This is the Fall 2014 edition of the quarterly BINDER TECHNICIAN NEWS brought to you by the Asphalt Institute.

Ask Mike

Michael T. Beavin
Technical Training Coordinator
Asphalt Institute

Question: We are reviewing our in-house procedure against AASHTO and ASTM procedure.  For the BBR, we have noticed that there is a step for Verification of Zero Load Cell Reading to perform each day in ASTM D6648. This verification is not part of the AASHTO T313 procedure but it is mentioned on the AMRL Asphalt binder worksheet (page AB-52 #6). Do you think that we need to perform that step?
Marie-Claude Raymond
Suncor Energy Inc.

Answer: Thank you for the question Marie-Claude. The ASTM  D6648 method for verifying the zero (null) load cell reading is being reworked currently and will most likely be changed when future ASTM manuals are published. This step will also be addressed soon in AASHTO T313. The reason it is being changed is that it is VERY very difficult to establish the same position indicated by the displacement transducer when the thick steel beam is in place as after you remove the beam. The new method is much simpler. Here is a summary (not exact wording but you’ll get the idea):
1. With no beam on the supports, establish the starting test position by inserting the step gauge at the 0.25” position (this is where the load nose would be if it was resting on a test beam prior to starting the test) and apply a 100g mass on the loading platform (the load nose is not resting on anything at this point).

2. The reading should indicate 0 +/-  10 mN. (0 +/- 10 mN may change to 0 +/- 5 mN FYI)
As far as whether it is a necessary step, Tom Zubler, Vice President of QA and Technical Services of Cannon Instrument Company said “If at the start of the test when the indicated contact load is within tolerance but the load was actually negative, the load nose would not be in contact with the test beam and could either damage it or cause extra deflection when the test starts. This would have a negative impact on the test results. Conversely, if the indicated load was in tolerance but was actually greater than allowed, we would also see the stiffness and m-value negatively impacted. The null load is established during the software standardization sequence. If this part is done incorrectly, the above routine will detect the problem before it can affect test results."

Submit your binder question to Mike Beavin and if it is chosen for an edition of Binder Technician News, you will receive a FREE custom t-shirt. Please include your t-shirt size in your email.

Need an NBTC class or recertification? Here are our 2014-2015 dates:

November 18-20, 2014
January 20-22, 2015
March 10-12, 2015
March 31-April 2, 2015
November 17-19, 2015

We look forward to seeing you in Lexington!

How an idea becomes a standard

In 1975, the eight-year-old version of me was well on his way to driving his folks crazy. Singing “I’m just a bill. Yes I’m only a bill and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill…” over and over again, non-stop despite my father's threats of BIG TROUBLE. In my eight-year-old mind I complied, if somewhat half-heartedly, by humming it, not singing it, at a slightly lower volume. To Dad, this constituted not stopping so I ended up in big trouble anyway. I may have involuntarily spent the rest of the day in my room but I never forgot how a bill became a law.

Little did I know, I had also essentially learned how an idea becomes a test standard. If I’m asked to explain how an ASTM or AASHTO standard becomes a standard, that old tune cranks up in my head "I’m just a bill. Yes, I’m only a bill and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill….and now I’m off to (my ASTM) committee." And I send the person off to check out the YouTube clip explaining committees, ballots, votes and how a law finally passes.

Standards ARE essentially laws. They are just enforced differently. They are the rules agreed upon between the users of a material and the producers of that material. Standards promote compliance with expected properties. Breaking the speed limit may result in nothing more than a stressed out passenger, but it may also lead to the driver taking an involuntary break from driving all together.

Breaking the "Law Of The Lab" may result in increased testing variability (not good) but it may also lead to some R & R that doesn’t include flip flops and sunscreen. There is nothing restful or relaxing about "remove" and "replace." Out of necessity, standards, like laws, come from a very structured process designed to ensure that they are fair, reasonable and needed.

Here’s how the ASTM process works:
  1. The Idea. (Anybody’s idea! It’s just gotta be a good one or it will die in committee.)
    1. Present as new business at a subcommittee meeting
    2. Work item is assigned to a person(s)
  2. Collaborate. (Find friends with similar interest in the procedure.)
    1. Peers offer ideas, research, supporting data
    2. Work together to make a first draft
  3. First Attempt. (Usually not successful.)
    1. Write a draft standard or practice
    2. Submit for subcommittee ballot
  4. Vote. (Hope for the best.)
    1. Affirmative, Negative, Affirmative with comment, Abstain
    2. If no negatives or if negatives are resolved, send to Main Committee
    3. If negatives are found persuasive, edit and collaborate and then re-ballot
  5. Vote again!
    1. Are we good? Yes!
  6. Publish. (Pat yourself on the back and thank your committee.)
    1. New standard is now binding for all that are expected to use it.
A previous article I penned was titled “Picasso Would Have Been a Terrible Technician.” It’s true! If you are fed up with a test method, that’s fair. We challenge you to share your ideas on how to make the standards you work with better. Just don’t go vigilante and take the law into your own hands. Put it up for ballot. Remember, technicians, you don’t need letters after your name to get involved and make your voice part of the process. Help make your good ideas part of the law – join ASTM or attend an AASHTO event.

