Tire Tracking Explained: Impact on Asphalt Durability

Explore the impact of tire tracking on asphalt durability. Understand its role in maintenance, road lifespan prediction, & cost savings. Get started now!

Judson Burdon
Posted by Judson Burdon on November 14
  • Discover what causes tire tracking and how it affects pavement integrity.
  • Learn about the benefits of using tire tracking in pavement analysis.

Dive into the world of pavement longevity and safety with our latest blog below. We'll unravel the mystery of tire tracking, a subtle yet critical phenomenon that dictates the lifespan of asphalt roads. 

Discover how this key player in road analysis not only reveals the future of our streets but also guides cost-effective maintenance and robust infrastructure. Get ready to hit the road on a journey through the science that keeps our journeys smooth.

Table of Contents

What is Tire Tracking?

Tire tracking is a bit like the memory of a road – it's what happens when tires repeatedly follow the same path on asphalt, pressing down and eventually leaving a kind of footprint. Picture a well-worn path through a grassy field. That’s essentially tire tracks on a road surface.

Historically, as vehicles began to rule the roads, engineers noticed these persistent paths. Initially, they were just considered part of the road's aging process, but soon it was clear that they were more than just a cosmetic issue. 

Tire tracks can signal the beginning of a road's decline, as these paths can deepen, leading to ruts.

The Science Behind Tire Tracking

Asphalt Kingdom Tire TracksTire tracks on asphalt (Photo by Paden Johnsen on Unsplash)

At the heart of tire tracks is the science of repeated stress. 

Imagine bending a paperclip back and forth until it snaps; that's similar to what happens to asphalt under the weight of vehicles, just on a much bigger scale. 

Tire tracking tests are the industry's way of bending the 'paperclip' to see how long the road will last.

These tests are all about simulating the real world in a controlled environment. Picture a large machine that's like a treadmill for roads, where asphalt samples are subjected to the rolling pressure of a tire, over and over, mimicking the effect of traffic. 

The relentless passage on the sample replicates years of service in a short period, letting engineers measure how the asphalt behaves.

Tire tracking simulations take into account factors like the weight of vehicles, speed, temperature fluctuations, and the mix of the asphalt itself. 

By adjusting these variables, the tests can mirror the conditions of a sweltering highway in summer or a busy urban street in the dead of winter.

Related: Spot Repair in Asphalt Pavements: A Focused Approach to Damage Control

Causes of Tire Tracking

Traffic Load. Heavy vehicles like trucks and buses exert significant pressure on the road surface, causing compressive stress and eventual deformation if the asphalt is not designed to withstand such loads.

Asphalt Quality. Poorly formulated asphalt mixtures that lack the necessary flexibility or strength can be more prone to tire tracking. If the binder content is too low or if the aggregate used is of poor quality, the pavement can wear down faster.

Temperature Fluctuations. High temperatures can make asphalt softer and more susceptible to deformation, while low temperatures can make it brittle and prone to cracking. Repeated traffic loads on these weakened surfaces exacerbate tire tracking.

Pavement Thickness. Insufficient thickness of the pavement layer can lead to inadequate support for the traffic loads, increasing the likelihood of tire tracking.

Asphalt Kingdom Asphalt Roller Road Construction

Inadequate Compaction. If the asphalt is not compacted properly during construction, it can have voids or low density, leading to quicker deterioration and tire track formation.

Speed of Vehicles. The speed at which vehicles travel affects the impact on the pavement. Fast-moving vehicles, especially if they have to brake hard, can impart more dynamic loads, aggravating the tracking issue.

Age and Maintenance. Over time, wear and tear naturally occur. As pavements age, they may become more susceptible to tracking, especially if routine maintenance has been neglected.

Drainage Issues. Water can weaken the structural integrity of the asphalt. Poor drainage can lead to water infiltration, softening the pavement and making it more prone to deformation under load.

Related: Own This Business? Grow It by Adding Asphalt Maintenance!

Tire Tracking's Role in Asphalt Durability Assessment

Tire tracking serves as a crystal ball for road durability, allowing us to peer into how asphalt will stand the test of time and tires. The patterns etched by tire tracks are more than just marks on the pavement – they're the early warning signs of wear and tear. 

