Road Workers Standing Around

Tis the time of year when every road is being repaired, repaved, or replaced.  Is it me, or does it seem like the road workers are always standing around?  It doesn’t matter where or when I drive by – there are always workers just standing there.  What do you do when you have a question?  I Google it.  Here is one answer if you are interested:

Somethings wrong with this government dishing out my tax payer dollars to road workers who stand around all day long doing nothing. Its the classic how many road workers does it take to shovel some dirt? 10! 1 to do the shovelling and 9 observe how they could do it better.

Now this is the general misconception for almost 90% of public who have never worked a day within the road construction industry. With some just generally misinformed or blatantly ignorant.

Fortunately for me I have worked in multiple different areas including, General Labourer, Asphalt Paving Labourer, Operating multiple different machines, Spray Sealing, Laboratory work – Analysis for completed roads (bitumen analysis and coring if you know what that means.), Soil Testing, traffic controlling, Spotter and Quality Controlling (current job) to make sure more of your tax payer dollars don’t get wasted by a dodgy job only to fail certain tests and getting ripped up again.

Now by being exposed to these areas of work I have a differing opinion.
Ill give you one example of what happens during a normal day of paving from start to finish when i was working as an Asphalt labourer.

For just the asphalt paving crew alone theres about 11-15 people. Let me break it down based on duties. 2 Roller Drivers, 1 Paver Driver, 1 Bob Cat driver, 2 Back of paver operators, 2 Shovel guys (probably work the hardest), 2 level rakers, 1 Spotter to keep an eye on everything and to direct the truck( his job is to stand around and make sure no one gets killed or injured). 1 Foreman who’s job is to know how to do every task, do the running sheets do formulations on top of his head so he can work out how man tonnes of asphalt to order and basically be responsible for multiple things that can go wrong during each nights run and rectify them.

So what happens on a usual day/night? Well we get on site and unload all equipment. Do pre checks to make sure everything is in working order and basically get everything prepped. We then stand around with everyone and go over tool box meetings and safety meetings with the safety officer, this can usually take 30 minutes if any one has any issues they need to bring up. After that the crew stands around waiting because the profiling crew(they rip up the previous road) or spray seal crew is delaying for many reasons from site management not happy with sloppy work, machine failure, unforeseen problems and just generally taking time to traffic control which has to stop work and let traffic through and then they resume work. So what do we do while we wait to start our jobs? This is usually the standing around part. After about 1-2 hours of standing around which was beyond our control we finally start. We move all equipment to the start of the run and the foreman goes and marks out the widths and visual indicators for the paver to follow. At this time the rest of the crew is standing around waiting for the foreman to complete. Then finally! works starts the first truck arrives and unloads 25 tonnes of asphalt at 170 °C, now the fun begins. The pavers starts moving, the shovelers start running around getting HOT mix and throwing it around non stop to cover missing spots, the paver driver is concentrating on following the marks, the back of paver operators are constantly checking depth and changing widths and other things, the foreman is doing a bit of everything and paper work on the go, the rakers are on every edge to make sure they are perfect and level, the bob cat driver picking loose material, then the rollers drivers start compacting while the paver is running, the spotter is directing the truck driver as he tips and moves along with the paver, all the while he’s looking out to make sure no one gets killed. ITS MAYHEM. This lasts till the 25 tonnes runs out and then were back tostanding around waiting for the next truck to arrive. Oh guess what the plant broke down and the next truck to arrive is 3 hours away what to do? I know lets stand around. Ok lets say the plant ran smoothly but on that day we had multiple different lanes and lots of layers. Well then after each layer comes the Laboratory guys who stop the constant flow of work to to get samples of what we laid to take back to the lab for testing and assurance (So these guys are waiting the whole time we are working before they can do their job). They take ten cores in different spots, each one taking about 10 minutes. What do we do then while they do their job? <b>stand around</br> waiting for them to finish.

On some straight runs sometimes the trucks are endless coming one after the other. This means constant work for 9-10 hours straight eating on the go with no breaks in between (you cant stop the work for a break, if the trucks a waiting and the hot mix goes cold by 20-30 degrees then it cant be laid and thats thousands and thousands of dollars wasted) The shovelling guys arms are dead after 2 hours, everyones feeling the burn from the freshly laid asphalt on top of the sun. You can’t just walk away and take a break disrupting the flow of work based on the specific duty. This is happening all while multiple supervisors and project engineers and safety officers are keeping an eye on your work.

This is just in a nutshell and I cant go over literally everything but I hope you get a picture of whats involved in standing around. Now bare in mind each different crew with each different aspect of constructing the road will have different work issues beyond their control affecting their duties causing them to be standing around and each individual will have a separate work ethic so opinions will vary… Now while road workers are standing around, they simply cant be sent home for how ever long they are standing around as they need to be on standby to commence their specific task at any moment. This is just what to expect in the industry. Office workers have no clue what goes on road works site. Theres just so much involved it would blow your mind. But whatever happens people will always complain. Pot holes on the road people complain, pot holes getting fixed, people complain, roads are too old people complain, roads getting renewed people complain, daily route to work taking time because of traffic people complain, government makes a new project to extends and make more lanes or create a whole new route to fix traffic issues, people complain. No matter what people will always complain about road workers. I hope this gives you an insight on standing around because I sure am guilty of this everyday.

road worker

About Brian Fulmer

Brian is the owner of Crossroads Property Management Inc. ( He writes six blogs and has written two books. He also works with various missions around the world. His first love is Guatemala.
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