There are more cars on the road than even before and Australia’s $300 billion road network is feeling the pressure.
Research conducted by the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) shows the nation’s basic infrastructure is at risk of degradation due to an increase in passenger and freight traffic, particularly in high population growth areas.
According to ARRB National Leader Future Transport Infrastructure Matthew Bereni, if further investment in pavement rehabilitation, structural strength and innovative material isn’t prioritised, Australian roads might be unprepared to meet future demands.
This is why ARRB developed its upcoming Smart Pavements Now event – a three-day master class held 18-20 September.
“The event will showcase the latest trends and emerging issues in the pavement industry and provide cost-effective solutions to existing problems. Participants will receive hands-on knowledge transfer about pavement technology, recycled materials in asphalt, advanced pavement modelling, road data collection and lower-cost material,” Mr. Bereni says.
“We want local government, road agencies and representatives from the private sector to really understand the work we are doing, and how they can apply that work to cost-effective applications and best practice.”
On day two for example, participants will be given a private tour of ARRB’s accelerated loading facility (ALF), providing them with the opportunity to ride the structure as it runs up and down the test pavement. Mr. Bereni says hands on learning like this is the central drive of Smart Pavements Now.
“ARRB believes in closing the gap between research and application and making it easy for participants to understand complex concepts in plain English,” Mr. Bereni says.
“There is absolutely no point hiding ourselves behind technical jargon. The priority for me is to make sure all presenters, lab staff and workshop technicians are delivering information in a way that is accessible to people in the room.”
ARRB researchers use the ALF to simulate heavy vehicle traffic on pavement structures. The facility has been in use for more than 25 years and conducted over 250 experiments. According to Mr. Bereni, the structure has applied over 32 million load passes and stimulated well over 300 million equivalent standard axel loads.
“The ALF allows us to measure the rank relative performance of materials, parameters used in pavement design and assist with network deterioration models though full-scale proof testing,” Mr. Bereni says.
“Watching the ALF in action will allow people to better appreciate how we model pavement performance, which will ideally result in participants better understanding how to approach their road responsibilities and contacts – the experience will be significantly more interesting than reading studies in a textbook.”
Additionally, Smart Pavements Now will feature classic presentation sessions, similar to those you might find at a regular conference. These include discussions on lower-cost pavement material, new developments in binder and sprayed seals, including foamed bitumen, and real-life recycled material application case studies.
“The more traditional sessions will be held in the morning, with plenty of time for questions and participatory conversations,” Mr. Bereni says.
“In the afternoons the practical sessions will begin, with workshops and classes in ARRB’s independent and state-of-the-art research lab, and multiple site visits.”
Mr. Bereni says workshop participants will be able to observe the testing methods ARRB uses to push knowledge in the smart pavement space.
“As a trusted source on pavement deterioration processes and testing, we have a wealth of knowledge to share about new material research, how to design strong pavements, how to fix existing problems and how to enable more resistant roads,” Mr. Bereni says.
“We will also show participants the tests used for crumb rubber innovation, reporting our findings and looking at how using these developments can be both cost-effective and environmentally sound.”
According to Mr. Bereni, data collection and asset measurement is another Smart Pavements Now focus.
“We want to show participants how ARRB researchers actually collect the data we use to inform the engineering of road pavements, such as what material will be best suited to specific traffic conditions and weather,” Mr. Bereni says.
“At ARRB we are lucky to own and run some of the most sophisticated tools in the southern hemisphere and we will be showcasing that to participants.”
Mr. Bereni says ARRB’s most advance piece of equipment is the Traffic Speed Deflectometer (TSD.)
The TSD, or iPAVe, is a high-tech vehicle with the ability to scan literally thousands of kilometres of road in high speed traffic conditions. ARRB uses it to scan roads and collect data for their clients, often road managers, with a Doppler laser system that measures the velocity of the pavement to provide data on bearing capacity.
According to Mr. Bereni, sharing knowledge with road managers leads to more informed and cost effective decision making when it comes to maintenance policies and programs.
“There is no point having a million different data points if you don’t understand the information or how to apply it,” Mr. Bereni says.
“It’s about understanding the link between road characteristics and the performance road users can expect from different types of pavement, in different types of situations.”
Mr. Bereni says ARRB is expecting at minimum, 100 participants on each of the three session days.
“We are offering individual tickets for each day, but do recommend participants attend the entire conference,” Mr. Bereni says.
“We have been leading the research in this space for nearly 60 years and have a lot of information to pass on – If people are in anyway linked to the road industry, they will get a lot of value out of this exciting event focused on the research methods we conduct to make their lives easier.”