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T.M. Gilbert1, P.A. Olivier2 and N.E. Gal2


Hillary Construction (Pty) Ltd PO Box 288, Ladanna, South Africa. E-mail: 2 Jeffares and Green (Pty) Ltd PO Box 1109, Sunninghill, South Africa. E-mail: and

In the past five years, ultra thin friction course has been successfully paved on some of the heaviest trafficked national highways in South Africa, as well as on other national routes, provincial highways, provincial rural roads, urban major and minor arterials, as well as urban industrial roads and local roads. Ultra Thin Friction Coarse or UTFC is ultimately a very thin asphalt layer paved at between 15 mm and 20 mm thick whilst spraying a thick tack-coat to the road surface all in one pass. It has a number of functional properties and advantages over other conventional asphalt paving procedures and products, which are mentioned later on in the paper. The essence of this paper describes the origin and history of UTFC, its various applications over the past five years in South Africa, including the performance and non-performances thereof, with recommendations for future use in Southern Africa.

Ultra Thin Frictional Course has over the past five years become well known to the road authorities as a preferred alternative to many postulated tenders with conventional asphalt and seal products and methodologies being specified. In many instances by using UTFC the client either enjoyed a comprehensive Rand per m saving or alternatively more road surfaced for the same amount of money. It should be noted however, that UTFC is not a structural asphalt layer and cannot be used as part of a reinforcing layer. Typically the application would rather be to enhance or extend the life of an existing pavement that has not reached the pavement layer failure stage. The UTFC would seal that surface and provide following FUNCTIONAL features: Improved skid resistance. Low noise, quiet road surface. Minimal water spray in wet traffic. Hard wearing, capable of withstanding full range of traffic. No chip loss during construction (i.e. no windscreen damage to travelling public). Environmentally friendly, no tack coat carried off during construction.

Proceedings of the 8th Conference on Asphalt Pavements for Southern Africa (CAPSA'04) ISBN Number: 1-920-01718-6 Proceedings produced by: Document Transformation Technologies cc

12 16 September 2004 Sun City, South Africa


Impermeable membrane. Improved drainage (i.e. no water lying on the surface). Quick curing period therefore minimal disruption to traffic. Capable of construction throughout the whole year in Southern Africa. Highly productive operation therefore cost effective. Lifespan of 8 to 12 years depending on traffic loading. Cost effective saving in material.

2. HISTORY OF UTFC 2.1 Background to UTFC

UTFC was developed and introduced into France in 1986, developed jointly by SCREG (now incorporated into COLAS FRANCE), LCPC (the French national roads authority) and Vogele (manufacturers of asphalt pavers). The final product and procedure took 6 years to develop. By 1997 over 38 million square metres had been laid in Europe alone. Following its development in France, the product has been successfully introduced into numerous countries, which include, but are not limited to, Australia, UK, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Russia and the USA. In 1998 it was launched in South Africa in conjunction with the road authorities (S.A.N.R.A.L.) and a contracting company (Murray & Roberts (Pty) Ltd). The first project undertaken was in April of 1999, where four busy interchanges (including ramps and collectors) that crossed the N1 near Pretoria, Gauteng, were surfaced. This project went relatively well with minor problems occurring. To date the UTFC is holding up exceptionally well.


UTFC is an ultra thin layer of open graded hot mix asphalt applied on a thick modified binder tack coat laid in a single pass with a special paver.

3.1 Product
The hotmix is manufactured in a conventional asphalt drum or batch plant, where the product reaches a mixing temperature of between 150C and 170C. The basic raw materials for the mixture consists of high quality single sized road stone, a fine crusher dust, straight penetration grade bitumen (40/50 or 60/70 pen. depending on the environment) and a small lime content to act as a filler and adhesive agent. In some instances an anti-stripping agent is used in the mixture to enhance the adhesion of the binder to potentially problematic aggregate. Our experience is that it has not yet been necessary to modify the binder on any of the projects carried out in South Africa.

