By Bob Horan
Industry professionals are reading, seeing and hearing more about Intelligent Compaction (IC) than ever before.
That increased exposure is due in part to the fact that the Asphalt Institute (AI) has been working with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) since 2007 on the study and implementation of IC technology in the U.S.
In 2014 alone, AI Regional Engineers participated in three week-long IC demo/research projects and taught ten half-day IC workshops. Based on recent events, it looks like the efforts are paying off in a big way. Highway agencies across the country are starting to routinely specify the use of IC as a quality control tool on projects.
So, what is IC again? It is described best as a major innovation in compaction technology. IC is an equipment-based technology where a variety of hardware and software systems are installed on a vibratory roller. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) play a major role in making IC work. These systems work together to provide an innovative tool that can dramatically improve the compaction process.
One of the many advantages of IC is the color-coded display that is mounted in the roller cab. This display provides the operator with the ability to quickly view the roller passes, mat temperature and pavement stiffness in real time. This allows the operator to make sure these critical factors are where they need to be at all times. Research and field studies show that IC can dramatically improve the consistency and effectiveness of the compaction process.
According to the FHWA, agencies are implementing IC as a quality control (QC) tool on an estimated 150 projects during the 2014 construction season. That is up dramatically from only 50 projects in 2013 and fewer than 20 projects in 2012.
There are several reasons for the increased confidence in IC technology:
1. Availability and quality of IC technology from various vendors has improved rapidly. At the same time, GPS technology to handle different project scenarios related to IC use is readily accessible nationwide.
2. Specifications have been developed that define how IC technology can be used to improve the compaction process for various materials (including asphalt materials) on a project.
3. Every Day Counts 2 (EDC2) – an FHWA initiative – was a key factor in encouraging states to accelerate their use and acceptance of IC technology. Thirty-three states selected IC as one of the EDC2 initiatives that they would implement in two years.
4. Half-day and full-day training workshops are now available for free through FHWA. These workshops provide attendees with a good background on all aspects of the practical use of IC on a paving project.
AI is proud of the partnership with FHWA and others in an evolution that saw IC technology progress from just an idea years ago through a series of research projects to a practical tool that is being adopted by state and federal agencies throughout the country.
Visit intelligentcompaction.com for information about workshops that are available to agencies upon request. Agencies can also call Mike Arasteh, FHWA at (410) 962-0678 to request a free workshop.
Horan is an Asphalt Institute Senior Regional Engineer based in Virginia.