Road roller
A road roller is a compactor
A compactor is a machine or mechanism used to reduce the size of waste material or soil through compaction. A trash compactor is often used by homes and businesses to reduce the volume of trash....

 type engineering vehicle
Engineering vehicle
Heavy equipment refers to heavy-duty vehicles, specially designed for executing construction tasks, most frequently ones involving earthwork operations. They are also known as, construction equipment, construction plant, earth movers, engineering vehicles, or simply equipment...

 used to compact soil
Soil compaction
In Geotechnical engineering, soil compaction is the process in which a stress applied to a soil causes densification as air is displaced from the pores between the soil grains. When stress is applied that causes densification due to water being displaced from between the soil grains then...

, gravel
Gravel is composed of unconsolidated rock fragments that have a general particle size range and include size classes from granule- to boulder-sized fragments. Gravel can be sub-categorized into granule and cobble...

, concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

, or asphalt
Asphalt or , also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid that is present in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits, it is a substance classed as a pitch...

 in the construction
In the fields of architecture and civil engineering, construction is a process that consists of the building or assembling of infrastructure. Far from being a single activity, large scale construction is a feat of human multitasking...

 of road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

s and foundations
Foundation (architecture)
A foundation is the lowest and supporting layer of a structure. Foundations are generally divided into two categories: shallow foundations and deep foundations.-Shallow foundations:...

, similar rollers are used also at landfills or in agriculture.

In some parts of the world, road rollers are still known colloquially as steam rollers
A steamroller is a form of road roller – a type of heavy construction machinery used for levelling surfaces, such as roads or airfields – that is powered by a steam engine...

, regardless of their method of propulsion. This typically only applies to the largest examples (used for road-making).


The first road rollers were horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

-drawn, and were probably just borrowed farm implements (see roller (agricultural tool)
Roller (agricultural tool)
The roller is an agricultural tool used for flattening land or breaking up large clumps of soil, especially after ploughing. Typically, rollers are pulled by tractors or, prior to mechanisation, a team of animals such as horses or oxen....

Since the effectiveness of a roller depends to a large extent on its weight, self-powered vehicles replaced horse-drawn rollers from the mid-19th century. The first such vehicles were steam rollers. Double-cylinder designs were preferred. Single-cylinder steam rollers were uncommon and unpopular, as the power impulses from the steam engine would produce slight waves in the road. Some road companies in the United States used steamrollers through the 1950s, and in the UK, some remained in commercial service until the early 1970s.

As internal combustion engine technology improved during the 20th century, kerosene
Kerosene, sometimes spelled kerosine in scientific and industrial usage, also known as paraffin or paraffin oil in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Ireland and South Africa, is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid. The name is derived from Greek keros...

-, gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

- (petrol), and Diesel
Diesel engine
A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

-powered rollers gradually replaced their steam
Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. In common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air...

-powered counterparts. The first internal-combustion powered road rollers were very similar to the steam rollers they replaced. They used similar mechanisms to transmit power from the engine to the wheels, typically large, exposed spur gears. Some users did not like them in their infancy, as the engines of the era were typically difficult to start, particularly the kerosene-powered ones.

Virtually all road rollers in commercial use now use Diesel power.

Uses on a road: Start-to-finish

Road rollers use the weight of the vehicle to compress the surface being rolled (static) or use mechanical advantage (vibrating). Initial compaction of the substrate on a road project is done using a padfoot drum roller, which achieves higher compaction density due to the pads having less surface area. On large freeways a four wheel compactor with padfoot drum and a blade, such as a Caterpillar 815/825 series machine, would be used due to its high weight, speed and the powerful pushing force to spread bulk material. On regional roads a smaller single padfoot drum machine may be used. The next machine is usually a single smooth drum compactor that compacts the high spots down until the soil is smooth, and this is usually done in combination with a motor grader to get a level surface. Sometimes at this stage a pneumatic tyre roller would be used. These rollers feature two rows (front and back) of pneumatic tyres that overlap, and the flexibility of the tyres provides a kneading action that seals the surface and with some vertical movement of the wheels, enables the roller to operate effectively on uneven ground. Once the soil base is flat the pad drum compactor is no longer used on the road surface. The next course (road base) would be compacted using a smooth single drum, smooth tandem roller or pneumatic tyre roller in combination with a grader ,and a water truck to achieve the desired flat surface with the right moisture content for optimum compaction. Once the road base is compacted, the smooth single drum compactor is no longer used on the road surface (There is however an exception, if the single drum has special flat-wide-base tyres on the machine). The final wear course of asphalt concrete
Asphalt concrete
Asphalt concrete is a composite material commonly used in construction projects such as road surfaces, airports and parking lots. It consists of asphalt and mineral aggregate mixed together, then laid down in layers and compacted...

