Pothole prevention and winter maintenance

A Stitch in Time….

A vintage Roadmaster undertaking winter maintaineance and pre-surface dressing in Co. Leitrim on a bright cold day in November 2020

Winter has truly arrived with temperatures dipping significantly this week. This has put winter maintenance and pre-surface dressing at the tip of Mike Freeney’s tongue. (Mike is Sales Manager at Archway Products Ltd). It is something he has been chatting to his customers about throughout the month. In this blog, we look at why winter maintenance and pre-surface dressing on our roads is so important. What is its role in preventing further deterioration and why it is so important in ensuring our roads are safe for traffic.

Why undertake a roads winter maintenance programme?

As winter sets in, temperatures drop and there is a lot more rainfall. Any slight surface damage on the road is likely to be filled with water. This will ingress and cause a lot of deterioration, not only of the road surface but also at a deeper level. If these breaks in the surface are not sealed in time, water and frost will result in surface break-up, with dangerous potholes appearing within days. Once the subbase becomes exposed the damage becomes catastrophic. Anyone who has hit a water filled pothole will cringe at the thought! The good news is that with an effective preventive maintenance programme this is entirely avoidable.

Roadmaster – a simple reliable solution

At Archway Roadmaster we encourage our customers to avoid this problem by undertaking such a winter maintenance and pre-surface dressing programme using the Roadmaster. The aim of such a programme is to identify and seal cracked and worn areas before they deteriorate further and break up.  The Roadmaster repair typically consists of a layer of binder-coated aggregate sprayed under high pressure into the defective area. Levelling it up and sealing it. This durable barrier prevents further water ingress, and improves skid resistance. The machine can be pre-set to maintain a consistent ratio of binder to aggregate, ensuring consistent results.

As part of their winter maintenance programme county and city councils are helping to prepare their road networks for surface dressing programme the following year. By carrying out minor repairs now they avoid major repairs next Spring. This allows them to go straight to surface dressing, rather than having to start by repairing extensive winter road deterioration.

There are different forms of winter maintenance programmes being run all over Ireland. What they all have in common is they are getting to the repair before the damage gets any further. This “stitch in time” approach is a no brainer; we know road damage will progress during winter. Often these flaws have gone too far by Spring they are expensive to repair.  Case studies have shown that early intervention can generate cost savings of 60% to 80% over the cost of delayed repairs.

Road Safety and Traffic Mangement

From a road safety point of view, the county and city councils do work hard to ensure their surfaces are safe. Badly maintained road surfaces can literally cost lives. It is often difficult for the councils to undertake these repairs, particularly on national routes which necessitate the closure of the road. There is a temptation to leave the repairs until a comprehensive repair programme can be carried out. By then, many small defects will have led to surface failure, resulting in greater risk and increased cost of repair.  A programme of early quick-hit repairs using a Roadmaster will improve winter safety and save money in the long run. 

The Method and Pre-Surface Dressing Implications

It’s also challenging to get the repair right. Using the correct material and methodology is essential to ensuring the longevity of any repair. Traditional manual patching methods struggle to maintain a consistent application rate of binder and can leave a shiny surface or a lot of loose chips which are a hazard to road users. The Roadmaster can be pre-set to consistently deliver a selected ratio of binder to aggregate, resulting in a consistent standard of repair, with hardly any loose chips. For example, if the ratio of emulsion to aggregate is specified to be 11%, the machine can be calibrated to apply that ratio consistently. This avoids both lean and rich patches, either of which can lead to future failures. 

The Operator simply sprays the material on to the repair and allows it to blend in with the existing surface.  All this is carried out from the safety of the vehicle cab. There is no requirement to place workers on the road exposed to traffic, fumes, noise etc.

Quality of Road Repair

The computer-controlled systems on the Roadmaster allow it to apply the selected high-quality materials with confidence that the repair will stand the test of time. Gone are the days when pothole repair had a short life expectancy.  Case studies have shown Roadmaster repairs still intact six years after being applied. Preventive patching has moved from being a temporary solution to now being accepted as a cost-effective method of extending the life of a road surface by addressing the weak areas in a timely and proactive manner.

The beauty of the Roadmaster system is that within about 10 minutes you can have the road open to traffic, which is especially useful if you’re working on a busy road. Traditionally a repair like this would require a full traffic management system. Using a Roadmaster allows a lot of the work to be done under Semi Static Regulations, using a rolling traffic management system. The repairs are very fast, very efficient and can be trafficked immediately without any damage repair. 

Stitch in Time – Emergency Applications

A lot of our customers are working on their winter maintenance programme right now. Some are using their own Roadmaster machines, and some are working with Archways hire fleet. We are getting great comments on the results. Recently we have been asked to do emergency surface repairs to a National Primary route as the Roadmaster could get the job done quickly without long road closures.

Find out if a Roadmaster can work for you.

If you would like to find out if a Roadmaster could work on your road network, for winter maintenance pre-surface dressing or emergency road repairs, contact Mike Freeney.