Winter is normally blamed for causing damage to road surfaces, but extreme heat during the summer can also have an impact on the quality of the tarmac. Read on to find out more.

Cold weather often results in the formation of potholes in the road surface, thanks to water freezing in the cracks. When the temperature drops, the water expands as it turns to ice, which causes cracks to widen.

As the UK experiences a lot of temperature changes, the pavement contracts and expands regularly, eventually weakening the road surface. When it becomes really damaged, this results in potholes.

In fact, Britain is one of the worst countries for road surfaces, coming 37th out of 141 nations in the World Economic Forum’s Road Quality Index. In fact, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Namibia, and Azerbaijan all ranked higher than the UK, with Singapore taking the top spot.

Speaking with AGG Net, Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA)’s chair Rick Green explained it is not just cold weather that affects road, however.

“In extremely high temperatures the road surface doesn’t ‘melt’ but the bitumen in it can soften and the material particles become more ‘mobile’,” he stated.

Mr Green commented that when there is prolonged hot weather and slow-moving heavy traffic, the risk of deterioration of the road surface grows.

Engineers in the UK have a big challenge on their hands, as they need to create road surfaces that can withstand a huge range of temperatures. An asphalt road in Britain has to be able to cope with -20C to +60C, for instance.

Despite this, unprecedented heatwaves, such as the record-breaking temperatures experienced earlier this month, can cause damage to the roads.

The AIA spokesperson noted there is improving research into modern road-building materials so that they can withstand a larger temperature range. However, rising temperatures, due to climate change, reduced budgets, and growing costs makes it hard for highway authorities to build roads that can last a long time.

As a result, Britain’s pothole problem is rapidly getting worse. Last year, RAC revealed it dealt with the largest proportion of pothole-related issues (1,810) in any third quarter for 15 years.

Despite July to September typically being one of the quietest periods for road surface breakdowns, they represented 1.2 per cent of all call-outs during the three months.

For the whole of 2021, the RAC attended 10,123 pothole-related breakdowns, including broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers. This is a ten per cent increase from 2019, and represents the highest annual figure since 2018.

These breakdowns accounted for 1.5 per cent of all RAC call-outs, which is an increase from 1.2 per cent in 2020 and 1.1 per cent in 2019.

Head of roads policy at RAC Nicholas Lyes stated: “Potholed roads are a menace, not a mere annoyance – they can cause thousands of pounds of unnecessary damage to drivers’ vehicles, make using our roads uncomfortable and can be a serious road safety hazard for anyone on two wheels.”

He added: “Not getting our roads into a decent shape is simply storing up more problems – and more expense – for the future.”


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