7 Things Learned at NPE 2014

For the first time since 1999, The National Pavement Expo (NPE) brought back outdoor demonstrations (see pages 16-17) but NPE also hosted 53 conference sessions. Here’s just a bit of what attendees learned in NPE classes in Fort Lauderdale.


1. Site preparation is everything when sealcoating

A sealcoating application will not stick if the surface is not properly prepared. “You want to clean, prep and prime,” says Cynthia Thompson, Star-Seal of Florida.

Thompson says to look beyond the debris you can see on the surface. “You have got to get down into the profile of the asphalt where the dirt is stubborn and hides,” she says. “Any sealcoating you lay down will stick to whatever it’s applied to and if that material is dust and dirt, not the asphalt surface itself, then it will lift right up as soon as it’s disturbed.

“Your reputation will likely suffer if the job doesn’t perform. Call backs are going to cost you a lot more than site prep so clean, clean and clean some more.”


2. It’s all in the mix

“Pavement design is like a cake mix,” says James Curtis of Chec Management Systems in California. “If you do not follow the recipe, it can be disastrous.”

Mix-related issues can mean the end of your pavement before you even lay it down. Checking, scuffing, cracking, chipping, shoving and rutting can all be issues that occur when you are not using the right mix for the job.

“The mix needs to be stable and strong,” says Jim Scherocman, consulting engineer. “There might not be enough strength within the mix to support the roller or the mix may be internally unstable to cause issues. All of these things can be solved at the plant.”


3. No pavement will be better than what you build it on

Up to 90% of the strength of a road or parking lot will be provided by the aggregate base. Build your pavement from the bottom up, start with good material and go from there. “You rely on the underlying layer to support the layers you put on top of it,” says Curtis. “And the lack of compaction on any one component can spell death to the whole system.”

Geotextiles or geogrids can be used to add additional strength to the base when cost and elevation are concerns.


4. Teach your customers

Making sure your customers know what they are buying was heard over and over again whether the discussion was about sweeping, striping, paving or sealcoating. Going cheap is not the way for customers to save in the long run.

When you’re bidding a job educate your customers about the return on investment. Make sure they know what they are getting into. Walk them through the project from start to finish; customers like hand holding.

“You never want to hear the words ‘I thought’ from your customers,” says Jack Moltz, Southern Emulsions. “If they are saying that, it means they didn’t understand the things you were telling them when you bid the job.”


5. Working at night, you’re at a higher risk

There are many benefits to working at night, but there are many dangers too.

Debbie Jacketta, Jacketta Sweeping Services in Utah, uses her sweeping units on highway construction jobs. Her employees will work at night, cleaning up what milling machines have left behind on the roadway. After an unfortunate incident where one of her workers was backed over by a dump truck, Jacketta received a visit from OSHA and has since changed the way Jacketta Sweeping operates at night.

“We now have a company internal traffic control plan that teaches employees that they should stay in the sweeper while in the active work zone areas for a project,” Jacketta says. “We tell them that if a need arises to exit the sweeper, employees should move out of the work zone area to a safe place before exiting.”

An additional hazard of night work is the danger of employees falling asleep while on the job. Bill Sirois, Circadian Technology, says that humans are hard-wired to be day creatures and many changes happen in our bodies at night. “Mother Nature is trying to shut you down when you work at night,” he says.

Sirois recommends companies that work at night develop a “Fatigue Risk Management Solution (FRMS).” These solutions involve having optimized staffing levels, shift management in case of fatigue, work/rest schedules and a written FRMS with best practices, policies and procedures.


6. Asphalt hotbox reclaimers will pay for themselves very quickly

“If you’re bringing unused asphalt back to a plant at any point in time, you should purchase an asphalt reclaimer,” says Kurt Schwarz from KM International. An asphalt reclaimer allows you to put in virgin asphalt or plant mix that has not been compacted and re-use it at a later time. It reheats the material to be used when you need it, saving you time and money.

With the help of a reclaimer, you can have hot asphalt year round allowing you to operate on your own time, not the plants. If you need mix for just a few potholes, you will have the ability to do the work how you want and when you want.


7. Three things will destroy a pavement, water, water and water

First thing is first, get the water out of the aggregate. This relates back to the mix design, but Scherocman stresses that if you don’t get the moisture out of the aggregate, the mix is going to be too wet and the binder won’t adhere properly to the aggregate particles. That will cause all of the issues mentioned above.

Next, you want to make sure you pre-plan for water on new construction. Study the site layout, make sure there are not low spots for water to pool and cause premature pavement wear.

Make sure you achieve proper compaction. Compaction shrinks or eliminates voids so less water can enter the structure.

Watch the weather (and turn off the sprinklers!) When you’re sealcoating a job, be sure to watch for rain. There should not be any water on the new surface within eight hours of application. This also means to call ahead to the property managers and have them turn off the sprinklers for the days before, on and after when you plan to sealcoat.