Practicing Best Practices

Like most asphalt contractors, P.J. Keating Company, Lunenburg, MA, recognizes that a knowledgeable paving crew can go a long way in preventing segregation and other laydown problems when working with today's challenging mix designs.

Rick Ricker, training director for P.J. Keating, says as mixes get tougher to work with and tolerances get a little harder to meet, training crews to properly use the technology of today is paramount. Equipment manufacturers are spending millions of dollars to update and improve paving technology to help contractors meet today's specifications.

"Four years ago, all the paving crews I had been working with only used 50 percent of what the paver could process," Ricker notes. "Today, all the crews understand the factors that affect the screed and if 'best practices' are not implemented, then mat quality will continue to suffer. Understanding the consequences of not using the screed to its potential affects the quality of paving you can achieve."

For Ricker, paving efficiencies, or a paving crew's ability to place asphalt, are the direct result of following best practices that allow a crew to pave as fast as the mix allows.

"Today, all paver operators I work with are always looking back at the mat to make sure they're not causing segregation or other mat defects," he says.

One crew's story

To illustrate the best practice approach, Ricker points to one of P.J. Keating's crews headed by paving foreman Russ Stanley. The level of quality Stanley's crew achieves on jobs is a direct result of:

  • Pre-paving planning — Stanley talks to members of his crew upon arrival at each job. He plans the entire day and shares this information with his crew to make sure everyone is on the same page from start to completion of the work.
  • Principles and techniques — Stanley and his team work to maintain all principles and techniques to establish a quality paving job. By using the principles of paving they have learned, crew members understand what the paver and roller can and cannot do.
  • Best practices — Stanley implements a best practice approach with every ton, every job and every day. The entire crew knows that when they leave a jobsite, be it a small patch applied by hand, or a highway, they are leaving their signature of a job well done and a reference of the type of work P. J. Keating has built its reputation on.
  • Communication — Stanley's continued contact with crew members, sales staff, project superintendents, quality control, plant and the safety department is representative of all paving foremen. If Stanley experiences any problems on a job, he immediately contacts the department involved before proceeding with the project. This practice eliminates the possibility of costly mistakes being made.
  • Knowing the consequences — For Keating paving crews, the primary cause of segregation on a job is paving too fast and running the hopper low. Paving operators, foremen and project supervisors try to be heroes by blowing the truck out to get the project done sooner. According to Ricker, if you don't know the consequences of paving faster for the sake of finishing a job sooner, then the paving crew will be back on the same job making repairs.

To illustrate his point, Ricker points to a recent project Stanley's crew worked on. It was a 28-foot-wide road that was estimated to take two days to complete. On the first day, perfect weather conditions allowed the crew to run a 14-foot-wide mat down one side of the road at a rate of 40 feet per minute, with an auger speed of 35 rpms. The mat quality was perfect and density numbers were on target.

Over the weekend it rained and aggregate at Keating's production plant got very wet. When Stanley's crew returned to the project on Monday morning, segregation reared its ugly head. The crew could not return to a paving speed of 40 fpm. Stanley had to drop the paving speed to 28 fpm until the aggregate at the plant had a chance to dry out. But because Stanley understands the paving process and how a change in materials affects equipment performance, he knows how to make adjustments to the process to maintain the quality of the mat and avoid having to return to the project to repair problems that could have been avoided.

  • Practicing safe work habits — Stanley knows that keeping his crews safe through weekly toolbox talks, providing appropriate personal protection equipment, and by properly training them the right way to perform each job function, is the best way to keep a quality crew together for the entire paving season.

Personal perspective

With 25 years of paving experience with P.J. Keating, Stanley uses his knowledge and experience to make every job the best job, and he instills that level of professionalism in every member of his crew. Sticking with the basics is the best approach Stanley has found to delivering a quality project time and again. He constantly reminds his crew to follow those procedures to avoid problems and possible repairs.

"When we're on a job, we follow the same basic procedures to good paving," he says. "We don't throw mix on a mat (following the screed), we don't walk on the mat until the rollers have achieved compaction, we constantly watch for segregation, we make sure our joints match up, we monitor and adjust the slope on the paver, and we watch and adjust our rolling patterns as needed."

For Stanley, the company's annual two-day training session, coupled with ongoing training provided by equipment manufacturers, promotes and elevates the level of professionalism he and his crews are able to deliver on projects.

"In this business, if you're not trying to raise the bar, then you're not committed to looking for ways to deliver a better pavement," Stanley says. "We do a lot of municipal work and a lot of repeat work for the same customers; and our customers expect a better job when they award us a project."

More on solving mix segregation in the field

If you're looking to improve the quality of your hot mix asphalt mat, John S. Ball III, Top Quality Paving, will present a session on solving mix segregation in the field at the upcoming National Pavement Expo in Atlanta February 2-5.

Segregation of HMA will result in long-term pavement distresses, will affect your job-quality bonus, and could result in the job failing to pass inspection. In this session, you'll learn what segregation is, the different ways it can occur, which mixes are more susceptible to segregation, what problems segregation can cause, how to identify segregation before it reaches your paver, and how to identify segregation in the mat. You'll learn the steps you can take along the way — from the plant through delivery and installation — to reduce mix segregation. You'll also learn what steps you should take once you realize segregation is evident behind the paver screed.

For more information on this show, call 800-827-8009 or visit www.pavementonline.com.

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