The consistently strong housing market continues to fuel demand for paving streets, parking lots, driveways and recreational paths, and the generally favorable U.S. economy keeps encouraging contractors to buy new commercial-class asphalt pavers (those weighing less than 19,000 pounds). The hot market keeps commercial-paver innovation bubbling with large manufacturers buying up smaller companies and big-paver technology trickling down.
"Acquisition of small paver manufacturers by larger companies has really changed commercial paver sales in the past three years," says Paul Puckett, president of Puckett Mfg.
There were nine manufacturers selling commercial asphalt pavers in North America in September 2002. Within three and a half years, four of those names have changed. Caterpillar is transitioning the Italian-designed Bitelli machines, which include some of the most aggressively spec'd commercial pavers in the class, into its own product line, and will likely retire the acquired Bitelli name before long.
In addition to Caterpillar's Bitelli purchase, Ingersoll Rand bought ABG and Blaw-Knox. Bomag bought Gilcrest, and Fayat's January 2005 purchase of Bomag ended Marini's short-lived North American marketing campaign. Fayat also owns Marini and, deciding to bank on the Bomag name here, moved Marini's milling machines into Bomag's lineup and shuttered Marini America last summer.
"This past year, we made significant investments in engineering and production at the former Gilcrest facility in Warrensburg, Mo.," says Doug Zoerb, administrator of marketing communications with Bomag. "The initial result is the two pavers we recently introduced, the 814-2 and 815-2."
In replacing its 813 RT ProPaver with the 814-2 and the 815-2 (one tractor with either a 14- or 15-foot screed), Bomag gained half a ton of hopper capacity, the ability to use electronic grade controls, and an additional 58 feet per minute of paving speed (an increase of 48 percent) while creating the only commercial-class paver with Cummins power. Bomag also put a machine — the 815-2 at 15,700 pounds — in direct competition with LeeBoy's popular 8500 models. Calder competes in this hotly contested size range as well with its Mauldin 1750-C powered by a John Deere diesel.
Caterpillar's absorption of Bitelli will create only the second manufacturing company that offers both commercial pavers and a full line of highway-class pavers. Aside from Ingersoll Rand, the only other manufacturer in the commercial class that currently markets machines weighing more than 19,000 pounds is LeeBoy. And the highway-class LeeBoy offering is limited to the 25,000-pound 8816 introduced two years ago.
Ingersoll Rand suggests that its commercial pavers mimic the heavy-duty construction and high horsepower common to IR Blaw-Knox highway pavers. Indeed the 3020 and 3120, at about 16,900 pounds, are the heaviest commercial-class asphalt pavers, and the 3120's 87-hp Kubota makes it the most powerful paver in the class. IR has also moved the undercarriage maintenance points for these commercial-class heavyweights to the outside, so you don't have to raise the hopper to service them as on most other commercial pavers. A standard hydraulic tow point on the 3000 Series duo, like that found more commonly on highway pavers, facilitates plug-and-play of electronic grade controls.
Electronic-control systems prevalent on highway pavers are making the jump even to the light end of commercial class.
"The use of tactile and sonic sensors to automate feed augers has had the greatest impact on commercial-paver sales in the last 36 months," says John Koepf, Gehl product manager for asphalt pavers. Gehl builds two machines that weigh less than 10,000 pounds. "Sensor manufacturers have increased sensor reliability in the harsh asphalt environment. Sonic sensors are noncontacting which dramatically increases their durability."
Sonic sensors can be used to monitor the head of material in front of the screed. The pavers' onboard computers automatically adjust the flow of material from the hopper according to those sensor inputs.
"Automating the auger feed system allows the operator to concentrate on steering the machine, matching the existing asphalt surfaces, and controlling the depth of the asphalt," says Koepf. "Paving companies are having a hard time finding hired help. Auger automation allows for smaller paving crews."
Two-thirds of all new commercial paver models offer the option of electronic grade control. Bomag's 814-2 and 815-2, for example, are available with Topcon's System Four Screed Automation as an option. Using a "non-contacting" sonic sensor, the system controls paving grade without skis or string lines and matches joints without requiring the sensors to touch any surfaces.
Electrically heated screeds have been making inroads on highway-class paver sales, and LeeBoy brought electric screed heat to the commercial class last spring. The Legend Electric Screed System is available as an alternative to propane on LeeBoy models 8500, 8515 and the 8816 for paving 8- to 15-foot widths.
"We've been watching paving trends and environmental air-quality requirements, safety issues and cost effectiveness for several years and felt that now was the time to give the commercial-contractor customers their first option for an electrically heated screed system," says Mike Lee, vice president of product development for LeeBoy.
