Mitigating asphalt paver ownership costs

By Jeff Winke

When it comes to asphalt pavers, every contractor faces O and O cost of their equipment.

There is Owning costs which is the purchase price of the machine plus financing plus taxes minus the disposal price (what you get for that machine when you resell it). And there are Operating costs which equals labor plus fuel plus maintenance plus replacement costs of tires, tracks and other components plus overhead. Add the owning to the operating costs and you have your O&O costs.

In the day-to-day world, the challenge becomes how best to mitigate the costs of ownership of asphalt paving equipment.

“To control costs of ownership for asphalt pavers, the contractor should pursue operation of the paving machine the correct way and by keeping it clean after every time it is used, along with doing the proper maintenance on the machine as listed in the owner’s manual.” stated Bryce Davis, director of sales with ST Engineering LeeBoy, Inc., Lincolnton, North Carolina. “Keeping it under cover/roof in the off season–out of the winter weather, is always a plus. And having the proper trailer and loading ramps for a paver, so it’s not banging/dragging the screed when loading and off-loading is important. All of these steps will go a long way in helping you control costs.”

With respect to ongoing maintenance, Davis pointed out that “asphalt can be very abrasive, so wherever the material is passing through will end up being a high wear issue to repair down the road. Repairing of these items in a timely manner is best. Being proactive in repairing it before it’s totally worn out.”

Mitigating asphalt paver ownership costs is a daily challenge.

“Controlling the costs of ownership on asphalt pavers is a daily task,” said Nigel McKay, sales director, Weiler, Knoxville, Iowa. “Daily maintenance is critical to keep the cost of ownership low. One of the biggest costs associated with paving asphalt is down time in the middle of the season. Proper daily maintenance and inspection is the first line of defense against costly breakdown and mid-season repairs. It’s important to look at total cost of ownership as well which includes ability to rebuild the paver and resale value.”

There are actions a contractor can take to control costs.

“Efficient production or tons/ hour is a key component to keeping the cost of ownership down on asphalt pavers,” McKay said. “Setting up an inspection schedule as well as a daily maintenance schedule contractors will have a much better opportunity to stay in front of repairs or maintenance that can cause downtime. Proper inspection of wear components, tracking tonnage through pavers, making repairs needed are all ways to reduce unscheduled repairs.”

Contractors should also monitor reoccurring costs.

“Watching the wear of screed plates while running the machine correctly and keeping up on adjustments will extend a paver’s life,” stated Chris Smith, technical training lead with Astec Industries, Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Other wear-item costs would be flight chains and auger segments.

They just wear out with time.”

Smith added: “Keeping the chains adjusted helps extend the life, and having a consistent head of material and setting the tow points will also help. Having a consistent paving speed. Regular screed plate adjustments. Not allowing the tires or tracks to spin.”

Jobsite management of the paver can also play a major role for controlling ownership costs.

“Ensure the crew is heating the screed at the proper time. There is no need to heat the screed long before the mix arrives on site. Utilize the machine’s Eco mode to de-idle the engine when not under load as well as paving at the proper RPM to maximize fuel efficiency,” said McKay. “Operational efficiencies are created by properly training each crew member and understanding their role. Also he helps to abide by the following: Establish and ensure that best practices are in place, choose a paver with the most flexibility and efficiency with different paving widths, look for the balance of paving width and paving speed, chose a paver that can pave at wider widths at same speed to minimize joints for higher quality mat and less time doing hand work, manage the head of material, and use the technology available on the paver.”

Technology can help keep ownership costs down. It can not only improve production quality it can control costs by ensuring greater efficiencies.

“One example of beneficial technology, are automatic sonic sensor augers,” Davis stated. “This way your augers are only working when they need to be on.” Continual attention on a daily basis can help control ownership costs of an asphalt paving machine. Preventive maintenance tips can be crucial.

Davis said, “Always clean your paving machine after every day of using it. This would include your screed, conveyors, augers, push rollers, and tracks.”

McKay concluded that “Along with having a good relationship with the dealership there are three things that contractors can do to control ownership costs. First, proper daily maintenance is critical to keeping ownership cost low. Second, following the manufacturer’s prescribed start-up and clean-out procedures. And lastly, follow the maintenance schedules as prescribed and it is also critical to keep the paver current with any manufacturer’s updates.”

Heavy equipment costs money to own, operate, and maintain, but with daily diligence a contractor can mitigate asphalt paver operating cost.

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