Meet A Woman of Asphalt: Triple A Milling’s Amanda Harrington

Promote from within! After an early career driving trucks, this woman of asphalt seized the opportunity to run heavy equipment.

Since 2021, Amanda Harrington has worked as a float driver, skid steer operator and milling machine operator for Triple A Milling, headquartered in Concord, Ontario. She joined the construction industry in 2019 after a decade driving trucks, so her skills translated perfectly into the role of transporting machines from site to site. But Harrington had her eye on doing more and increasing her responsibilities. In 2023, when Triple A was short on operators—as most contractors can sympathize with—Owner Andrew Alfano gave her the opportunity to try her hand at learning to operate the mill. She enjoyed that and jumped at the chance to learn new skills. Triple A has five sizes of cold planers from the Wirtgen Group and Harrington has a comfort level with the W 150 mid-size machine specifically. She recently took some time to share her story and encourage others as a woman of asphalt.

AsphaltPro: You shared that you were a truck driver for 10 years before moving into the asphalt industry. Could you share with the readers what attracted you away from truck driving and into the asphalt/construction industry?

Amanda Harrington: I started out my truck driving career as most drivers do—hauling freight in a dry van or a reefer van. I quickly discovered that sitting behind the wheel all day staring out the windshield was not mentally or physically stimulating enough for me. I have always enjoyed learning new skills/roles and welcome challenges that push me out of my comfort zone. So when the long-haul gig became a lesson in what not to do, and what I did not want to do, I started looking for something else. Through the years I have driven a variety of different types of trucks with many applications. A good portion of my career was in the solid waste industry, and when I felt I had learned and experienced all that I could in that industry, I got a job at a road construction company. After the first few weeks of driving water trucks and dump trucks, my boss gave me the opportunity to learn how to drive the lowbed truck to transport our equipment to and from job sites. I absolutely loved learning how to run and load and unload the equipment, how to chain the different pieces, and to drive with an oversize load. I felt like I was getting to “play” every day at work, and after my nerves settled, felt very much at home in the construction industry.

Amanda Harrington shared one of her best practices for career advancement: “I made a point to be present on the job site, available to help in any way that I could when needed.” She asked questions and showed interest in the various roles available at Triple A Milling, Concord, Ontario; she turned a shortage of mill operators into an opportunity to learn and grow.

AsphaltPro: What physical and soft skills from the truck driving experience did you find yourself transferring to your role in the construction industry early on?

Amanda Harrington: You definitely have to have a certain amount of stamina to work in seasonal road construction. As anybody who works in it knows, the days are long and the summer heat can be unbearable, so it takes a lot, mentally and physically, to keep going and push through. My friends often ask me how I do it, and I reply, “I have no idea!”

Communication is crucial—it can make or break your day. Time management, work ethic, prioritization, multi-tasking, attention to detail, adaptability, problem solving, being able to work as part of a team—they all matter.

AsphaltPro: Could you tell the readers what you found most valuable about your first job as a lowbed driver in the asphalt industry?

Amanda Harrington: Being a lowbed driver gave me additional skills and showcased that I was capable of being a versatile and valuable employee. It also gave me a great confidence boost and proved to me that I am quite capable of doing this type of work and doing it well. It ultimately led me to where I am now and opened the door for me to become an operator.

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AsphaltPro: Could you share with the readers what your different roles as a lowbed driver, skid steer operator, and milling machine operator generally require of you for the Triple A Milling team?

Amanda Harrington: It requires that I am consistent and reliable and to give my best effort to show up ready to complete the job—some days this is more challenging than others. I would also say that this is where those soft skills that I previously mentioned come into play.

Whether night or day, Harrington takes operation of the mill seriously. The mid-size W 150 mill from Wirtgen Group is one with which she has the greatest comfort level due to its ease of visibility. She shared that filling the grindings into the truck comes more easily with this machine than the larger W 220 for her thanks to its conveyor width and operator controls.

AsphaltPro: Then what are some of your daily responsibilities when it comes to operating the milling machine specifically?

