Manufacturers are facing a fork in the road in terms of producing road building equipment. More and more advanced technology is being introduced on machines aimed at mature markets such as North America and Europe, while developing markets require machines that are easy to maintain, with a focus on simplicity and reliability.
But whether the market for the machine is in China or Germany, one fundamental is the demand for improved efficiency. Contractors are facing rising raw material and fuel costs, and expect new machines to outperform old models using less fuel.
One way of improving efficiency is through machine control technology - systems that automatically adjust machines to pre-set project parameters, reducing the labour needed as well as the risk of human error.
Such systems are being offered more and more often as options or even as standard on modern road building equipment aimed at the mature markets.
Leica's partnership with slipform paver manufacturer Guntert & Zimmerman (G&Z), for example, meant that when US contractor Hawkins Construction bought a S850 and a S600 paver from G&Z, they came installed with Leica's NoLine stringless preparation kit, which includes four robotic total stations, an on-board computer/monitor and a stringless trimmer.
The contractor used this technology for the first time when paving two interstate highway projects in Nebraska, US. Hawkins superintendent Todd Allen said the stringless technology had improved speed and efficiency and cut labour costs.
"And that's not to mention the human error that occurs when a truck hits a stringline or somebody breaks the string. What's more, we get improved access to the site and more choices in how we pave," he said.
Mr Hawkins said profiograph readings had shown deviations of as little as 2 in (51 mm) per mile (1.6 km) from a one-tenth foot (33 mm) blanking band.
Meanwhile, technology developer Trimble identified efficiency savings that could be made in compaction. It introduced a new pass count mapping system for soil and asphalt compaction - the CCSFlex.
The new device displays pass count information on a bright, sunlight-readable CB450 control box. The data can also be exported or printed to provide compaction documentation to site management and local government agencies.
Contractors can start with the lowest cost version of the system and add sensors as their needs change, for example to include compaction meter values for soil and temperature mapping during asphalt compaction.
And to get an overview of how an entire road building fleet is performing in terms of efficiency, Bomag has launched a new telematics system. Telematic Start, the basic system, tracks machines using a combined GPS satellite and GPRS mobile radio system, records operating hours and provides theft protection through geofencing.
The more sophisticated Telematic Power version offers all the features of Start, plus recording of fuel consumption - monitoring that is important, says Bomag, because it will tell owners when a machine needs refuelled, or if fuel is being stolen.
"The system offers huge potential for reducing costs, as fuel often represents the greatest share of running costs on construction machinery. With Telematic Power, users for the first time receive a comprehensive evaluation of average and total consumption rates," the company said.
Together with making use of the latest technology, manufacturers have also focussed on increasing machine productivity as part of the relentless pursuit of efficiency savings - developing equipment that will achieve more in less time.
Terex, for example, has launched the RS950B reclaimer/stabiliser which it claims is the most powerful currently on the market.
With its 950 hp (708 kW) diesel engine, the RS950B boasts +30% more power than its closest competitor to deliver more productivity when cutting through tough asphalt or deep soil.
The RS950's standard 8 ft (2.4 m) cutter features 218 tungsten carbide teeth and delivers up to a 16 in (406 mm) cutting depth. Operators can choose between four different cutter speeds - 102, 131, 163 and 200 rpm - and the machine features four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering to enable operation in demanding applications.
And Wirtgen also focussed on maximum output when developing its new generation of large cold milling machines. The company introduced W 220 this autumn to complete its six-model W series range.
Powered by a 571 kW engine, the W 220 can reclaim up to 900 tonnes of asphalt an hour to a maximum milling depth of 350 mm.
The new generation of Wirtgen cold milling machines consists of the W 150, W 200, W 210, W 220 and W 250, covering a broad spectrum of milling widths ranging from 1.2 m to 4.4 m.
Astec subsidiary Roadtec, meanwhile, focussed on durability when developing its new micro milling cutter. Micro-milling is well-suited to thin overlay applications where conventional milling could delaminate a thin course or allow water to get trapped in the surface.
Roadtec now offers a cutter that produces a fine, straight-line pattern, which does not deviate with changes in travel speed or when the machine stops. The surface created is also safe for cars and motorcycles to use if opened to traffic before paving begins.
A central feature is the cutter's low tooth consumption - Roadtec said that on a recent job removing 1 in (25 mm) of surface with a micro finish across 5 miles (8 km) of road, it was not necessary to change any teeth during the entire five-day project.
When it comes to paving, meanwhile, the wider the range of road works a paver can perform, the better. Vögele has concentrating not only on producing versatile pavers that are intuitive to operate, but on helping with any issues that could arise during the machines' first operation.
