New methods for pothole repairs08 January 2024

JCB pothole repairs The JCB Pothole Pro at work in Stoke

New machines, methodologies and materials are emerging that enhance the productivity and quality of pothole repairs

The government announced in November plans to reallocate £8.3bn of HS2 funding to road resurfacing, at a rate of £150m per year over the next 11 years. Funds will be distributed to local highway authorities.

Among those seeking a breakthrough in productive, long-term pothole repair solutions is Kent Country Council, which in recent months has been busy conducting dozens of trials. One trial focused on the JCB Pothole Pro, a wheeled excavator with dedicated attachments that expedite pothole repairs.

Stuart Cable, account director at Amey, which has a framework contract for highways maintenance with Kent County Council, says: “We rented two machines, one in May 2023 and another in July to help blitz the council’s pothole programme ahead of winter. We found the JCB Pothole Pro five to six times faster than manual methods and we’ll probably hire again in April 2024. It’s also apparent that the machine will help in other ways, reducing time off work due to hand-arm vibration [HAV] syndrome and back problems. As a further point, with an increasing number of workers retiring early from the industry, an exciting machine like this can serve to attract young operators.”

The JCB Pothole Pro, delivers three key processes from the comfort and safety of the cab: cut, crop and clean. For cutting, a 600 mm planer with 52 tungsten-tipped teeth and hydraulic depth control (up to 170 mm) is said to improve operator accuracy and performance when cutting out the pothole and any surrounding damage. Mounted on the machine’s rear skid-steer hitch, its side-shifting capabilities mean it can plane against roadside curbs, while self-levelling helps when dealing with gradients.

Users will find the other two tools located on the vehicle’s ‘multi-tool’ (mounted on a tilting/rotating wrist) at the front of the machine: a hydraulic cropper and a sweeper/bucket. Also 600mm in size, the cropping tool eliminates the need for floor saws and hydraulic breakers, providing a squared-off, clean cut to the repair area. The operator then rotates the boom head to bring a 1.2m wide sweeper/bucket into use, cleaning up the pothole area ready for subsequent filling by a road crew.


Among other councils to take advantage is Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which reports it completed seven years’ worth of work in the first 12 months of using its JCB Pothole Pro. “I think we repaired around 4,000 potholes in that time,” says James Harper, highways operations team manager at Stoke-on-Trent City Council. “What would normally take us one hour for an average size pothole [600-700 mm] takes only eight minutes with the Pothole Pro. For larger patches, it would previously take two to three days to take out 70 m2 using traditional methods, whereas we can have it done before breakfast with this machine.”

To emphasise the point, JCB and Stoke-on-Trent City Council ran a trial in 2022 that saw the machine go head-to-head with a traditional hand-laying gang. Each had the task of preparing a 12m2 area. The Pothole Pro took 13 minutes and 9 seconds to cut, crop and clean the hole ready for reinstatement, while the hand-lay team required 1 hour, 19 minutes and four seconds: six times longer. Moreover, manual methods often leave an uneven patch, making reinstatement more challenging.

Productivity reports for the Pothole Pro vary slightly between councils, but all are highly positive. For instance, Wayne Clark, operations and asset manager at Midlothian Council, says: “We can typically do a repair that would take half a day in 30 minutes.” Similarly, Nick Beardmore, highways supervisor at Coventry City Council, says: “It would previously take us four to five days to do a large 100 sq m patch, whereas this machine will do it one day. We also like that we can simply drive from site to site at speeds up to 40kph, which compares favourably with using a traditional large planer and its associated requirement for low loaders.”

The official line from JCB is that the Pothole Pro can prepare up to 250 m2 in a single shift and deliver repair costs of £29.28 per square metre.


Other options for councils seeking more efficient and effective ways to repair potholes include Velocity spray injection patching. Among the latest adopter is Redbridge Council, which is already notching up a record-breaking 120 repairs per day, with more than 1,500 pothole repairs completed within the first 11 weeks of operations.

Velocity spray injection patching forces air at high speed into potholes to clear them out and provide a good base for repair. Seconds later, spraying and coating the pothole with cold bitumen seals any cracks and fissures, before the application of a final layer of aggregate at high speed. The process takes just a couple of minutes and the intensive bottom-up layering process makes for a durable repair that is ready for traffic immediately. Furthermore, because this excavation-free process requires no heat and generates no waste, it is exceptionally low on carbon emissions. According to Velocity, councils can achieve up to 200 repairs a day with spray injection patching at a cost of £16 each.

Brent Council recently completed a two-year programme to rid its road of potholes and defects using Velocity injection patching. The project saw the repair of 35,131 potholes and defects at an average cost of £24 each compared with the typical cost to repair a pothole in London of £64. Moreover, the council reduced the carbon footprint of its repairs, by the equivalent of running 700 cars for a year. Tony Kennedy, Brent Council’s head of highways and infrastructure, says: “The speed of the process is very important. A traditional pothole repair normally takes 15-20 minutes, whereas the Velocity process requires an average time of just three to five minutes.”


Roadmender has developed a novel recycling technology involving waste tyres that the company says more than halves the cost of road repairs and lowers carbon footprint by 85%. Elastomac, which is approved for use on UK roads, relies on a proprietary technology that makes it possible to recycle up to nine end-of-life tyres in every tonne of material.

“The UK currently generates up to 44 million waste tyres a year,” says Harry Pearl, CEO of Billian UK Ltd (trading as Roadmender Asphalt). “As it’s no longer possible to send these tyres to landfill or abroad, the majority undergo incineration for producing power, a process that generates 22kg of carbon per tyre. Road repairs present a far more sustainable solution.”

Further benefits relate to the process. “Elastomac is a flowable material without voids or any need for compaction, unlike asphalt,” explains Pearl. “It therefore eliminates the need to cut and crop patches in the road. Moreover, it generates zero waste and requires 80% less material on average.”

Heated and mixed on site, Elastomac is poured using a heated shoe with material left flush to the road surface. The adhesive qualities of the rubber enable the molten material to weld itself to, and ultimately become part of, the surface. A road sweeper removes excess debris prior to the application of a second and final layer. This sustainable (made from 65% recycled materials) mastic layer provides a waterproof seal. According to Pearl, the process increases productivity by five times.

Steed Webzell

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Kent County Council

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