Contractors put a ton of faith into their equipment and tools, as well as their crews, to complete projects on time and, preferably, below budget.

Whether purchasing from a dealer or renting from a rental center, contractors expect the equipment will perform as promised and come with a relatively simple maintenance schedule. So it makes sense to find the best equipment available to avoid downtime and maximize return-on-investment. This is especially true with compaction equipment.

Some rammers’ tamping feet can be as narrow as 6 inches, and since most units are relatively lightweight they can be easy for operators to maneuver, which can enhance productivity and accuracy.

Photo: Atlas Copco

Why? Because from tampers to plate compactors to trench rollers to asphalt rollers, they compact materials in trenches and around foundations for landscaping. Additionally, the growing need for housing developments and road construction repairs means more contractors will be looking to replace old equipment as well as buy or rent new equipment to tackle their growing project lists.

Reduce downtime = job No. 1

Light compaction equipment, including plate compactors, rammers and trench rollers, is a good addition to an equipment fleet because of its high ROI potential. The equipment is needed to complete a wide range of projects, including compacting soil in trenches and asphalt on pathways.

Selecting compactors that are dependable, as well as easy to use and maintain, ensures several years of use with routine maintenance. Such equipment also requires a relatively minimal investment. Generally, look for units with productivity-enhancing features that reduce servicing downtime and are highly maneuverable.

For forward plate compactors, choose units with integrated water distribution systems that don’t require piping. This prevents the plate from collecting asphalt and virtually eliminates the risk of clogged or broken water systems. That means less maintenance expense and downtime for contractors.

When looking for reversible plate compactors for larger pavement jobs, such as driveways, choose models that feature eccentric weights. These types of weights do not require regular oil checks like standard weights, which minimizes downtime. This helps operators focus on compacting soil rather than stopping frequently to check oil levels.

For compaction work in the narrowest of areas, including backfills, ditches, foundations and trenches, choose a rammer that allows workers to achieve maximum productivity. Lightweight units with narrow tamping feet – some as narrow as 6 inches – make it easy for operators to maneuver close to obstacles. To minimize servicing downtime, some manufacturers incorporate large air filters in the top of the rammers that operators can change without using a single tool.

Contractors should also consider trench rollers. Operators can move the units by hand or use a Bluetooth remote control. This allows them to compact soil in potentially dangerous areas, such as steep hills and trenches, which would normally put them at risk for injuries. They feature a smooth or padfoot drum for optimal traction and effective compaction on some of the toughest soils, including silt and clay. In addition to trenches and hills, contractors also can use trench rollers to prep soil before laying concrete for sidewalks or parking lots. Look for units that have easily accessible engines and components, which will help speed up maintenance.

Big equipment, big potential

Light compaction equipment allows contractors to tackle small- to medium-sized projects, but with larger soil and asphalt rollers, contractors can position themselves as a one-stop source for big applications. Whether renting or purchasing, contractors need to look for features on soil and asphalt rollers that maximize productivity and uptime to complete projects quickly as well as accurately.

Cross-mounted engines on soil rollers sit perpendicular to the frame, rather than parallel. This allows technicians to easily reach all necessary components, as well as the hydraulic pump inside the engine compartment, so maintenance can be easier and faster.

Also, consider features than can prevent unnecessary maintenance altogether. For instance, corrosion-free water tanks and sprinkler tubes on asphalt rollers prevent rust from forming inside and clogging the water system. Some asphalt rollers — 51-inch wide drums or smaller — also feature self-draining sprinkler tubes and nozzles. During freezing temperatures, these can help prevent ice from expanding inside if water is left in the lines, which can rupture and be time consuming to repair.

Contractors who do a lot of this work can use soil and asphalt rollers eight to 12 hours per day, so if the operator needs to strain or bend to see the drum edge and working surface, it could impact their productivity and ultimately delay a project. Straining and bending can even take a toll on the operator’s body. Choose units with sliding seats and user-friendly controls that move with the operator to provide optimal visibility of the working surface and drum edge, as well as eliminate the need to lean or twist. Also consider what it will cost the contractor to run the unit. Rollers with rpm-management systems can reduce fuel consumption as much as 15 percent by automatically idling the diesel engine after 10 seconds in neutral.

After the sale

As with any equipment, manufacturer support after the initial sale protects the contractor’s investment and, in some instances, extends the service life of the machines.

Equipment training from the dealer or manufacturer maximizes operator productivity as well as reduces the risk of premature equipment wear, especially on pavers, soil rollers and asphalt rollers. Manufacturers might offer on-site training, which allows the crew to learn how to operate and maintain the equipment on their own job site. Most manufacturers also include operator’s manuals with the machines, but look for ones that also post them online. This allows contractors, operators and mechanics to access them 24/7 for questions that might come up during operation or maintenance.

Consider a manufacturer that offers a wide breadth of products. This eliminates the hassle of sourcing a variety of machines from numerous manufacturers to complete an equipment fleet. Plus, it’s more convenient for contractors to order any replacement parts or materials, such as hydraulic oil. Some manufacturers might offer special financing options to make owning a variety of new machines possible.

Crush the competition

Selecting the right compaction equipment might seem like an easy task, but taking the time to look at how each feature impacts the overall operation can have big payoffs. From cross-mounted engines to compact footprints, it’s these features that will feed a contractor’s productivity, uptime and, most importantly, profits.