JCB unveils machine that fixes potholes in eight minutes

Company claims that the PotholePro is four times quicker than traditional methods

CONSTRUCTION equipment manufacturer JCB has revealed a machine that can repair potholes in just eight minutes — approximately four times quicker than it takes to do the task using traditional methods.

As well as being faster than a team of workers, the PotholePro completes the task at half the cost of the methods currently used. It can also be driven between jobs at a speed of up to 25 mph, enabling it to complete around 700 jobs per month.

Time and money are saved through the PotholePro’s ability to complete a wide range of tasks required to fix a pothole, in doing so mechanising the work traditionally done by a team of people.

A 600mm wide planer and integrated dust suppression system allow the operator to complete work on a carriageway from the kerb, and a hole can be prepared from the cab ready to be filled with tar.

JCB unveils machine that fixes potholes in 8 minutes

Initial testing of the PotholePro has taken place in Stoke-on-Trent, and JCB worked with the city’s council during its development. During initial testing it managed to complete 51 repair jobs in 20 days, which the British construction firm estimates is 41 days quicker than it would take a team of six operatives using currently available methods.

Cllr. Daniel Jellyman, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for infrastructure, regeneration and heritage, said that he had seen a 700% increase in productivity thanks to the PotholePro.

“In a time when every penny and pound counts for local authorities, we’re delighted to be at the forefront of developing and trialling new technologies and ways of working, especially ones which could save residents money,” he said.

How bad is the UK’s pothole problem?

In the first three months of 2020, RAC patrols rescued 3,426 motorists who had broken down due to an unlucky encounter with a pothole. That represents a 4.5% increase on the same period of 2019 — a stat that would have been more severe if it weren’t for the fact that the last week of the three-month period was the first of the initial coronavirus lockdown.

The RAC said at the time that it attributed the rise in pothole-related breakdowns to Storms Ciara and Dennis, which wreaked havoc on the UK’s transport infrastructure in mid-February of 2019.

In the 2020 Budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak pledged £27bn in “new Tarmac”, including a £2.5bn pothole fund that he said would be sufficient to fill 50m potholes. JCB said that using its machine, even more potholes could be fixed on that budget and the machine would provide a permanent fix.

Although the government’s spending priorities changed drastically in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the Chancellor reiterated his commitment to the “biggest ever investment in new roads” and “enhanced roads” in the Spending Review in November.

According to the RAC’s annual report on motoring, the condition and maintenance of local roads is the UK’s biggest motoring concern, with 38% of people saying that it matters to them — up 5% from the 2019 figure. More than half of people surveyed by the RAC said that the condition of local roads is worse than a year ago.

AA president Edmund King OBE noted that the condition of the UK’s roads is now of even more importance thanks to the proliferation and potential legalisation of e-scooters, as well as the increased uptake of cycling during the coronavirus pandemic. This year London will host the UK’s largest e-scooter trial, after a number of schemes in other UK cities during 2020.

Commenting on the unveiling of the PotholePro, JCB chairman Lord Bamford said: “Potholes really are the scourge of our nation. Our country is quite rightly fixated on this dreadful problem and as a British manufacturer I am fixated on finding a solution.

“We simply cannot allow our road network to continue to be blighted by potholes. JCB’s solution is simple and cost effective and fixes potholes permanently, first time. Once the machine has done its job all the contractor then needs to do is just add tar.”

What are potholes?

Potholes are sections of roads that have cracked, worn away or fallen through to form a hole. They can cause damage to cars even at low speeds — especially to tyres, wheels and steering alignment. However, they can also cause damage to a vehicle’s exhaust and suspension.

What causes potholes?

Potholes are caused by water seeping through cracks in a road’s surface. The water beneath the road surface can then freeze, which means it will expand and weaken the road surface. When the ice melts, this leaves gaps for the road surface to fall into when a vehicle drives over it.

What should I do if I hit a pothole?

According to the AA, you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so after hitting a pothole. You should then check for any visible damage to your wheels and tyres, as well as checking for any vibrations or steering issues while driving. If you see or feel any damage, you should take your car to a garage.

Take the time to document the pothole. Photograph it, if it is safe to do so (if you can, include a prop for scale), and note down its exact location, as well as the contact details of anyone who saw you collide with it. Report the pothole to your local council. You may also be able to claim compensation from your local council for any repairs that need making.

How long does it take to fill a pothole?

The amount of time councils are allowed to take to repair a pothole depends on its severity and location. Highways England aims to attend to the most serious potholes (designated “category 1” potholes) within 24 hours to make the road safe, before doing a more permanent repair within 28 days. This practice usually applies to potholes that are more than 15cm wide or more than 4cm deep.

Less severe (or “category 2”) potholes are split into two categories. Category 2 Defects deemed to be “non-superficial” have to be repaired within six months. However, potholes deemed to be “superficial” can be left by local councils to be repaired by future improvement schemes.

How much does it cost to fill a pothole?

The estimated cost of filling a pothole is between £35 and £55, although this will vary depending on severity. However, more costly for councils can be paying out compensation to those who have had run ins with potholes — in 2018/19, Surrey County Council had to find £323,222 thanks to 3,533 claims, the highest cost in the country.

How to report potholes

In England and Wales, you can report a pothole through the government website. If a pothole is on a major highway like a motorway or A road, you should call Highways England’s 24-hour service on 0300 123 5000.

People in Scotland can report a pothole through the Scottish government website, and people in Northern Ireland can do so through NI Direct.

How to claim for pothole damage

The organisation you claim compensation from depends on where the road is located as well as what type of road the pothole was on. You can find a guide about which organisation to claim from on the government website.

If JCB’s PotholePro machine, which fixes potholes in eight minutes, was of interest to you, take a look at how there are “huge” pothole repair budget disparities by region.