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Single vs Double Drum Road Rollers

What are the main differences between single and double drum road rollers?

  1. Size and Design
  2. Power and Efficiency
  3. Traction and Maneuverability


With the many different types of road rollers available for people to use, it can be difficult for a contractor or construction worker to know which compaction tool is right for the job. From your drum rollers and pneumatic rollers to sheep’s foot rollers, there are so many factors to think about when selecting.

Even when it comes to the most traditional version, the drum roller, there are still two different variations to choose from: the single drum and the double drum. In order to help you make an informed decision, here are the advantages, disadvantages, and differences between a single drum and a double drum road roller.


Size and Design

Size and Design

Starting with the most noticeable differences i.e. the physical qualities of the machines, the very first difference is obviously the drums. A single drum roller has only one drum affixed to the front of the machine. This is the main and only source of compaction. It has a straight-forward design where the single drum is driven forward by a set of wheels controlled by a steering wheel.

Double drum rollers, on the other hand, have two drums that not only serve as the compactor but also functions as the machine’s wheels as well. For this reason, one drum is placed at the front and the other at the back. In terms of how it’s positioned, the two drums are placed more under the machine than at the literal front like in a single drum roller.

In terms of size, they are relatively equal except for the horizontal length. Because double drum rollers use the drums as wheels, they tend to look a little more compact and can, in some cases, fit in smaller job sites when compared to a bulkier single drum roller. However, there are also single drum rollers that are specifically made to be small which allows them to work better in small job sites as well.


Power and Efficiency

When it comes to road roller power, this not only refers to engine power, but it also pertains to the compacting power of the machine itself. Double drum rollers have a slight advantage mainly due to the presence of two drums as opposed to just one. This is not to say that single drum rollers are weak because they are definitely not.

The heavier the machine is, the more engine power is also needed to move it, so engine-wise double drum rollers are notably more robust. Luckily for you, power is not everything when it comes to construction machines, so it is also important to look at the other factors.

In terms of efficiency, the double drum roller also has another distinct advantage. Just like with power, the presence of two drums makes for more coverage. Think about it: when you use a double drum roller, you are essentially compacting, smoothing, and evening out the same surface twice with just one go. For more expansive cases, this falls under the textbook definition of efficiency where you are getting more output from the same amount of effort. This kind of output is great for saving time and economizing manpower. It is worth pointing out here that single drum rollers are also significantly efficient with their own attributes.


Traction and Maneuverability

Traction and Maneuverability

Finally, if the discussion is about traction and maneuverability, then the single drum roller is the better choice. This time, it’s not because of the drum but the presence of wheels. Wheels, being an integral part of motor vehicles, are made for surface traction. This allows single drum rollers to work on many different kinds of surfaces that a double drum roller cannot. Aside from that, the presence of wheels also makes for better steering and operation.

This is the known trade-off for double drum rollers. Sure, it has more power and is more efficient, but it can only work on limited job sites and are usually better suited for asphalt road construction as well as compacting soil sub-bases and other aggregate base materials. A single drum roller is better suited for most other jobs.


Key Takeaway

Regardless of the type, drum rollers are great for preparing, improving, and compacting different kinds of surfaces. Picking the right one for the jobs might be a tough task, but that’s only the case for those who are not fully informed of the key features and differences between them. As a final reminder and rule of thumb, if the job you are doing involves heavy-duty asphalt applications, then the double drum is more suitable.  Meanwhile, if the job entails simple compaction purposes in a possibly tight space, or if you need a one-size-fits-all compactor, the single drum is the better choice.

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