 (a.k.a. asphalt or blacktop in North America, or macadam in England) is laid using a paver and compacted using a tandem smooth drum roller, a three-point roller or a pneumatic tyre roller. Three point rollers on asphalt were very common once and are still used, but tandem vibrating rollers are the usual choice now, with the pneumatic tyre roller's kneading action being the last roller to seal of the surface.

Rollers are also used in landfill
A landfill site , is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment...

 compaction. Such compactors typically have padfoot or "sheep's-foot" drums, and do not achieve a smooth surface. The pads aid in compression, due to the smaller area contacting the ground.


The roller can be a simple drum with a handle that is operated by one person, and weighs 100 pounds, or as large as a ride-on road roller weighing 21 short ton
Short ton
The short ton is a unit of mass equal to . In the United States it is often called simply ton without distinguishing it from the metric ton or the long ton ; rather, the other two are specifically noted. There are, however, some U.S...

s (44,000 lb or 20 tonnes) and costing more than US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

150,000. A landfill unit may weigh 59 short tons (54 tonnes).

Pedestrian operated

  • Rammer (bounce up and down)
  • Walk-behind plate compactor/light
  • Walk-behind plate compactor/heavy (with reverse)
  • Trench roller (manual unit or radio-frequency remote control)
  • Walk-behind roller/light (single drum)
  • Walk-behind roller/heavy (double drum)

Ride-on smooth finish

  • Tandem drum (static)
  • Tandem drum (vibrating)
  • Single drum roller (smooth)
  • Pneumatic-tyre, a.k.a. rubber tyre or multi-wheel
  • Combination roller (single row of tyres and a steel drum)
  • Three point roller (steam rollers are usually three-point)

Ride-on soil/landfill compactor with pads/feet/spikes

  • Single drum roller (soil)
  • 4-wheel (soil/landfill)
  • 3-point (soil/landfill)
  • Tandem drum (soil/landfill)


  • Tractor-mounted and tractor-powered (conversion – see gallery picture below)
  • Drawn rollers or towed rollers (were very common once, but not so now)
  • Impact compactor (uses a square or polygon drum to strike the ground hard for proof rolling or deep lift compacting)
  • Drum roller with rubber coated drum for asphalt compaction
  • Log skidder converted to compactor for landfill
  • Wheel loader converted to compactor for landfill

Tyre roller types

Tyre rollers are available in widths ranging up to 2.7 metres (8.9 ft), with between 7 and 11 wheels (e.g. 3 wheels at front, 4 at back): 7 and 8 wheel types are normally used in Europe and Africa; 9 and 11 in America; and any type in Asia. Very heavy tyre rollers are used to compact soil.

Variations and features

  • On some machines, the drums may be filled with water on site to achieve the desired weight. When empty, the lighter machine is easier and cheaper to transport between work sites. On pneumatic tyre rollers the body may be ballasted with water or sand, or for extra compaction wet sand is used. Modern tyre rollers may be filled with steel ballast, which gives a more even balance for better compaction.
  • Additional compaction may be achieved by vibrating
    Vibrator (mechanical)
    A vibrator is a mechanical device to generate vibrations. The vibration is often generated by an electric motor with an unbalanced mass on its driveshaft.There are many different types of vibrator...

     the roller drums, allowing a small, light machine perform as well as a much heavier one. Vibration is typically produced by a free-spinning hydrostatic motor inside the drum to whose shaft an eccentric weight has been attached. Some rollers have a second weight that can be rotated relative to the main weight, to adjust the vibration amplitude and thus the compacting force.
  • Water lubrication may be provided to the drum surface from on-board "sprinkler tanks" to prevent hot asphalt sticking to the drum.
  • Hydraulic transmissions permit greater design flexibility. While early examples used direct mechanical drives, hydraulics reduce the number of moving parts exposed to contamination and allows the drum to be driven, providing extra traction on inclines.
  • Human-propelled rollers may only have a single roller drum.
  • Self-propelled rollers may have two drums, mounted one in front of the other (format known as "duplex"), or three rolls, or just one, with the back rollers replaced with treaded pneumatic tyres for increased traction.


