New state-of-the-art technology can identify road surfaces that are likely to crack up and spark costly repairs for government.
Most road users don’t have a problem spotting potholes, but now there’s a new means of detecting the suspension shockers before they break up the tarmac.
A semi-trailer fitted with a complex system of lasers will take to Australian roads, providing a readout of pavement conditions including cracks and roughness, commonly considered the precursor to potholes.
The Danish-made and locally-modified traffic speed deflectometer, or TSD, is due to start work in April in Queensland after operators secured a five-year agreement with the state government.
“Before (roads) break down you can resurface them, but once you get potholes you have to rip up the road and start again,” spokesman for not-for-profit operator ARRB Group, Garry Warren told AAP.
After the TSD truck passes over a section of road, onboard technology records a number of factors including the speed at which the pavement bends under pressure.
It collects about 560 megabytes of data every kilometre, travelling at speeds of up to 80km/h.
The data is then analysed to determine the strength and structural integrity of the road and passed on to government.
Previously, testers have had to close sections of road and drop weights on the pavement and measure results using headphones in a process Mr Warren said was time consuming, inaccurate and unsafe.
“This TSD is considered the Holy Grail when it comes to analysing road conditions,” he said.
It is beneficial to know the condition beneath the road surface, he says.
“Especially on country roads where quite thin surfaces are usually used,” Mr Warren said.
The NSW government, along with Queensland and New Zealand have inked five-year agreements for the TSD to look at selected roads.
During its first 12 months of operation, the truck is due to cover 20,000km in Queensland, 21,000km in NSW and 12,000km in New Zealand.
“It is estimated the TSD will deliver significant savings to Australia and NZ’s combined $18 billion annual road budget,” ARRB said in a statement.