Thousands of industry professionals have been taught the ABCs of asphalt paving at Volvo Construction Equipment’s Road Institute over the last 45 years, earning the North American establishment a respected reputation within the road building industry.
Collectively, Steve Neal and Wayne Tomlinson have nearly 60 years experience in the asphalt industry. Both are instructors at Volvo Construction Equipment’s Road Institute in North America.
It is this experience that has attracted paving crew personnel, supervisors, state highway administrators and asphalt production professionals to the institute for the last 45 years. Training philosophy at the institute is simple: to teach participants how to operate asphalt paver and compactor machines, to educate them on best practice, and how to recognize and correct common problems that occur while paving.
Classes are held in two training centers: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Phoenix, Arizona and include both classroom and practical learning. There are 16 courses, which run every year over a nine month period.
45 years of training
The Volvo Road Institute began in 1965 when Blaw-Knox, a leading road building equipment manufacturer, established factory training to provide instruction on the maintenance and operation of Blaw-Knox equipment to improve the asphalt industry.
Blaw-Knox recognized that the asphalt industry was gaining momentum by the mid-1960s after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956, which provided $25 billion to construct the Interstate Highway System and kick-start the economy in the wake of a looming recession. The Act boosted asphalt production – a key aspect in the nation’s construction industry. But as the industry progressed, new technology systems created unknowns for contractors, state agencies and manufacturers. So in the 1970s, Blaw-Knox established a formal training center, where courses in operations, maintenance and mechanical training were available for industry-wide participation. In 1997, the training facility officially became the Road Institute and in 2007 it was taken over by Volvo Construction Equipment in its purchase of the Ingersoll Rand road machinery business.
Paving the way
“Over the years, I have acquired a background in asphalt and road construction, but to be honest, there is no substitute for hands-on training,” says John Morgan, a technical sales representative for MeadWestvaco, who attended a three-day course on asphalt paver and compactor operations and maintenance at the Road Institute. “I had the opportunity to crawl around and get inside the equipment. I listened to the instructors talk about the operation of the equipment and what happens when it isn’t properly maintained.”
Attendees on Morgan’s course are introduced to asphalt paving and compaction equipment through a mixture of classroom theory and outdoor practice.
In a classroom environment, Steve Neal, paving instructor, teaches best paving practices. He discusses factors that affect the screed and how to control these to achieve the perfect mat. Compaction instructor Wayne Tomlinson discusses consistency in rolling patterns and how to maintain the correct rolling speed for proper impact spacing. “We look at how the machines work, how the screed smoothes and seals the asphalt material and what amplitude and frequency is in compaction,” says Tomlinson.
The class also receives hands-on training outdoors to learn how to operate the equipment correctly and efficiently. This begins with a ‘walk-around’ of each piece of equipment to discuss maintenance procedures, point out major control systems and important daily and weekly checks to be carried out. One of the most important aspects is jobsite safety, which is placed at the forefront of every operation.