Do’s and Don’ts or Do I Even Need One?

By Brian Hall

We all know the importance of tack coating and most of us already own a small tack tank. But what is the best time to start thinking about moving up to a full function distributor truck? Not only do you get more features and benefits from a distributor truck versus a smaller tack tank, but you have some new responsibilities as well, mostly associated with the liability of an on-road vehicle. The benefits may be there, but you need to be diligent in your decision.

First of all, you need to look at where 80% of your jobs are located. If your jobs are driveways, small parking lots and patching, a 300 or 600 gallon tack tank will do just fine. You may even consider putting a spraybar on your unit to assist in product placement. (Remember the important rule of 95% coverage). If 80% of your workload consists of subdivisions, state roads, larger parking lots or even city streets, you may want to consider a distributor truck. Basically, if you work in more confined spaces where a truck will be more in the way than beneficial, use a tack tank. If you find yourself having to make more than one trip per day to the asphalt plant to refill, you may want to consider a distributor truck. Also remember that distributor trucks come with hand spray wands for tighter situations.

Ok, you’ve decided that a distributor truck is a good investment for your company. Now the fun begins! The first thing you should expect is a complete startup by a product expert. This training is not only essential to learning about proper operation of your new equipment, but is a time to learn about safe operation as well. I have heard many stories in my travel of accidents involving improper operation of asphalt distributors. Please take time to study your operator’s manual and learn about proper safe operation. Actions such as loading different kinds of material together (such as AC on top of CRS) can spell tragedy.

Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you, it’s the exception not the rule. The great thing about today’s distributor trucks is that they do the work for you. If you are doing an overlay and specs call for .05 gallons per square yard, that’s what you get. If tomorrow your job is to chip seal and you have to increase to .5 gallons per square yard, no problem. Just set up the machine and go. If after some wear in, you find that you need to re-calibrate your unit, a 30 minute operation can insure that you are back into spec. This not only keeps the DOT supervisor happy, but keeps your bookkeeper happy as well, because if you are off even one tenth of a gallon per square yard, well, have you seen the price of liquid asphalt?

As you can imagine, in dealing with liquid asphalt (not to mention fire), maintenance of the unit is of the utmost importance. The most obvious of course is cleanup after your day of spraying. This needs to be done immediately after your day is done, as to not give the asphalt time to set. This is extremely important if you are using more high temperature mixtures such as AC or even rubber infused material, as they will set up much quicker. All of today’s units have a cleanout procedure that will keep the asphalt flowing freely. One tip given to me years ago is to spray the rear of the unit with biodegradable cooking oil through a pump sprayer. This way, a steam cleaner will remove most of the overspray and keep your unit much cleaner.

The next area of importance is the spray nozzles. As you are aware, there are different size nozzles for different application rates. The nozzle number that corresponds with the application rate varies among manufacturers, so refer to your manual for the correct nozzle. If you are trying to spray heavy through a nozzle designed for light spray, the asphalt will atomize. If you are spraying light through a heavy spray nozzle, the material will only drip out, not giving you the optimal coverage. These nozzles spray with a “V” pattern and create what we will call a “triple lap” coverage, which is to say that the spray pattern will overlap, ensuring complete coverage. To achieve this, each nozzle must be turned at a 30 degree angle to the spraybar. When changing or cleaning nozzles, be sure to re-install at the correct angle. Keeping these nozzles clean will also ensure complete material coverage.

Proper use of the asphalt distributor will allow you to have a profitable piece of equipment for years to come. Don’t believe me? Take a peek at the market for a good used distributor. It literally pays to take care of your distributor.

Brian Hall, LeeBoy Territory Manager. He can be reached via email at