Amanda Harrington: The majority of the time I am responsible for transporting our mill to the jobsite. While on the jobsite my role is to operate, which entails completing a daily inspection and report, moving and steering the machine, controlling the conveyor belt to load the dump trucks, signaling and directing the dump truck driver, controlling the speed of the machine’s travel, staying in constant communication (verbal, eye contact, hand signals) with my gradesman, assisting with checking/replacing teeth in the drum, watching for/marking manholes, catchbasins or any other items we need to avoid in the asphalt or concrete, washing the machine down at the end of the day, and refilling the water tank and other fluids when necessary. Also, communicating with the mechanics regarding any necessary repairs and maintenance.

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AsphaltPro: You mentioned the opportunity to run the mill came about due to the shortage of workers at your company. Could you share with the readers a little more about how that opportunity presented itself and how you approached Andrew Alfano to volunteer for the job?

Amanda Harrington: In my second season working at Triple A Milling, I learned how to load and unload our larger milling machines by myself, and once I was comfortable doing that, I voiced my desire to learn how to operate. I was told I had to learn how to operate the skid steer and sweep behind the machine first to understand what the finished outcome was supposed to look like. So I spent the better part of my second season in a skid steer as well as transporting our equipment. At the beginning of my third season, unfortunately (but fortunately for me) we were short a handful of mill operators, so my boss took me under his wing and gave me the opportunity to start learning how to operate.

AsphaltPro: What training/experience did you have prior to taking on operating the mill?

Amanda Harrington: The only prior experience with the mills was from loading/unloading them on and off my trailer and moving them around in the yard or at the jobsite. Also, my experience driving various trucks and machines from my 14 years as a truck driver.

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AsphaltPro: What training did Triple A offer once you showed interest?

Amanda Harrington: It has all been on the job training. There are different techniques and approaches for different types of jobs, for example, a parking lot with a lot of curbs and islands versus mainline work on highways. So, I would watch the operators to see how they did things when I was on site with them as a driver or while in the skid steer, paying attention to things they did and when they did them. I made a point to be present on the job site, available to help in any way that I could when needed, asked questions, showed interest.

AsphaltPro: What about operating the milling machine is “most cool” to you?

Amanda Harrington: So many things come to mind! Being able to maneuver a large machine safely and accurately, when you get into a zone and everything is going as it is supposed to, milling a next to perfectly straight pass (not easy to do!), when you look back at the pattern left behind and it’s clean and consistent, when you and your gradesman become in tune and you can pull off some pretty technical and complicated maneuvers without stopping and with minimal discussion. The machine itself is incredibly impressive. And this is pure ego, but I think being one of only four women (that I know of) in North America that operate a milling machine is pretty cool.

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AsphaltPro: You mentioned the W 150 is the machine you had the chance to operate most often. Could you share with readers what is most comfortable about that equipment for you compared to other models that Triple A has in its fleet?

Amanda Harrington: The W 150 is what I have had the most time on, which is why I feel most comfortable on it. There is far more visibility around the W 150 compared to the larger models like the W 220. The conveyor is narrower, which allows you to easily see into the back of the dump truck, whereas the conveyor on the W 220 is much wider and obstructs most of your view. The conveyors have cameras, which helps, but I definitely still find it challenging to load a dump truck “nicely” with a W 220.

My approach to learning is to hold my breath and just do it. I try different techniques and see what works the best for me, take my time until I get the hang of something new, watch what other operators do and ask questions.

AsphaltPro: As a subcontractor with a variety of mill sizes, Triple A gets to work on a variety of projects. You mentioned government jobs for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), bridge decks, parking lots, as a few. What is your favorite type of project to work on and what makes that intriguing to you?

Amanda Harrington: I do enjoy the jobs that are not so straight forward, that require more thought and more attention. For me, these jobs are usually gas stations, which are a great type of job to learn on, but they can also be frustrating. There are a few of us that I would say have a love/hate sentiment for gas stations!

