5 Key Issues Facing the Asphalt Industry

At the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) annual meeting in San Diego, February 12th, professionals from all areas of the industry offered their insight into what the asphalt market is facing. The result of the discussion clued attendees in to five key areas where the industry is facing challenges and opportunities.

1. Labor
It’s no secret that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the industry. Unfortunately, the lack of skilled-workers is not only a problem in the asphalt industry, it’s global, spanning all of the trade professions. Estimates are predicting a shortage of 31 million skilled tradespeople by the year 2020.

Most of this is attributed to the workforce aging out, but some of it is that the construction industry just isn’t appealing enough for the younger generation.

In fact, construction only employs 6% of the millennial workforce in the U.S. The industry’s failure to engage young, hardworking and diverse talent on a broad scale has been a big part of the problems it faces today.

“It’s a challenge we’re all facing,” Kevin Kelly, President & CEO of Walsh & Kelly Inc. says. “We had a generation or more of people who were all encouraged to go to college. A lot of these jobs won’t require that. We need to highlight the good life these careers can give.”

However, the perception of a rigid work structure mixed with a rugged reputation and old-school mindset haven’t been appealing to the majority of youth, and without them, construction has struggled to keep up with the productivity gains seen in other industries.

James H. Roberts, CEO of Granite Construction, says this is why it’s important to get in front of potential workers early.

“Get the initiative started at a young age, even elementary school level,” Roberts say. “Support communities, high schools and universities.”

Roberts says what’s also causing an issue is the wage gap some areas of the industry see.

“Were going to have to create a different wage system if we want to attract people and that’s healthy for the industry,” he says. “We’ve depressed the wage rates and until we’re willing to pay a lot more in the industry, which we should do, we’re going to have a skilled labor challenge.”

2. Funding
Funding is another issue that is on the mind of every asphalt mix producer and contractor. Yes, The White House officially released a 55-page proposal for President Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, but where will this money come from?

The plan includes $200 billion from the federal government. Half of the federal seed money is planned to go toward an incentive program to match financing from state and local governments investing in rebuilding projects. One quarter of the appropriations is set to be used for rural projects in the form of block grant to states.

In addition, $20 billion is set for “transformative programs” for new projects while another $20 billion is allocated to expand the use of loans and private activity bonds. Ten billion is set to go into a “capital financing fund.”

The plan is structured around four main goals:

Generating $1.5 trillion for an infrastructure proposal
Streamlining the permitting process down to two years
Investing in rural infrastructure projects
Advancing workforce training
However, this plan will still require states to foot a lot of the bill, and experts say they should be ready to do that. Since the federal government last raised the gasoline tax at the start of the Clinton administration to 18.4 cents per gallon, 39 states have hiked their at-the-pump fees — sometimes more than once — to cover the costs of road construction and maintenance.

“Tax increases are scary for legislatures though,” Roberts says “It’s become a total political event but states want money for roads. They aren’t voting officials out who are increasing taxes so it’s really a non-issue.”

Roberts also says that raising the gas tax wouldn’t be a financial issue for the majority of drivers.

“If you drive 20,000 miles a year, your car gets 20 miles per gallon and you pay 12 cents more a gallon with a gas tax increase implemented, that’s a total of $120 a spent more each year.”

Many in the industry still believe the FAST act and authorizing a long term Highway Trust Fund is the best way to fund our roads.

“There are principals to Trump’s infrastructure plan, but no real money,” Kelly says. “The only thing you need to do is put money in the Highway Trust Fund and the FAST act has the principals to be successful, put money there and we’ll be good.”

In 2018, the FAST act authorizes a $900 million increase for the construction season. In addition, highways and bridges will receive a portion of the $20 billion over two years (2018-2019) for infrastructure as part of the McConnell-Schumer-Ryan Budget deal.

But the FAST act is set to expire in 2020 which will leave states in uncertainty.

3. Technology
According to the World Economic Forum, in 10 years the construction industry will be almost entirely digitized, with an overall possible savings of $1.2 trillion globally due to increased efficiency and productivity.

