Compared to gravity-fed pavers, conveyor-fed pavers have more automated features to control paver operation as standard equipment. Some of these features are options on gravity-fed models, but Hood says that if you plan to upgrade to a conveyor-fed model in a couple of years, you probably won't get back the money initially spent on options.
Digital controls and electronics to automate the paver and screed operation make for a better paving job and can take some of the legwork out of the overall operation, he adds, but they are not requisites for beginning paving contractors who may find their operation foreign. Furthermore, electronic devices, including sensors and switches don't mesh well with liquid and heat – constants in a paving operation.
A good example of this is the automated material feed systems, Calder says. "These systems require a sensor – contacting or non contacting – to detect the presence of asphalt." He says contacting sensors work fine, but they are prone to failure because they are in contact with 300°F asphalt, not to mention a laborer's shovel. A non-contacting sensor (which does not touch the asphalt) is a more expensive solution, but ultimately more reliable over the long run. Non-contacting sensors are usually standard equipment on most of the high-end conveyor machines and they are available on their other models, but often as an optional upgrade to the contacting sensor system.
Even though a paver will be the most important tool in a paving crew's arsenal, it doesn't represent the biggest economic investment, Hood says. In other words, when buying their first paver, contractors need to consider other associated costs, such as a truck to haul a trailer, a trailer, roller, skid steer, people, and so forth.
"As contractors jump from a gravity-fed to a conveyor-fed to increase the quality and amount of work they do, they will likely require a bigger roller, and that will change transportation arrangements. Whereas a 10-ton trailer may accommodate a paver and support equipment, now suddenly a contractor will need a larger trailer and/or it will take multiple moves to get to a job site," Hood says.
"And it's not all about equipment. People are the most important part of any paving crew, and the personnel requirement varies with the type and size of paver. For example, a four-person crew can easily operate a gravity-fed paver. That would include one paver operator, one roller operator, and two support people for shoveling and doing other manual labor. If you step up to a small conveyor, things happen a lot faster. You almost need two guys on the paver at all times, two for manual labor, and possibly another roller operator. That one purchase will add a couple of guys to the payroll. You need to have the work to support your overhead."
Assuming that you have a paver lined up, what other tools do you need to complete your paving crew? Like Hood, LeeBoy's Bolick says the key to successful paving is people. "The operator will have a tremendous impact on the paver's productivity, longevity, and the quality of the work done," Bolick says. "And the quality of the asphalt mat put down will have a great impact on the future business of the contractor. A skilled operator and well-trained crew can make all the difference in the world.
"For a beginning paver, the basic tools of the trade will be rakes (lutes), shovels and depth-gauge sticks. A contractor will need a 15-ton dump truck to bring asphalt from the plant for paving jobs, and the truck might also double as the pulling vehicle for the trailer containing the paver, roller and associated equipment. A small tack tank will be needed to spread tack on surfaces before overlays to provide adhesion between the mats."
For compaction, Bolick suggests the use of a 1.5 ton steel drum roller or a pneumatic roller in combination with a steel drum roller to compact mats. The pneumatic roller kneads the mat and the steel drum provides the smooth finish.
Other tools include a gas-powered vibratory plate compactor for compaction in tough-to-reach spots where the roller can't go (against buildings or in tight areas), and a trailer for moving the paver and roller from job site to job site. The tack tank may be trailered or towed by pickup.