What to consider

By Jeff Winke

In quiet moments of reflection, an asphalt paving contractor’s thinking will trip over the central question….. What type of paving machine do I really need? That is a big question. The answer can branch out into many directions, each being pushed out by a different response to the logical response…. it depends.

“Understanding your existing scope of work and your anticipated future scope of work is critical to knowing if your current paver is the best fit for your needs,” stated Keith Hagy, paving product manager with Astec Industries, Chattanooga, Tennessee. “What are you doing now and what do you aspire to be?”

“Trying to match every job that a customer might be faced with over the life of owning a machine to the right paver can be tough …“

When looking at current and future jobs the work can be grouped according to type of paving. There is mainline paving, municipal and county projects, or commercial paving. There is distinct differences in these types of paving and the features of the paver are distinctly different to accommodate these differences.

“Mainline pavers will require a higher throughput of material and grade and slope control that will enable the contractor to achieve all the ride and mat quality requirements of the state DOT,” said Jennifer Brigman,
 director of marketing and product management, with BOMAG Americas, Inc., Ridgeway, South Carolina. “Municipal or county pavers require a lot of the same features of the mainline paver, but need to be more flexible to change for the conditions. A change in paving width on the fly is common in this category. Commercial pavers are a unique class in that they still require a base 8-foot paver, but are much smaller and lower on HP than their big brother the 8-foot mainline. With a smaller footprint, this enables the commercial paver to be more flexible in a wide variety of applications.”

In addition to the type of paving to be performed, Nigel McKay, sales manager with Weiler Products, Knoxville, Iowa, stated that the features that are important to the crew need to be considered. “I’m thinking of such features as automation, simplicity of operation, production output levels, paving widths, and machine maneuverability.”

McKay added, “Will the crew be maintaining the paver and performing most of the maintenance and repair work? If uptime is important, who will be servicing the paver and what is their level of experience?”

There are distinct indicators that a paver is wrong for a project. They are evident.

“Trying to match every job that a customer might be faced with over the life of owning a machine to the right paver can be tough,” stated Bryce Davis, Jr., director of sales, LeeBoy, Inc., Lincolnton, North Carolina. “Commercial class contractors, for example, perform all types of work that can vary from driveways to parking lots to road work. The biggest challenge is always production needed for your market and applications. Try to match your production needs to the paver size required to meet these numbers. If you do end up needing a different type of paver or sized machine for a job, most asphalt equipment dealers will be able to rent you a machine to help you through this challenge.”
As McKay said, “Poor mat quality, a high level of frustration from the crew, and an inability to meet reasonable production goals are clear indicators that the asphalt paver is likely at fault. Your operators’ pros and cons of current equipment will indicate the suitability of a paver for your project work.”

Some of this revolves around common sense.

“I believe the contractor must allow the job to dictate the type and size of machine used on the job,” stated Salvatore J. Rizzo, president, Salsco, Inc., Cheshire, Connecticut. “Example would be if you’re patching a trench that’s 25-or30-inches wide why would you want to bring in an 8-foot wide paver. There are track pavers that will pave up to 7-feet wide and down to 45-inches wide — that’s the right machine for the small job.”

When considering an upgrade or change in a paver there are a number of aspects to think about.

“Weigh in the manufacturer and dealer level of engagement from the first machine demonstration, through the post-purchase start-up to the on-going commitment for service,” McKay stated. “The manufacturer and dealer should help the contractor with upgrading the features that are important and be willing to help the contractor adapt to the new features.”

The manufacturer and dealer need to function as full partners with the contractor when making a choice of new equipment.

“Since the dealer/ manufacturer know the advantages and limitations of their machines, it will allow them to suggest the proper machine and options for the jobs the customer is trying to perform,” Brigman said. “If you do not understand the work to be performed and suggest the wrong machine you will fail the customer and the customer will fail to properly perform the job at hand. This is the quickest way to lose a contractor’s confidence by failing to be a good partner.”

Generally, dealers are factory trained in helping contractors to select the best paver for their needs.

“Our factory team is always available for any customer questions when it comes to picking their next machine,” stated Davis. “We’ll make personal visits to customers and actually see what they deal with on a daily basis with their jobsites, workload, market and application needs.”

Hagy stated, “Clearly, the dealer/manufacturer are critical for the education of features and benefits such as the flow of material, segregation, etc.”
When wrestling with the question of what type of paving machine does a contractor really need, the answer is there.

“I feel strongly that everyone should keep it simple,” Rizzo concluded. “The more technology, electronics, and computers that you cram into a paving machine can lead to problems. In the end, I believe that wherever you can, it is best to keep it simple.”

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