Rising Markets, Versatility Mark Small-Paver Offerings

Feb. 26, 2015

Much like other machine categories, the market for smaller asphalt pavers (generally under 21,000 pounds) has improved as the economy has improved. Manufacturers have focused of late on versatility for different paving widths, and features and options to enhance productivity.

“Growths in housing and commercial projects are increasing the demand for compact equipment that can pave small areas, including driveways, bicycle paths and parking lots,” says Steve Cole, business line manager for Atlas Copco Construction Equipment (Dynapac). “In large cities, growing downtown revitalization projects also increase demand for highly versatile paving equipment.”

Cost of Ownership

Size Class (lb.)Avg Purchase PriceHourly Rate*
To 18,999$97,627$65.49
19,000 - 24,999$199,402$121.60

*Hourly rate represents the monthly ownership costs divided by 176, plus operating cost. Unit prices used in this calculation: diesel fuel, $3.73 per gallon; mechanic’s wage at $52.33 per hour; and money costs at 2.0 percent.
Source: EquipmentWatch.com

Cole points to the company’s Dynapac F1200C Tier 4-Final paver as an example. “Construction crews can use it to repair narrow alleyways or use screed extensions to quickly turn a vacant lot into parking spaces for nearby stores and businesses, which contributes to a more inviting commercial hub,” Cole says.

“More infrastructure projects, such as repairs on small bridges, also are growing in demand. On these projects, contractors can use smaller pavers for repairs since bridge spans are typically short and have narrow decks,” Cole continues. “If contractors use large pavers in these areas, they typically need to close the bridge to traffic so they have ample room for equipment—a more compact paver might allow a lane to be open to minimize the impact on traffic.”

Caterpillar Paving Products’ Jon Anderson, global sales consultant, says the market for small pavers has been “steady” of late, but notes specific upswings since the Great Recession. “Increases in housing construction and public works have increased demand for this size,” Anderson says.

Wirtgen’s Nars Narsingh, manager, commercial support and development for Vögele, mentions growth in yet another application. “We’ve also seen this size paver—it’s rare but it’s coming—placing roller-compacted concrete (RCC),” Narsingh says. “Because this model—Vögele’s Super 800 TV with tamper-vibrators screed—has a compacting device, you can put cold-mix down, or with this size paver and with the compaction screed, place RCC on shoulders or jogging trails.”

What’s hot in asphalt pavers

In addition to the steady recovery since the recession, Cole sees a change in contractor behavior. “Contractors are more deliberate at selecting construction equipment—either purchasing or renting,” he says. “They need equipment that allows their crews to be the most productive and minimizes downtime, because shaving time off their production schedule increases profit margins.”

It’s all about versatility, according to Anderson. “In this size class paver, they are looking for versatility with the equipment, in terms of having the machine being able to work from 20 inches with cut-off plates and spread it out to 11 feet to meet various job site conditions.”

On the Caterpillar AP255E, a 9,920-pound unit, Anderson says the hottest features among customers are the one-man operation, which cuts down on labor, and the attributes of the machine’s screed. “The features and options that are most popular with our paver in this size class are the electric screed heating system, and that versatility with the screed in terms of width, using cut-off plates and screed extensions,” he says.

“Our most popular features and options are ones that increase operator productivity and minimize downtime,” Cole says. “By itself, the paver has a 4- to 8-foot working width, which is ideal for a wide range of applications, from patching holes to paving alleys. And operators can install optional cut-off shoes or screed extensions to tailor the paver’s working width to fit a wider range of paving projects.

“Cut-off shoes easily mount to the side shields to cover a portion of the auger, which reduces the paver’s working width. With cut-off shoes, operators can pave as narrow as 1-foot mats for accurate patching applications and paving close to curbs,” Cole says. “An optional conveyor cover is also available, which allows the operator to pave with one side of the screed. Screed extensions, on the other hand, extend the working width of the paver to as wide as 10 feet.”

Keeping operating costs down

“One of the best practices that equipment managers can do to keep operating costs low is to follow scheduled maintenance,” Cole advises. “Minor issues can become big problems when scheduled maintenance gets pushed back on the calendar.

“For example, a loose hydraulic connection might seem like a minor issue, but it can quickly reduce the machine’s efficiency and create downtime if a leak occurs. Regular maintenance catches those minor inconveniences and ensures maximum uptime,” Cole says.

Cat Paving’s Anderson says contractors should be checking wear items routinely and maintaining the track system. “Electric screed heat helps with the life of the screed plates because it maintains consistent heat across the entire plate,” Anderson says.

He also says that this size class of paver should last eight years or more, and contractors can rebuild the paver in the offseason.

“Selecting equipment that optimizes fuel consumption goes a long way in keeping operating costs low,” Atlas Copco’s Cole says. “For instance, the Eco-mode system on our paver allows the operator to set the desired engine speed to the application, which results in minimal fuel consumption.”

Advice for paver buyers

Cole tags his advice on purchasing a small paver to versatility. “Contractors should look for pavers that allow their crew to complete a wide range of paving projects, enhance operator productivity, and require minimal maintenance,” he says. 

“Some compact units might not have the option to incorporate screed extensions or cut-off shoes, which means the contractor has to find another paver. Also, if the operator doesn’t have good visibility or cannot comfortably do his or her job, then productivity might be impacted,” Cole says.

“Some buyers pick machinery based on the current application without considering future applications,” Cole continues. “They might buy a paver with wide working widths that work well for large applications, such as city streets, but cannot efficiently pave smaller alleyways or footpaths. Picking a compact paver opens the door for greater versatility since they easily handle small paving projects, and can be used with screed extensions to tackle wider paving areas.”

Anderson stresses the application, as well, and touts support after the sale. “Understand the application first to ensure the paver will fit the need prior to purchasing,” he says. “Dealer support is critical to success: does your dealer have a paving specialist as well as the service technicians that are trained on the machine? More importantly, are the parts on the shelf when needed?”

Vögele’s Narsingh says users need to understand both the application and the lifespan of the paver they’re buying. “I would look at the application, because you will find that some of these smaller pavers, depending on the design—when used in larger-type applications like city and residential streets, or larger parking lots—can be ‘burned up’ really quick,” he says. “So contractors that do those types of applications together with the smaller type jobs of shorter pulls [10 to 20 feet] are better off looking at—if they can afford it—two pavers,” Narsingh says. “That would be a larger or more durable paver for the larger work, and a versatile paver with wide conveyors for the short-pull applications.”