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American Pavement Specialists Paves Way in New England, Beyond

Thu June 13, 2024 - National Edition #13

XBroom Sweepers’ special edition Raised On Blacktop sweeper.
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XBroom Sweepers’ special edition Raised On Blacktop sweeper.
XBroom Sweepers’ special edition Raised On Blacktop sweeper.   (CEG photo) The shed constructed to house the Bagela is elevated by mafia blocks, allowing for a larger finished product stockpile.   (CEG photo) Various stockpiles of millings, sorted by type.   (CEG photo) Special edition Raised On Blacktop Mauldin motor grader.   (CEG photo) Special features added to the Mauldin Raised On Blacktop motor grader include a handy tool area.   (CEG photo) This specially designed Raised On Blacktop Trout River Trailer is mounted on a Peterbilt chassis.   (CEG photo) A special auger system that allows for direct asphalt placement was jointly engineered between Trout River and American Pavement Specialists.   (CEG photo) LeeBoy 8520 Raised On Blacktop edition.   (CEG photo) Raised On Blacktop Shoulder Master broom, which was introduced by Shoulder Master and Bill Stanley at the World of Asphalt.   (CEG photo) This permanent utility patch was made from asphalt from the Bagela recycler.   (CEG photo) Bill Stanley (L) and Greg Harla with the limited edition Raised On Blacktop Bagela recycler.   (CEG photo)

Promoting the brand American Pavement Specialists has always been a high priority for Bill Stanley, the company's owner. Thirty years ago, when he started the company, the name American Pavement Specialists came about partially as a result of the fact that the "A" in the American Pavement Specialists name would put them at the top of the list of the Paving Category in the Yellow Pages.

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But that was 30 years ago, and the Yellow Pages have all but disappeared. In the early 2000s, Stanley saw that the trends had shifted, and it was time to put more emphasis on Web-based marketing.

"My vision was a website that would help customers understand what we offer and what various aspects of their project would look like," he said. "I envisioned a website that would have a ‘Paving' tab and give a video of what paving looks like. The same idea with ‘Milling,' ‘Striping,' and any of the services that we offer.

"Unfortunately, Web development at that time was very expensive and it was difficult to accomplish exactly what I was looking for," he added. "It didn't really have a name at the time, but we were one of the first companies to use social media to promote ourselves. There was no Instagram, Tik Tok or YouTube, but what was out there was a site called Facebook that was wildly popular with young people, and that's where our social media presence started.

"We made up our own Facebook business page account and we started by taking pictures of trucks, primarily because my kids were at an age when they thought trucks were really cool and would get a lot of attention. We then started to put pictures of projects that were completed or in the process of being worked on. In no amount of time at all our Facebook became wildly popular. The best part was it was free.

"Over time we loaded Facebook with pictures and videos of everything we do. If we were quoting a milling job and the customer asked about the milling process or what equipment we use, we could send them straight to Facebook. When Instagram came along, we immediately got involved with project pictures and in no time at all we had 10,000 followers. Instagram, with its heavy emphasis on photographs, turned into an overnight sensation for us. We currently have 143,000 followers on Instagram.

"YouTube has been another big success for us. We just keep feeding it videos of our projects. The YouTube channel has been a big hit within the industry. I am constantly amazed by how many of our fellow contractors and people involved in paving equipment manufacturing are tracking our posts on YouTube."

Stanley's sons have been involved in the business since a very young age, and they take a lot of pride and an active role in the company's Web marketing — they developed the idea of becoming social media influencers within the paving industry. They also developed the phrase "Raised on Blacktop."

The idea was to create a forum that promotes the asphalt and paving industries as well as giving information on how paving contractors can improve their businesses. Once again, it became nearly an overnight sensation, Stanley said.

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Today "Raised On Blacktop" has 75,000 Instagram followers as well as several thousand followers on Facebook. In fact, the "Raised on Blacktop" concept has become so popular it now has its own apparel line. There is a daily stream of orders for branded hats, t-shirts and hoodies. In 2023, they had hundreds of thousands in just t-shirt sales. Orders come from across the world, including Paraguay, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

The company is even currently working on a deal to create "Raised on Blacktop" work shoes.

According to Stanley, the Raised on Blacktop theme has become so popular that companies like LeeBoy, Mauldin, John Deere, Bagela, Wirtgen, Trout River Trailers, XBroom Sweepers and Shoulder Master sweepers have released special "Raised on Blacktop" editions of their equipment.

