British digger maker JCB has unveiled a brand new machine to tackle the national scourge of potholes – while vastly improving on site safety.
The company has launched the Pothole Pro – a machine that can repair a pothole in less than eight minutes – four times quicker than standard methods and at half the cost of current solutions.
What’s more, because it reduces the need for manual labour, the machine eliminates the danger of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) from the workforce. HAVS is an irreversible and painful condition caused by overexposure to vibrations, such as from pneumatic drills, jack hammers and breakers. It’s estimated that up to two million workers are at risk of developing it in the UK, while 300,000 people are currently suffering from the advanced stages of the illness.
And because the machine can tackle potholes without the need for multiple pieces of equipment, it also reduces the number of workers who need to be in the carriageway – further minimising risks.
Its launch follows a vow from Chancellor Rishi Sunak last November to invest £1.6bn to fix potholes in Britain and ‘level-up’ uneven roads. Shock figures from the AA reveal more than £11bn-worth of potholes need repairing across the UK.
The machine’s development has been personally led by JCB Chairman Lord Bamford. He 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 national 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.”
Tests with contractors and local authorities show the JCB Pothole Pro can complete a pothole repair in less than eight minutes – equivalent to 700 potholes per month. With a 40km/h travel speed, the machine can rapidly relocate between sites without additional transport costs.
Steve Chapman, contracts manager of Walsall Tarmac Ltd, who has been testing the machine, said: “The JCB Pothole Pro reduces the amount of manual labour needed, and vastly speeds up the process and it saves on traffic management. From a safety perspective, one of the big benefits is the 360 degree vision the driver has – people working in close proximity to the vehicle can be easily seen from the cab and they can see the driver.
“Because it’s three machines in one, there’s also less people on site, so less chance of machinery and people getting in to physical contact.”
The machine has been in trials on roads in Stoke-on-Trent for months and the city council has worked with JCB over the last 12 months as innovation partners to develop the Pothole Pro. In initial testing, the machine completed 51 road repair jobs in 20 days, which would have taken a team of up to six operatives 63 days to complete normally.
Councillor Daniel Jellyman, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for infrastructure, regeneration and heritage, said he had seen a 700% increase in productivity.
“Potholes are a nuisance to motorists up and down the country and we’ve worked closely with JCB to come up with a solution to what is a national problem. 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.”
AA President Edmund King said: “The toll of pothole damage on cars is already breathtaking. However, as more people take up cycling due to avoiding public transport in the pandemic and if e-scooters are legalised outside of the pilots, then sorting our poor road surfaces becomes more important than ever.
“JCB has taken the initiative to fix these problems, and we’re excited to see its new Pothole Pro take to the streets.”
The Pothole Pro allows the contractor or local authority to cut the defect, crop the edges and clean the hole with one machine – mechanising jobs traditionally done by pothole gangs and delivering up to a 50% cut in daily costs. It is equipped with a 600mm wide planer and integrated dust suppression system, enabling the operator to plane a full carriageway from the kerb, without repositioning. The machine also comes with a sweeper/bucket and hydraulic cropping tool, allowing a uniform hole to be prepared by the operator from the safety of their cab.
Councils get a request to fix a pothole every 46 seconds and more than £8.1m was paid out in compensation to drivers last year for vehicle damage caused by potholes.