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Bridging the knowledge gap

AfPA’s Anna D’Angelo and delegates at the National Center for Asphalt Technology.

The Australian Flexible Pavement Association has recently wrapped up its 2023 International Knowledge Transfer Tour. Roads & Infrastructure hears from Executive Director Technology and Leadership, Anna D’Angelo,​ on how the tour is helping to bring best practice to Australia.

Driving a culture of continuous improvement. This is one of the Australian Flexible Pavement Association’s (AfPA) core values that drives its representation of the domestic flexible pavement industry.

AfPA’s International Knowledge Transfer (IKT) tour echoes this focus. The IKT tour allows delegates to participate in a two-week program, which aims to gain new knowledge and best practice when it comes to technology, techniques and products that can improve Australia’s flexible pavement industry.

This year the tour went to the USA. It saw nine delegates meet with leaders in key areas, such as Federal and State Department of Transports, university and research organisations, contractors and industry associations such as NAPA (National Asphalt Pavement Association).

Anna D’Angelo, ​AfPA Executive Director Technology & Leadership, attended the tour and says it presented a unique opportunity to exchange ideas.

“AfPA has been conducting international study tours for many years in different destinations. They’ve been in  Asia, South Africa, Europe and the United States, now for the third time,” D’Angelo says.

“Essentially the reason for having the tour is a knowledge exchange. It’s to find out how/what other countries are doing within their own industries, to see if there’s technology and knowledge which we could transfer back to Australia.

“It’s also important to build and maintain relationships with our American counterparts and to share our current initiatives.  

The tour aimed to provide an insight into international best practice when it comes to sustainability.
The tour aimed to provide an insight into international best practice when it comes to sustainability.

The tour covered California, Alabama, Washington DC, New Jersey and Minnesota, with each gathering discussing opportunities and techniques in sustainable pavement production. 

Some of the key interest areas for these discussions included low carbon and reusable materials, pavement preservation and sustainability in procurement.

‘The IKT 2023, sustainable, smarter and safer construction works’ explored five key topics: sustainable best practice, low carbon and reusable materials, pavement preservation, binder and asphalt characterisation, and sustainability in procurement practices.


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Best practice

D’Angelo says two of the key opportunities is the continued improvement of crumb rubber, as well as the concept of a balanced mix design, which was explained as part of the tour.

“Crumb rubber is still extremely exciting. As you know, Australia has an increasing amount of waste tyres. So, it was great for us to have the opportunity to learn more and how it can be beneficial for the performance of roads,” D’Angelo says.

“Another thing that we learnt from our visit at NCAT (National Center of Asphalt Technology) was the ‘balanced mix design’ for asphalt mixtures. This is to design asphalt mixtures using performance tests. In many states across the US, they’re implementing the use of this balanced mix design.

“There is definitely an opportunity for us to work in this space.”

D’Angelo says she was also impressed by the work being done at NCAT in particular the work to quantify the life extending benefits of different pavement preservation treatments.   

“We went to NCAT and looked at some of the testing sections. We could see the different performance of some treatments when compared to others,” she says. “It was very interesting.”

The delegates also had the opportunity for the first time to visit the National Airport Pavement test facility and the pavement and materials research center. 

“It was very exciting to view the full-scale pavement test facility and the heavy vehicle simulator used for airport research”. 

Jeffrey Lee, Senior Principal Pavement Engineer – WSP, was one of the delegates on the tour. He says the IKT provided valuable experiences and relationships to benefit Australia’s flexible pavement industry.

“I would definitely attend the tour again. This is my second IKT. I was also part of the 2018 tour visiting countries in Asia (South Korea, Japan and China),” Lee says.

The tour also provided an opportunity to showcase the work being done by industry in Australia.
The tour also provided an opportunity to showcase the work being done by industry in Australia.

Lee adds that these experiences will assist WSP’s sustainability efforts.

“Each state across the United States has very different approaches when it comes to pavement design, material selection and pavement preservation,” Lee says.

“Across the United States, there’s an increasing emphasis on sustainability and pavement preservation treatments. This will assist with WSP’s focus on Future Ready and design transport infrastructure to help our clients delivering Net Zero.”

Following the success of the program, D’Angelo says AfPA is now collating the learnings of each delegate to produce a report for wider distribution amongst the industry. This will also be shared during future AfPA events.

“Amongst the delegates we created subgroups who were in charge of specific topics. Through these subgroups we’re aiming to create a report to share the learnings for those who weren’t able to attend,” D’Angelo says.

“This isn’t just for the lucky few, this is for the industry as a whole.”

She adds that AfPA will continue to run its IKT tours in the future, with plans for some tours to coincide with major conferences overseas.

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This article was originally published in the June edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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