- Mike Beavin


We can hardly "contain" our excitement

If you have already broken down a blue million binder samples, odds are this tip won’t be a revelation. But, if you are still giddy from sifting through dozens of ASTM and AASHTO standards, you may be pestering your friends and family about what to actually put that binder in prior to conducting the tests. Contain your excitement! We are here to help!

When it comes to breaking down binder samples, we all have a certain way of doing things. If you’ve ever broken down a sample that was more than a verification or classification, then you know that you are going to need some extra containers to store the material for PG testing. If you have an effective system in place already, by all means continue what you are doing. This is just an effective standard breakdown for all of you that are flying by the seat of your pants.

Binder technicians seem to fall into two broad categories: crimpers and non-crimpers. You crimpers out there tend to prefer easy to bend containers so you can create the nice spout you are so fond of. If this sounds like you, do not purchase the rolled edge tins! You will squeeze and squeeze and probably squirt hot asphalt all over the place. Crimpers, you’ll need the straight sided tins. Just keep in mind, putting a lid back on the container will now be nearly impossible post crimp. Not to point fingers but, under no circumstances should you use the wax coated Dixie cup style cups. Wax cups and asphalt binder do NOT get along.

The techs at Asphalt Institute fall into the no-crimp zone because we keep our binder samples for a year after testing in case we need to retest due to a dispute. Stored samples need lids so we purchase the rolled edge tins.
However you do it, you can find every shape and size tin at

Below is a list of the sizes we use and the corresponding tests. We have also provided you with the recommended volumes to add for each test. In order to reduce the effects of unintended physical property changes, we never recommend filling any storage container less than half full.  
1 oz tins
DSR - half full
Softening Point - half full
Solubility - half full

3 oz tins
Absolute Viscosity - half full for most tube sizes (fill to line for large capillary tubes)
Elastic Recovery - half full for AASHTO, to line for ASTM
Penetration - fill to line
Specific Gravity - half full
Ductility - fill to line

6 oz tins
BBR verification - material from one scraped pan
Flash Point - fill to line
Storage Stability - half full 
8 oz tins
BBR Classification - material from two scraped pans.
Residue by Distillation - half full
Residue by Evaporation - half full

- Madison Pohl, Asphalt Institute Asphalt Materials Technician

Technician Spotlight

Max Dumais, Suncor Energy Inc., Lab Technician

Max has been working at Suncor's refinery in Montreal, Quebec, Canada for 15 years. He performs all kinds of petroleum lab testing. His experience includes testing octane, chromatography, asphalt and physical and chemical properties.
Max found his NBTC training this year helpful.
"It keeps me up to date with all the changes to the test methods recently put in the program. It’s a good way to go through all aspects of the procedures and make sure that everything we do is in accordance with the program, "said Dumais.
"It also gives us credibility to our customers – having NBTC certified technicians testing the product that is sold from the refinery," he added.


Learn more about this program at

The Asphalt Institute, in cooperation with the North East Transportation Training and Certification Program (NETTCP) and working with the AASHTO Materials Reference Lab (AMRL) and industry leaders, has developed one consistent, national PG binder technician certification. This map indicates the states that have USERS/PRODUCERS (in yellow), PRODUCERS (in green) and USERS (in brown) who have been nationally certified by the Asphalt Institute’s National Binder Technician Certification program.
Ultimately, the Asphalt Institute would like to see both certified users and producers in every state. There are now 42 states with users and/or producers who are nationally certified by the AI NBTC and the NETTCP programs. Click the map…

Certification: What You Should Know About Training Binder Technicians (free)

Understanding the MSCR Test and its use in the PG Asphalt Binder Specifications (free)

(affordable technology, schedule at your convenience, pause-rewind-understand and email your questions)


Now only $50 in the Asphalt Institute online store. The second printing includes an Appendix on Multiple Stress Creep Recovery (MSCR) testing.
Asphalt Binder Series
(5 - 2 hour sessions)
Recorded Webinars
Part 1 Intro to Asphalt Binders
Part 2 Asphalt Binder Testing & Specifications
Part 3  Asphalt Binder Testing & Specifications (cont.)
Part 4 Asphalt Emulsions, Cutbacks & Air Blown Asphalts
Part 5 Asphalt Binder Modification & Testing Variability

(affordable technology, schedule at your convenience, pause-rewind-understand and email your questions)
Copyright © 2014 Asphalt Institute, All rights reserved.