"They pay us to operate their equipment and then promote it on our social media platforms," Stanley said. "As an example, Mauldin released a Raised on Blacktop motor grader that includes the Raised on Blacktop logo prominently displayed on the machine and a number of upgrades to the machine that we worked with Mauldin to develop, including a special lighting package, a more comfortable seat and a special paint job.

"Trout River Trailers worked closely with us to develop an auger truck for an asphalt transfer trailer. It features an 8-foot auger for unloading in specific spots, particularly in hard-to-reach areas, and the auger is completely operated by a remote control to give very precise delivery and allowing your worker to see exactly what is going on. The end result is something that looks a little bit like a hybrid of an asphalt trailer and stone slinger. "Trout River was amazing to work with. We had a concept of what we wanted but did not have the capacity to create it and their engineers worked very closely with us to create a new product to help us specifically meet some of our needs."

XBroom, a sweeper company, also has gotten onboard with a Raised on Blacktop special edition. Like the others, it features the Raised on Blacktop logo and then some added features that aren't included in its standard lineup.

"The LeeBoy special edition model is a LeeBoy 8520 paver, again with the Raised on Blacktop logo and some extra features that we worked with LeeBoy on. For instance, we made a tool carrying kit that holds shovels, rakes, etc. It has a special color scheme, additional LED lighting and strobe lights for visibility. More than 250 machines have been sold thus far.

"This machine is so popular that LeeBoy has them on backorder. LeeBoy was the first company to work with us on special edition machines. We have a great history with LeeBoy; we've done business with them since we opened our doors and I've probably bought 20 LeeBoy machines in the past 25 years. We've stayed very loyal to the LeeBoy brand. They demonstrate a huge commitment to the paving industry, and they are leaders in innovation. Just about every year there are improvements to the machines that were close to perfect to begin with.

"Raised on Blacktop is designed to accomplish that, but also to help encourage a new generation of people coming into this industry and make sure that they are well suited to do excellent work.

"We consider ourselves a premium contractor. We do extremely good work and as a result we get paid a premium price. We are showing other contractors how to achieve getting themselves into this premium contractor position. It is to our advantage at American Pavement Specialists to have as many paving contractors as possible doing premium work. The reason, if everyone is doing premium work, the industry can maintain work at healthier pricing levels because they're not competing with competitors that do inferior work.

"I have been in this business for 45 years, where I started with a pick and a shovel. We have a lot of experiences to share. We are always looking for ways to do a better job and when we find them, we use Raised on Blacktop and its social media presence to share that information.

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"We try to instill in all of our followers the importance of giving your employees as good a working environment as you can possibly have, considering the extreme conditions we work in. For instance, we have started ordering our asphalt rollers with a heated and air-conditioned cab. It's critical these days to keep your employees as happy as possible. We don't find ourselves in the polarizing position of not being able to find help.

"Through things like putting cabs on rollers, we make our employees' working environment as pleasant as possible. The machines in our fleet are new or like-new, which is a pleasure for an employee to operate. After every job, we clean and service every piece that's been used so that our employees have good and reliable equipment to go out and work with. American Pavement Specialists has built a brand that people want to work for."

The service and maintenance of the equipment fleet does a lot more than just keep employees happy. The equipment in the fleet is typically worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Keeping machines in peak working order is a part of the company's philosophy that pays off with significantly longer life of the machines, which in turn pays big dividends.

Stanley's heavy emphasis on marketing his company, producing excellent quality work and taking good care of his equipment has all paid off. In Connecticut, Stanley said, he is known as the guy you want doing your job. It's not unusual for potential customers to immediately say, "yes, I've heard about you guys, you do really good work."

American Pavement Specialists is a marketing-driven company, and it does far more than market its website and its social media platforms. For example, at one time it sponsored a car in the NASCAR truck series that was driven by Spencer Boyd. Another aspect of its marketing vision is having every machine in the fleet carefully detailed with the company's logo, and then making sure that every machine looks as shiny and clean as the day it was purchased when it is delivered at the job site, further enhancing American Pavement Specialists' image.

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Capitalizing On Recycled Asphalt

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Bill Stanley (L) and Greg Harla with the limited edition Raised On Blacktop Bagela recycler.

