The benefits of cracksealing are beginning to spread, just as quickly as the cracks in an unkempt 7-year-old parking lot. According to Mark Manning, vice president of Crafco, cracksealing and crackfilling is finally getting the attention and respect it deserves from the pavement maintenance world.
"State agencies, cities, counties, and consulting engineers have accepted the procedure of crack and joint sealing much, much more than five years ago," he says. "They accept it as a first line of defense in the pavement preservation battle."
Just as attitudes toward cracksealing have changed, so has the equipment used to apply it. Although manufacturers have changed little in the basic design of oil-jacketed and direct-fire machines in recent years, they have added and improved a host of features to increase efficiency, ease of use, and safety.
Safety and operator comfort
Safety and operator comfort is a driving force in cracksealing equipment. Manufacturers have designed their machines with a range of ergonomic features, such as a loading door designed so that a worker of average height never has to lift blocks of sealer above chest high, a door that has a splash guard to keep hot sealant from splashing on a worker while loading blocks of sealant into the tank, and wands designed to prevent hot sealant from leaking out if dropped or bumped. Many of these features are developed through ideas from a wide range of sources.
"We continually solicit feedback from our customers on the performance of our equipment from an ergonomic perspective as well as productivity, reliability, serviceability, and safety," says Vic Ujihara of Marathon Equipment Inc.
Cimline has taken several steps to make the cracksealing experience as safe and easy on operators as possible. They offer LED taillights, strobe lights, and LED flashing arrow boards for customers to choose from to help make their units stand out on the road and avoid traffic accidents. Cimline has also enclosed and insulated the diesel engine on its machines to make the equipment quieter for workers to be around and for others in the area. In addition, Cimline put an afterburner on its kettles to keep smoke from leaking out where people could smell or breathe it.
"So if you open a Cimline kettle, typically you can look and see the sealants, whereas most of the other products that are out there, if you opened up the kettle and looked in through the loading door you wouldn't be able to see the sealants because of the steam and smoke coming off the sealant," says Brad Dunn, vice president of sales at Cimline.
Heated hoses are widespread over the cracksealing industry. In the past when a wand wasn't being used, an operator would need to recirculate the sealant through the hose and back into the tank in order to keep the sealant from cooling off and clogging the hose. To avoid this, manufacturers developed heated hoses several years ago.
"What a heated hose allows the operator is flexibility during repositioning of a kettle, from one part of a roadway to another or during turning," Dunn says. "Without a heated hose on a cool day, when temperatures could be in the 40s or 30s, the sealant could freeze up in the hose, and so to keep that from happening, you'd have to go back to the machine to keep it moving so the material won't clog up in the hose."
Marathon Equipment has used oil-jacketed hoses in its product line for over 15 years. Using a patented, low-pressure oil heating system, a cold hose can heat material to application temperature in several minutes.
"Contrary to common belief, hot oil only circulates through the hose for initial startup and then oil flow is discontinued," Marathon's Ujihara explains. "Our hose support system provides the operator with a durable sealant applicator wand, requiring only a few pounds of force to lift. Our exclusive swivel shoe applicator also allows the operator to rest the tip of the wand on the asphalt surface to further reduce fatigue. Productivity is also improved, as application of sealant with the swivel shoe will not require leveling with a squeegee."