The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. It undertakes directed research and development for socio-economic growth.

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January 2011

Built environment

CSIR's R&D on potholes to be transferred

The first three courses on the causes of potholes, their identification and the various repair methods for different categories of potholes will kick-off towards the end of January 2011 in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Polokwane. Courses in nine other centres will follow from March onwards.

The content of the half-day course will be based on a technical guideline document published and launched by the CSIR in December 2010 (see media release).

"This is currently the only guideline of its kind in South Africa. It includes an innovative pothole classification system developed by the CSIR, which classifies potholes into one of seven categories depending on the causes and nature of the pothole. Each of these categories requires a different repair technique, which addresses the fundamental cause of the pothole during the repair process," explains the CSIR's Dr Phil Paige-Green, project leader of this initiative.

The guideline also presents mechanisms for quality control of pothole repairs, and provides a standard form for use by inspectors during the field rating and classification of potholes and identification of repair methods.

The summer rainfall season invariably leads to a huge increase in the number and size of potholes, and associated accidents, on 'sealed' roads that have not had adequate preventative maintenance. "Given the extent of the situation countrywide, the CSIR felt it had an obligation and was ideally positioned to produce such a guideline document," explains Hans Ittmann, Executive Director of CSIR Built Environment.

"The CSIR doesn't fix potholes - our mandate is to provide appropriate research and development solutions, as contained in the technical guide. The fixing of potholes is the responsibility of road owners," Ittmann comments.

A short, non-technical document accompanies the technical guide - both are freely available online for use by the various authorities and interested parties. "In this way, the CSIR wants to ensure all those responsible for road maintenance have access to the guidelines," notes Ittmann.

The value of South Africa's road network is R1 047 trillion, with the current road maintenance expenditure standing at R9.2 billion. The road maintenance backlog amounts to R100 billion, with an annual road maintenance need of R32 billion.

A study by the South African Road Federation (SARF) indicates that the lack of preventative maintenance is costing motorists R50 billion in vehicle repairs and injury every year. "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," Paige-Green advises.

The SARF is joining forces with the CSIR in offering the initial training courses. This intervention is aimed at engineers, contractors and road inspectors involved with the routine maintenance of sealed roads. Paige-Green and CSIR project team member Amrita Maharaj will present sessions at the courses.

During March 2011, courses will also be presented in Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, George, Cape Town, Nelspruit, Potchefstroom, Kimberley, and Bloemfontein.

Anyone interested in attending the courses should contact the SARF on administrator@sarf.org.za or visit www.sarf.org.za.

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