Asphalt as a safety innovation

Australian asphalt manufacturing business Asphaltech has developed DuraGrip to improve safety, help the environment and increase durability.

Technical prowess and professionalism are at the core of Asphaltech’s vision. The company has over the past 25 years gone from strength to strength.

Starting out in Western Australia, the company expanded to Victoria in the early 2000s.

Since 2014, Asphaltech has significantly increased its annual production and range of innovative products, and built two full time laying crews.

Asphaltech has leveraged the expertise of its engineers and technical experts to work towards continuous product development. Bringing innovations to asphalt products and laying techniques has been a boon for staff and clients alike.

The company’s first market disruptive innovation was bringing thin asphalt overlays to local government resurfacing programs. This has now been adopted by at least eight councils in and around Melbourne.

Asphaltech’s latest innovation is DuraGrip. DuraGrip uses steel slag, a by-product of the steel production process, in place of traditional virgin aggregates. It is a stone mastic asphalt and has a general registration status with VicRoads.

DuraGrip aims to reduce the road toll because the product’s increased skid-resistant surface will hold vehicle tyres to the road in hazardous circumstances.

DuraGrip most recently won the Highly Commended award for Safety Innovation at the AAPA Victoria Gala Dinner, where it was up against some of the biggest players in the asphalt industry.

Daniel Ajzner, Business Development Manager, says DuraGrip is a product that puts public safety first. It increases vehicle tyres’ grip of the road surface due to the properties of the steel slag.

“The way the steel slag presents is such that it’s more angular than traditional products and attracts increased frictional resistance from the vehicles that pass over it. Tyres latch onto the slag particles creating greater skid resistance,” Mr. Ajzner says.

British Pendulum testing is being undertaken on two separate DuraGrip demonstration sites. Results to date already show substantial benefits in skid resistance properties compared to the original surface.

“I really believe it will save lives, particularly when in high risk areas such as intersections, traffic black spots and school crossings,” Mr. Ajzner says.

Further to its safety benefits, DuraGrip is made from 85 per cent recycled material. It is also a great solution for the problem of depleting virgin aggregate quarry resources.

In 2017, the Construction Material Processors Association released findings from an independent investigation in Victoria. It presented concerns about the rate of consumption of quarry materials and a shortage in quarry development cases reaching production.

Asphaltech has three different quarries for sources of material, but in creating DuraGrip, Asphaltech is helping to alleviate this shortage.

“DuraGrip being 85 per cent recycled means that we are not significantly impacting on quarry stocks. The more we can use recycled products, the less impact there is going to be on virgin stocks and local quarries,” Mr. Ajzner says.

It was important for Asphaltech to not just produce an environmentally friendly product, but to make a product that matched industry standards in quality.

“Everything that goes into DuraGrip is a VicRoads-approved, high-quality product, including all of the recycled material inputs,” Mr. Ajzner says.

To ensure DuraGrip performed as well, if not better, than traditional asphalt over time, it was tested by a third-party laboratory and exceeded VicRoads specifications.

Using wheel track testing, DuraGrip was found to have a 1.7-millimetre deformation at the end of its life. This test demonstrates the exceptional durability of the product.

“VicRoads has certified our product and given it a general registration status for use. Customers therefore can have confidence that DuraGrip is a VicRoads-approved, laboratory-tested and field-trialled product.” Mr. Ajzner says.

“To use intersections as an example… if a very large truck is going to do a sharp turn and screw its wheels on a specific point, customers need a robust asphalt. That’s where the quality of the product comes in. While its key feature is safety, quality is important too,” he says.

The first demonstration using DuraGrip was in December 2018 with Moreland City Council in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

In the six months that followed, Asphaltech was awarded the entire Darebin Council resurfacing contract in Victoria and five other Victorian councils have now also used the product.

David Simmons, General Manager for Asphaltech Victoria, says Asphaltech doesn’t want to simply lay the DuraGrip and finish the job. Its about building long-term relationships and trust.

“For us it is about being ethical. We like to be seen as leaders in our field even though we are a smaller business. Not just with DuraGrip, but with all Asphaltech products and the work we do every day, we want to be ethical,” Mr.  Simmons says.

Asphaltech offers a range of other products including DuraMastic, a modified seven-millimetre stone mastic asphalt. The company also has a gravel mix, which is a red material used in high traffic areas for traffic delineation, speed humps, tramways and bus lanes.

Mr. Simmons says the ultimate goal is increased utilisation of the asphalt resulting in the possibility of it saving lives.

“We are currently working with VicRoads to find sites on their network where DuraGrip will benefit and we are also working with current clients to grow their volumes and use it in the right places,” he says.

He is also looking forward to the company’s plans to develop DuraGrip into different asphalt mixes with varying stone sizes.

Mr. Ajzner says he is excited for Asphaltech’s future in developing innovative asphalt products which benefit the industry and road users.

“Now we are starting to talk about a whole range of other inputs Asphaltech can use for this and our other products. Some of them relate to safety, some to durability and some to environmental sustainability I don’t think that Asphaltech will stop innovating.”

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