Sustainability, perpetual pavements, roads as a service and continual improvement took centre stage at the 18th AAPA International Flexible Pavements Conference and Exhibition.
When the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association (AAPA) was formed in 1969, the industry was exclusively using batch plants. As the first man stepped foot on the moon, a wide paving machine hit the streets to accelerate paving productivity.
AAPA held its first ever conference two years later in 1971 and established its environmental committee in 1973. Fifty years on, around 600 AAPA members turned out for the largest conference and exhibition yet with sustainability as a key focus.
In half a century machinery and ideas have developed dramatically from a wide paving machine in the ‘70s to a forward-moving aggregate spreader today.
In the ‘90s an environmental guide was created by AAPA for asphalt plants best practice. Today contractors are not only recycling asphalt and bitumen-based materials but also incorporating other waste streams such as glass or rubber into its asphalt mixes.
The International Flexible Pavements Conference and Exhibition, held every two years, took place in Sydney over four days, bringing together a mix of the road construction industry’s latest equipment and knowledge.
“Everlasting roads, enabling our future mobility” set the central theme of the conference.
Government representatives, original equipment manufacturers, suppliers, contractors from all tiers, designers and technology experts turned out to discover the latest industry trends and exchange ideas.
Spray sealing, perpetual pavements that require minimum maintenance, bitumen viscosity, recycled asphalt pavements, binder specification and warm asphalt mixing were among an array of topics covered over the four-day conference.
The industry was able to present and learn about the latest issues and solutions to these topics, all while seeing and experiencing emerging equipment and technology at the exhibition.
In the conference opening address Hugh Bradlow, President of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, outlined the effect autonomous vehicles may have on the way road infrastructure is built and used.
Mr. Bradlow outlined four autonomous vehicle technologies that could change the make-up of the road network. He detailed artificial intelligence, situational awareness technology including radars and sensors, localisation and mapping technologies and V2X communications as road construction industry game changers.
He also spoke of the challenges these new technologies will bring such as cyber safety, creating public revenue for roads and the changes in infrastructure that will be needed to facilitate the technology.
“Over the next 10 years, more autonomous vehicles will be introduced to the road system. You could have a congestion zone or have lanes where those are reserved for autonomous vehicles. Either way, cities are going to have to make a decision,” he told the audience.
Mr. Bradlow also highlighted the possibility of reaching a peak road state, where the technology will reduce the need for the creation of new roads.
“We are going to hit peak roads by which I mean after we hit that peak there is no reason to continually be building new roads, you have to maintain the existing ones. We aren’t going to need more capacity. When we reach peak roads is going to be a huge question,” Mr. Bradlow said.
Conference discussions over the course of the four days followed this future looking theme, outlining industry issues and highlighting opportunities to solve each of them.
Erik Denneman from Puma Energy followed Mr. Bradlow with a presentation covering the conference history and IMO 2020, a current regulation change that has the potential to alter the quality of bitumen in Australia.
Mr. Denneman highlighted the four main themes of the conference, sustainability, preservation, roads as a service and continual improvement in industry practice.
He spoke with Roads & Infrastructure about sustainability being the industry’s biggest achievement so far.
“To be able to reuse all of the product that we place is great, it is hard to think of any other industries that can claim the same thing,” he said.
In his talk he then detailed the latest change to world-wide refineries, IMO 2020 a regulation introduced by the International Maritime Organisation to reduce the amount of sulphur in marine fuels to 0.5 per cent.
Mr. Denneman explained this could have flow on effects to bitumen with the possibility of reducing its quality.
“Bitumen manufacture and supply is becoming increasingly complex and the IMO 2020 impact is only expected to exacerbate this. Advanced screening testing is a necessity. We need to go well beyond the testing in the specification to make sure we bring in quality bitumen,” Mr. Denneman said.
Throughout the conference, delegates were able to choose between four different presentation options and the exhibition which ran in tandem across the four days.
The presentations and panels provided insight into the latest initiatives and reports enhancing industry practice, while the exhibition enabled delegates to see and experience emerging industry technologies, equipment and machinery.
Roads & Infrastructure attended a talk by Jim Appleby from Downer about the industry’s responsibility to incorporate circular economy practices.
Mr. Appleby said it is imperative the industry adopts a circular economy of make, use, reuse, remake and recycle in place of the traditional method of make, use and dispose.
“If we don’t pay attention to circular economy we will miss the opportunity and do the industry a great disservice,” Mr. Appleby said.
