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Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering

On-line version ISSN 2309-8775
Print version ISSN 1021-2019


BREDENHANN, S J et al. Implementation of a performance-grade bitumen specification in South Africa. J. S. Afr. Inst. Civ. Eng. [online]. 2019, vol.61, n.3, pp.20-31. ISSN 2309-8775.

South Africa has been experiencing higher traffic volumes and heavier loads over the past several years. This has been accompanied by an increase in premature asphalt failures. Selection of the appropriate asphalt binder is critical for improving performance. Empirical bitumen testing has increasingly failed to relate test results to pavement performance, as the traffic volume and loading have changed. Moreover, empirical tests cannot effectively characterise polymer-modified bitumens that are increasingly being used in South Africa. This changing environment calls for the establishment of specifications based on fundamental engineering properties which relate to actual pavement performance. This paper discusses the fundamental principles of the performance grade (PG) specification being introduced in South Africa. It explains how these fundamental principles create a rational framework for the specification, and present a clear set of compliance criteria to ensure the optimal selection of bituminous binders. The reasons for transitioning to a PG specification are discussed, along with the basis of the specification, rheological concepts, measurements required to characterise bituminous binders, and the simulation of ageing in relation to durability. The framework of the specification, including test procedures, provisional compliance limits and mandatory reporting of test results as an interim measure, are discussed in this paper. Finally, some test results received to date for selected typical South African binders are reported and evaluated. These results indicate that current binders being used in South Africa can easily conform to the proposed PG specification in terms of deformation requirements without any disruption to the processes of the refineries or secondary manufacturers. The fatigue properties of binders are still under evaluation and thus not included in the specification framework. Only information gathered will inform the final decision.

Keywords : PG grade; bitumen performance; asphalt performance; fatigue; rutting; bitumen ageing; vlscoelastic.

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