But so far my favorite job was when we worked on the Canadian side of the Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan. Besides having a beautiful view all day, we managed to mill 7,800 square meters (84,000 square feet) in one day. It was also a memorable job for me because it was on this bridge where I felt my confidence grew substantially.

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AsphaltPro: What do you think is the most important skill you’ve brought to your position as an equipment operator in the asphalt industry? And how would you encourage other women entering the industry to hone a similar skill?

Amanda Harrington: My attention to detail and ability to learn and take direction. You have to learn what the machine is supposed to sound like, feel like, look like and sometimes even smell (or not smell) like in whatever function it is performing. These are large, complicated and expensive toys, so the more in tune with it you are, the better it is for everyone, and I believe that is one of my strong suits. If anyone is interested in becoming an operator, you just have to have the drive and interest to learn. It comes naturally to some people, others need a little extra practice, but that does not mean it cannot be achieved. There are courses you can take for many types of equipment. If it’s specifically related to road construction, just get your foot in the door with a paving company as a laborer and work your way up. Be vocal from the beginning about your goals (the squeaky wheel gets the grease). I got my foot in the door as a truck driver. If you are always trying to better yourself and learn new skills, you will be successful and get noticed by the right people. It may take some time, but you have to be willing to prove yourself and to put in the work. This is not an industry for anyone who is not willing to break a sweat and get dirty.

AsphaltPro: What would you say was the most challenging “obstacle” you, as a female on a subcontractor’s crew, had to overcome in the past, and how DID you overcome that obstacle?

Amanda Harrington: “Imposter Syndrome” has been my biggest obstacle. I am harder on myself than anyone else is. Having to convince myself that when I excel at my job, it is because I have put the effort in, I have learned from my mistakes, I have developed the skills—it is not a fluke or a coincidence. I will honestly say that I have not overcome this—it is an ongoing struggle. The way I deal with it is to remind myself that I work hard, I try my best, I believe I am good at my job and that I am valued in my workplace. I have a wonderful support system within my friends and community of other women that work in the trades to lean on.

The other obstacle is finding a clean washroom close to the job site when we are working out in the middle of nowhere!

The best advice I can give is to find a community of other women who can relate to the challenges we as women face in a male-dominated field. If possible, find a mentor or an ally at your workplace or in the same industry as you to encourage you and to be a witness to your achievements.

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AsphaltPro: You mentioned the regional community “Women On Site” as a positive and encouraging group you’re a part of. Tell our readers about the group.

Amanda Harrington: Women On Site has grown into a national community, and has already crossed the border into the United States. It was started by four women that work in male dominated fields as they identified a need for a community like this. It can be very lonely and isolating as the only woman on a jobsite or crew. Even the most empathetic man cannot truly understand what that is like. I have been fortunate that I have felt welcomed and comfortable in the majority of companies I have worked for, but not all women are as fortunate and have to face a lot of adversity and harassment. Having a community of like women to lean on and share stories with is so valuable.

Women On Site has chapters across Canada and one in the United States. They host a few large events throughout the year, as well as local monthly meetups. The group originated on Instagram (@women.on.site), they also have a website (www.womenonsite.ca), and I would highly recommend that women get involved with this organization. I have met some amazing, bad ass ladies through this community, and I am so grateful that I have.

AsphaltPro: How has Women On Site been a help to you in your career or in your day-to-day role as a woman in the construction industry?

Amanda Harrington: It may seem trivial, but just knowing how many women are actually out there working in the trades and construction makes a difference. It sounds cliché, but it really does show you that you are not alone.

AsphaltPro: How can other women, maybe those who aren’t in the Toronto area, be involved in Women On Site?

Amanda Harrington: Follow them on Instagram and go to one of the monthly meetups! The meetups are on the first Wednesday of every month in most major cities in Canada. The website will have a list of local chapters.

@women.on.site

www.womenonsite.ca

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AsphaltPro: Let’s talk about Teamwork. What is the most challenging project you’ve been a part of and how did you and the Triple A Milling crew overcome the challenge?