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The thick tack coat is a specially formulated latex modified emulsion with the following properties: Storage stable up to 7 days Quick breaking when exposed to the hotmix Low viscosity for better control of the application rate spraying Early stability once broken

3.2 Process
The paving procedure is a basic operation that consists of three main items of plant, namely: A self-priming paver which applies the hotmix and thick tack coat in one pass. A 10 ton double steel drum vibratory roller. A 2.5 ton sit on double steel drum vibratory roller.

During the paving process an active reaction takes place known as the Migration Process. The basic concept being that when the hotmix (150C) is being applied by the paver-screed over the relatively cool tack coat emulsion (65C), an explosion takes place that physically causes the cool tack coat emulsion to penetrate two-thirds upwards into the new UTFC layer and one-third downwards into the existing surface (depending on the porosity of the existing layer). See below a sketch detailing this process:

Figure 1. Migration process.

The self-priming paver has been specially developed for the ultra thin friction course. Experience had previously shown that where normal tack coat applications are used on ultra thin asphalt layers, debonding occurs and permeability is increased.

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Hence the special paver, with a built in tack coat application spray bar was developed. The key features of the paver are: The spray bar is placed directly ahead of the hotmix such that the tack coat has a short time period of air exposure prior to the hotmix being placed over it. This ensures the migration process and enhanced bonding. The hotmix is passed over the tack coat application by special augers ensuring no mix falls ahead of the tack application. The width of the spray bar adjusts simultaneously with the telescopic screed. The tack application is computer controlled and automatically adjusts as the paver speed changes hence ensuring a consistent tack application. The paver is on tracks, hence very good smoothing of the road surface is obtained, with large improvements in roughness.

See below a sketch of the self-priming paver:

Figure 2. Self-priming paver.

Once paved, the surface texture is very coarse with texture depths up to 2 mm. It is noticeable that all the large aggregate on the surface is laying on its average least dimension, hence an exceptionally smooth surface is created, which has the effect of reducing the tyre/road noise substantially. See below a photograph of the typical texture of UTFC:

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Figure 3. Texture of UTFC.

4. VARIOUS APPLICATIONS OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS 4.1 Major Contracts Completed to Date Relative to Location
At the time of preparing this paper, numerous contracts had been successfully completed to date, with in excess of three million square metres of UTFC laid in South Africa. Globally, some 100 million square metres have been laid to date. The table below summarises the contracts completed to date. Information includes the type of road, traffic, binder and aggregate type, and contract size.
Table 1. Summary of contracts completed.
Contract Name N1 Pretoria (Rigel Ave) N3 Camperdown Mitchells Plain Cape Town Greater Durban Metro Pinetown P17/1 Hazyview Nelspruit N17 Springs N3 Candella N7 Cape Town P72/1 Alberton Route Type Ramps only National Route Main Carriageway National Route Main Arterial Route Major Arterial and Industrial Roads Minor Arterial and Industrial Roads Provincial Route Main Carriageway National Route Main Carriageway National Route Main Carriageway National Route Provincial Arterial Route Traffic Medium to heavy Heavy Light to medium Medium Light to medium Light Light to medium Very heavy Heavy Medium Binder Type 40/50 40/50 60/70 40/50 40/50 40/50 40/50 40/50 60/70 40/50 Aggregate Type Quartzite Dolerite Hornfels Quartzite Quartzite Dolerite Quartzite Quartzite Hornfels Quartzite Area m 100 000 181 000 112 000 60 000 30 000 310 000 304 000 340 000 390 000 231 000 Province City Gauteng Pretoria KZN Pietermaritzburg Western Cape Cape Town KZN Durban KZN - Pinetown Mpumalanga Hazyview Gauteng Springs KZN Durban Western Cape Cape Town Gauteng Alberton Year Completed 1999 1999 2000 2000 2000 2000 * 2001 * 2002 * 2002 2002 *

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Contract Name N1 Pietersburg N2 Durban Pomona Petit Route Type Main Carriageway National Route Main Carriageway National Route Main Arterial Traffic Medium Heavy Medium Binder Type 40/50 40/50 40/50 Aggregate Type Quartzite Quartzite / Tillite Dolerite Area 420 000 550 000 50 000
3 078 000

