Taking a Look at Pavement Preservation

ISSA President Doug Ford discusses the pavement preservation industry

Doug Ford, president of the International Slurry Surfacing Association
Doug Ford, president of the International Slurry Surfacing Association

While pavement preservation continues to gain momentum, it is necessary for contractors to understand the industry in order to offer their clients the best product. Doug Ford, president of the International Slurry Surfacing Association, sat down with Associate Editor Kimberley Schmitt at the World of Asphalt to discuss pavement preservation industry. He offers contractors information on the history of pavement preservation, various applications, and how to share the benefits of pavement preservation with clients.

With ISSA celebrating its 50th Anniversary, how has pavement preservation changed throughout the years?

Pavement preservation was a fairly common process for a while. When the economy was doing well and agencies had money they started doing a lot of paving and were able to rebuild a lot of roads. As the budgets have become tighter and agencies don't have the extra money they have to rediscover pavement preservation. Unfortunately, with pavement preservation discovering it late is very expensive. You need to learn about it early and catch your roads early to take advantage of what it does.

What have you been doing to reach out to people and help them learn about pavement preservation?

The FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) has been involved with a number of studies of getting out the benefits of preserving early. As an association, we contacted BMG, a marketing firm. They have written articles. Not only are we getting out the preservation but we are getting out the green aspect of it.

What is one of the most common misunderstandings of pavement preservation?

We have two major problems. Number one is applying it to the wrong surface. If you apply a pavement preservation treatment to a surface that is beyond a preservation condition than it is going to fail. In that kind of a failure it looks like the agency failed, it looks like the contractor failed, and worst of all it looks like the product failed. So getting it down on the right pavement is imperative.

It's very difficult for us as contractors to educate the public. If you can build a relationship with the agency you can start discussing how to get outreach programs going. Electronic media for the agency is not only a great tool, but it's also been a huge thorn in their side. If a people drive down the road and are disrupted on their way to their house or cleaners, instead of getting mad about it they go home and write an email to their mayor or city council. That outlet has become a direct conduit to complain to someone who doesn't have the luxury of understanding the comment comes in regularly. Whereas the person who received that phone call knew they were often a soundboard. Now the council is in a position to react quickly on the contractor or the city department that is responsible for that project. Getting the education for everybody becomes imperative; you have let not just the engineer know what you're doing, but the council and everyone know this is preservation and we're attacking it early for a reason. And that same electronic media can be your way of communicating with more people. If your website starts talking about preservation, what you're doing, and how it's stretching the dollars explaining why city projects are being done then you can get people to understand what you're talking about.

What role would you say economics and rising costs have played in the increased emphasis on pavement preservation?

It's a huge role. The typical role of pavement preservation kind of went away when everyone had money to pave. They don’t have money; they have to look at this. It's not just the realization of pavement preservation and the way it's supposed to be used, but they're also running into issues of the stop gap method which is trying to hold together something when the pavement is past the condition of pavement preservation. People look at what can be done to fix it now until we have more time and more money. That is another battle because your back to putting the product down on a pavement that it's not designed for. If the pavement is cracked, water is in the subgrade, and the subgrade has failed it doesn’t matter what you put on top of it. You can cover the top, but if the subgrade is filling it will continue to fail. Back to the economics of it, the cape seal is any type of a chip seal with any type of a slurry seal or micorsufacing over top of it. Cape seals were used throughout the '80-'90s, and as the overlays came in nobody cape sealed. Now, we meet these processes that stretch the dollars. They are being reinvented and people think they are new products. They have a huge value, but it goes back to don't overestimate what it's going to do. Put it in the right place and educate people on what it is going to do.

Can you explain the application for each of the techniques and when they should be used?

Slurry seals/microsurfacing are designed to replace the fines in your roadway, add a new wearing course, and help hold the water out making it more water resistant. The benefit of the slurries and the micros is that they provide a smoother textured surface. The rideability is nice, the aesthetics are nice, and if you're in a residential neighborhood you can still skateboard on it. It's not as aggressive of a texture as a chip seal. They are both put down with truck-mounted machines or a continuous machine. That means that the continued paver will be fed material including water, emulsion and the aggregate by support trucks. Its production is higher and its calibration is from a single machine where as truck mounts have to stop and switch out each time one of is empty. Additionally, it becomes the contractors' responsibility that each of the truck mounts is collaborated consistently so that all of your mixes look the same. Those surfaces belong on roads that are in fairly good condition. You want to crack fill first before slurry and microsurfacing. Slurries are designed to cure faster for faster traffic and it is designed to stack rock so you can apply a thicker section. If you take regular slurry seal and you make it too thick it will compress and start to shove, but the microsurfacing will resist shoving. Microsurfacing is a candidate for rut filling.

