IVANO FRANKIVSK – In 1940, 11 percent of Ukraine’s roads were paved. Today, 95 percent are paved. The problem is that most road building took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, an official of Ukravtodor, the state highway authority, said last year that 97% of Ukraine’s roads need fixing.
Now with EU aid, Chinese financing, and new tax revenues to local governments, Ukraine may be approaching a new road building era: repairing the nation’s 164,000 km of paved roads. And here a Danish company wants to step in, offering high tech machinery to cut paving company fraud.
In one of the oldest tricks of the corruption book, from here to Zanzibar, a private contractor pours half the asphalt promised, pays off an inspector, and then pockets the rest of the budgeted money.
Pave Cycle Systems, or PCS, a Denmark-based road management system supplier, sees opportunity. On June 1, it opened an office in Ukraine . Wihin weeks, it submitted bids on several tenders.
PCS builds, sells, and services portable equipment capable of measuring the density, flexibility, and overall quality of roads using laser technology mounted to the back of trucks. Lasers beat human eyeballs in detecting fraud and determining the real state of roads.
“What sets our product apart is the use of a multi-axis accelerometer and gyroscope system which reduces the loss of data on acceleration and cornering of the vehicle,” Johann Longwitz, PCS Managing Director, wrote by email of his road quality testing system. “This means that the accuracy of the information isn’t lost due to the angle of the vehicle causing the sensors to drift.”
Combined with a Laser Crack Measurement System, the smallest of cracks can be detected in 3D. Even minimal cracks can grow and cause huge damage in countries with extreme cold temperature changes. Water gets into cracks, freezes, and expands. Cracks get bigger and eventually potholes appear.
PCS also supplies ‘falling weight deflectometers’, which measures the elasticity of roads.
“Roads are elastic due to the foundation, and vehicle weight has an effect on how roads react,” Longwitz conitnued. “The weaker the way in which the road is constructed, the sooner it will fail. We can determine how long the road will survive, and if they aren’t constructed properly they will fail sooner than expected. We can determine whether roads have been built properly, and no short-cuts have been taken. “
The notoriety of Ukraine’s rough roads did not reach PCS headquarters in Soro, a town one hour west of Copenhagen on Denmark’s glassy E-20 highway.
When Pave Cycle Systems launched their website -- http://pcs-dk.com/who-is-pcs/ -- the majority of inquiries came from Ukraine, some 2,000, largely bumpy kilometers to the southeast.
“We saw the web statistics and thought, maybe there is an opportunity there,” Longwitz said, in a Scandinavian understatement.
In 2013 survey by the World Economic Forum, Ukraine’s roads were surpassed in disrepair only by Gabon, Timor-Leste, Guinea, Mongolia, Romania, Haiti and Moldova.
Grinding up the asphalt, overloaded grain trucks drive to Black Sea ports passing over pavement that can be soft as gingerbread in late summer heat. Trucks sometimes park during the day, waiting for weigh stations to close, allowing traffic to roll past, unchecked.
Ukraine’s inefficient road repair is compounded by three post-Soviet factors: collapse of the river waterway system, deterioration of the state railroad system, and bumper grain crops.
Longwitz smells opportunity.
“Ukraine is still using road analysis equipment developed in the 1980’s,” he said. “Hopefully, our equipment will be in the country by the end of this year.”
For comments and story ideas, please contact UBJ Correspondent Mark Satter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted July 25, 2017