Province Limpopo Polokwane KZN Durban Johannesburg Gauteng

Year Completed 2003 * 2004 2004

Total * PPGS Contract

4.2 Typical Contracts Carried Out

Contracts where the UTFC has been placed to date vary from projects where heavy rehabilitation has taken place prior to the UTFC being placed, to projects where the UTFC is placed over the existing surfacing with very little preparation. Typical examples are: Recycle 250 mm of existing surfacing, base and subbase, place 35 mm continuously graded asphalt, place 20 mm UTFC. Mill and replace (using asphalt base mix) 200 mm, place 20 mm UTFC. Recycle 200 mm existing base/subbase, place 6,7 mm single seal, place 18 mm UTFC. Mill and replace (using continuously graded surfacing asphalt mix) 40 mm, place 18 mm UTFC. Surface patching, place 18 mm UTFC. Crackseal, place 20 mm UTFC.

On projects where no rehabilitation of the existing pavement is required, surface preparation is similar to that carried out for seals (e.g. cracksealing, isolated patching, edge breaking repairs etc.). However, even where coarse or varying existing textures occur, texture pre-treatment is not required. This leads to substantial savings. All contracts to date have been done using the 9,5 mm nominal size maximum aggregate. Trial sections using 6,7 mm and 13,2 mm maximum size aggregate have been carried out. Five of the contracts carried out to date have been Product Performance Guarantee System (PPGS) contracts. The length of the guarantee of these contracts varies between three and six years. Typical performance criteria measured include : Surface ravelling, surface cracking and bleeding measured by visual assessment, and Roughness (riding quality), rutting and surface texture measured by advanced pavement surveillance equipment.

At CAPSA 99, a provisional specification was given. Appendix A contains the updated specification, based on experience to date, for the UTFC.

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The first contract has been extremely successful and has performed well to date. There were some initial visible (but not functional) problems with both the transverse and longitudinal joints. This was due to an inexperienced paving team on geometrically difficult interchange ramps. On the second contract in Kwa-Zulu Natal, within the first 12 months, bleeding started to occur. Following intensive investigation (which included study trips to Australia and France) the cause was identified. As is typical, it was numerous factors combined that caused this bleeding. In essence, whilst adjustments were made to the European based designs, these were insufficient and further adjustments had to be made. All other contracts have to date performed extremely well. The following lessons (and problem areas) have been learnt to date: Transverse joints require special attention as bumps and bleeding (due to over application of tack) are easily created. The paver should stop as few times as possible. Careful planning is important to maintain a continuous operation. One should not be mislead by the very open textured surface. Medium to heavy traffic sometimes results in early life flushing, therefore the tack application and mix binder contents must be carefully designed and controlled during construction. Intersections are more prone to flushing at the stopping areas. Hand work should be kept to an absolute minimum, and preferable not carried out at all. Intersections therefore need to be carefully planned. In carrying out the mix design, the designer should not be led by volume ties. These only give a guide. Aggregate grading and shape are extremely important. There is no point in measuring compaction. The layer is too thin and open to achieve meaningful results. A minimum of two roller passes is sufficient to settle the mix. Whilst the paver can pave up to 6,0 m wide, best results are achieved at paving widths of between 3,0 m and 4,5 m. The tack coat usage, ordering and storage should be carefully planned and controlled due to the instability of the product, especially when working far from the manufacturing point.


Ultra thin friction courses have been successfully placed on numerous roads in South Africa in the past five years. Whilst UTFC is not new, the process, including the specially designed paver, was new to South Africa in 1999. Excellent success has been achieved since then. One of the main reasons for this is the access to the experience gained elsewhere in the world. UTFC cannot be designed and constructed controlled by asphalt mix type designs and procedures. Current UTFC designs are empirical and will remain so in the future as experience has shown that volumetrics is not completely applicable to this product. To date, the only performance problem encountered has been bleeding. The extent of this has been minimal. The solution of this problem is that very careful use of worldwide accepted experience must be used and critically assessed and adjusted for local use. It is not sufficient to only make minor adjustments based on climatic conditions.
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The UTFC placed to date in South Africa is too young to know what the typical end of life signs will be. So too is the case internationally, however the failure mode expected is one of ravelling. The expected life of UTFC is between 8 and 12 years, depending on the traffic. It is strongly recommended that UTFC be placed on pavements with at least 6 to 8 years remaining life. It should not be used as a holding action.

