What’s a tandem roller?

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A tandem roller, also known as a steam roller, is a heavy machinery used for paving roads and parking lots. It consists of two steel rollers powered by steam, petrol or diesel, and is used to smooth and compact asphalt. Modern versions use diesel or petrol engines and may have a vibratory unit. Water is used to cool and lubricate the rollers and add weight to the machine. The roller requires skill to operate to ensure uniform thickness and avoid bumps.

A tandem roller is a piece of machinery used in paving roads and parking lots. Commonly called a steam roller, the tandem roller consists of two very heavy and unequal sized steel rollers mounted on a frame, which is powered by steam, petrol or diesel. The tandem roller is used to smooth and compact asphalt or asphalt before it cools and hardens. The steel drums or rollers on which the machine travels are often cooled with a jet of water to prevent the pavement from sticking to the rollers.

In addition to being heavy, many tandem roller units also contain a vibratory unit on board the machine. The vibratory rollers help compact the pavement as the heavy tandem roller passes. Operating at very low speeds, the tandem roller is a machine that requires skill to operate to ensure that each pass slightly overlaps the previous pass. By overlapping each pass, the roller operator is able to maintain a uniform thickness to the surface and avoid dips or bumps.

Early versions of the roller relied on a steam engine to move the large machines. This has led to the roller’s common denomination being known as a steam roller. The name steam roller is often found associated with today’s machinery due in part to the steam that forms on the rollers as the equipment is used. This steam is the result of the water being used to cool and lubricate the rollers as they come into contact with the very hot pavement. Steam is created by this contact and therefore the title of the steam roller remains intact.

While the steam propulsion system is very rare today, modern machinery is mostly diesel powered. Some smaller units use petrol engines, and battery-powered versions are starting to emerge in some yards. Many models use two separate fuel systems. A diesel-powered tandem roller could also use a battery-powered vibratory motor.

While the massive steel rollers are very heavy on their own, most tandem roller units use water to add weight to the rollers. Each roller has a threaded cap that can be removed. The water is then filled inside the roller by inserting a tube into the open cap. Once the roller has been filled with water, the cap is replaced and the unit is operational. The weight of the water helps the roller compact the pavement.

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