Contractors who are planning to buy a paver typically decide on an 8-ft. machine, especially if their focus is paving parking lots and driveways. But once that decision is made, what options should a contractor consider adding? Given the limited budget most contractors are faced with, what are the essential options they should add? What are options of convenience? In other words what options should be considered “needs” and which ones are “wants.”
“I’ve seen a lot of pavers go out of here with very diverse option packages,” says Eric Fatyol, Volvo’s paving & milling product specialist for North America. “Contractors are trying to make the machine as versatile as they can because it means they can offer customers a greater variety of work.” He adds that giving thought to options before you buy is not only good planning but saves money too. “It’s more expensive to add an option later than it is to have it put on initially and include it in the purchase price,” he says.
So with that guideline, here are some insights from Fatyol and two additional paver manufacturers: Brodie Hutchins, Vogele general manager, and Jim Harkins, VT Leeboy’s Northeast territory manager.
- Tracks or rubber tires. Harkins says most of Leeboy’s sales are of track pavers. “They’re more versatile and they allow contractors to pave in less-than-optimal base conditions which a lot of guys run into when paving parking lots,” Harkins says. “Rubber tires generally are better for municipal work and roads.”
- Grade Control System. Probably the priciest option available at $15,000 or more, grade control systems are available from paver manufacturers and from a variety of companies such as Topcon, Trimble, and Leica. These automated systems, which Hutchins says Vogele sells on 80% of its pavers, can be preset to pave a specific grade and slope. As the paver progresses the system maintains the correct slope without any action from the operator. A less-costly option is what Volvo terms its Big Ski, which attaches to the outside of the paver and measures grade over a longer area.
Volvo’s Fatyol says any grade control system improves on-the-job performance “if, for example, you’re starting to pave streets with required grade tolerances and if a DOT has specs you have to meet. “Most commercial pavers have operators turning cranks as needed, but this is much more exact, within tenths or even hundredths of an inch,” he says.
“It keeps the screed on a set grade and the operator doesn’t have to manually adjust the screed as its moving,” Harkins says. “Taking human error out of it results in a more consistent mat because the operator isn’t using his eyes to determine mat thickness. The greater material control keeps the thickness of the mat consistent through the pull.” He adds that taking human error out also results in a savings in material cost. “If the job calls for 200 tons you are more likely to hit that with these controls than when adjusting by hand,” Harkins says.
Hutchins says either type of system can be used by itself though some contractors outfit their paver with both. “A lot of times a machine will have both and you can run both together,” he says. “Having both options gives the contractor added versatility: he can run one or the other or both.”
“Whether or not you need a grade control system depends on the job,” Hutchins says. “It depends on how important rideability is to the finished work and it depends on specifications.”
Hutchins says that in most cases pavers working on parking lots don’t need either system because contractors are pretty good at matching joints manually.