The authors wish to acknowledge the invaluable input of Mr Jean Claude Roff of Colas France for information on the product & procedures.

COLTO, 1998. Standard Specifications for Road and Bridge Works for State Road Authorities. Committee of Land Transport Officials, Pretoria. TRH3, Draft 1998. Surfacing Seals for Rural and Urban Roads. Committee of Land Transport Officials, Pretoria. TMH9, 1992. Pavement Management Systems : Standard Visual Assessment Manual for Flexible Pavements. Committee of State Road Authorities, Pretoria.

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9001 Scope 9002 Materials 9003 Composition of Mix 9004 Plant and Equipment 9005 Construction and Weather Limitations 9006 Placing and Finishing 9007 Compaction 9008 Construction of Tolerances and Finish Requirements 9009 Quality of Materials and Workmanship

9010 Measurement and Payment 9001 SCOPE

This specification supplements Section 4200: Asphalt Base and Surfacing of the Standard COLTO (1998 Edition) document. In the event that any part of it is at variance with the standard specification, these special conditions shall apply. The ultra-thin frictional course surfacing will be required to have the following special properties: Improved functional properties such as skid-resistance and water drainage Provide a levelling action and ride-quality improvement similar to a thin asphalt Reduce traffic noise As with an asphalt, no chip-loss or loose stone Heard wearing Quick curing, open to traffic almost immediately Environmentally friendly, no tack to be carried off the section Improved impermeability

9002 MATERIALS (a) Tack Coat

The tack coat shall be a polymer-modified cationic bitumen emulsion. The minimum percentage net SBR latex to bitumen in the blend shall be 3% by mass net latex per cold bitumen. To ensure improved impermeability, the tack coat will be applied in a continuous spray (as specified in Section 4300 of the Standard COLTO Specifications) and shall not be subjected to any public or construction traffic prior to the application of the pre-mix wearing course, which must be applied within 30 seconds of the spraying of the tack coat.

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Bituminous Binder

(i) The bituminous binder used in the production of the asphalt surfacing mix shall be 40/50 or 60/70 penetration grade bitumen in terms of the mix properties, and shall comply with the requirements of SABS 307.

(ii) An anti-stripping agent approved by the engineer shall be added to the bituminous binder at a minimum rate of 0,3% by mass of the net cold bitumen. (c) Aggregates

(i) The coarse aggregates shall consist of crushed, low absorptive stone, conforming to the quality requirements in Table 1.
Table 1. Quality requirements for coarse aggregate.

Description Aggregate Crushing Value Polished Stone Value Flakiness Index Absorption (water)

Limits Max. 21 Min. 50 Max. 15 Max. 1 % (coarse) Max. 1,5 % (fine)

(ii) The several aggregate fractions for the mixture shall be sized, graded and combined in such proportions that the resulting composite blend meets the required performance criteria.


The composition of the surfacing mix shall be made up of mix proportions taken in Table 2 shown below:
Table 2. Nominal mix proportions.

Description 9,5 mm Stone Crusher dust passing 2,36 mm sieve Filler passing 0,075 mm sieve Bitumen content

Limits 70 80 % 20 30 % 27% 4,5 5,5 %

For tender purposes, a bitumen content of 4,8 % should be assumed. Within thirty (30) days of the date of award of the Contract, the Contractor shall submit to the Engineer his target grading and bitumen content, both of which will be subject to the tolerances given in the Standard COLTO Specifications (refer Clause 9008 below). All production and application will be carried out in terms of the Contractors Quality Assurance Document.

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9004 PLANT AND EQUIPMENT (a) Mixing Plan

The surfacing mix shall be mixed by an approved type of asphalt plant suitable for producing the mix as per the specification. The mixing plant shall comply with the requirements of COLTO Standard Specifications for Road and Bridge Works (1998 Edition).