  • ABG (Germany) — SD/TD (purchased by Ingersoll Rand)
  • Albaret (Germany) — PT (now part of Caterpillar)
  • Ammann-Rammax (Swiss) — SD/TD/PT (Rammax of Germany and Ammann of Switerland, owner of STA designs)
  • Atlas (Germany) — SD
  • Aveling-Barford
    Aveling-Barford was a large engineering company making road rollers and dumper trucks in Grantham, Lincolnshire. In its time, it was an internationally known company.-Ruston and Hornsby:...

     (England) — TD/PT/3P
  • Benford
    Benford may refer to:*Benford's law, which holds that in large sets of data, individual numbers are more likely to start with lower numbers*Frank Benford, the American scientist after whom the law is named...

     (England) — SD/TD (purchased by Terex)
  • Bitelli (Italy) — SD/TD/PT (now part of Caterpillar)
  • Blaw Knox (England) -TD/PT (known for pavers, but also had roller models)
    BOMAG is a German company is global market leader in compaction technology and manufactures soil, asphalt and refuse compaction equipment, as well as stabilizers and recyclers...

     (Germany) — SD/TD/PT (BOMAG/HYPAC in the USA market)
  • Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company (USA) (purchased by Kohring and eventually Bomag in the USA)
  • Case CE
    Case CE
    Case CE, also Case Construction Equipment or simply Case, is a brand of construction equipment from CNH Global. Under this brand name, CNH Global is the fourth largest manufacturer of construction equipment behind CAT , JCB and Komatsu -History:The origins of Case can be traced back to 1842, when...

     (USA) — SD (brands the Ammann/Sta machines as Case in the USA
  • Caterpillar Inc.
    Caterpillar Inc.
    Caterpillar Inc. , also known as "CAT", designs, manufactures, markets and sells machinery and engines and sells financial products and insurance to customers via a worldwide dealer network. Caterpillar is the world's largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas...

     (USA) — SD/TD/PT (has the former lines of RAYGO, BROS and Bitelli
  • Coates
    -People:Coates is also a prominent family of English and Scottish origin and could refer to the following people:-Families:*Coates Baronets, of Haypark, Belfast...

     (Australia) — TD (disbanded)
  • CMI-Terex (USA) — 3P (has the former lines of REX and Benford)
  • Davelco (Australia) — TD (disbanded)
  • Dynapac (Sweden) — SD/TD/PT/3P (now part of Atlas Copco)
  • Galion
    Galion was a genus of flowering plants in the Rubiaceae family but is no longer recognized. It has been sunk into synonymy with Galium....

    Gemco was an American, particularly California chain of membership department stores that was owned by San Leandro-based Lucky Stores, a California supermarket company which has since been acquired in the 1980s by American Stores Company, which was later acquired by Albertsons in 1999. It operated...

  • Hamm AG
    Hamm AG
    Hamm AG is a German worldwide manufacturer and marketer of road rollers based in Tirschenreuth, Germany. It is a subsidiary of Wirtgen Group GmbH....

     (Germany) — SD/TD/PT/3P (now part of the Wirtgen group)
  • Huber
    Huber is a surname of German origin. It derives from the German word Hube meaning hide, a unit of land a farmer might possess. It is in the top ten most common surnames in the German-speaking world, especially in Austria and Switzerland where it is the surname of approximately 0.3% of the...

