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Reducing risks with right-first-time repairs

Between January and December 2022, there were 49 strikes on impact protection vehicles (IPVs) on National Highways’ network. IPVs are trucks incorporating signs, lights and crash cushions which are used to protect workers during maintenance in live traffic situations.

This means that once every eight days, on average, a vehicle drives into an IPV on a motorway or a major A road. Shockingly, some of these incidents are recorded as ‘intentional’; drivers who choose to drive where they know they are not supposed to. Research published by National Highways in late 2020 showed that there had been an average of 175 incursions a month – where private vehicles drive into roadworks – between October 2017 and October 2020.

Such occurrences are recorded by National Highways and reported monthly in its health and safety Performance Reports. There is also an IPV Incursions Working Group, part of the agency’s Supply Chain Safety Leadership Group, which is working to reduce the risks due to these issues.

As the working group identifies in its statement of intent, the best way to remove risks as part of the hierarchy of control is to eliminate the risky activity. When it comes to fixing potholes, clearly that work may have to be done alongside live traffic where a fast repair is needed to avoid causing harm to road users. However, if a repair could be done just once, with no need for a crew to return and re-repair, this would at least halve the potential risk.

If potholes are considered ‘safety critical’ they must be fixed initially within 24 hours, with the most critical ones requiring an ‘immediate’ fix which means within two hours. Current practice would normally involve using a quick-fix cold repair material initially and then returning to carry out a more permanent repair within a month later.

In situations where Thermal Road Repairs (TRR) technology is used, the quick repair and the long-lasting repair are one and the same. And whereas a permanent repair crew could consist of as many as twelve operatives, TRR teams are made up of just three people.

TRR technology works by heating up the material in and around a pothole in a controlled way until the material is pliable and then mixing it with a small amount of new, hot material which is carried in a hot box in the repair unit, before compacting the whole area. Because there is no need to cut out and remove failing material, the repair is faster and there are fewer vehicle movement required. Heating the pothole and surrounding area also means that, once compacted, there is effectively no joint or weak spot so there won’t be any future failures in the same spot, producing a right-first-time solution.

Clearly, risks remain for those carrying out that initial repair. The work that National Highways and the Supply Chain Safety Leadership Group are doing to improve the way incursions are prevented and managed, and to educate the driving public, are still very much needed. However, eliminating the need to conduct follow-up permanent repairs or re-repairs of potholes would significantly lower the likelihood of incidents – as well as saving on future maintenance costs and carbon emissions.

Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. It invests significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve existing ones.

Thermal Road Repairs: Decarbonising the asphalt repair industry.

High output. Zero emission. Zero waste. Permanent solution.


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