Scientists tackle pothole scourge
Pretoria – Fed-up motorists may be relieved that one of South Africa's premier research organisations, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has developed guidelines on the cause and repair of potholes.
The proliferation of potholes around South Africa costs motorists more than R50bn in repairs and injuries every year.
On Thursday the CSIR unveiled guidelines covering the causes, prevention and repair methodology of potholes as the country braces itself for more rainy weather.
The CSIR's road experts said the guidelines were available to the authorities and other interested parties.
CSIR executive director, Hans Ittmann, said people are up in arms over the huge number and size of potholes.
"To respond to this, we combined current expertise and practical examples and compiled a technical guide on the causes of potholes, means of curbing and preventing their formation, and providing specific instructions for proper fixing of the seven different categories of potholes identified," he said.
The guidelines present mechanisms for quality control of pothole repairs and provide a standard form for use by inspectors during the field rating of potholes and identification of repair methods.
A study by the South African Road Federation indicates that potholes are costing motorists R50bn in vehicle repairs and injury every year.
Author of the technical guidelines and infrastructure engineering expert at the CSIR, Dr Phil Paige-Green, said potholes will lead to more claims against road authorities for damages to vehicles and even serious accidents.
"There is no doubt that water is the primary cause of potholes. The combination of unusually wet conditions over long periods, excessive traffic and poorly maintained roads is a sure recipe for the development of potholes.
"To safeguard us against that, authorities have to ensure preventative maintenance of roads and timely, correct repair of existing potholes," he said.
The value of South Africa's road network is R1 047 trillion, with the current road maintenance expenditure standing at R9.2bn.
The road maintenance backlog amounts to R100bn, with an annual road maintenance need of R32bn.
According to the CSIR, the poor road conditions were at 8% in 1998 and went up to 20% in 2008. About 60% of gravel roads are in bad conditions.
Paige-Green said the guidelines are available free of charge and they encourage authorities to make use of them for providing appropriate training for road maintenance teams.
Although the CSIR does not fix potholes, negotiations are underway with various training facilities to develop appropriate courses.
The aim is to ensure that both the road inspectors and the pothole patching teams are trained to apply the principles outlined in the document effectively.