“Technology is racing into the construction industry,” John Pullen, chief growth officer at Luck Companies says. “Drones, cloud-based aggregators, remote sensing technology, augmented reality and the Internet of Things are all disrupting our industry but also bringing opportunities to it.”

However, the industry has to be ready to accept those changes.

“Small companies need to think big,” Luck says. “We went to Apple & Google and asked them how to improve our business and they didn’t believe there were companies that actually still made rocks. There’s a lot you can learn from industries that aren’t related to construction and vice-versa.”

Pullen says his company is now testing autonomous innovations in his hauling fleet as a result.

Another upside to implementing technology is attracting those younger workers.

“Younger generations want to know you’re innovative,” Pullen says. “If they see that from the start, they are more willing to consider a career there.”

4. Materials
Asphalt paving tons were naturally up 2% in 2017 to about 378 million tons produced. Paving tons are expected to grow in 2018 based on the strength of state highway funding and the commercial/residential markets. The growth in the market will be determined by how much of the $10 billion in the new 2-year budget deal will be allocated to highways and bridges.

However, oil refineries are closing all over the country and that’s an unforeseen issue for some producers.

“There are 135 refineries in the U.S. and less than 50 provide significant value to the asphalt industry,” Don Wessel GM-Crude & Refined Products Consulting at Poten & Partners says.

This means the industry is having to get materials from fewer sources and finding the ones that are specific to our industry.

5. Trucking
To bring the discussion full circle, the industry is facing a huge challenge in the transportation of materials.

“The biggest issue in our company today is getting our product to the market,” Robert says. “We make the material at 56 asphalt plants across the country but then we rely on another company to get the materials out to customers. Running a trucking business is a big deal but having control over the logistics of moving material is important. If it becomes too big of an issue, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the investment and if it will work for your business.”

However, just like skilled construction workers, truck drivers are hard to find. Gaining a CDL is not an easy task and many drivers have lost their licenses due to poor driving decisions.

Still with all the issues facing our industry, the panelists say it’s a great time to be in the asphalt industry, but we still have work to do. During the 2007 construction boom, we produced 550 million tons of asphalt. The goal of our industry is to get back to that.

“If we think the 338 million tons we’re producing each year now is satisfactory, we have lowered our expectations,” Roberts says. “Let’s beat 2007

Black Top vs Chip Seal

So you want your driveway or parking lot paved, you can’t afford concrete but you don’t know the differences between Black Top or Chip Seal. Black Top and Chip Seal are Both asphalt products and there are lots of roads, driveways and parking lots across the United States that is paved with Black Top and Chip Seal. Black Top is a Black smooth Finnish pavement. Black Top is made at a hot mix plant and then can be transported to your job site. The main Black Top ingredients are rock, sand and Asphalt concrete tar. The average cost of Black Top is $3.50 a SQFT. Black Top also requires a Seal Coat every 2 years, the average cost of a Seal Coat is 40 cents a SQFT.Chip Seal is a layer of Hot liquefied asphalt tar, followed by a layer of gravel, then its rolled to compaction. The chip seal will look like a gravel driveway when it’s done and have more of a Coarse Surface. The color of the gravel will depend on the area you are in, but it don’t matter what kind of rock is used as long as it’s a clean stone. The average cost of chip is $2.50 a SQFT. There is no seal coating required with chip seal, just normal traffic is enough to keep it sealed in.Now watch and see the difference with Black Top vs Chip Seal after years later installed

Asphalt Parking lot repair

 At CD PAVING & SEAL COATING we know that owners of asphalt driveways and parking lots have found, at some point in time, that their pavements need repairs. The reasons for the problems vary widely. Lack of maintenance, poor drainage, inadequate thickness, accumulated wear-and-tear, and other causes all contribute to the eventual need for significant repairs. Some of the common problems encountered include potholes, deteriorated joints, and structural failures.

Potholes are bowl-shaped holes that result from the localized break-up of the pavement. They are typically caused by the continued deterioration of other type of distresses, such as segregation, raveling, alligator cracking, or failures at joints or patches.

