The Paver Operator

The paver operator’s job description is—quite simply—to run the paver while matching the production coming from the asphalt plant. He will try to operate in a straight line. With the assistance of the dump man, he will try to get mix to flow from the truck in a uniform manner without segregation. He is the crew member with the highest vantage point, thus he can help the foreman on large jobs and act as an extra set of eyes for safety, or he may serve as the foreman for some crews. But at the end of the day, his job is to run the paver. The screed operators behind him have the task of placing the mat.

The paver operator’s responsibilities include monitoring the material in the hopper, operating in a straight line, and setting and maintaining the paving speed.

At the beginning of each shift, the paver operator has a checklist of items to go over to ensure his machine is ready for best performance. He will start by walking around the machine, looking for loose bolts or wires, and checking the fluids, making sure the oil, hydraulic oil, water and antifreeze are at correct levels. Then perform the following steps:

  • Unlock the console.
  • Check the battery for 12 to 13 volts.
  • Warm up the tractor for about 10 minutes before turning on the heater for the screed, running the conveyors, turning the augers and folding the hopper wings.
  • Slide out extensions.
  • Check the tow point cylinder and set them to zero.
  • Check tunnels and flow gates, if we have them.
  • Check end gates and springs to make sure they’re clean, and the overall screed condition.
  • Grease the bearings that run the eccentrics for the vibration on the main screed, or assign this to the screed operator.

With those first steps taken care of, the paver operator is ready to go over the game plan with the foreman. He needs to set the guide bars on the paver to make sure that the screed is balanced for paving in a straight line. He needs to make sure he knows where to start paving and how wide to pave. He needs to know how many tons the job requires, including how much each pass will take. Remember: the first pass sets the quality and the joints for the whole job.

The paver operator sets the speed of the paver, which depends on mix delivery, width of the mat and depth. Know the tons per hour and set the speed accordingly. You will probably pave around 25 to 30 feet per minute, but be aware of conditions that will change your paving speed. You don’t want slow down and speed up throughout the day. This will likely cause the screed to rise and fall, creating dips in the mat. But gradual changes in paving speed may be necessary if the plant has trouble or if haul trucks run into traffic.

Make sure you watch the head of material for consistent feeding to the screed to maintain a quality mat. Note: The head of material is the area of mix being churned by the augers and fed under the screed.

The paver operator may need to serve as the dump man if one is not available. Make sure the haul trucks deliver mix as a mass. Don’t let it dribble into the hopper. Fold hopper wings when you’re on the move in between trucks, not at a dead stop.

The paver operator will communicate with the screed operators to maintain a flow of material from the hopper, to the augers, to control the head of material. Try to run the augers continuously.

At the end of the shift, the paver operator cleans his machine to prepare it for the next day. He’ll fill out equipment sheets for the mechanic, hang the screed in the locked position, and lock the operator’s console.

The paver operator reports to the foreman.