Amanda Harrington: One job does not really stand out more than any other to me as far as being more challenging – each job presents its own set of challenges. Overcoming any challenge as a crew of more than one person will always require communicating—discussing different approaches and techniques, possible outcomes, etc. You cannot accomplish anything without communicating with your crew on ANY job. You have to work together as a team to get the job done.

AsphaltPro: Let’s talk about Perceptions. What do you think is an incorrect perception that we, as an industry, can re-educate young people about to encourage more women to consider a career in the asphalt business?

Amanda Harrington: An incorrect perception of people in construction is that we are unintelligent, uneducated, unsavory dregs of society who barely pass for humans. I have met so many intelligent, caring, hilarious, decent people that are just trying to make a nice living for themselves and their family. Of course, there are always a few bad apples, but that is true of any industry. I follow a great account on Instagram that touches on this subject of misconceptions and perceptions of people in construction. I recommend checking it out. @humansideofconstruction

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AsphaltPro: What is something you would tell a young lady to encourage her in this industry?

Amanda Harrington: I would tell her that there is a place for her in this industry, and it is absolutely possible for her to have a successful career, that she can make a comfortable living for herself. I would also tell her that it will instill a sense of confidence and resiliency in her that she may not get from an industry that is female dominated.

AsphaltPro: What is the most rewarding aspect for you of being in the asphalt business?

Amanda Harrington: My sense of accomplishment, the confidence, strength and resiliency that I have gained over the years. The ability to financially take care of myself and not want for anything. Job security too—the roads will always need to be maintained.

AsphaltPro: Will you tell us about a person who served as a mentor for you? Is there a piece of advice from this person that you would share with other women in the industry/other operators?

Amanda Harrington: I would have to say my boss, Andrew Alfano. He encouraged me by giving me the opportunity to operate, by not limiting me and making assumptions about my abilities based on me being a woman. He is patient in his instruction, takes the time to explain to me what we are doing and why we are doing it, answers all of my questions, pushes me when I need to be pushed, and creates an environment that allows me to learn and grow.

This is more of a reminder/encouragement than advice: I was operating one of the bigger machines (W 220), having a rough day, feeling very overwhelmed with trying to operate faster, but also load the dump truck without “spilling” the grindings over the edge of the box, but also trying to keep the machine in a straight line, and trying to remember where all the controls are by feel (the control panel on a W 220 is much different than the one on the W 150) and I felt like a complete disaster. It must have been quite obvious to my boss that I was struggling, so he told me to come down off the machine. He said many encouraging things to me, but what he said that stuck with me the most was, “If this was easy, everyone would do it.” So, I took a deep breath and got back up on the machine and kept going. I try to remind myself of this when I am having a difficult day.

Race to Resurface F1 Track

Sunland Asphalt performs mill and fill on Miami Formula 1 track with echelon paving ahead of successful Grand Prix

In the Formula 1 world, millimeters matter in both racing and paving. Management at Sunland Asphalt & Construction, Littleton, Colorado, knew they would need their A team on hand to handle the 2023 resurfacing project at the Miami International Autodrome, home of the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix. They mobilized 75 internal employees, 15 technical specialists and 40 pieces of heavy equipment from around the country on 35 separate transport loads.

The project’s scope consisted of milling 2 inches of the existing track and repaving it with a highly specialized asphalt mix designed to Formula 1 standards. Crews were to repave the track at 2 inches thick for a total of 9,500 tons over an eight-day period.

Construction scheduling for the 3.36-mile anticlockwise circuit, which winds around the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, had to be choreographed around the stadium’s other events, including the end of the National Football League season, a jazz music festival and the Miami Open tennis tournament. The International Automobile Federation also required Sunland to have the mix put down 60 days before its big event for the material to properly cure.

Needless to say, it took a lot of coordination for Sunland to make this happen and the Wirtgen Group was just one of the many partners in place to help.

Sunland crews used three pavers working in echelon to prevent cold joints along the 50-foot-wide track, paving at a very efficient pace of only 6 fpm.

