When we began the development of the Thermal Road Repair (TRR) system back in 2015, we wanted to solve a very specific problem: how to permanently fix the cracks and defects that were appearing on the joints between motorway lanes.
Pretty soon, our customers were using the technology for other things too; we found that it was effective for fixing potholes and failed utility trenches. For some, the attraction was speed and cost; to others, removing HAVS risk was the priority; more recently lowering carbon emissions has moved up the agenda for many.
So here are the reasons our customers have chosen TRR technology over traditional methods. (There’s no right order – different organisations have different priorities).
Traditional road repair methods require the use of a roadbreaker. Using one of these for just 1.5 hours in an 8-hour shift puts operatives at risk of developing Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). HAVS is a painful and debilitating condition caused by the frequent use of vibrating power tools which damages nerves and circulation.
With our technology the risk of HAVS is low, a fact that one of our early adopted contractors highlighted to us. The only vibrating equipment required for the TRR system is a roller which is used for 10 minutes per hour to compact material at the end of the process. Failed and failing asphalt doesn’t have to be broken out: it is heated up in-situ and re-used.
One of our first utility customers, Electricity North West, was quick to spot the carbon benefits of the TRR system. In fact, it entered the technology into the National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG, now Street Works UK) Awards where it won in the Sustainable Methods and Materials category.
Electricity North West calculated that over a standard 8-hour shift, the TRR process produced 0.4 tonnes CO2 2.4 tonnes CO2 for a standard shift, a carbon saving of over 80%. Carbon savings come from the vast reduction on lorry movements and the use of solar power to charge our heaters.
Although different organisations deploy our technology in different ways – some buy or hire the unit, some hire the unit and our operatives – we generally say that we can halve the cost of pothole repair. One local authority, which owns one of our units, told us that the reduced cost and time means they can repair more potholes with the same resource.
The reason for the dramatic fall in cost is that the process is so much speedier: a pothole repair takes 10 minutes rather than 30 for a traditional process. The small volumes of material needed for repairs is carried in a small hot box in the truck; there’s no wait for asphalt to arrive, or for broken out material to be taken away.
Traditional pothole repair methods involve multiple sources of noise: cutting the asphalt with a circular saw, breaking out with a roadbreaker, lorry movements to and from site. All these activities come above the 85dB harmful threshold, with the roadbreaker hitting 125dB, the same noise level as a shotgun firing or a rock concert.
The only noisy activity in the TRR process is the compacting process, which reaches just 75dB, the same level as a vacuum cleaner. Often people won’t even know we are there. In Manchester, our crew were approached by a mother who was amazed that her six-month-old baby had slept through all our work – only the flashing lights on our unit had alerted her to the fact we were there.
Cutting, breaking or planing asphalt releases dust into the air. And if the aggregates used to make the asphalt contain quartz, there is a greater health risk because cutting or breaking it can cause the release of respirable crystalline silica. Construction dust can cause long-term health problems such as lung cancer, silicosis, Chronic Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and asthma.
Because the TRR process requires no cutting or breaking, it produces no dust. So there’s no health risk to workers – and no dusty cars or windows for residents or businesses.
While the TRR process of course requires that sections of road be closed and traffic management measures be put in place, it vastly reduces the number of lorry movements required. One unit carries all the equipment and materials needed; there are no lorries to take waste material away or bring fresh asphalt in.
Faster repairs also reduce the time spent on any one section of road – and hence the time that road users are disrupted.
The TRR process was invented to stop potholes and defects reoccuring. While many other alternative technologies can offer fast fixes to potholes and cracks, most of them will still leave a weak point: that joint between the existing material and the new one that will eventually break open and let the water in. Freeze-thaw cycles then make the crack bigger and bigger.
The TRR process is computer controlled to heat the asphalt in and around a defect to the right temperature to make it pliable – but not too much, because overheating oxidises the bitumen and makes it brittle. Once the old, loose asphalt is heated up, mixed with a little fresh material and recompacted, there is no joint between old and new; just a homogenous road surface that will last as long the surrounding road surface.
Long-lasting road repairs are perhaps the most important reason of all. They deliver benefits in all the above categories because they don’t have to be repeated every year.
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. We invest significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve our existing ones.
High output. Low emission. Permanent solution.