JCB Pothole Pro - Latest weapon in the fight against potholes

You can't drive far in New Zealand without encountering a pothole — it's an introduced species and one that's flourishing thanks to the wet winter and spring, writes Seven Sharp reporter Mary-Jane Aggett.

Waka Kotahi says it's trying to get the pothole population under control and is looking forward to a warmer summer.

I've been sent a swag of data breaking down how many potholes have been repaired in the past five years region-by-region. Potholes, it would seem, are a pest.

Potholes form when the asphalt on the road breaks up — it can happen when water gets into the road's layers, or because the asphalt is old. Like a filling in your tooth, to repair a pothole you need to clean out the broken asphalt around and under the pothole and create a surface the new asphalt will stick to.

It's "hard yakka", road crew Chase Hunter said, who's been on the tools for five years. It's manual labour with pick axes, jack hammers and other machinery. You need gloves, hard hats and plenty of safety equipment to operate.

Is there another option to eradicate them?

There's currently a big orange machine in the country which might help. Called the Pothole Pro, manufacturer JCB Construction said it can cut, clean and crop the area around the pothole and get it ready for repair in around eight minutes.

The machines have been used in the UK, where JCB said it's repaired 16,500 potholes in three months compared with the average council which completes 10,000 a year.

Phil Taylor, who operates the Pothole Pro, said he's been driving machines for most of his life, and thinks the Pro is "amazing". He trains people on it. He trained me how to get things rolling in a couple of minutes. It can drive to jobs and get up to a speed of around 40kmh.

In the middle of Mystery Creek in Waikato (a region where 42,583 potholes were repaired over the last five years — thanks, Waka Kotahi) we staged a man versus machine challenge.

The Pothole Pro (operated by Taylor) faced off against three road crew workers to see who could repair a similar pothole first. All for the glory of a Moro bar.

The Pothole Pro whirred its way to the finish line, cutting the asphalt and scraping it up controlled by Taylor in the cab. All while Hunter and his crew were on the tools.

Yes, it's faster I hear you say — but what about the jobs? Hunter, for his part, was keen to be trained as an operator and thinks the machine is "bloody awesome". Tony Hennessy from JCB said there's a lot of work in construction and pointed out there are also a lot of potholes that need fixing.

The JCB people are hoping to flog a few Pothole Pros in New Zealand.

Waka Kotahi said it has a regular and active inspection regime for all sections of the state highway network — and there's a lot of it.

There's more than 100,000km of public road in New Zealand and the thing with potholes is that they form very quickly and it's not possible to predict exactly where and when they will appear.

Waka Kotahi also points out it's not practical to immediately identify and repair every pothole or defect.

Click below to watch the Seven Sharp story

Click below to see more information about the Pothole Pro
Pothole Pro