A chip seal is going to be used for similar conditions as a slurry or micro, but it has different benefits. A chip seal is emulsion lay down with a rock put on top of it and then rolled into place. That allows you to put an emulsion down with asphalt that is softer and more flexible than you can with a slurry or microsurfacing because now the chip is bridging between the traffic and the roadway. It's actually sustaining the entire traffic load. Chip seals have little lateral strength, so if you're coming to an area of heavy breaking a chip seal can sometimes have difficulties sustaining that lateral pressure. Since you can run a softer material, they are very good against cracks because they move very well were as micros and slurries are more brittle and reflective cracking will come back faster. A chip seal is a very aggressive surface and good for skid resistance on highways. One downfall is that it has a little bit higher road noise and you have the problem of loose chips. There are ways to minimize those problems. The combination of the two is a great product because you get the benefit of the chip seal and you put the slurry or micro over top of it to get a smoother road. The chip seal acts as an inner layer to slow down the reflective cracking and you get the smoothness of the slurry or micro on top.

How can pavement maintenance contractors use these preservation applications?

Parking lots are a difficult situation for road products because they are aggressive. Most parking lots want to see a smoother texture and they want a product that will hold a blacker color longer. We generally don't put these treatments into parking lots until they have worn to the point where a conventional sealcoat product is no longer going to help it. Our products are susceptible to power steering marks so if you're sitting in one place, it's a hot day, and you turn your wheel you will leave a mark in the surface. In large parking lots it's not that uncommon to see pavement preservation applications. They are put down in large parking lots from 100,000 square-feet to 1 million square feet, especially some as they age.

Using the preservation applications on driveways is very regional. Chip seals are a very unattractive finished surface. The majority of the chip seal driveways we do are on high-end homes. They have these very long driveways, so what we do is we give them a solid base and put the chip seal over top of it leaving loose aggregate so it looks more natural but it has all of the stability of a brand new road. They're still being used in driveways, but it's very regional based on the size.

Why did you add crack repair to your list? How did that come into being included?

As you go through your pavement preservation process you're going to have a list of where you want to start first level is a fog seal, second level is a slurry seal or micro, and then a chip seal. Those are all designed to take care of surface deteriorations because all pavement preservation only deal with the surface you have to protect your subgrade. Protecting your subgrade is what crack fill does. It prevents the infiltration of water into the subgrade.

Would you say crack filling is one of the most effect preservation techniques they can take?

There isn't just one significant technique because they are designed for different types of preservation. Crack seal is the most unique because if you have cracks it doesn't matter what preservation you put on it—you need to crack seal. You can go in, crack seal and not need another type of surfacing on it. They are all important; it just depends on what type of wear you have.

How can contractors take advantage of the increased interest in pavement preservation to grow their business?

To me the biggest thing if you're going to take advantage of the growth of the industry is quality product. The industry is going to grow so get involved some way to ensure the quality of the product. That's the biggest reason I support ISSA and all of its members support ISSA because ISSA is designed as a tool to help the industry ensure its ability to get a good product. If you're a new contractor that is going to get in the industry, take advantage of a growing industry which it's going to because dollars are going to mandate it has to. Be sure you get into some sort of format that allows you to know how to put down a quality product because bad products don't grow markets.

How would you suggest contractors approach pavement preservation with their clients?

The pavement preservation index that shows when to maintain your road can be used in any atmosphere. You can use that as your selling point with an apartment complex as well as you can with a county agency. It’s the same principle as far as when you start to preserve your asphalt.

Do you think that having a pavement management plan would be a great approach? How would you encourage contractors to take those steps to create a pavement management plan for their clients?

The greatest thing about a pavement management plan is if it's done correctly it will show the dollars and the savings. Showing the pavement management plan sells itself. If the contractor can't get someone to look at it, team together with an association. Again, being a part of an association helps you have a tool someone else listens to instead of thinking that it’s the contractor's plan. Even if you start looking at brochures they are putting out, the pavement condition index shows exactly when you hit things and how that cost is associated with today's prices versus tomorrows prices.

As far as technology, what would you say contractors should invest in so they can take advantage of pavement preservation?

The equipment is really important, in particular to slurry and microsurfacing. The technology manufacturers are coming out with right now allow you to put down a consistent product. It provides the information where an agency can read exactly what that machine is doing. It allows the contractor to know this machine is helping you instead of requiring the operator to be the magician on the back of the machine and know everything that is going on. Without a doubt equipment technology has gone a long way and if you're going to get in the business you need to make sure the equipment is right.

How is the environment playing a part in pavement preservation?

Hands down it is the greenest technology you can use. If you do it for the minimal amount of work and effort today than that's less work later. The green house effect of pavement preservation versus a reconstruction the difference is huge.