Sealcoating Resilience

So it's late August, the bulk of the sealcoating season is behind us, and without jinxing the industry I think it's safe to say that the coal tar sealer issues that plagued the industry last year are nowhere to be found. Availability of RT-12 has been consistent, RT-12 producers have delivered on schedule as promised, and sealer manufacturers have been able to meet customer demands with nary a blip in the delivery schedule. Well what the heck happened? First, RT-12 plants remained on line. There were no breakdowns, no shutdowns, no labor issues, and no unexpected repairs that would have disrupted the refining of crude coal tar into RT-12. So the supply of RT-12 was stable - in other words coal tar sealer producers received what their RT-12 suppliers said they could provide. But perhaps more important is a sea change in contractors' attitudes toward sealer material. Contractors who last year were forced to switch to asphalt-based sealer because coal tar sealer was unavailable found that asphalt sealer worked fine, was available as needed, and that most clients didn't care which product was used on their parking lots provided it worked - looked good and protected the asphalt. So many contractors who last year tested asphalt-based sealers added them to their arsenal of sealcoating products, reducing their reliance on coal tar. Plus, sealer producers continued to develop and improve their blended products - part coal tar part asphalt - as a way to offset any possible disruption in RT-12 delivery but also as a way to cross-breed some of the benefits of coal tar and some of the benefits of asphalt-based product. The result of all this has many contractors offering two or in some cases three sealer options to their customers, reducing the burden on the coal tar product and the RT-12 producers. A good thing all the way around as the industry continues to show its resilience in the face of just about whatever obstacles confront it. Now, the cost of sealer this year - at both the producer level and the contractor level - is a different matter entirely, but let's at least be content with the stability of an industry that has proven itself year in and year out.