Roads are perhaps the most crucial infrastructure in the world and one of humanity’s greatest technological achievements. Ironically, the glittering asphalt of an open road makes one dream of technological escape: windows down, roar of tires, freedom. But trying to keep up with the billions of people using one of the world’s oldest industrial breakthroughs to escape their modern technological ties has left road crews at a stalemate.
The increasing demands placed on roads regularly exceed the ability of road crews to maintain, let alone improve, roads. Between 2008 and 2017, dilapidated US highways increased by 25%, dramatically increasing the demand for road repairs year after year. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, vehicles traveled more than 3.2 trillion kilometers on U.S. roads in 2019.
Road rehabilitation projects are on the increase, but limited budgets require a reassessment of methods and efficiency to ensure that the available funds can extend far enough. With teams facing a growing backlog, contractors are looking for ways to improve efficiency and do more with the same time and the same workers. However, some entities fear that learning new technologies could lead to a waste of time. This is where equipment attachments come in.
Attachments provide a realistic and efficient solution using equipment that contractors are already familiar with. By changing the workflow, minimizing maintenance, reducing the cost of equipment, enabling a smarter workforce and increasing return on investment. These new accessories change the fundamental methods of road building that have traditionally left road crews in the dust. Here’s how.
A new method
Road construction tasks such as backfilling and placing aggregates have generally been viewed as a four-step process. Pavement materials are piled up on the road, scraped into place, compacted, then crews sweep and clean what is left off the road. While larger machines and additional crew members can help with projects, another prospect for increasing efficiency and safety is to minimize the number of process steps through the use of attachments. placement of materials, which will also reduce labor.
Material placement props take the complex four-step process using expensive equipment and simplify it. With this method, a single operator connects their skid steer loader, loader, or other common host machine to the attachment and loads road materials into the top hopper. Then the operator drives along the road as the material descends from the hopper onto a conveyor which then carries the material to the edge of the attachment, distributing it through an adjustable width opening exactly where it is. necessary. Some attachments can even dispense up to 20 tonnes of aggregate in under 10 minutes with all machine settings made by a single crew member from inside the host machine using a remote control. To further increase the efficiency of material placement accessories, some manufacturers offer dual and single dispensing configurations, left side or right side, to suit many roads around the world.
Streamlining the process saves money and saves money. Teams can not only do more work in a day, but also do more with their budget by reducing steps without adding more machines or self-propelled workers. And these savings continue into the future with a significantly lower cost of ownership compared to self-propelled machines.
Reduce by tying
Traditional self-propelled machines see most of their maintenance downtime and costs associated with repairs to the engine, transmission and associated parts. However, the efficiency of accessories really shines when you consider these lost maintenance benefits.
In an effort to reduce maintenance, material placement attachments can connect to the engine and hydraulics of common and proven workhorses, such as skid steer loaders and loaders (wheel and track). In the event that a host machine needs to be repaired, teams can quickly and easily connect the accessory to another machine. With no engine or transmission to maintain, these attachments have the power to reduce maintenance by up to 90% with just a few grease fittings to service.
When considering this type of equipment, look for manufacturers that offer an optional universal mounting plate and easy hydraulic connections for their accessories and if they can connect to any host machine in a fleet. One of the benefits of choosing an attachment with a compact design means fewer parts to track and less transport and space requirements on the job site. Another advantage is the possibility of easily installing the accessories on the same trailer as the host machine to be transported to and from the job sites.
Reduced maintenance reduces downtime, ultimately giving teams the ability to take on more jobs and save money. Saving Money During the Process reimburses an owner throughout the season, but what about the gate?
Savings from the start
Engines, transmissions and transmission shafts. These high-maintenance parts are an expensive, but necessary, part for job sites. Adding material placement accessories help reduce expense by connecting low cost, essentially maintenance-free hydraulic connections to a host machine that then powers the attachment. Removing unnecessary parts cuts prices by up to 80% and allows contractors to invest in host machines that they know how to support their fleet from many angles, not paving machines that endure months of low season. And the host machine to feed the attachment? These common machines cost pennies on the dollar compared to dedicated, single-function road construction machines. Not to mention that most contractors probably have several machines that would already excel as a host machine in their fleet.
Overall, material placement accessories are low maintenance and cost significantly less than self-propelled machines, but also save money by reallocating labor.
Smart work, no less work
Redoing road building using props cuts down on unnecessary steps, decreases the amount of equipment needed, and dramatically reduces maintenance requirements, but that doesn’t mean crew members expect a similar fate. Contractors now have the freedom to assign these team members to different tasks that benefit the job site, and in times of labor scarcity, a way to keep doing the job. The freedom offered by efficiency allows contractors to put crews to work in areas where they previously did not have the capacity to work and expand their road construction operations. Contractors report up to 50% labor savings, which could potentially double a team’s work capacity when using road construction attachments. In addition to this, labor savings can also benefit crews from a safety point of view.
It’s one thing for a machine to break down, but what about a crew member? Road building is high risk work on the best days, and reflective markings and cones don’t go far on narrow roads. Crowding large numbers of crew around a road to spread material or make machine adjustments is an unnecessary risk. However, the use of props that remove several steps in the process keeps crew members out of harm’s way. In addition, remote control accessories allow the operator of the host machine to remain in the cab while adjusting dispensing speed and machine positioning.
A way forward
Poor road conditions around the world and the limitations of traditional machinery inspire innovations in equipment. The new road construction methods offered by material placement accessories prove to be assets not only in times of infrastructure crisis, but also in creating a sustainable road management system.
About the Author
Lynn Marsh is President of Road Widener LLC and has 20 years of experience in the road construction industry.