Potholes should be permanently repaired by removing the failed material to the depth necessary to reach firm support, including removing part of the subgrade if necessary. Drainage may have to be installed if water in the pavement is contributing to the failure. The area to be removed should extend beyond the visibly damaged material to assure that solid material remains. To facilitate compaction of new material, the cut-out should be square-edged and rectangular-shaped.

The vertical edges and the bottom of the cut-out should be tacked. Then the hole should be filled with dense-graded hot mix asphalt (HMA), if available. If HMA is not available, a cold patching mix can be used. If the hole is deep (exceeding 6 inches), the new mix should be placed in two layers. Each layer of new asphalt mix should be compacted thoroughly. Adequate compaction is critical for preventing shoving or deformation of the new material and to prevent water from entering the pavement.

Deteriorated Joints
Poorly constructed joints greatly reduce pavement life. Joint failure starts when air, water, and contaminants enter the joint through segregation, poor compaction, or lack of bonding between adjacent mats. If the distress is noted soon enough, a seal can be applied to correct the flaw. If the deterioration is not addressed, potholes may form and the problem is more difficult to correct. Repair is then similar to that described for potholes.

Many commercial pavements suffer structural failures as a result of load-related deterioration. These problems usually show up initially as “alligator cracking,” a form of fatigue cracking. These cracks appear on the surface of the pavement as a series of interconnected, small blocks resembling an alligator’s skin. This cracking occurs under repeated traffic loading and is caused by weak spots in the subgrade, too little pavement thickness, excessive loading, or a combination of these contributors.

If alligator cracking is allowed to progress, it can become a full structural failure. Pieces break away and potholes form. Moisture enters the subbase and pavement support is lost. When this occurs a full-depth repair must be done.

Many commercial pavements fail because the pavement is simply too thin to carry the loads. Practically all parking lots are subjected to some truck traffic; delivery vehicles and garbage trucks are a fact-of-life. Building a pavement with sufficient thickness to handle these vehicles is a wise investment.

When a base failure occurs, the failed asphalt must be removed, the underlying material stabilized, and the pavement replaced. The cause of the failure must be identified and addressed. If the problem is a soft spot in the subgrade, this weakness must be fixed. If the problem was due to too little pavement thickness, the repair area will have to be undercut to allow room for additional thickness to be placed.

Other Distresses
Other types of pavement problems can be found in commercial and residential pavements. These concerns can include raveling, rutting, and slippage failures. Raveling is the loss of aggregate particles from the surface of the pavement. Raveling can occur when the asphalt binder hardens and loses its grip on the stone or when a poor quality mix is used. If caught early, raveling can be addressed by sealing. If the condition is severe, an HMA overlay or surface treatment is needed.

Ruts in asphalt pavements are channelized depressions in the wheel-tracks. Rutting results from consolidation or lateral movement of any of the pavement layers or the subgrade under traffic. It is caused by insufficient pavement thickness; lack of compaction of the asphalt, stone base or soil; weak asphalt mixes; or moisture infiltration. If rutting is minor or if it has stabilized, the depressions can be filled and overlaid with HMA or a surface treatment. If the deformations are severe, the rutted area should be removed and replaced with suitable material.

Slippage cracks are crescent-shaped cracks or tears in the surface layer(s) of asphalt where the new material has slipped over the underlying course. This problem is caused by a lack of bonding between layers. The lack of bond may be because a tack coat was not used to develop a bond between the asphalt layers or because a prime coat was not used to bond the asphalt to the underlying stone base course. The lack of bond can be caused by dirt, oil, or other contaminants preventing adhesion between the layers. All of the area exhibiting the “stretch marks” will need to be removed. Make sure that the existing pavement is clean and dry after removing the failed layer. Then apply a tack coat to glue the old and new material together. Place and compact the new layer(s) this is called a overlay. Or the areas may need to be saw cut out, then remove the broken asphalt, replace the base, compact the base, then replace with new hot mix black top then roll to compaction.

