Pave in a straight line
Being able to drive a paver in a straight line is also an essential skill for the paver operator. Gone are the days when the operator could follow the edge of the pavement, the lawn, or a line of tack. This is especially true of parking lot paving where the shape of the pavement is almost always irregular and because the customer wants the job to look perfect.
The crew needs to put a line down and the operator has to follow that line - especially on the first pass. If the first pass is crooked or even slightly off, that discrepancy is compounded as the job progresses and each pass will be more crooked than the last, leading to a fix-up pass at the end that won't look very good.
To make sure he paves straight he needs to rely on the guide bar, the rod on the front of the paver that enables him to track the edge he wants to follow. In some cases the rod has a chain that hangs straight down making it even easier to follow the line. Now, some operators can use the edge of the hopper to follow the line, and if you're an experienced paver you might be able to do that effectively on a 10-foot paver or smaller. But once you get over 10 feet it's very difficult to maintain that edge.
In some cases after that first pass an experienced operator can follow that edge to stay straight. But, especially in parking lot paving, it's important to measure and mark out each pass because of islands, light poles, and other obstacles that might require uneven passes. You might start with 10 feet and then go to 12 and then back to 10. It's very easy to make a mistake paving the wrong width in those situations if you don't have them marked out.
Additional essential tips
Understand - and use - the instrument panel. There's no one to tell him how to keep the operation moving, so he must rely on the gauges surrounding his perch on the top of the paver, and it's his responsibility to be fluent in what those gauges are telling him.
A foot-per-minute gauge is essential, and if your paver isn't equipped with one you can buy one and add it on yourself (though most pavers 8 feet and larger come equipped with them). With an fpm gauge the paver operator doesn't have to concern himself with paving too fast or too slow - just follow the gauge. In addition every paver must have a fuel gauge, and this gauge must be checked each morning and then eyed constantly throughout the day. It can often take 30 minutes or more to get a fuel truck to a jobsite, and if the paver has to shut down while waiting for that truck, not only is labor unproductive and costly, the haul trucks are lining up at the jobsite and soon you're way behind and losing money.
It goes without saying that all the gauges should be in proper working order - they improve quality and efficiency and even profitability of the finished job, but too often broken gauges are left broken - it's the paver operator's job to make sure they are repaired promptly. And that's a responsibility he should relish because those gauges can make his job easier.
Use your horn! Horns on pavers seem to be broken more often than any other part of the equipment. Amazingly, no one seems to think horns are critical, yet horns are such an important part of the equipment that paver operators - and foreman and company owners - should insist they be operating all the time. Why? Because a human being can only yell so loud, but regardless of whatever is happening on the jobsite the horn will cut right through it and get everyone's attention. That horn should be able to work at all times; it's a safety issue. In fact, at some companies if the operator beeps the horn, all activity stops.
Teach everyone to turn off the paver. Every operator at one time or another steps off the machine while leaving it running. A simple step that could save lives and protect from property damage is to take a few minutes to teach everyone on your paving crew how to shut the paver off.
Are you a paver operator?
The best paver operators often are detail-oriented. They are smart, they understand the entire paving operation, and they understand the paver itself - how each component works and what happens with the paver as it speeds up or slows down.