Understanding potholes and working towards a better road network

Understanding potholes and working towards a better road network

Ideas & Innovation

Sanjay Koyande

Sanjay Koyande

323 week ago — 5 min read

Potholes are one of the primary causes of accidents on Indian roads. According to a report, potholes cause 30 fatal accidents each day in our country. The menace of potholes gets exacerbated after heavy downpour during the monsoons. Clearly the need of the hour is to eliminate these deadly pits that are a walking and motoring hazard.  


An introduction to some statistics about the network of Indian roadways should frame our discussion about potholes quite well.


Quick facts

  • India has the second largest road network in the world (3.83 million KM)

  • Our road network carries 65% of all freight and 85% of domestic passenger traffic

  • Average speed on the highway is slow compared to developed countries- 30 Km/Hr

  • National Highways form only 2% of road length but carry 40% of traffic


What is a pothole?

A pothole is a large, natural underground cavity that is formed by the erosion of the roadway. It is often formed by erosion, wear, or subsidence. The term “potholes” has been around for a long time and began showing up in texts the 15th and 16th century in England.


What causes potholes?

Potholes are formed when the pavement or the material beneath the pavement can no longer support the weight of the traffic it carries. There are two common causes of potholes: water and traffic -

1) Water is disastrous to roads, mostly because of the three-level design from which they are built. When water can sit on the road’s surface and permeate, it accumulates under the road itself and settles into the sub-base. When this water expands and contracts due to temperature change, damage is caused from under the road itself, pushing on the surface and causing deterioration, effectively leaving a large hole in the road.

2) Weight of vehicles – roads are not permanent structures and will deteriorate over time from the constant use. Potholes form when the weight the road should carry becomes too much for it.

3) Poor maintenance

4) Diesel (or other chemical) spillages.

5) Mechanical damage to road surfaces from vehicle rims and/or accidents and fires.

6) Damage caused by falling rocks in cuttings.

7) Animal hooves on the road surface in hot weather.

8) Poor road design over certain sub grades (expansive, collapsible, dispersive)

9) Lack of bond between the surfacing and WBM base.

10) Insufficient bitumen content.


Things to look out for when identifying likelihood of potholes

When carrying out regular proactive checks you can quickly develop an eye for the warning signs of potholes to catch them early. This will help you save on costly reactive action later and vastly extend the life of your tarmac areas.


Make sure to look for:

  • Loose material sitting on top of the surface

  • Deep line cracks opening up

  • Breakdown or wearing away of joints and/or sealing material

  • Crocodile skin appearance to surface

  • Depressions

  • Water pooling

  • Small holes due to missing material

  • Limitations in existing methods of repair

  • Cold patches, hot patches and paver blocks are the existing modes of repair. However, these modes of repair have certain recurring issues like poor water resistance,inconsistent permeability,uneven road surface, limited to be used for upper portion.


The end result is a short shelf life for the repaired pothole in the road with the likelihood of recurrence of damage being high.


Innovative solution

There are now solutions in the market that promise to take pothole repairs to the next level. Potcrete is an example of one such product. It is a cementitious solution and has high water resistance and very low permeability that performs self-levelling with the road. Application technique is simple and does not require specialised machines or skilled manpower. Potcrete is capable of withstanding extremes in temperature and pressure created by road use. It can sustain heavy downpour. Moreover a Potcrete filled hole can reopen for traffic in less than 1.5 hours. It can be a game-changer in India’s quest to achieve a more high functioning road network.


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.

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Sanjay Namdev Koyande

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