Electric screed heat powered by an on-board electric generator eliminates the flame, fuel and fumes used in propane screed heating. Many buyers favor electric heat because it warms the screed plate consistently across its surface for better results and virtual elimination of plate warping. Thermostats control the heaters so the system only uses energy when necessary. Changes in ambient temperature won't cause a sudden cooling of the screed.
So many significant highway-class features appearing on commercial-class asphalt pavers begs the question, "where are the rubber tracks?" Steel tracks continue to dominate commercial pavers. LeeBoy's 1000D and 8515, and Mauldin's 1550-C are the only pavers in class with rubber tracks. A significant portion of steel-tracked pavers is shod with bolt-on polyurethane track pads.
There's enough demand for commercial pavers to stimulate innovation. That's why those pavers are emulating highway-class machines. It's also a significant impetus behind LeeBoy's decision to break the traditional 19,000-pound boundary for the commercial class to introduce the 25,000-pound 8816. The challenge now is for buyers to keep up with new features and figure out which they can use for maximum competitive advantage.
|Asphalt Pavers (by weight)|
|Model||Operating Weight (lb.)*||Paving Width Range||Engine / Gross Horsepower||Max. Paving Speed (fpm)|
|*With smallest screed|
|Steel tracks continue to dominate commercial pavers, although many can be shod with bolt-on polyurethane track pads. LeeBoy's 1000D and 8515, and Mauldin's 1550-C are the only pavers in class with rubber tracks.
|Salsco 5004 (tire)||1,040||3' 0" - 6' 0"||Honda / 13||50|
|Eagle ES 4896 (tire)||4,180||4' 0" - 8' 0"||Deere / 29||264|
|Puckett 540||7,000||8' 0" - 12' 0"||Kubota / 28||80|
|Mauldin 550E (tire)||7,800||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Kubota / 28||140|
|Gehl 1448||7,800||4' 0" - 12' 0"||Isuzu / 25||160|
|Puckett 560||8,250||9' 0" - 13' 0"||Kubota / 37||80|
|Mauldin 550E||8,300||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Kubota / 28||140|
|Bitelli BB 621 C||8,818||4' 7" - 9' 10"||Hatz / 35.4||108|
|Mauldin 690F (tire)||9,300||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Kubota / 38||140|
|Mauldin 690F||9,700||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Kubota / 38||140|
|Gehl 1648||9,815||4' 0" - 13' 0"||Isuzu / 41||130|
|LeeBoy 1000D (tire)||10,000||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Hatz / 37||90|
|LeeBoy 1000D||10,000||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Hatz / 37||220|
|LeeBoy 700B (tire)||10,000||8' 0" - 12' 0"||Hatz / 37||70|
|LeeBoy 700B||10,000||8' 0" - 12' 0"||Hatz / 37||70|
|Bomag 3310/3320||10,000||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Isuzu / 47||150|
|Mauldin 1500 (tire)||11,800||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Kubota / 50||170|
|Bomag 4410/4420||12,000||4' 0" - 13' 0"||Isuzu / 56||160|
|LeeBoy 5000||12,000||5' 0" - 9' 0"||Hatz / 37||200|
|LeeBoy 7000||12,000||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Hatz / 56||220|
|Mauldin 1500||12,300||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Kubota / 50||170|
|Mauldin 1550-C||12,500||8' 0" - 13' 0"||Deere / 60||140|
|Bitelli BB 632 (tire)||13,890||5' 7" - 13' 0"||Deutz / 53.6||167|
|Bomag 814-2/815-2||15,400||8' 0" - 15' 0"||Cummins / 85||180|
|LeeBoy 8500||15,700||8' 0" - 15' 0"||Hatz / 74||140|
|Mauldin 1750-C||15,700||8' 0" - 16' 0"||Deere / 80||140|
|LeeBoy 8515||15,900||8' 0" - 15' 0"||Hatz / 74||160|
|Ingersoll Rand 3020||16,934||8' 0" - 15' 0"||Kubota / 73||120|
|Ingersoll Rand 3120||16,958||8' 0" - 15' 0"||Kubota / 87||120|
|Specifications ConstructionEquipment.com||Bitelli www.bitelli.it|
|Bomag www.bomag.com/americas||Gehl www.gehl.com|
|Ingersoll Rand www.road-development.irco.com||LeeBoy www.leeboy.com|
|Mauldin www.4amauldin.com||Puckett Mfg. www.puckettmfg.com|