Highway Contractor: A hard day’s night paving
Better Roads Staff
According to equipment industry leaders, successful paving projects at night start with three things: planning, planning and planning.
By Mike Anderson
Working all night” may sound like a long, drawn-out sentence for anyone punching a clock. For a paving crew, it’s anything but, warns veteran industry trainer Terry Humphrey.
Always a critical factor in construction success, time management is even more so when paving at night, says Humphrey, a retired Cat Paving training manager now serving the company’s dealers and customers as a vendor-employed training consultant. “Night paving always has a requirement that we lay a certain amount of tons in a prescribed amount of time,” he explains. “Traditionally, during the daytime, we would think about, ‘Well, I’m going to lay 2,000 tons in this shift; it may take me eight hours, it may take me nine hours, but I’m going to lay 2,000 tons.’ At night, you’re planning maybe to lay 2,000 tons, but you have a fixed starting time and a fixed stopping time. So, time management on the paving process is a big difference.”
His advice? Plan, plan, plan! “You just cannot lose time,” says Humphrey, “because you’ve got no way to make it up in the middle of a shift. The time management gets tougher at night, for sure.”
Having been put to practice in various parts of North America for 30 years now, night paving is established, continually expanding, and certainly not going away, says Bill Rieken, paver applications specialist with equipment manufacturer Terex Roadbuilding. “It’s just a reality we’re in. With the traffic loads we have today, a contractor’s going to have to plan on night paving,” he says. “Even here in the Midwest out on the Interstates, we’re paving at night.”
Paving contractors, when working at night, need to have their ducks lined up even more straight than normal, concurs Rieken. “You’re on and off the road in a certain timeframe, so you’ve got to make sure all your equipment’s working properly and that you don’t have breakdowns,” he says, “and that you’ve got a plan in case there is a breakdown. You’ve got back-up equipment; you’ve got something in place to deal with whatever might happen on the jobsite, so that the traffic is opened back up on time. Usually there is a time deadline: by 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock or whatever it is, you’re finished your work, you’ve cleared your cones and the lanes are opened up.”
Or else you pay, says John Sunkenberg, a road industry product competency manager for Volvo Construction Equipment. “Because there are traffic constraints that have triggered this to be a night paving job, there’s usually a time constraint when you have to get off the job. So if a piece of equipment is down, or something else is down, you’re going to start getting fined a big fine hourly if you’re not off the road in the allotted amount of time.”
To accomplish all that’s required in a night shift, “job management is critical,” says Rieken.
Worth repeating. And repeating.
Humphrey makes no apologies for being a broken record: “Planning, planning, planning,” he stresses.
“Traffic control is a huge problem with night paving, because it’s most always urban paving, specifically a multi-lane situation where you’ve got live traffic in the same direction as the paving crew,” he says. “Traffic control is totally different at night because of the lack of visibility. The key is pre-project or pre-shift safety meetings that explain to everybody where traffic is going to be at all times: which lanes are closed; which lanes are open; how close will the traffic be to the cones or the barricades that are set up. Communication about safety becomes even more critical at night.”
When it comes time to lay material, “we can’t afford to make any mistakes, because of this time thing,” says Humphrey. “Everybody has to be a little bit more vigilant at night, and it starts at the plant. We don’t see as well, we’re not going to see defects in the material, so the plant really has to have excellent quality control at any time but at night it’s even more critical. We have to be able to depend on that mix coming to us the same, truck after truck.
“At night, you’ve got no time to recover from mistakes.”
Among the “over-planning” or preparing for contingencies Humphrey recommends for consideration is an extra truck or two to avoid unnecessary waits. An extra roller may be needed, too. “Because the ambient temperatures are different at night, in other words it’s cooler at night, the mix is going to compact differently,” he says, noting the need for quicker compaction of the faster-cooling material on a night Superpave project. “Instead of having one compactor, you probably need two compactors ahead of the tender zone.
“When I work with the crews at night, I do cooling curves that tell me how long I’ve got before the mat cools to a certain temperature. That tells me: if I’m paving this wide, laying this many tons, I need this many compactors. It’s just getting information, and sharing that information, because the plan you make at night is different than what the crew is used to doing during the day.”
MORE FROM Highway Contractor
- Sydney uses water curtains to alert drivers to stop (VIDEO)805 Views
- Obama signs memorandum to expedite infrastructure projects574 Views
- Florida’s Red Light Camera Game: G R E E N orange R E D287 Views
- Big four cellphone companies jointly launch anti-texting campaign266 Views
- Acceptance of connected vehicles depends on cost, LaHood says263 Views