Next up is the heart of the course - operating the equipment and applying what was learned in the classroom the previous day to an actual paving job.
"The purpose of these two days is to give everyone good practice," Fleming said.
And practice is what they do. The Road Institute team takes each class through an actual paving operation using a mix of damp sand and gravel as a substitute for HMA.
"We find sand and gravel closely mimics hot mix asphalt and you can see any mistakes made in the mat during the process pretty well," said Tomlinson.
Fleming instructs the paving portion of the day and Tomlinson takes over for the compaction. A Volvo PF6110 tracked paver is used with an Omni 318 screed. The class paves a mat 50 yards long and 12 feet wide. The students run the paver and the screed using manual controls as instructors observe. After a few yards, the group stops to assess the operation and mat.
"We will stop several times along the mat and discuss problems that we're seeing in the mat," explains Fleming. "We talk about what is causing problems and what needs to be adjusted. We make those adjustments and move along. So by the end of the run, the mat should look pretty good."
They also discuss the various roles on a paving crew.
"We talk about the crew and different roles on a paving team," said Fleming. "From the paver operator, screed operator, truck driver and the rest of the crew."
After the first mat is laid down, Tomlinson takes over and the group focuses on compaction, using a Volvo DD38HF double drum compactor.
"I use the smaller model because it reacts quickly to the operator's control and will exaggerate any mistakes made," said Tomlinson.
Also on-site is a Volvo DD118HFA highway class asphalt compactor. Although attendees do not get a chance to operate the large compactor on the mat, Pat Ott, another instructor, gives a walk-around of the machine and teaches operational and maintenance procedures and allows them to operate the compactor off to the side.
Each attendee gets a turn on the DD38HF compactor to roll and compact the freshly laid sand mat. Tomlinson instructs the class on the various rolling patterns they learned the day before, such as the five-pass pattern or a side-by-side pattern.
As each student takes his turn on the compactor, the rest of the class observes and has in hand a scorecard. For each turn, the remaining students observe and give a letter grade, A through F, on how well the operator did.
"When we have a paving crew, they will generally get all As," explains Tomlinson. "If someone has never run a compactor before, it can be tough to operate for the first time."
After the first lesson in compaction, it's time to lay a second mat and learn joint matching, by laying the second length of the mat next to the first. Here the fundamentals of making and looting a joint are discussed.
At an appropriate time on this second run Fleming discusses material management and methods of correctly handling the controls to ensure that the material passes through the paver and under the screed without destruction of its homogeneous blend.
On the third day, Fleming introduces the attendees to the automatic grade and slope controls on the paver.
"Day three is very similar to the previous day; however, we use the electronic controls to assist us in our leveling," explains Fleming.
"We have set up along one side of the training area a preset wire guideline, which has been leveled by a laser. As the paver moves along, its electronic grade sensor reads the wire and the automatic controls keep the screed at the desired grade and slope. The screed operator needs to watch and make slight adjustments only when necessary."
The automatic grade control is also known as a "joint matcher" because when laying a second mat it senses the previously laid mat as its reference and keeps the screed parallel to it. The automatic slope control allows the operator to set, adjust or maintain the slope across the mat.
If it is a hot joint, the new mat is laid to the same depth of the first mat. If it's a cold joint the second mat needs to be approximately 25 percent deeper, and it is up to the roller operator to compact the joints. Tomlinson instructs on rolling the joint, meaning to compact by rolling it like an unsupported edge and pinch it from either the hot side or the cold side of the joint, whichever is specified.
Although, a safety statement is made during the class opening on the first day, the final session is focused on jobsite safety. Fleming and Tomlinson provide photos of actual jobsites that highlight safety issues.
"We want them to leave with safety in the forefront of their minds," Fleming said.
With 16 courses offered over a 10-month period each year, Road Institute sees many repeat attendees. Contractors will send new employees, as well as paving veterans for refresher training.
"In almost every class there will be an 'a-ha' moment for someone," said Tomlinson.
John Morgan definitely had many "a-ha" moments during the week he attended.
"As a salesperson, I need to engage a wide range of people and the more information I have, the more valuable I am to my customer," explains Morgan. "I really learned a lot at Road Institute, and I've worked in the industry my entire career."
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