Step 1. Mill. The crew from Sunland Asphalt & Construction, Littleton, Colorado, used three milling machines to precisely remove 2 inches from the existing track.

The Need for Speed—and Grip

In 2022, Miami held its first Grand Prix event on the track. When drivers expressed concerns with the grip on the pavement, track owners decided to lay fresh asphalt ahead of the 2023 race. The track management hired Tilke Engineers & Architects, headquartered in Aachen, Germany, to oversee track resurfacing, which they said would ultimately improve the “spectacle” of the 2023 race.

Sunland was hired to complete the mill-and-resurface of the track and began work to remove the existing surface in the early spring of 2023.

Sunland Asphalt trucked all their equipment in to ensure crews were familiar and comfortable with their equipment and processes. They used three pavers working in echelon to prevent cold joints along the 50-foot-wide track. The pavers were also moving at a very efficient pace of only 6 fpm to ensure paving smoothness.

The mix design for the track included 60% US-mined granite from Georgia with the remainder of the aggregates being locally sourced lime rock from Southern Florida. These aggregates ensured the grip needed on the course.

Step 2. Fill. Three pavers worked in echelon at a steady pace of 6 feet per minute to ensure no cold joints interrupted a smooth mat. Here you can see a Weiler material transfer vehicle feeding the hopper insert of one of two Vogele Super 2000-3i pavers to assist in smooth, constant material control.

Technology Meets Tight Tolerances

In addition to the three Wirtgen mills, Sunland used three HAMM HD+ 80i rollers and two VOGELE Super 2000-3i asphalt pavers. The Wirtgen Group technology on these machines is “plug and play,” which allowed the team at Sunland to get up and running with these machines easily.

“The plug and play feature on all these machines has been a huge advantage to us as a Topcon provider, making the installs quick and easy,” Tony Carden, intelligent paving product manager at RDO Equipment said. “We’re also able to provide serviceability for them both on the dealer side and from the manufacturer side. It’s a win-win.”

The project’s scope consisted of milling 2 inches of the existing track, then repaving 2 inches thick with a highly specialized asphalt mix designed to Formula 1 standards, for a total of 9,500 tons over an eight-day period.

Thermal Imaging

The pavers on the job were equipped with a temperature monitoring system. Thermal cameras were mounted to the pavers and used to find any temperature differences that could indicate potential segregation in the mat as it was being laid.

“The thermal profiling that we’re using on the pavers gives a rundown of where the pavers were, where they’re going, at what speed they are running and at what temperature,” Greg Hughes, project engineer at Sunland said. “If one isn’t getting to a high enough temperature, we can go back and look at it and see what happened and fix it and that’s a great tool for us.”

To address racecar drivers’ concerns about pavement grip, the Miami International Autodrome’s Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix track was milled and resurfaced ahead of the 2023 big event. All photos courtesy of C2C Visuals

To address racecar drivers’ concerns about pavement grip, the Miami International Autodrome’s Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix track was milled and resurfaced ahead of the 2023 big event. All photos courtesy of C2C Visuals

Intelligent Compaction

“The intelligent compaction on all the rollers shows us our roller patterns throughout the day,” Hughes said. “It provides us real-time documentation of the areas we are hitting and if we’re hitting any areas more than we should. We’re also able to know if we should be vibrating more or less as well.”

With the HAMM Intelligent Compaction system, users can set a designated number of passes ahead of paving. The system shows the operator, on the in-cab display, how many passes have been completed.

Sunland management says they also use the intelligent compaction system as a training tool. “We sit with our roller operators, and we can show them where we might be able to improve on future jobs.”—Greg Hughes

Step 3. Compact. The compaction team set a rolling pattern behind the pavers to achieve optimum densities and a smooth driving surface incorporating three HAMM HD+ 80i rollers.

Sunland management says they also use the intelligent compaction system as a training tool.

“We use it in the office to see where we could be more effective,” Hughes said. “We sit with our roller operators, and we can show them where we might be able to improve on future jobs.”