He outlined that project contracts are not won on cost alone now, government and decision makers are increasingly looking at the social and environmental impacts of projects.
He warned of the importance of ensuring recycled materials add value to the product and enhance its standard as well as contributing to the circular economy.
Gaylon Baumgardner, from the International Bitumen Emulsion Federation, informed industry of the latest trends coming from the United States.
He detailed scrub sealing, a similar practice to spray sealing only it uses a broom. It intends to better bind the emulsion into cracks, and it aims to result in less aggregate loss.
Highly modified asphalt emulsions for micro-surfacing is another trend he detailed which works to achieve less damage than the traditional micro-surfacing technique, using conventional equipment.
On the final day, Tyre Stewardship Australia chaired a workshop with presentations by Senior Strategy Manager Liam O’Keefe, Puma Bitumen’s Erik Denneman, Tyrecycle’s Clinton Habner and Fulton Hogan’s Darryl Byrne.
Audiences comprising road owners/government, contractors, designers, binder suppliers and industry organisations were able to vote on what drove their use of crumb rubber. More than 60 participants voted that performance, followed by initial costs, whole-of-life costs and sustainability drove their product selection.
Around 80 per cent of participants also currently use crumb rubber, but up to 70 per cent said there were not adequate specifications/guidelines in place.
Showcasing equipment and technology
Alongside speakers from throughout the industry and around the world, companies were able to exhibit their latest and greatest products.
The exhibition hall was filled with machines of all sizes from Dynapac’s latest 10 tonne double drum roller, to Position Partner’s GPS line marking machine.
Roads & Infrastructure spoke to a few of the exhibitors about the conference and the benefits of exhibiting the latest industry equipment.
Niki Johnstone from N2P Controls had an exhibit to demonstrate the company’s asphalt plant control system. He said the conference has been great for exposure and creating new relationships.
“I think the reason we got involved with AAPA is because conferences like this brings everyone together in one place to have the opportunity to increase your brand and make contacts,” Mr. Johnstone said.
The conference and exhibition side by side allowed people from across the industry to learn about best practice and to see it in action. Max Fitzgerald owner of Road Maintenance said the conference was a great chance to meet a range of industry people.
“We chose to come because I feel
that there is a good interest in using recycled material in bitumen product which will benefit Australia overall,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.
Having only joined AAPA a month ago, Scott Craik from C R Kennedy said the exhibition has been great to showcase products and learn about the industry.
“It is good to be able to catch up and talk to industry directly and get their feedback about what it is they want, what their challenges are, and what they really need to streamline their businesses,” Mr. Craik said.
Industry awards excellence
The AAPA National Industry awards dinner was another opportunity for delegates to connect and celebrate industry advancements and its outstanding members.
Dante Cremasco, AAPA Board Chairman, began the awards reflecting on the growth of the industry and the great work achieved over the past 50 years.
“Tonight we have a moment to bask and recognise all of those people from a national perspective that have made a difference,” he said.
Over the course of the year AAPA state and territory award nights have been held to celebrate the top performing people, projects and initiatives. The winners from each category at state and territory level were then nominated for the national awards.
April Colley at Altus Traffic Management and Nigel Cartledge from Roadways took the first award of the night for the flexible pavements field worker of the year.
The outstanding project award for 2019 was given to Downer for its work in South Australia for the North South Corridor South Road Upgrade – Torrens Road to Torrens River.
This project provided a lowered non-stop motorway with three lanes in each direction, up to eight metres below the previous existing surface of South Road creating significant travel time savings for commuters.
The male and female industry leadership awards went to Tim Oudenryn from Boral and Jackie Webster from Fulton Hogan for their work over many years in the industry.
Once the awards had been presented, AAPA CEO Carlos Rial welcomed the lifetime members to the stage and announced four new additions to the group, Tony Aloisio, Rob McGuire, Rob Vos and Con Rimpas.
After the awards night wrapped up, the final day of the conference saw a last chance for industry to connect and a final day of industry presentations before the AAPA annual meeting.
The four-day event showcased the best and latest developments from the constantly evolving pavements sector.
Industry members were able to establish and strengthen relationships while sharing a breadth of knowledge to enhance the industry as it moves into the future.
AAPA and its members are now looking at the next 50 years. The road construction industry is preparing for what changes might occur with technology and demand to ensure roads can best serve the community for the years to come.