Commercial class pavers: Smaller and lighter but more sophisticated than ever
Commercial class pavers
Smaller and lighter than their big brothers in the highway business, pavers less than 25,000 pounds are more sophisticated than ever.
By Tom Jackson
Asphalt paving contractors who specialize in parking lots, paths and driveways don’t measure success by the ton; they measure it by time – as in how fast they can complete one job and move on to the next. With speed, maneuverability and flexibility driving the design criteria of these pavers, the commercial class category is coming close to matching highway class pavers in features and technology.
“If you haven’t looked at a commercial class paver in the past 10 years, or even the past five years, you’ll be astounded at the capability of these little machines,” says John Hood, manager of product development and sales for paving and milling equipment at BOMAG. Features such as electric heated screeds, automatic fume control and electronic grade and slope controls are now offered as options or standard in some cases.
And while mainline highway class pavers are designed for one thing only, commercial class pavers get called upon to perform a variety of chores. In addition the applications mentioned above, they’re used to pave backfilled trenches, landscaped and garden areas, factory floors, patch large asphalt cuts and lay down and compact sand, gravel and aggregate.
Defining commercial class
Commercial class pavers run the gamut of sizes from small, one-man cart and path pavers to big machines that push up against the lower end of highway class pavers. At the light end of the scale you have box-gravity fed systems for small volume applications. The simplified, box-gravity designs fill a low-cost, low-maintenance niche in the marketplace. They offer a paver that’s easy to transport and easy to maneuver both around obstacles and up close to buildings.
The limitation on gravity fed designs is volume. In most situations you’re doing good to lay down 200 tons a day. And gravity fed pavers are shorter, which can affect smoothness over a long pull. “We see them more and more in municipal applications where guys are patching and doing small driveways,” Hood says. But to maintain any real production people go to conveyor fed pavers because they’re not starting and stopping as much.”
The larger commercial class pavers are capable of doing city streets and small roadways, although they’re not designed for the high volume, long distance mainline highway paving jobs. Still, some mainline paving contractors will keep a large commercial class paver in their equipment arsenals and use them to pave shoulders, rumble strips, turn lanes and other low-speed areas of the road.
The cutoff weight to define a commercial paver is pretty subjective, says Brodie Hutchins, general manager, Vögele America. “The Association of Equipment Manufacturers used to define the classes by weight but now they are defined by horsepower,” he says. The larger commercial pavers are actually in a category that does not exist by definition.
With versatility becoming more important, these machines are designed for contractors who want to do commercial work and step up into the heavy commercial and highway work. Then it becomes a question of whether or not you want to spend a little more money and step up to a true highway class paver in the 30,000-pound category, Hutchins says.
Capacity and setup
With commercial class pavers, operators could put down as much as 1,200 tons a day in a perfect scenario with the right people, trucks and a jobsite with no obstructions, says Frank Riggi of Riggi Paving, Fairview, New Jersey. But commercial pavers are best suited for the jobsites with 500 tons or less, he says.
“Most people who do this kind of paving do not step up to large machines until they go over 700 to 900 tons per day on a consistent basis, and they have a very open area to pave,” says John Rau, product training specialist for Gehl.
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