By Brian Hall
Well, it happened again. We blinked and it’s December. In talking to contractors around the country, it has been a good paving year, in spite of some speed bumps. Different obstacles, specifically work force issues, hindered a lot of the production for the year in many areas, but overall, most contractors are pleased with the amount of new work this year. We’re now at the time of year that means different things for different regions. Half of the country will be shutting down operations until the spring thaw while others will work on. This month, let’s discuss both strategies.
For companies in the northern region, the season is winding down quickly. This means preserving your two main resources; your machines and your labor. If you are a regular reader, you know I stress maintenance of your machines and this is most important in the winter. Be sure to hit all the grease points one last time and perform your 500 hr/yearly service. Check your chain tightness and replace any bent conveyors. There are many opinions on filling the fuel tank, but I believe that filling your fuel tank is essential. It prevents the buildup of condensation, which can lead to failures down the road. You will need to add a conditioner to your fuel to prevent any gelling in low temperatures. Be sure to run the machine to make sure the conditioner is distributed throughout the fuel system. I hope it goes without saying, but chisel away any asphalt that has hardened onto the machine. Also consider using your local paver dealer to perform these services as they are trained to make sure that you are ready to roll when the plants open. Many of these dealers will offer winter specials to aid in keeping their shops full. While the paver is your primary focus, don’t forget your other machines as well. Refer to your owner’s manual for detailed information on all of your machines. One machine that might get overlooked is your tack tank. Make sure it is completely flushed and empty and you may want to even store some diesel fuel in the tank to make sure any residual emulsion doesn’t set up. Your crew will thank you when it’s time to get back to work.
Speaking of your crew, don’t forget the endless hours that they put in for you, including some nights and weekends for sure. An enduring problem is making sure that they don’t stray during the winter. Bonuses and incentives for your top performers are key in making sure that they are on the job when you need them. Today’s job market is highly competitive and your team needs to stay intact to ensure that you have one less issue when you return.
The other portion of the industry is business as usual, sort of. In the southeast US, with some exceptions, it could be balmy today and freezing the next. This causes a whole different set of challenges. Always expect that the material will cool off quicker. This means making sure that your haul trucks travel the shortest distance possible and always tarp your load. Keep your paver moving, avoiding starts and stops keeps the crust from forming at the screed and in the hopper. Speaking of the hopper, never run it empty. The cooling of the steel in the winter will certainly cool your material faster than desired, showing up as imperfections in the mat. Remind your roller operator that density in the cooler weather is an added challenge. Allowing the finished mat to cool prematurely will cause failures down the road that will cause warranty repairs. Winter paving is typically quite lucrative because of the urgency of the jobs, so make sure to earn your payday. Equipment issues seem to pop up in the winter time as well. Make sure that all your machines are ready for those days when working at below freezing temps cannot be avoided.
We hope everyone had a great year. During this season of giving, make sure that you don’t forget to give a little back, especially right in your hometown. I love seeing the reports of paving companies participating in the local parade and other festivities, putting smiles on the faces of the community. Drop us a line and let us know what your company does this holiday season.
Brian Hall, LeeBoy Territory Manager. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org