Matching a paver to your fleet means taking a look at the clients you have, the type of work you expect to do, the long- and short-term cost of a new piece of equipment, and support from the manufacturer or dealer.
It also means matching the paver to your existing fleet. Unless you have more work than your current paver can handle, you don't want to simply buy the same machine. You need something to enhance the fleet you already have in the field, a paver that will enable your crews to do more work, different work, and perhaps the same work quicker.
When Dan Dauffenbach, president of Northland Paving, LLC, was in the market for a mid-sized paver, he looked for one that will be a good match to the company's mainline paver, a 10-ft. Blaw Knox PF5510. He wanted a paver that can be used interchangeably with the Blaw Knox, which he uses to pave the many commercial, industrial, and retail jobs that are the backbone of his work.
A 30-year veteran of the asphalt paving industry, Dauffenbach started Northland Paving three years ago. His hard-working equipment fleet includes Caterpillar 140 motor graders, Case and Caterpillar wheel loaders, one vibratory and one static steel roller, a pneumatic roller, and quad-axle trucks for loading the mainline paver. And then there's the mid-sized paver.
"We need a mid-sized paver that we can put side-by-side with the mainline and get the same quality mat," Dauffenbach says.
For the past three seasons, the Minneapolis-based paving contractor has operated a Gilcrest ProPaver 814 lay-down machine. Last spring, Northland replaced that machine with a new ProPaver 813 RT tracked paver by BOMAG Americas, who acquired the paver line from Gilcrest in December 2003. With the weather the area experienced this spring, the 813 RT was put to the test.
Heavy downpours, severe storms, flooding and 18 days of rain in a 21-day period had left the ground in Northland's market saturated. Days normally 80° F and partly cloudy were 60° F and rainy, delaying a number of paving projects and making for a slow spring for Northland's paving crews.
But when the weather finally broke in late June there was a tremendous spike in paving activity, which placed extreme demands on both the mainline and mid-sized pavers. In normal times, the ProPaver 813 RT would be found mainly on bike path, tennis court, and road patching applications. But with the weather delays, Northland relied even more on the mid-sized paver's ability to pave larger jobs in tandem with the mainline paver.
Filling the Need
Although in business serving predominantly the Minneapolis market for only three seasons, Northland has already developed an impressive customer base.
"We pave for approximately 100 general contractors in 15 different counties throughout Minnesota and two counties in Wisconsin," Dauffenbach says.
Having the tandem of a 10-foot mainline and the mid-sized paver expands the types of applications the paving contractor tackles.
"Being lighter and more maneuverable, our mid-sized paver can be used on jobs where the mainline can't or is not cost-effective," says Jeramy Ladzun, fleet manager for Northland Paving. "If we didn't have it we'd be giving a lot of jobs away to the competition."
He says the mid-size machine also enables the company to work on sites too wet for the heavier 10-foot paver to pave without damaging the base.
"But we could use the mid-sized paver to quickly lay the mat and keep the job moving ahead," Ladzun says.
Among the mid-sized pavers on the market, the ProPaver 813 RT spreads its 13,500-pound weight over two tracks with a 61-inch surface contact length, offering a low pounds-per-linear-inch (PLI) ground contact pressure. Ladzun says the lower PLI also lends the machine to parking lot patching and paving some of the more unusual applications the contractor encounters.
"We pull fire lanes on berms with the BOMAG, since our mainline paver is too heavy to do it," he says.
It is when Northland uses the 10-foot mainline and the 8-foot mid-sized pavers as a one-two combination on larger parking lot applications that the paving contractor really reaps the benefits. Northland paves the parking lot's short offsets, islands and around other obstructions with the ProPaver 813 RT, allowing the mainline paver to pull the longer straight runs. This makes the whole process much more efficient and less time-consuming for Northland.
The mid-sized paver, with its front-mounted, hydraulically-controlled screed extensions, helps Northland to quickly pave the shorter pulls. The crew can quickly extend or retract the extensions without trapping material under the main screed, helping to leave a smooth mat. Augers mounted directly on the screed extensions help to channel the material to the screed end gates, much in the same way as Northland's mainline paver. This helps to reduce occurrences of material segregation and allows the ProPaver 813 RT paver to deliver the same quality mat texture as the 10-foot paver.
"Paving with both the mainline and mid-sized pavers leaves fewer cold seams, and there is a big cost savings with the mid-sized paver because the cut-ins can be paved with a two-man crew," Ladzun says.
When the weather has permitted this season, Northland has kept the mid-sized paver busy on smaller, tight-deadline projects like the Super Target store expansion in Buffalo, MN. Along with the approximate 25% increase in indoor space, there are additional loading docks and parking lot areas that must be paved. Since the store has remained open for business through much of the construction, the timeline for parking lot paving is demanding.
For this project, Northland is subcontractor to Minneapolis-based general contractor Weis Construction. A 300-foot by 20-foot section of parking lot is being paved in two 10-foot passes with the ProPaver 813 RT. The asphalt mix design consists of 100 tons each of an LV-3, non-wear three-quarter-inch base course and an LV-3 wear course. Both courses are being laid in two-inch thick lifts. "Because the mid-sized paver has an 8-ft. main screed, we will just extend each side by one foot," says Jim Russell, paving superintendent for Northland Paving. "We will not need to use the auger extensions, since the screed does a good job channeling material to the end gates."
The loading docks are being paved with a medium-volume, MV-3 three-quarter-inch non-wear and wear-course mix design to account for the heavier truck traffic. Russell estimates using a little more than 200 tons of asphalt for each course on the loading docks.
Russell says the ProPaver 813 RT will be able to quickly pave both sections, helping Northland complete the project on time. He says the mid-sized paver's low PLI is key in being able to pave without damaging the existing parking lot, something that may have been a concern with the much heavier mainline paver.
Rick Zettler, Z-Comm, is a marketing consultant and freelance writer for the construction industry. He can be reached at email@example.com.