     — Company
  • HYPAC (USA)]] — part of Bomag USA
  • Hyster (USA) — SD/TD/PT (part of HYPAC and Bomag USA)
  • Ingersoll Rand
    Ingersoll Rand
    Ingersoll-Rand plc is a $13 billion global diversified industrial company founded in 1871. The Ingersoll Rand name came into use in 1905 through the combination of Ingersoll-Sergeant Drill Company and Rand Drill Company...

     (USA) — SD/TD/PT (now owned by VOLVO)
  • Ingram Compaction
  • Kemna, Breslau
  • KMEC
  • Lebrero (Spain) — SD/TD/PT
  • LeeBoy (USA) — SD
  • LiuGong
    LiuGong Construction Machinery, LLC.
    LiuGong Construction Machinery Also known as, Guangxi LiuGong Machinery Co., Ltd. is China's largest construction equipment manufacturer and ranks 21st largest in the world. LiuGong both manufacturers and sells its construction equipment around the world...

  • Marshall
    Marshall may refer to:* "Marshall", a British/Commonwealth spelling for the military rank of marshal* Marshall * Marshall Aerospace, an aerospace contractor based in Cambridge, England* Marshall Amplification, a brand of guitar amplifier...

     (England) — TD
  • Mikasa
    Mikasa refers to a number of different places, people, and things:*Mount Mikasa, a mountain in Nara, Japan, also known as Mount Wakakusa*Mikasa, Hokkaidō*Japanese battleship Mikasa*Mikasa Sports, a sporting goods manufacturer...

  • Moore Malcolm Road Rollers (Australia) — PT (now disbanded)
  • Multiquip/Rammax
  • Mustang (England)
  • Pacific Road Roller (Australia) — SD/PT (disbanded)
  • Pannel Plant (Australia) — SD/TD (purchased by Bomag)
  • Raygo (USA) — SD/TD/PT (purchased by Caterpillar)
  • Rex
    - People :* Rex , for people with the given name "Rex"* Rex , for people with the surname "Rex"- Places :* Rex, Georgia, an unincorporated community in Clayton County, United States...

     (USA) — SD/TD/3P (purchaced by CMI and then Terex)
  • Sakai Heavy Industries Ltd (Japan) — SD/TD/PT/3P
  • Sicom (Italy) — SD/TD
  • Simesa (Italy) — SD
  • Sinoway Industrial (Shanghai) Co.,Ltd
  • [World Equipment](China) — SD/TD/PT
  • STA / Stavostroj (Czech Republic) — SD/TD/PT (now owned by Ammann; many companies use the STA PT roller design)
  • Stone Equipment (USA) — SD
  • Strothert & Pitt (England) — TD
  • SuperPac (Canada) — SD (was Champion Superpac)
  • Tampo
    Tampo, in Philippine culture, refers to a range of behavior in which a person withdraws his or her affection or cheerfulness from a person who has hurt his or her feelings....

     (USA) — SD/TD
  • Vibromax (Germany) — SD/TD/PT (purchased by JCB, now branded JCB)
  • Volvo CE (Sweden) — SD/TD/PT (purchased Ingersoll Rand, now branded Volvo)
  • Wacker Neuson
  • Wallis & Stevens (England) — 3P
  • Waterous Engine Co.
  • NTC STAVEBNI TECHNIKA (Czech Republic) — manufacturer of walk-behind and light tandem rollers

  • SD = Single drum
  • TD = Tandem drum
  • PT = Pneumatic tyre — Rubber tyre or multi-tyre are also common
  • 3P = 3-point rollers — These are very similar to the old steam roller design

In fiction: As a character

Roley is one of the main vehicle characters in the children's books and television series, Bob the Builder
Bob the Builder
Bob the Builder is a British children's animated television show created by Keith Chapman. In the original series Bob appears as a building contractor specialising in masonry in a stop motion animated programme with his colleague Wendy, various neighbours and friends, and their gang of...

. He is a green roller with a cab, enclosed power unit and no chimney, and so is obviously Diesel-powered. Nevertheless, his official title is Roley the Steamroller. This is an example of the persistence of "steam roller
A steamroller is a form of road roller – a type of heavy construction machinery used for levelling surfaces, such as roads or airfields – that is powered by a steam engine...

" to describe a large modern road roller in layman's English.

