(AP)– Storch Magnetics, headquartered in Livonia, has invented a product that can expedite pothole repairs by dramatically reducing the flat tires experienced by the pothole repair crews.
The company’s SuperMag, a powerful and durable industrial-sized magnet, removes damaging and debilitating debris from any surface. Nails, screws and other metal debris on the roadways and highway shoulder can cause flat tires, which is 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 Storch Magnetics CEO Matt Carr.
“It’s amazing how much hazardous debris you encounter on the shoulder of our roads,” said Carr. “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 U.S., or seven flats every second. Road repairs are a high priority this summer in Michigan, and added debris causing maintenance vehicle flats slows down repairs and costs 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 that 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 percent 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 said. 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,” Carr said. “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 has 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 percent of the time it had a crew heading out for pothole repair,” said Director of Operations and Deputy Managing Director Bob Griffis. “By using SuperMag for approximately one year, Jackson has already paid for the cost of the magnet just on tire repair savings alone,” he said.
“The amount of money we have saved just on tires has been unreal,” Griffis said. “We’ve taken SuperMag out to crash sites to sweep up debris there as well.”