What are the hot road maintenance technologies, and are we utilising them?

By intouch * posted 30-05-2018 16:25


What innovative road maintenance technologies are emerging internationally? Are Australia and New Zealand taking advantage of these technologies?

roads_roundtable.pngIn the current edition of inspire magazine, we posed these questions to a panel of industry experts. Here’s what they had to say:

James Erskine, Pavement Management Engineer, Pavement Management Services: “In terms of data collection techniques – which ultimately underpin the decisions local government makes – lasers are driving data collection. Lasers have been able to record and assess roughness for many years, but now the technology has got to a point where lasers can record a 3D image of the road, at one millimetre resolution. That gives you everything from roughness, to rutting, to texture, to automatic crack detection, all from one sensor. It is an intensity and a range device you can operate day and night.

GPS is underpinning all the data that we capture because you need to spatially represent that data. A lot of the network, the asset management tools, pavement tools, are moving heavily into the spatial environment. That helps in the visualisation of the data. There’s very precise GPS and inertial measurement unit (IMU) devices which give you sub-metre accuracy. That assists in automated detection or recognition of signs and geo-location of those roadside assets from an image.

Then there’s drones, or UAVs. Using automation collection is now a one person operation. GPS is also used to automatically stop and start the collection so we can drive around, and the system will automatically fire and collect when we’re passing through control points. The next step is for a fully automated process that requires no drivers.

Ross Ioakim, Sector Lead Local Government and Airports, Infrastructure Services, Downer Group: I think work health and safety is driving a lot of the changes to practices, because we work in a fairly dangerous environment on roads. Spray sealing, which is the biggest form of treatment that we use in Australia, involves spraying a hot product followed by trucks reversing and then applying aggregates at different sizes and then rollers. Vic Roads are trialling trucks that apply the aggregate are driving forward rather than reversing, so you don’t have people hanging off the back of a truck backwards.

Australia is one country that still maintains the use of hot bitumen spraying. There’s some concerns for a lot of people about burns and fuming. If we go to an emulsional cold technologies, we’d basically eliminate that. New Zealand have adopted that a long time ago; they do very little hot spraying. I think Australia and South Africa are the two major countries left in the world that still do hot bitumen spraying.

But, our customers say, “Why should we pay a bit more for cold mix?” They’re putting a cost on the fact that emulsions have 60, 70, 80% water, but they neglect the fact that hot bitumen needs to be heated. People are not looking at the big picture or looking at all the facts; they’re making decisions based on historical stuff. Everybody else around the world has moved to emulsion technologies; there’s still hot bitumen for asphalt, but that’s going to warm rather than hot. So we’ve got all that available.

In Germany, for example, you can’t down-cycle reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP), it can’t be used as road base. It has to be used back into asphalt, which is upcycling. Here in Australia, we’ve identified there’s a big cost saving doing that, so a lot of the organisations are doing it. But, it’s still not legislative.

Peter Shields, Technical Services Manager, City of Sydney: With any new innovation, one crucial step is to prove the business case is sound. I believe that local government officers often have difficulty obtaining the information needed for a compelling business case. Most of the time if there’s no financial change or if there’s a financial benefit, the local government will embrace the innovation. It does come down to being good at communicating a business case.

Ioakim: It helps if you can show what some are doing within their constrained budgets – take the Campbelltown City Council, for example. Without any major increase in funding, they’ve improved their network condition, and they’ve done more work: 25 to 30%, even up to 50% more. Just by changing the way you think, you can get a much better outcome. It doesn’t cost you more – you’re actually getting a benefit by changing practices. 

Nandini Mehta, Manager, AUS-SPEC: What we came across while talking to councils is resistance to change; they don’t want to change the way they have been doing things for the last so many years. The technology is there but it’s the adoption and implementation that is lacking. It’s the mindset that needs to change, at all levels from top management to the bottom and vice versa.

Jacqui Hansen, Engineer and asset management working group facilitator: If you could demonstrate that it worked and have a pilot study that was used in a council successfully, then you could get the regional councils on board.

Shields: Many rural Councils only have small numbers of engineers. There often isn’t a specialist who can dedicate the time to a specific innovation to demonstrate the benefits of it over a period of time. There are some councils that do it really well, often because they’ve got a well-resourced team.

Mehta: People need to talk to each other and share information and experiences with other councils.