German contractor Gröschler replaced its entire fleet of pavers with Vögele machines - the fleet consists of six pavers, the tracked Super 1300-2, Super 1600-2, Super 1800-2 and Super 1900-2 pavers, as well as the two wheeled pavers, the Super 1603-2 and Super 1803-2. It will use the machines to perform a wide range of tasks from paving narrow cycle paths to wide motorways.
The first job for the fleet was to build a roundabout near Bielefeld in Germany, and Vögele not only provided two days of training for the operators, but also sent a service technician to remain on hand to advise and assist the teams on the first project.
The Super 1603-2 and Super 1300-2 models were used for the job, equipped with multi-cell sonic sensors for grade and slope control. The requirements in terms of surface accuracy were strict - a deviation of no more than 4 mm was permitted in both longitudinal and transverse directions over a distance of 4 m.
The contractor said the pavers easily met these demands. Screed operator Udo Tegenkamp said, "Paving, driving and operation are all much easier with Vögele machines than with any other make."
Meanwhile, Power Pavers has launched a more basic paver for sale in developing markets in reaction to demand from contractors for more cost-effective two-pass paving. The new Power Paver SF-1700 compact slipformer can pave up to 7.5 m wide. Its frame is based on Power Paver's SF-2700, but by reducing the engine size to 160 hp (118 kW) and main frame width, the company has made the SF-1700 a more compact, economical alternative.
Power Pavers general manager Fred Hite said the company had sold machines into three countries within a month of the launch.
"In many developing countries, concrete supply is an issue, so paving in two passes is more practical than one pass," he said.
Indeed, road building investment is being ramped up in many emerging markets, and as the need for modern infrastructure grows, so too does the requirement for reliable machinery.
Indian contractor Ramky Infrastructure, for example, made a big investment Dynapac compaction machinery to help it complete road building contracts in Africa and India. The company needed rugged machines to build the new 1000 acre (4 km2) Gabon Special Economic Zone in Gabon's capital, Libreville, West Africa - its first project on the continent - and reliable workhorses for four of its new Indian road building projects.
Dynapac supplied new fleets of road construction equipment for both jobs. The largest order was for 47 rollers and compactors for the Indian projects. The machines included 19 9.4 tonne CC384 tandem rollers, 18 11 tonne CA250 single-drum soil compactors and 10 CC122 mini tandem rollers.
Ramky managing director Y.R Nagaraja said, "Our workload is expanding fast, with India's programme of infrastructure building, and we need continually to increase our fleet. The Dynapac machines are being deployed on some of our largest highway contracts."
Ammann, meanwhile, focussed on the use of the latest technology when developing the first models of its new Solid Power range of compaction equipment, which it will launch at the Intermat exhibition in Europe next year.
The project includes the redevelopment of Ammann's entire range of products, from lightweight rammers to heavy rollers, and will focus both on aesthetic changes - with a modern look -
and reduced fuel consumption rates.
Alexander Greschner, Ammann's project manager for the Solid Power project, said, "The main focus is the use of technology that will increase the efficiency of the asphalt installation and compaction process - reduced installation times and lower consumption rates for fuels and lubricants equate to direct cost savings for the contractor. New application technologies such as low-temperature asphalt, special mixing materials and high ratios of reclaimed asphalt call for modernised installation methods."
Bomag is also developing advanced new rollers. The manufacturer launched its new Dash-5 articulated tandem roller range this year with six models ranging from 1.5 to 1.8 tonnes.
The first models available in the Dash-5 range are the 1.55 tonne BW 80 AD-5, the 1.60 tonne BW 90 AD-5 and 1.65 tonne BW 1000 ADM-5. In addition to these basic models, there are the 1.65 tonne BW 90 SC-5 and 1.70 tonne BW 100 SC-5 'side clearance' models, where the drum is supported on just one side, to allow compaction right up against high curbs or other obstacles. The 1.7 tonne BW 100 ACM-5 combination roller rounds-off the range.
And the company previewed the next addition to the range - the new 4.5 tonne BW 138 AD-5 tandem roller - in October. Bomag said the machine features a new design, a new Kubota engine and extra large drum diameter, but is staying tight lipped on the details until its launch at the beginning of 2012.
Different laws for engine exhaust emissions, different demands from machines and different sensitivity to prices have made it more important than ever for manufacturers to diversify their product development.
As investment in road building both recovers in mature markets and continues to rise in emerging economies, more and more manufacturers are likely to pursue a two-tier manufacturing process in order satisfy both customer groups.