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Seven bad habits commonly seen among paving veterans - and tips to break them

Fri March 25, 2016 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

For more than 50 years, Volvo Road Institute has been the industry's premiere training resource for asphalt paving professionals.
For more than 50 years, Volvo Road Institute has been the industry's premiere training resource for asphalt paving professionals.

Training isn't just for the inexperienced. With a number of technology advancements in the past decade — as well as increasingly stringent DOT specifications for smoothness and density — ongoing training for industry veterans has never been more important. If you find yourself justifying paving practices with the line, “That's the way we've always done it,” you may be cutting yourself short on the opportunity to get the job done in less time, and for less money.

Here are seven of the most common (and profit-draining) bad habits of paving professionals that can be broken with a little training.

1. Not controlling the head of material

More than 95 percent of all material faults are due to improper head of material in front of the screed. One of the most common operator mistakes is allowing fluctuation. If the head of material fluctuates much more than an inch, the chances for speed bumps and waves in the mat are pretty high. Many of the latest machines are equipped with sensors to control head of material — an easy solution to this problem — yet, many operators either choose not to use them or haven't been trained to set them up properly.

2. Turning the depth cranks too much

Some paver operators tend to frequently readjust the depth cranks back and forth throughout the paving process. This bad habit can cause waves in the mat, ultimately requiring milling or repaving to meet smoothness specifications. Once the depth cranks are set, they should generally be left alone, except for the occasional minor adjustment.

3. Changing speeds or paving too fast

Inconsistent paving speed not only has a negative impact to uniformity, but it can throw off the timing of the entire paving train. Another common mistake is paving too fast. When the roller operator is faced with trying to catch up, the impact spacing isn't adequate, causing a washboard effect and problems with density. These problems can easily be remedied by using speed limiters on the paver. Yet, again, many either choose not to use speed limiters or haven't been properly trained on their use.

4. Not using auto vibration

Some veteran roller operators are used to the days when auto vibration wasn't an option, and have a tendency to manually turn vibration on and off. Worst-case scenario, an operator could forget to turn it off when slowing or coming to a stop, leading to over-compaction.

5. Running a static roller on the first pass

Some roller operators have a tendency to run without vibration on the first pass toward the paver — a bad habit that likely developed as a result of dual-amplitude rollers being introduced. The more you can run vibration (when the material allows), the fewer number of passes will be required, the faster you'll hit target density, and the more likely you'll be to get a bonus.

6. Not using auto grade and slope control systems

These systems can take a lot of guesswork out of paving, helping to reduce operator mistakes and lay a smooth mat. All too often, however, operators either choose not to use them or have had a bad experience with them due to improper setup. If these systems aren't properly matched to the electronics on the paver, the readings won't be accurate. Thus, training on proper setup is vital to ensure the systems are effective.

7. Not stopping the roller at an angle

Another common mistake is to stop the roller without turning at a slight angle. When stopping squarely, the resulting indentation will be much harder to level out — and, in fact, may get worse — with each future pass. When the operator stops at a slight 20- to 30-percent angle, that indentation is easily smoothed out on future passes.

Break the bad habits

For more than 50 years, Volvo Road Institute has been the industry's premiere training resource for asphalt paving professionals. With a variety of classroom and hands-on training courses covering everything from paver and compactor operation and maintenance, to intelligent compaction and grade and slope control systems — Road Institute provides both newcomers and industry veterans with the knowledge needed to break bad habits and start winning bonuses.

For more information, visit

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