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Asphalt Contractor Challenges Addressed

Construction Equipment recently asked a number of asphalt-paver manufacturers to comment on particular challenges that their paving-contractor customers face

February 16, 2018

Construction Equipment recently asked a number of asphalt-paver manufacturers to comment on particular challenges that their paving-contractor customers face today, realizing that the issues of concern might differ with the markets contractors serve; a number of common threads emerged.

From the operations side, experienced paving crews are retiring at a rapid pace, and some companies are finding it challenging to find replacements for paver operators, crew members, and service technicians who have been in those positions for perhaps 10, 20, or more years. Quality training for less-experienced replacements must be non-stop and will continue to be of growing importance as companies lose more long-term employees to retirement.”— Bill Rieken, paver applications specialist, BOMAG

Attracting and keeping skilled employees is the biggest concern we hear from contractors. Many of the workers entering the workplace today do not remember a time without smart phones. Many enjoy gaming, which provides all the thrills without any need for physical effort or discomfort. For them, technology is interwoven with life, making things easier or more entertaining. This is not to say that they are adverse to work; it might simply mean that they expect to be able to work smarter, not harder. They might expect that machine controls be sophisticated and intuitive, much like their cell phone.”— Jon Anderson, global sales consultant, Caterpillar

“With paving-job specifications that are incorporating higher quality standards—coupled with the incorporation of new technologies, along with workforce turnover—the contractor’s greatest challenge is going to be workforce education and continuing training. The industry is evolving at a rapid pace, and this is providing fresh technology options for the machine owner and the operator, resulting in higher pavement quality and increased productivity. These new technologies should not be implemented, however, without a proper level of training. On the other hand, there’s always a need for paving crews to learn the basic techniques of paving and to continue developing their skills with advanced-level training. The idea is to keep the crew’s skills sharp during the down months of the season.—Jim Holland, vice president sales, Vögele

One of the more pronounced industry trends that challenges contractors today is the diminishing reliance on full replacement of roadways and a greater reliance on preservation overlays. This shift has created challenges, especially with machines more adapted for thicker lifts and full-roadway replacement. Contractors also are facing a growing emphasis by state DOTs to improve mat quality and joint density, with more stringent specifications for smoothness, density, and uniformity.”—Travis Colwell, marketing coordinator,
Carlson Paving Products

Aging equipment and an aging workforce are challenges many contractors face today. The contractor also is challenged by paver performance—tonnage-per-day requirements and smoothness specifications, for example, all the while with an eye on profitability. Yet another challenge for contractors today, versus in the past, is that material formulas are much different, and thickness requirements and paving speeds are different. A constant, though, is the need for pavers that are easy to operate and easy to maintain, with controls that reduce the amount of hand work for the crew.”—John Mooney, product manager, pavers,
Volvo Construction Equipment

“Among challenges for some contractors is handling warm-mix materials. The real challenge here is training on best practices, because the window for completion is much smaller than with hot mix. Also challenging is that more and more contractors are being held to a tighter standard as far as warranty on the jobs they complete. In the past, only the highway-paving contractors had to worry about smoothness; the commercial contractor just had to make sure water flowed correctly and that the project was aesthetically pleasing. Today’s customers, though, are much more demanding—and rightfully so. High and low spots in the paved surface cause an uneven ride and the situation is deemed unacceptable.”—Brian Hall, VT LeeBoy


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