American Pavement Specialists is one of the leading paving and milling contractors in the state of Connecticut and the company's owner, Bill Stanley, is a well-known media influencer for the asphalt equipment industry. The company recently purchased its third Bagela asphalt recycler, following the purchase of two recycling machines in 2012.

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The general purpose of the Bagela is to turn pavement waste (ground millings, etc.) into a hot mix asphalt that can be produced year-round. A significant percentage of the asphalt is used in the off season to repair damaged areas such as potholes.

According to Stanley, "We purchased our first Bagela in 2012 and have worked closely ever since with Greg Harla, our representative with Bagela. If you look at the typical paving contractor in the United States, it's almost always family run. It might be brothers, it might be father and son, but there is always that family connection.

"To a company like ours, relationship and support is everything," he added. "When we started working with Greg, he was a tremendous source of information on how to recycle and turn into cash asphalt that we had previously been unable to find other applications for. But, more than just his knowledge, he also supports our company. Greg has been instrumental in promoting our Raised on Blacktop social media presence and introducing it to other contractors and equipment manufacturers.

"But more than just lip service, he has also come to the table with a special Raised on Asphalt Bagela recycler. That's the kind of support that keeps us coming back to Bagela."

To accommodate the new Bagela recycler, American Pavement Specialists has built a loading area so that the millings can be delivered and stockpiled effortlessly. The machine has been raised off the ground to accommodate better loading with mafia blocks and with a shed enclosure built around the Bagela recycler so that approximately 20 tons of material can be kept dry and the operator is given an opportunity to get out of the weather.

Because most of product being made is for winter road repair, most of the production for the Bagela recycler is done in cold weather. Most of that product is sold to customers, typically municipalities or contractors focusing on municipal work. It's a great market for American Pavement Specialists: cold patch repair has been determined to be ineffective and costly. Filling holes with recycled hot asphalt has become the new normal in winter repair work.

The product also is used by utility contractors who are patching their road cuts. The asphalt plants are typically closed for the winter so if contractors are producing hot recycled asphalt, they can effectively capture that winter market.

The market for the recycling asphalt is not just limited to road repair. If someone is looking for a basic paved pad or yard where the quality of the finish is not critical, the Bagela recycler is producing an affordable alternative to using virgin asphalt, Stanley said.

"We produce a product called Contractors Mix. In fact, the recycling area of American Pavement Specialists yard was produced using recycled asphalt. Another application that has created significant savings is preserving for later use excess virgin asphalt from a project.

"It is not unusual to overestimate the amount of asphalt to be used on a project, which has been a real problem. What do you do with it? Once it cools, it's useless to you and you can't just stockpile hot asphalt and use it the next day. We are stockpiling our excess asphalt, reheating it and running it through the Bagela recycler, and we are able to use the excess product on our next project.

"What's really surprising is how long a pile of hot asphalt will maintain its temperature. A load that is left in our yard at the end of the day will typically hold much of its temperature beneath the surface of the crusted over pile, so it's really not a big jump to get the entire pile back up to the required temperature when you start out the next day. It's just like throwing the asphalt in a microwave and reheating it. It's just as good a product as it was the day before.

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"Essentially, I'm taking a 1 percent waste factor and turning this into savings. Which at the end of the year becomes very substantial for APS. An additional benefit is not having to extend your workday into the evening because too much asphalt was delivered for that day's project. If it's a multiple-day project, we would typically end up working into the night to lay the extra load of asphalt, which does not make for a happy employee. Now we can just resend that load back to our yard and heat it back up the next morning. This also helps control unplanned overtime."

The Bagela recycler is a significant revenue enhancer for American Pavement Specialists.

"Wintertime, we typically wouldn't have much else to do besides maintain equipment. The Bagela recycler keeps the crew busy and cashflow coming in, which is good for everybody."

Greg Harla of Bagela mentioned some benefits that he is seeing by doing cross promotion with Raised on Blacktop.

"Bill and his family have used multiple videos of the Bagela at work through their social media platform," he said. "We now have potential customers come to us that don't need an education process because they are already up to speed on what the Bagela does."

"It's an extremely reliable machine," Stanley added from his experience of more than 12 years of using the Bagela product. "It's built with a double jacket concept and the flame never touches the material, so you don't ever have to worry about a burn factor. We've only had one machine failure in the past 12 years, which we repaired, but it was an issue with our own operation of the machine. It was not the fault of the Bagela.

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