In motion pictures: As a weapon

Film-makers seem to like the finality of a roller of some kind flattening a human. In most cases, however, the roller is not actually steam-powered, even though it is usually referred to as such. In all of the following examples, the rollers cited are Diesel-powered.
  • In The Naked Gun
    The Naked Gun
    The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is a 1988 American comedy film that is the first in a The Naked Gun series of films starring Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, and O. J. Simpson...

    , the villain is run over first by a bus, then a steam roller and finally a marching band.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a 1988 American fantasy-comedy-noir film directed by Robert Zemeckis and released by Touchstone Pictures. The film combines live action and animation, and is based on Gary K. Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, which depicts a world in which cartoon characters...

    the true identity of the villain is revealed after he is run over by a steam roller.
  • At the end of A Fish Called Wanda
    A Fish Called Wanda
    A Fish Called Wanda is a 1988 crime-comedy film written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton. It was directed by Crichton and an uncredited Cleese, and stars Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. The film is about a jewel heist and its aftermath...

    , Ken (Michael Palin
    Michael Palin
    Michael Edward Palin, CBE FRGS is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries....

    ) gets his revenge on Otto (Kevin Kline
    Kevin Kline
    Kevin Delaney Kline is an American theatre, voice, film actor and comedian. He has won an Academy Award and two Tony Awards, and has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, two BAFTA Awards and an Emmy Award.- Early life :...

    ) at Heathrow Airport, in a scene involving a small Diesel roller and some wet concrete.
  • In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
    Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
    Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is a 1997 American science fiction/action-comedy film and the first film of the Austin Powers series. It was directed by Jay Roach and written by Mike Myers who also stars in the title role. Myers also plays Dr. Evil, Austin Powers' arch-enemy...

    , a security guard is run over (in extremely slow motion) by a road roller.
  • In Maximum Overdrive
    Maximum Overdrive
    Maximum Overdrive is a 1986 American action-horror-science fiction film written and directed by novelist Stephen King. The screenplay was inspired by and loosely based on King's short story, Trucks, which was included in King's first collection of short stories, Night Shift.Maximum Overdrive is...

    , a Little League
    Little League
    Little League Baseball and Softball is a non-profit organization in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, United States which organizes local youth baseball and softball leagues throughout the U.S...

     player is killed by a "rebelling" steam roller (actually a 1979 Rex 700 Diesel roller).

In software

In the Japanese manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
is a manga written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki. Every main character's name in each part can be read as JoJo. The manga, published by Shueisha, first ran in the magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1987 to 2002, before being transferred to the seinen magazine Ultra Jump in 2004. The current story...

, the villain Dio Brando
Dio Brando
is a fictional character from the manga and anime series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. He is the primary antagonist of Parts 1 and 3, although he is also considered to be the main villain of the entire series, as his actions affect the JoJo universe long after his death...

 attempts to finish off his rival Jotaro by dropping a road roller (sometimes translated as "steam roller") on him from midair.

The Vocaloid2
is a singing synthesizer application, with its signal processing part developed through a joint research project between the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain and Japan's Yamaha Corporation, who backed the development financially—and later developed the software into the commercial product...

 singing synthesizer characters Kagamine Rin/Len are associated with a yellow road roller in fandom
Fandom is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest...


See also

  • Steam roller
    A steamroller is a form of road roller – a type of heavy construction machinery used for levelling surfaces, such as roads or airfields – that is powered by a steam engine...

     — the first powered road rollers
  • Roller (agricultural tool)
    Roller (agricultural tool)
    The roller is an agricultural tool used for flattening land or breaking up large clumps of soil, especially after ploughing. Typically, rollers are pulled by tractors or, prior to mechanisation, a team of animals such as horses or oxen....

     — for farm rollers
  • Roller (disambiguation)
    Roller (disambiguation)
    Roller may mean:In biology:* Roller, family of brightly coloured near passerine birds in the genera Coracias and Eurystomus* Roller , varieties of domestic pigeons that tumble or roll in flight.In industry:...

     — for other types of roller
  • Landfill compaction vehicle

External links

  • Road Roller Association — UK-based society dedicated to the preservation of steam and motor rollers, and ancillary road-making equipment.
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