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The highway department of Chambers County, Ala., relies on its RA-300 for quick, economical pothole patching. Photo: Gini McKain

The RA-300 from Rosco Manufacturing, a division of Denver-based Leeboy Co., patches more than just potholes; it also helps patch thin highway department budgets. Anything that can stretch those dollars is of interest to county engineers.

Henry Hawkins, an engineer for Chambers County, Ala., said that repairing potholes is a top priority. “The majority of our paved roads were built between 1947 and the 1960s, primarily with asphalt,” he said. “The lifespan of these roads is about 50 years. Once water begins to penetrate the double-surface-treated pavement, the base loses any structural strength.”

Hawkins added that a shift to population-based gasoline tax revenue increased funding to larger Alabama counties while nearly halving budgets of smaller counties like his. “When we needed more funding to maintain our deteriorating rural roads, we were being asked to do more with less,” he said.

Using an RA-300, Chambers County driver/operator Alton Williams patches an average of between 300 and 400 potholes, single-handedly, during 10-hour workdays. Before acquiring the machine, the department had assigned four to five workers to the task. The machine also is safe for working in moving traffic.

For quick repairs, the operator swings the boom out over the pothole, using the truck's built-in air compressor to clean it out and blow it dry. Then a tack coat is sprayed onto the area, followed by a mixture of aggregate and hot asphalt emulsion that gradually fills the indentation. The final step is to spray the area with a coat of dry aggregate.

The operator can fill holes without leaving the machine's climate-controlled cab. All patching procedures are controlled via joystick. The repeatable four-step method permits a complete patch in minutes.

Williams said that in addition to his pothole-patching duties, he closely monitors the condition of county roads and quickly can repair damaged edges before they become dangerous. The county has a reporting system that alerts operators daily to trouble spots. With the machine's over-the-road speed, the operator can act efficiently on these daily reports and make quick, long-lasting repairs.

Williams said he has put nearly 900 working hours and 18,000 miles on his machine in the 15 months since taking delivery. “It took me a couple of weeks to familiarize myself, and about another six months to really become proficient in using it,” he said. “It's second nature now to drive down a road monitoring its condition and stopping anywhere along the way to repair a pothole.”

The RA-300 has a 400-gallon capacity heated emulsion tank and 5 cubic yards of aggregate storage. In cold weather, when Williams returns to the county maintenance facility, he plugs the unit into an outlet to maintain the asphalt material at a working temperature, avoiding a delay in startup the following morning, and he cleans the tank out thoroughly before leaving for the weekend.

According to shop foreman Curtis “Rabbit” Adams, the machine's ease of maintenance is one of its appeals. “I'm responsible for the maintenance of 50 to 60 various pieces of road machinery,” he said. “I don't have a whole lot of spare time to become involved with complicated maintenance or repairs with any of them. That's a positive feature about the RA-300. It's easy to maintain and all fittings and filters are readily accessible and to date we have had no significant malfunctions with it.”

Gini McKain is a Westminster, Md.-based business writer.