Chip Seal Driveway

Chip seal driveways are a great choice for a driveway material. If you would like to keep the cost fairly reasonable, but

It is actually a driveway paving material that many people are unaware of. However, it is a great driveway paving material choice for integrating the driveway design with the landscape.

I personally believe driveways should blend in with the landscape.

After all, a driveway is a passageway for vehicles to get from the home to the street and vice versa. It is a functional landscape design element.

The simplicity of the chip seal driveway provides a casual look.

These driveways have a very natural look and are rather inexpensive also.

Depending on where you live, an average price is around $1.75 per square foot.

Chip seal driveways can be left without any edging, or you can add one.


So what exactly is a Chip seal driveway?

It is a combination of asphalt tar and gravel. A gravel base is installed. Then, hot liquid asphalt is applied on top of the base or old asphalt. The asphalt adheres to the gravel base. Loose gravel is then put down over the hot tar, so that it becomes embedded in the asphalt. The stones are then firmly rolled into the tar.

One of the nice features about this method, is that you can choose a simple or a more decorative stone. The stone can even be interesting colors, such as browns and tans. This makes for a creative and interesting driveway surface.

This type of driveway has a rough surface, so that it does not get slippery. Therefore it provides more traction. It is less expensive than asphalt. You can expect to pay around half the price of asphalt. No sealing is necessary so maintenance is easy. But best of all, it is textured and nice to look at. 

Some companies choose to do the above installation method in a few layers, (two course application) which provides even further longevity.Driveway edgings are not necessary with this driveway material. Actually, these driveways look fine with no edging due to their textured appearance. This maintains Driveways should not stand out and scream, “Look at me!” Driveway designs and paving with low profiles afford enhanced perceptions and views of the balance of the property. This is exactly what a chip seal driveway will do.

There is also the cost factor. Front yard landscaping can be quite expensive. A much better project can be created by using money on other important landscape design elements rather than a costly driveway paving.


Driveway paving CAN be expensive. This is due to the fact that normally the material must cover a very large area. Each different paving material has a different cost per square foot and driveway square footage is usually large. Labor costs add to the expense. Chip seal driveways are one of the least expensive driving paving choices. See Paving Costs

The color of your typical tar and chip driveway is unassuming. You can alter the driveway color by choosing various colored stones. The basic stone color used is similar to asphalt, but lighter in color. Asphalt has a very smooth, black look to it. Chip Seal driveways are textured and rustic. Both the color and texture provide a nice transition between the driveway edge and lawn. Any plantings along the edge will also look right, not fighting for attention with another more showy material.

If you would like to add just a little something extra with a chip seal driveway, a driveway apron is always an option. Perhaps use a nice natural material, such as cobblestone. A cobblestone driveway entry will add on to the cost, but it is a relatively small area. This provides an old world look.

A chip seal driveway is something more interesting than black top driveway you should consider this type of paving. Make sure and contact CD PAVING & SEAL COATING to get a price on a Chip Seal driveway. Check out our YouTube videos of us installing a Chip Seal Driveway

Chip Seal Paving for your Subdivision


  1.   CD PAVING & SEAL COATING has the experience, expertise, and technology to handle any chip seal application. Variable width, computer controlled oil distributors and aggregate chip spreaders allow precise application over the full width of a road without a gap or overlap due to a seam. Pneumatic rollers are standard compaction equipment.

We always use the highest quality asphalt Oil on the market. The Oil always originate from trusted state approved facilities where quality is monitored by on-site lab technicians. Our high quality Oil maximize asphalt content on the pavement surface, and provide excellent chip retention that polymer additives offer.

A properly applied chip seal can provide a new, highly water resistant asphalt pavement on a solid gravel base surface. New chip seal asphalt surfaces are typically constructed on rural roads, subdivisions, parking lots and driveways as a lower cost alternative to hot asphalt. But your old Subdivision asphalt roads are are a great reason to chip seal. Make sure and check out CD PAVING & SEAL COATING chip sealing The Comanche Harbor/Ports O Call neighborhood in Granbury TX.