How Advances In Technology Have Changed The Paving Industry

Paving industry technology advances

When most people hear "advances in technology," they tend to picture industries like medicine, aerospace, or electronics. When it comes to paving, there have been just as many important advancements. These have dramatically altered the way we create roads, resulting in greater safety, efficiency, and sustainability. Here are seven advances in tech that have changed paving:

1. Laser-Guided Transits

Since asphalt is intended to create a more-or-less waterproof surface, setting up proper drainage is important. In the old days, this was accomplished by assessing the height and depth of the surface using a transit. This is a scope attached to a plum bob, used to focus on a specific target. It allowed the user to determine the grade of a surface, which would then be used to create a drainage plan.

Now, lasers can do pretty much all of that for us. Like the laser levels used in construction, a laser-guided transit lets users determine the grade of a surface with accuracy and precision. It's easier, more efficient, and reduces the risk of human error compared to old transits.

2. New Asphalt and Concrete Mixes

In just the past twenty years or so, both asphalt and concrete have moved away from traditional mixes, and toward high-performance, recycled, and sustainable mixes. New asphalt mixes are designed to handle more traffic and severe weather conditions, extending their lifespans. Modern concrete mixes not only improve the performance of the finished product but also reduce the amount of energy required to produce it. As a result, new surfaces are stronger, more resilient, and greener.

3. Street Trenching

In the past, removing damaged pavement was an arduous, labor-intensive task. First, there was cutting pavement with an asphalt cutter, if necessary. Then, breaking up the old surface with jackhammers. After that, the broken-up pavement needed to be carted away in dump trucks. It's a process that could take an entire afternoon, which increased the cost (and danger -- especially on hot summer days) of repaving projects.

Now, there's the Street Works Street Trencher. This is a machine that can cut, pulverize, and backfill in a single pass, with no dump trucks needed. Since it uses a carbide trenching attachment, it also causes less damage to surrounding surfaces than a jackhammer does. Crews can prepare a surface for repaving in a fraction of the time it would take to do it the old way.

4. Infrared Temperature Sensors

Paving mix is most workable at a specific range of temperatures. In the past, knowing all of this was largely a matter of expertise -- you needed experience working in all kinds of conditions and with a variety of paving mixes.

Today, infrared sensors can tell you exactly how hot or cool your paving mix is, and can even save this data to analyze later, providing you with a more exact frame of reference for your future paving projects. It takes a lot of guesswork and trial and error to figure out how fresh paving mix reacts to its environment and ensures more consistent results.

5. Intelligent Pavement Compaction

In the past, properly compacting pavement was an art just as much as a science. Each paving mix could be expected to compact to a certain degree, and this could be influenced by things like temperature and site conditions.

Now, there's "intelligent compaction." This combines vibratory rollers with an integrated measuring system, onboard computer, GPS, and more. The equipment operator can see exactly how the site's current conditions impact the compaction of the paving mix, compare data across the entire job site, and save it for later analysis. The result is better, more consistent paving.

6. Oscillatory Vibration Systems

In the past, vibration was achieved with the use of out-of-balance weights. This would cause the drum the vibrate. Like a jackhammer, this could end up causing neighboring structures to vibrate, causing damage to nearby buildings, other road surfaces, or buried utilities.

Oscillatory vibration systems use exciters that shake the drum back and forth. This drastically reduces the amount of vibration that's transmitted to nearby structures, thereby limiting the risk of damage. It also helps ensure a smoother paving job, with less risk of rippling.

7. Improved Pavement Maintenance

Back in the day, maintaining pavement was largely reactive. That means that problems were fixed as they appeared -- if there was a crack or pothole, crews would patch or re-pave it.

Preventative maintenance involves filling small cracks, sealing surfaces, and other small measures that can help extend the life of a paved surface. These cut down on the cost and waste of major repairs.

Improved maintenance technology isn't just for pavement, either. Smart equipment sensors allow operators to predict when paving equipment needs to be serviced, long before actual problems arise. This improves equipment uptime, reduces repair costs, and improves efficiency and consistency.

The average person doesn't usually put a lot of thought into what goes into creating the infrastructure around them, or exactly how complex the science of paving really is. When you look at the ways paving jobs were handled in the past, it's easy to see just how profoundly these advancements in technology have changed the way the industry paves.

POSTED: August 10, 2022