The vexatious delays and distress caused by potholes are probably the biggest of nuisances in road travel and transportation. In July this year, Indian Government Ministry of Road Transport and Highways recorded that over 9,300 people had been killed and nearly 25,000 were injured in road accidents due to potholes in last 3 years. At a 50% rise, deaths due to pothole-related accidents in 2017 stood at 3,597 translating into a death rate of about 10 people per day. Expressing grave concerns over these reprehensible state of affairs, Honourable Supreme Court of India said these are much more than deaths due to terror attacks.
Even developed economies with state-of-the-art highway and bridge infrastructure are not free from dangers and damages due to potholes. Potholes have a major share in the billions of dollars in vehicle damages and highway deaths in America. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), pothole damages to U.S. motorists through tyre punctures, bent wheels, bumpers, suspension system breakdown, cracked catalytic converter and exhaust systems total about $3 billion per year. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce listed rebuilding of America’s infrastructure as one of their five top priorities in 2012.
Like traffic, pollution, climate change and terrorism, potholes are a global problem. They continue to cause accidents and injuries, claim lives, burn enormous amounts of resources viz. capital, labour, materials, machinery, time, etc., add to increasing pollution, eat away into operational efficiency of both individuals and organizations and ultimately slow down the economy.
In supply and demand management, as speed of vehicle drops due to potholes, delivery time gets extended. Damages in transit, both to products and vehicles, increase and so do fuel losses in idling. Cost of supply chain, therefore, steeply increases due to potholes. With overall vehicular and large commercial vehicle traffic estimated to increase by 25% and 64% respectively by the year 2030, delays and costs due to potholes demand increasingly efficient methods and techniques of supply chain management.
Innovation and Technology are laying the foundation of some of the very effective solutions to potholes. There are companies which have already seen and started creating business opportunities in solving pothole problems. And Professional Consultants contribute big way in this area. Process, Design and Technology Consultants and Independent Road Safety Auditors help create standard operating procedures (SOP) for the Road Safety Audit government has mandated at each stage of the highway project. Consultants work through the contracting processes for routine maintenance activities to ensure pothole-free roads. Consultants also help design layouts and network of roads, bridges, feeder routes, warehouses, logistics parks, rail, port and inter-corridor (IC) connectivity to ensure safety, eliminate choke points and avoid traffic congestion as a part of town planning and urban road infrastructure development projects. Bharatmala Pariyojana, the ambitious umbrella programme for roads and highways development launched by the government lays emphasis on use of technology and scientific planning for Project Preparation and Asset Monitoring. Information and Technology Consultants help select, implement and enhance specialized software features going deep down the supply chain planning and optimization process to factor in the effects of potholes on productivity through lead time control, planning of routes, rates, vehicles, deliveries, manpower resources, scheduling sequence, costs and operational efficiency. Technology Consultants also help run pilot projects to implement emerging technologies like Blockchain, already being employed for simplification of transactional paperwork, storing, retrieving and verification of documents, security of data and money and decentralized control. These technologies can also organize a crowdsourcing, smart contracts, payments and communication platform for motorists and general public to fund repair of potholes by public or licensed private enterprises.
Potholes are a reality of the world and time. In the wake of rapid urbanization in the rapid growth-oriented economies, gigantic growth plans based on transport infrastructure development are being made by governments with massive budget outlays. However, for successful implementation of those plans and justified deployment of those funds, organized consulting expertise in myriads of areas will prove to be a defining factor for preventing the pitfalls of potholes.
1) Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India
2) Pothole.info, Preserve and Protect