace an asphalt paver is a big one. The three indicators that an asphalt paver needs to be replaced can be summed up as (1) the amount of down time the paver is experiencing, (2) the cost of replacing parts to maintain uptime, and (3) and the age of the paver, accounting the results of any neglected maintenance.

If the tough decision is made, there appears to be plenty of enticing features available in the new models of commercial asphalt pavers to fend off any possibilities of buyer’s remorse.

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