Spreading Equipment

(i) Reference is made to Section 4204(c)(i) for paving equipment and in addition, see below item (ii). Special note must be made of the contents of Clause 9002(a) above. (ii) Self-priming paver The mixture shall be laid by an approved paver with the following features: Track mounted to ensure consistent thickness and levelling capabilities; Built-in, variable-width spray bar for the tack coat application; Variable width, heated, screed plate; Receiving hopper and auger system capable of passing the mix over the spray bar with no material falling ahead of the spray bar; Insulated tack coat storage tank; Integrated electronic controls to maintain the required tack coat application rate, paving width and thickness.


Paving works can be undertaken when the air temperature is 8 C and rising and the road surface temperature is 10 C and rising. No paving shall be undertaken during rain or immediately after a rainy spell.

9006 PLACING AND FINISHING (a) Surface Requirements

Immediately before paving, the surface shall be cleaned and broomed of all loose or deleterious material. Surface defects shall be repaired prior to paving.


Mixture Requirements

The mixture when delivered to the paver shall be of a temperature of not less than 135 C and not more than 165C. The mixture temperature will be measured in the truck, just before being dumped into the paver hopper.


Tack Coat Requirements

(i) The application rate for the modified tack-coat shall be the calculated amount for a specific area, determined by (1) the result of a sand patch test, (2) the traffic counts for that area, (3) the percentage heavies in the traffic count and (4) the dryness of the existing surfacing. (ii) The temperature of application must be a nominal 65 C. (iii) For tender purposes, an application rate of 0,6 /m should be assumed.
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9007 COMPACTION (a) Rollers

Reference is made to Section 4204(d)(i). Add the following a percentage of suitable soluble oil shall be used as the lubricating agent on the steel drums.


(i) The working mixture shall conform to the target working mix, while falling within the deviations permitted from target values as per Table 3 below.
Table 3. Deviations permitted.

Aggregate Sieve Size (mm) 13,2 mm 9,5 mm 6,7 mm 4,75 mm 2,36 mm 1,18 mm 0,600 mm 0,300 mm 0,150 mm 0,075 mm

Permissible Deviation From Target Grading (%) 4,0 4,0 4,0 3,0 3,0 3,0 3,0 3,0 3,0 1,5

(ii) The binder content in the working mix shall have a tolerance of 0,3 %


Modified Tack-coat

The application of the tack-coat shall have a tolerance of 0,1 /m.



The mixture shall be laid at nominal compacted thickness of 18 mm, with an average tolerance of 2 mm. Increased thicknesses may come about as a result of the automatic filling of ruts of less than 10 mm depth (at the same time as paving the nominal 18 mm wearing course layer).


Surface Regularity

Reference is made to Section 4213(v) of the Standard COLTO Specifications, for Stone Mastic Asphalt.

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Sampling of the mix shall be carried out in accordance with the Contractors Quality Assurance Document. Routine inspection and tests shall be carried out by the Contractor to ensure the quality of the materials and workmanship in accordance with the requirements of this section.


90.01 Ultra thin asphalt surfacing (9,5 mm aggregate) course, 18 mm nominal thickness (a) Using 40/50 penetration bitumen square metre (m)
(b) Using 60/70 penetration bitumen square metre (m) The unit of measure shall be the square metre of ultra thin asphalt surfacing constructed within the specified dimensions. The tendered rate shall include full compensation of procuring, furnishing, heating, mixing, placing (including application of tack-coat), and compacting all materials, as well as for the process control testing, protecting and maintaining the work, as specified.


Variation in tack coat litre (l)

The unit of measurement in respect of increases or decreases of the application of the tack-coat from that specified in 9006(c)(iii) shall be a litre of tack coat. Payment for variations shall be made as specified in Clause 1213.


Variation in Binder Content ton (t)

The unit of measurement in respect of increases or decreases in the bituminous binder from that specified in 9003 shall be a ton of binder. Payment for variations shall be made as specified in Clause 1213.

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