The crews finished paving the 19 turns of the course on the Autodrome’s schedule, and the 2023 Miami Grand Prix was a success thanks to the hard work and dedication of the people behind the machines.

Milling Out Asbestos in Canada

“There are some roads in Quebec, usually those with very heavy truck traffic, where they’ve put asbestos in the roads.” — Denis Lussier

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, modern industrial use of asbestos dates back to 1880 when the Quebec chrysotile fields began to be exploited. In the following decades, the use of asbestos grew until new research on the safety of asbestos resulted in its rapid decline between 1970 and 1990. As a result, writes Quebec-based environmental services specialists Lab’eau-air-sol, “Quebec found itself with an abundance of chrysotile residues and no buyers.”

“After years of discussion and laboratory testing, the use of chrysotile in bitumen became common practice [in Quebec] in the ‘90s,” Lab’eau-air-sol continues, adding that chrysotile asbestos is a “highly resistant fibrous material, enabling significant reinforcement of bitumen matrix,” while the mixture’s non-friability makes its use in roads relatively safe for road users. However, Lab’eau-air-sol writes, there remains significant exposure risk when these roads are demolished, resulting in special measures to protect workers and increased removal costs than conventional asphalt.

According to Lussier, ACI has completed 50 asbestos-coated asphalt projects since 2010 and is one of a handful of companies in Quebec equipped to work with asbestos-coated asphalt. However, he added, “Asbestos projects represent a small percentage of annual planning and will continue to decrease because the Ministry of Transport removed asbestos-containing mixes from its standards in 2011.”

As companies like ACI are brought in to mill the remaining pavements containing asbestos–“usually those with very heavy truck traffic,” Lussier said–the company must follow all safety procedures and best practices. Lussier said there are two ways to handle these types of roads: stabilization and dry method. “When choosing the stabilization approach, a bitumen emulsion is introduced into the leveled layers of the surface, allowing asbestos particles to bind together,” Lussier said. “This process helps prevent the release of hazardous dust or fumes.” In the case of the dry method, he added, the pavement material is gathered, enclosed in large stitched bags, and then disposed of at a landfill site authorized by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and the Fight Against Climate Change.

“The second method can be very expensive, so we prefer the first method, but ultimately the choice is up to the Transportation Ministry,” Lussier said. ACI has retrofitted one of its milling machines to handle the first method. When the company must utilize the second method, it would prefer to use its BOMAG milling machine in order to benefit from the ION DUST SHIELD, given that the asbestos particles are also quite fine. However, the machine isn’t quite large enough to make sense on the types of roads that contain asbestos. “If we had a larger BOMAG mill, we would definitely be using it on those jobs.”

How to Mill With Less Dust

Canadian companies turn to ion technology to combine fine dust, clear air for milling crews.

Denis Lussier remembers how dusty the work could be when he started as a milling machine operator at ACI, Joliette, Quebec, in 2007. “Sometimes, there would be so much dust it looked as though a cloud of dust was moving forward down the highway,” Lussier said.

Throughout the past two decades, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have worked hard to reduce the amount of dust around their milling machines—to much success. “All of the companies that make these machines have innovated to reduce the amount of dust the operators experience when using these machines,” Lussier said, from water systems that suppress the dust to vacuum systems that collect the dust.

Although this has had profound impacts on the amount of visible dust, these innovations have also reduced the amount of fine dust surrounding the milling machine. Fine dust, while invisible to the naked eye, is actually more hazardous to workers’ health than visible dust, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

While larger dust particles often fall to the ground quickly, fine dust particles can remain aloft much longer. Furthermore, our bodies are better-equipped to handle larger dust particles, which are often captured by our nose hairs, for example, whereas our bodies lack defenses against fine particles that can make their way into the lungs and cause health issues.

Bomag’s ION Dust Shield

In an effort to take silica dust suppression to the next level, ACI invested in a BOMAG BM 2200/65 equipped with the company’s innovative ION DUST SHIELD technology in June 2023. “The system makes it so we have almost zero dust on our jobs,” Lussier said. Now, he’s a technical advisor and training manager at ACI, making decisions that impact the company’s current generation of equipment operators—like the company’s new BOMAG milling machine with ION DUST SHIELD.

