The decision between wheels and rubber tracks for your asphalt paver often boils down to preference ? what you have used in the past, and whether you have been satisfied with the results.
"If your crew is satisfied with the machine, they will give you quality work," says Tom Chastain, product manager - pavers/planers, Dynapac. "If they're comfortable with the pavers, whatever the configuration, everything else will run smoothly."
However, just because you've always used a particular configuration doesn't mean it's the best choice for a particular paving job. "There are a lot of perceptions, and some contractors may have already made up their minds," notes Bill Rieken, paver application specialist, Terex Roadbuilding. "But you should consider the types of jobs you're doing and take at look at the cost of operation before making a final decision."
That being said, periodically evaluate the pros and cons of each configuration to ensure you're using the machine that gives you optimum results and cost effectiveness.
Basically, the decision between wheels and tracks boils down to the type of work you are doing, and how much you are willing to pay for the unit itself and the corresponding operational and maintenance costs.
If you're doing overlay work on an existing surface, the best choice is likely going to be tires. You have a solid base on which to work, so the extra traction and flotation you gain from rubber tracks isn't needed.
Tires also have a cost advantage in terms of lower initial price and lower maintenance and operations costs post-purchase. While prices vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, expect to pay about 10 percent more for rubber tracks initially, says Scott Wiley, marketing manager for large pavers, Volvo. However, that difference is minimized when you add front-wheel-assist to a wheeled paver.
Maintenance and operating costs will be higher with rubber tracks, because there are more components in an undercarriage ? the tracks themselves, plus five to six sets of bogie wheels ? as compared to a simpler wheel-based system that requires a set of drive tires and a set or two of front bogie wheels. And undercarriage components are more expensive to replace, with the big-ticket item being the tracks.
However, advancements made in rubber compounds and designs to extend service life continue to bring the cost differences between tracks and tires closer together. "Although there will likely always be an up-front cost differential for a tracked machine because of the components of the undercarriage," says Wiley.
Faster travel speeds of a wheel unit can also give them an upper hand if you're roading the paver from jobsite to jobsite, rather than loading it onto a trailer. A rubber-tired paver typically travels at about 10 to 13 mph, compared to a rubber-tracked paver at about 9 to 10 mph.
"Travel speeds become important in cases such as a municipality that is doing patchwork on a street," says Wiley. "Rather than load up the paver, they may road it from one patch job to another without putting a trailer underneath it."
Roading a paver can also be hard on rubber tracks, notes Steve McClellan, inside sales manager, Vögele America. "If you road the machine a lot, you will wear out the undercarriage and it will be more costly to repair," he says.
Benefits of tracks
There are times when you will need, and want, tracks. Steel tracks can be an option in some situations, and they offer many of the same benefits as rubber. But within the last decade, rubber tracks have virtually overtaken the track market in the United States, in large part because of their faster travel speeds. Steel tracks top out at only 4 to 5 mph, while rubber tracks move twice as fast.
Technological advances in rubber tracks, as well as in the pavers themselves, have enhanced their popularity. With features such as the SmartTrac System on Terex machines, detracking is minimized and track life is extended, since it automatically tensions the track for optimum pressure of the tensioning cylinder and pistons in both forward and reverse, notes Rieken.