Why A Winter Cold Snap Breaks Your Tarmac
Driving through UK roads can be an unpleasant experience, especially during the winter months. The culprit behind these tedious journeys is usually potholes, hidden hazards that can damage your car and disrupt your journey. But what exactly causes these potholes to form, and how does the current icy weather play a role?
The Freeze-Thaw Cycle
The freeze-thaw cycle is a natural process that occurs when temperatures fluctuate between freezing and thawing. This cycle is especially active during the winter and spring seasons, when temperatures frequently dip below freezing and then rise again.
During the freezing phase, water that has seeped into cracks and crevices in tarmac expands as it turns into ice. Rain, snow, or sleet infiltrates the porous surface of tarmac, finding its way into small cracks and imperfections. When the temperature drops, this water turns into ice, expanding in volume by approximately 9%, exerting force on the surrounding road material. The pressure generated during freezing can lead to the development of cracks and fissures in the tarmac.
When the temperature rises again, the ice thaws and melts, leaving behind voids and pockets of water. These voids make the tarmac more susceptible to damage from the weight of passing cars. The repeated cycle of freezing, thawing, and car traffic gradually weakens the asphalt structure, eventually leading to the formation of potholes.
Factors Contributing to Potholes
Apart from the freeze-thaw cycle, several other factors can contribute to pothole formation, including the tarmac quality. Aged tarmac is more prone to potholes as the material deteriorates over time, and we recommend a thorough inspection of your car park tarmac every 5 years to make sure it is fit for purpose. This is especially true of corporate car parks which tend to have a poor quality tarmac and suffer from under-investment.
Tarmac with heavier traffic such as car parks naturally experience more stress and wear, making them more susceptible to pothole formation. Poor drainage around your car park can lead to water accumulation on the tarmac surface, increasing the likelihood of potholes forming, whilst a base of clay-rich soils can expand and contract when exposed to moisture changes, putting additional strain on the tarmac.
The Business Cost of Potholes
For businesses heavily reliant on efficient transportation and logistics, the repercussions of potholes are far-reaching. The freeze-thaw effect weakens surfaces, turning smooth routes into unwanted expense. As a result, businesses contend with increased vehicle wear and tear, heightened maintenance costs, and the potential for supply chain disruptions.
Pothole-ridden roads contribute to accelerated wear and tear on fleet vehicles, leading to increased frequency of tyre replacements, suspension repairs, and wheel alignments. Pothole-laden routes lead to slower route times and increased fuel consumption, whilst delays in deliveries and pick-ups contribute to operational inefficiencies. Frequent vehicle damages translate to higher insurance premiums for businesses and claims related to pothole-induced incidents contribute to rising insurance costs. Consistent delays and disruptions tarnish a business’s reputation for reliability, whilst customer dissatisfaction may lead to potential loss of business opportunities.
The UK witnesses an annual spend exceeding £1 billion on pothole repairs, a testament to the scale of the issue. Businesses grapple with an estimated £4.2 billion annually in increased vehicle maintenance costs, directly attributed to pothole-induced damages. The indirect costs stemming from operational inefficiencies, including delays and increased fuel consumption, contribute an additional £600 million to the financial toll, whilst insurers have faced a surge in claims related to potholes and increased premiums.
Prevention and Repair of Potholes
To minimise pothole formation, regular tarmac maintenance is essential, and it is more cost-effective to fix small problems as they arise rather than waiting it out for complete resurfacing, which is very expensive and time consuming. Filling cracks promptly prevents water infiltration and reduces the risk of pothole formation. Applying an additional layer of asphalt can reinforce the tarmac and extend its lifespan. Repairing potholes as soon as they are detected helps prevent them from growing larger and causing more damage.
Emergency Fast Pothole Repair
For a reliable pothole repair, consider contacting our Asset Maintenance division we offer traditional repairs, resurfacing or as an alternative innovative mastic that we use for transport and distribution facilities which has a curing time that is measured in minutes rather than days. For high volume 24/7 operations this means that your distribution centre, car park or maintenance road can be back in operation and productive the same day. On top of that, it uses recycled tyres so it also bolsters your eco credentials.
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