“This is a hard job, but this innovation makes it a bit easier,” Lussier said. “The system is easy to use, easy to clean, and it’s a very good step for our industry to prevent employees from breathing in dangerous silica dust.”

Founded in 1998, ACI specializes in cold asphalt recycling and is the largest milling company in Quebec, operating throughout the entire province. Since ACI’s inception, the company has milled approximately 1.6 billion square feet (150 million square meters) of the Quebec road network.

How the ION DUST SHIELD Works

The ION DUST SHIELD is an addition to BOMAG’s standard dust extraction system. The system, which received the silver medal of the BAUMA Innovation award in 2019, reduces the amount of hazardous fine dust by 88%, according to the manufacturer.

The system works by applying an electrical charge as the fine dust passes through the ION DUST SHIELD. The positively charged fine dust becomes unstable and tries to stabilize by bonding with other fine dust particles. As more fine particles clump together, they form coarse dust that can then be ejected with the milled material via the conveyor belt.

The ION DUST SHIELD does not rely on filters, which reduces the need to clean, service and dispose of these filters as a hazardous material.

“As people have learned about the ION DUST SHIELD, interest in the system is growing,” said BOMAG Product Manager for Cold Milling Dennis Frenzius, adding that the greatest interest so far has been in Europe. “There’s a lot of focus on fine particles in Europe as a result of conversations about reducing fine dust from standard mechanical brakes on cars.”

How to Dispose of Silica Dust

Furthermore, BOMAG has performed tests on the ION DUST SHIELD with health institutes in both Germany and France that have illustrated the system’s capabilities to reduce fine dust by 88% or more. “Now, we’re working on having similar discussions and tests with organizations in North America,” Frenzius said.

Although the North American tests have yet to occur, interest in the ION DUST SHIELD has been growing in these markets, Frenzius said, adding that every BOMAG milling machine with a front loading conveyor sent to Canada this year has been equipped with the ION DUST SHIELD. “Having the ION DUST SHIELD in the market improves visibility for this technology,” he added. “Whenever people become aware that there are new technologies to manage fine dust particles, that drives the discussion forward.” For example, World of Asphalt 2024 in Nashville drove a lot of interest in the system in the U.S. market.

“Our customers are very interested in protecting their operators from silica dust,” Frenzius said, adding that it’s also a matter of employee attraction and retention. “Interest in running a piece of machinery like this will be impacted if the operator’s health is at risk. That makes the ION DUST SHIELD even more important, because it offers the operator the highest level of protection available.”

Prioritizing silica dust suppression is not only important for operator health, but the health of others in the project area, such as the sweeping, paving and road marking crews behind the milling machine and pedestrians.

Frenzius stresses the importance of positive protection from silica dust, such as the ION DUST SHIELD, which is a useful addition to the PPE. Frenzius also recommends not relying exclusively on water systems, as fine dust is often too small to bind with water due to the surface tension of the water droplets.

Frenzius stresses the difference between coarse dust, which is often visible to the human eye, and fine dust (the type of dust targeted by the ION DUST SHIELD). Fine dust, while invisible to the naked eye, is actually more hazardous to workers’ health than visible dust.

Stay Ahead of New Standards

Although masks currently aren’t required on most milling projects in Canada, companies are preparing for a day when the silica dust standards become more strict. “In Europe, there are inspectors who come out to test the dust around these machines,” Lussier said, “and that’s eventually how it will be in Canada.”

On the other side of the country, Command Equipment Ltd., Edmonton, is also getting ahead of anticipated changes. “We don’t have inspectors coming to our jobs or anything, but they are starting to get stricter up here in Canada,” said Doug Booth, superintendent of Command Equipment’s milling division. “We want all our employees to be safe and healthy, and it’s important for us to investigate solutions to the problems they face.”

