Pine straw frequently gathers in the ditches and must be graded up onto the roads in the first pass with a grader. On the next pass, the grader will cut deeper, pulling soil up onto the pine straw and burying it. "If you don't bury that straw, it will wash-board the road - create bumps in it," says Capps.
Getting Maximum Traction
Mike Hughes, the road superintendent for the southern part of the county, says he likes the variable horsepower feature of Volvo motor graders. "You can get moving better from the start and as your load increases, you can apply more horsepower," says Hughes.
A motor grader is traction-limited at low speeds, explains Gary Atkinson, regional product manager for Road Products, Volvo Construction Equipment. "You can only take advantage of as much horsepower as you have weight in the machine," he says. "So you limit the horsepower at lower speeds and in the higher gears you increase the horsepower. That way you reduce tire wear - you're not slipping - and you don't waste horsepower that you can't use efficiently."
What's more, Volvo engines deliver higher torque at lower engine speeds, says Atkinson. "You can run at a higher gear with lower rpm's, which produces less noise, less fuel consumption, and longer engine life," says Atkinson. The Volvo G940 graders have 11 gears forward and six gears in reverse.
Operator Chris Nelson says he likes the memory gear feature on the Volvo G940. When shifting back and forth between forward and reverse, the grader will remember what forward gear the operator selected and which reverse gear he selected. "If I'm finish grading something in first or second gear forward, then I'll back up in fifth or sixth gear reverse," says Nelson. "The grader remembers what gears I'm using, and I don't have to shift through all of the gears every time."
Getting Good Grades
Each year the state of Alabama rates the county's paved roads on a 100-point scale, with 100 being perfect. A number of factors enter into the rating process, including surface condition of the roads, the edging, the clarity of the centerline stripe, the ditching and more.
In recent years, says Capps, he and his team of 56 employees in the Road Department have succeeded in raising Covington County's rating from 79 to 93. "How did that happen?" we asked Capps.
Five years ago, the county performed a $4.3 million resurfacing project that helped upgrade the paved roads. And the county bought a pavement-striping machine that helps keep the centerline stripes in good shape. The Volvo motor graders clip the shoulders on paved roads, so they have helped. "It's just managing your roads," says a modest Capps.
Capps says the county seldom has any downtime with the Volvo motor graders. And if something goes wrong, ASC Construction Equipment - the county's Volvo dealer - is right there to fix the problem. "If we do have a problem we can call ASC and they respond quickly," says Capps. "Often they have fixed a problem early in the morning, even before the operator gets to work. That means a lot - when you don't have an operator waiting on service to go to work in the morning."
In fact, says John Edwards, ASC's general manager for the Gulf Coast, the success of Covington County's grading operations is a direct result of cooperation between Volvo, ASC, and the county. "All three of us work together to produce some of the highest-quality roads - for the lowest possible operating costs - in the state of Alabama," says Edwards.