Correlating these tire track patterns to asphalt wear is a bit like reading tea leaves, except it's backed by hard science. 

A clear, defined pattern often heralds the onset of rutting, where the asphalt begins to deform and create grooves that can make driving hazardous. 

It's not just about the grooves, though. These patterns can also predict other structural failures, such as cracking or surface disintegration, long before they become visible.

When it comes to predicting potential issues, it’s all about spotting the signs early. Repetitive loading from traffic starts a countdown; each pass of a tire applies stress, testing the asphalt's resilience. 

Like muscles that grow stronger with exercise, asphalt can resist these forces to a point, but over time fatigue sets in. This is where material behavior under repetitive load is crucial. 

Asphalt is a complex mix, sometimes behaving like a brittle old bone that snaps, and other times like tough leather that stretches but doesn't break.

Related: Sealcoat Sprayers: Your Guide to Pavement Maintenance

Benefits of Using Tire Tracking in Pavement Analysis

Asphalt Kingdom Tire Tracks-1(Photo by Dids via Pexels)

Using tire tracking in pavement analysis is a bit like having a superpower for road maintenance – giving us the ability to predict the future and save the day (and dollars) before a crack even appears. 

By understanding how new asphalt will behave under the stress of traffic, we get a sneak peek at its lifespan. It's not about guessing how long the road will last but about knowing it with a good degree of certainty.

Think of it as a strategic game where every move is calculated. With accurate predictions, cities and businesses can plan their budgets and maintenance schedules more effectively. 

It's like being able to foresee costly repairs and avoiding them with less expensive, timely interventions. This proactive approach means fewer emergency fixes, which are often like sticking a plaster on a problem – they don't last long and cost more in the long run.

Cost savings come from this proactive maintenance. By applying the right treatment at the right time, the life of the pavement is extended, much like regular oil changes keep a car's engine running smoothly.

Timely interventions based on tire tracking data can prevent small issues from becoming big, budget-draining problems. Instead of waiting for potholes to form and then filling them in, regular, smaller maintenance can keep roads at their best for longer.

Related: Harnessing the Power of Gas Blowers in Asphalt Maintenance

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is tire tracking, and how does it relate to asphalt durability?

Tire tracking is the phenomenon where repeated tire passes over the same path on asphalt cause visible tracks or ruts. 

It’s closely related to asphalt durability because it reveals how well the pavement can resist deformation under traffic loads. The less it tracks, the longer the road is likely to last without major repairs.

2. Why is tire tracking considered an important test for asphalt pavements?

It's important because it directly impacts road safety and longevity. The test helps predict how a road surface will hold up over time, anticipating problems like rutting and fatigue before they occur. 

This way, we can make smarter choices about materials and maintenance, aiming for longevity from the get-go.

3. How does the tire tracking test simulate real-world conditions?

The test recreates the stresses asphalt would face on an actual road, using a loaded tire that runs back and forth over a pavement sample. 

By adjusting the load, speed, and temperature, it mimics conditions like heavy traffic, fast-moving vehicles, and varying weather, giving us a realistic idea of how the pavement will perform.

4. What types of asphalt distress or issues can tire tracking tests help identify?

Tire tracking tests are great for spotting potential rutting, where lanes get grooves worn into them. They can also predict other woes like surface cracking, subsurface deformation, and moisture damage.

Essentially, they help foresee any condition that could turn a smooth drive into a bumpy ride.

5. Are there different variations of tire tracking tests, and if so, how do they differ?

Absolutely, there are variations. Some tests focus on the speed of rut formation, while others look at how deep those ruts get over time. 

Some use a single tire, others use dual tires, and the conditions can vary from wet to dry to mimic different climates. The choice of test often depends on the specific conditions the pavement will face once it's laid down. 

Each variation provides different insights into the asphalt's behavior under the sort of repetitive loading it will encounter in the real world.


Found tire depressions and other damage in your parking lot? Check out the Asphalt Kingdom store for all your asphalt maintenance needs! We offer the best crack fillers, asphalt sealer, traffic paint, and more. We are also your number-one source for different asphalt maintenance equipment. Show now!

Topics: Asphalt Maintenance

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