Command Equipment began using the ION DUST SHIELD in summer 2023. The company already had one BOMAG BM 2200/65 and needed another for a mill-and-fill project on Queen Elizabeth II Highway from Lacombe to Red Deer (18.6 miles/30 kilometers) for the Alberta Ministry of Transportation. The second BOMAG was equipped with the ION DUST SHIELD, so Command Equipment decided to put the new technology to the test.

“That’s a heavy commuter route, because it’s the main highway from Edmonton to Calgary,” Booth said, adding that the road had experienced significant surface cracking as a result of age and heavy use. Command Equipment was hired to mill to a depth of 2.4 inches (60 millimeters) and repave overnight to reopen each section of fresh pavement by the following morning.

Broce Manufacturing Leads the Way in Silica Dust Control for Sweepers

They milled one lane (7.2 feet or 2.2 meters) with their BOMAG with ION DUST SHIELD and one lane with another milling machine. “It was really good to perform a side by side comparison,” Booth said. “The guy running the BOMAG said he wasn’t getting as much dust and stuff blowing back at him as on the other machines.”

Command Equipment’s milling division operates four milling machines and performs almost exclusively highway work throughout Alberta and into the Northwest Territories nearly up to Yukon.

Booth has worked at Command Equipment for 15 years and in the company’s milling division for seven before being promoted to superintendent last year. “Whenever a new machine comes in, I like to kick the operator off and try it out, like it’s a new toy,” he said. “I like that the ION DUST SHIELD is easy to use. You don’t have to do anything. It’s just there and it just works.”

“Although the ION DUST SHIELD doesn’t make us run better or faster, it does make the environment healthier for the operator and ground crew,” Booth said. “Our company is all about investing in the safety of its employees, so this was an investment they made to make our lives a little better.”

The ION DUST SHIELD is an addition to BOMAG’s standard dust extraction system. The system works by applying an electrical charge as the fine dust passes through the ION DUST SHIELD, seen here atop the conveyor.

Relationships & Results

ACI first rented the BOMAG BM 2200/75 in 2020. The company has long had a great relationship with SMS Equipment Inc., which became a BOMAG distributor in 2019. “We find we have better service from SMS than from other dealers,” Lussier said. “Milling machines are prone to breaking down given the job they do, so it is very important to have good service.”

After the company had used the machine for a while, BOMAG invited ACI employees to Charlotte to see the new BM 2200/65 model, to discuss their experience with the machine, and to brainstorm the features they’d like to see on the next generation of BOMAG mills. “We’ve learned that BOMAG is a company that really listens to their customers,” Lussier said.

For example, ACI found the earlier version of the BM 2200/75 they rented several years ago was a bit too noisy. On the BOMAG BM 2200/65 ACI purchased in 2023, BOMAG put the fan at a 45-degree angle at the back of the machine for a quieter work environment for the operator. The new machine also came with the ION DUST SHIELD included. “That wasn’t something we had to choose to add on or pay extra for,” Lussier said. “It is a useful feature that comes standard in Canada.”

According to Lussier, the company considers the amount of dust they anticipate on a project when deciding which jobs to send its BOMAG mill out on. For example, if the company is planing concrete or milling in confined areas such as tunnels and under bridges. It’s also great when milling into the wind. “The water and VCS systems work well to suppress dust in most situations, but it’s been great to have the ION DUST SHIELD, too, when we have to mill into the wind,” Lussier said.

Where the BOMAG BM 2200/65 has most excelled for ACI is on projects where the crew must immediately pave after milling—for example, when the company recently milled and repaved highways 40, 35 and 10 overnight and had to reopen them by 5 a.m.

“On these types of jobs, we have to put down less water so the surface is ready for paving shortly behind the milling machine,” Lussier said, estimating that they run the water systems at 20% on these jobs compared to 100% on jobs without this time constraint. “When we must use less water, the ION DUST SHIELD is perfect because it can help capture that extra dust.”

According to Lussier, ACI has 14 employees trained to use the BOMAG mill. “They all like the ION DUST SHIELD very much,” Lussier said. “They say that when they run this machine, they experience no issues with dust.”