Storch Magnetics, headquartered in Livonia MI, recently designed a product that can expedite pothole repairs by reducing flat tires experienced by pothole repair crews.
The company’s SuperMag, a powerful industrial-sized magnet, removes damaging debris from any surface. Nails, screws and other metal on the roadways and highway shoulders can cause flat tires, which are particularly debilitating during “pothole season.” Pothole repair and road maintenance crews experience an average of one flat tire every three hours on the road, said Matt Carr, Storch Magnetics CEO.
“It’s amazing how much hazardous debris you encounter on the shoulder of our roads,” he said. “This is particularly true after snow plows and sweepers have pushed these items off to the side when clearing snow and ice this winter.”
According to AAA, motorists suffer more than 220 million flat tires each year in the US, or seven flats every second. Road repairs are a high priority this summer in Michigan, and added debris causing maintenance vehicle flats can slow down repairs and cost taxpayers money. Such debris is often made of metals, wires and other materials.
“While it can cost up to $750 to repair and replace a tire on a maintenance vehicle, the more significant cost is the lost time of the idled crew,” Carr said.
SuperMag, which can be mounted to the front of a road maintenance vehicle, is the first magnet of its kind that can be towed or front-mounted on an existing snow plow mount. The permanent magnet is hydraulically actuated, hinging upward and away from the working surface. It can be fitted to a lead vehicle on a pothole repair team so hazardous items are magnetically removed from the road, virtually eliminating the threat of a flat tire from road debris. It is designed to last “generations,” with less than 1% of magnet loss per 100 years.
“At less than $15,000, one SuperMag in a road commission fleet can save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years,” Carr claimed. “SuperMag is easy to operate and can be raised and lowered like a snowplow. Operators can turn SuperMag on and off without even leaving their vehicle.
“The amount of debris that exists on many roads is one of the hidden dangers that doesn’t always get addressed. SuperMag allows these crews to remain effective and efficient. Plus you have the added benefit of picking up this dangerous debris for other motorists.”
There were 738 total motor vehicle fatalities in tire-related crashes in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition, an October 2015 report released by the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) indicated that each year, about 33,000 passenger vehicle tire-related crashes occur in the U.S., resulting in about 19,000 injuries. The NTSB publicly stated that a majority of tire-related crashes are preventable and much more can be done to prevent tire-failure-related accidents.
“Before using SuperMag, Jackson County Department of Transportation was experiencing a flat tire about 90% of the time it had a crew heading out for pothole repair,” said Bob Griffis, director of operations and deputy managing director. “By using SuperMag for approximately one year, Jackson has already paid for the cost of the magnet just on tire repair savings alone.
“The amount of money we have saved just on tires has been unreal. We’ve taken SuperMag out to crash sites to sweep up debris there as well.”