“TRUTH REVEALED! No Cracks. No Street Sealing Needed”

“TRUTH REVEALED! No Cracks. No Street Sealing Needed”

By Mark Beatty / Published May 2023

Photos courtesy of Holbrook Asphalt Company

The prevailing view for many when it comes to managing asphalt pavements is that if there are no cracks, or if they are minimal, no maintenance is needed. The truth is quite the opposite. Yes, the title is a little bait and switch, but this is a very important topic for community boards and managers to understand. Before I explain more on this topic, with the goal of helping you as you strategize with other board members, I’ll throw out the carrot that at the conclusion of this article I’ll provide instructions to obtain an insightful video with tips from a couple of reserve study professionals on how they’ve saved their communities money. 

     Now back to the topic at hand, which is addressing the mindset that no maintenance is needed for pavements that appear to be in good condition. When you think about it, the reason why it does need attention makes perfect sense. Let’s compare this mindset to some situations that we are more familiar with.

     If a board member says that the streets or parking lot are in good shape, and no maintenance needs to be done, ask them the following:

  • Because your car’s engine isn’t making any type of grinding noise, do you skip an oil change?
  • Since nobody has told you that you stink, do you wait to shower until they do?
  • Since you don’t have a toothache, is there no need to regularly clean your teeth?

     Asking these questions is probably not recommended in the acclaimed best-seller How to Win Friends and Influence People, but they will probably make the point that just because you can’t see issues doesn’t mean they aren’t developing.

     With streets often identified in a community’s reserve study as the costliest asset to own, waiting to react once visible issues are identified will cost homeowners the very most over time. This strategy is known as the “worst-first” approach, and it is clearly the wrong route and the costliest to homeowners. 

     Maybe the best analogy for managing the streets of a community would be the comparison to managing a fleet of vehicles. Let’s say you manage a fleet of FedEx or UPS delivery vans. What would your strategy be for getting the maximum life out of the delivery vans at the lowest possible cost? The strategy would be to put a maintenance plan in place that is aggressively proactive to best ensure the vehicles are prepared to avoid costly repairs or replacement. Let’s say that you have 50 vans in your fleet and two need major repairs. For our example, let’s also say that you have a fixed budget for the year with enough funds that would only allow for the major repairs on the two vans or maintenance on the other 48 vans; what should you choose? Skipping all the maintenance for a year on the 48 vans and fixing the two with major repairs would probably work for a year. However, now you have set yourself up for premature replacement or major repairs on the other 48 vans in the future. This is an example of managing with the worst-first approach. It works in the short term but becomes the costliest over time.

     When it comes to asphalt-paved streets and parking lots, the majority of the oxidation damage surprisingly occurs within the first four years after the pavement is installed. Oxidation leads to the hardening of the asphalt, making it more susceptible to cracking and deterioration. Oxidation of the pavement begins at the time of construction and continues throughout the life of the pavement. Understanding this encourages a proactive maintenance strategy while the pavement is still in good condition.

     Recently, owners of a reserve study company from another state (where proactive pavement management strategies are more mature and have been employed for a couple of decades now) have provided their findings of effective strategies to lower pavement ownership costs. Send me an email at mark@holbrookasphalt.com with the subject “Request Reserve Study Video,” and I’ll send you the link.

Mark Beatty

Senior Vice President, Holbrook Asphalt Company

     Mark Beatty is on the Advisory Board for the International Pavement Management Association and consults with public agencies and HOAs throughout the U.S. He is a sought-after presenter at public works events as well as HOA seminars. Mark serves as the Sr. Vice President at Holbrook Asphalt Company. You can contact Mark at mark@holbrookasphalt.com.