Pneumatic-tire rollers may not be the most visible machine on the asphalt or soil compaction job site, but they are more versatile than one might think, and manufacturers continue to offer units with intriguing technology in areas such as ballasting, and tire pressure and temperature control.

Pneumatic-tire rollers can find utilization a number of ways on asphalt and soil.

What to look for in pneumatic tire rollers

“Rubber-tire rollers range from 5 tons all the way up to 30 tons, and within that there’s a variety of different sizes, different weight categories, and different tire sizes,” says Tim Kowalski, Hamm’s applications support manager. “You can use them anywhere from compacting soils to chip seals to hotmix, depending on where you want to work.

“Some states are a little bit different as far as either requiring them or not requiring them, but where they really shine is in areas where you may be putting hotmix down and you have a lot of catch basins, water mains, or manhole covers,” Kowalski says.

“The rubber tires have a tendency to knead that material around those versus a steel drum that actually bridges on top of them,” Kowalski says. “We see a lot better compaction effort in those areas. Also, you can get up to a 30-ton roller, which is one of the heaviest rollers that you can get, to test where soft spots possibly are on the soil side. You can also use those as breakdown rollers, and in areas where you can’t use vibration. A lot of times the kneading action on the tires will help you get initial compaction as well.”

Kowalski says there are some limits for managers to be aware of.

“A lot of the new polymer-modified or rubber-modified asphalt doesn’t really work too well with rubber- tire rollers; the polymer and the rubber that’s in the asphalt itself reacts and has a tendency to stick a lot more to the rubber-tire rollers,” he says.

Because of this potentially sticky situation, Kowalski says there are different release agents available to prevent buildup on tires, but he has not heard of one that works well with polymer- or rubber-modified asphalt.

“It’s tricky trying to get the right temperature to reduce that amount of buildup on the tires,” Kowalski says. “In those situations, I know a lot of oil manufacturers don’t really recommend use of rubber-tire rollers on those types of oils, but sometimes the state requires it and you don’t have much choice.”

What to ask with buying a pneumatic tire roller

When buying a pneumatic-tire roller, manufacturers suggest asking a number of questions based on the application.

“Are you working a course mix, a fine mix, or thinner lifts or thicker lifts?” Kowalski says. “Do you have a lot of hilly areas, or is it mostly just flat? Are you looking to use this in multiple different ways? With some of the newer rubber-tire rollers, we can change the ballasts on them so we can change the weight in the machine.”

Kowalski stresses that pneumatic-tire rollers can be used in soil compaction applications as well.

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