Road maintenance on unpaved roads elephants

Below we offer a round-up of road maintenance tips for farms, lodges and nature reserves.

For game lodges, private nature reserves and farms with guest accommodation, it’s vital to manage the quality of unpaved access roads.

This can have a direct impact on:

  • road maintenance costs over time (better quality roads reduce total costs)
  • accessibility for tourists (4×4 only or standard two-wheel drive) and the online guest reviews they provide
  • ease of accessibility for service staff and contractors.

At the same time, it’s important to protect sensitive natural resources and landscapes.

Tips for unpaved road maintenance

Road maintenance doesn’t need to be an insurmountable job. The key is to have a schedule that covers all aspects of unpaved road maintenance.

Avoid temporary or “shortcut” practices, such as sand blanketing or dragging. These are cheaper options but they’re short term.

Manual maintenance and grading with a professional motor grader will give you the best and lasting results.

Roadside maintenance on farms, lodges and reserves

Roadside maintenance keeps the areas to either side of the road clear and erosion free for safety and a better view of the surrounding land.

This includes thinning out trees and shrubs to ensure a driver’s view isn’t obstructed and to prevent damage to vehicles.

Three metres on either side of the road should be cleared of long grass and shrubs for better access and as a fire prevention measure.  

Roadside maintenance includes repairing and preventing the erosion of cuts and fills, slopes and ditches. Any erosion channels should be back-filled with rocks and grouted if possible.

Drainage maintenance alongside farm and reserve roads

Unpaved roads take a beating from rain. Without proper drainage, they can suffer from erosion and develop corrugation, ruts and potholes.

Regular maintenance ensures that side drains and mitre drains are in good condition. Drains should be designed to allow access for a motorised grader so drainage maintenance can be done alongside surface maintenance.

However, it’s often cost effective and simplest to manually clear drains of silt, vegetation and other debris. This should be done regularly to avoid excessive build up.

Regular surface maintenance

Surface maintenance is primarily done through grading. This can be carried out each week or every six months, depending on the climate and how heavy the traffic is.

Effective grading depends on the use of a motor grader. After grading, there should be no potholes, corrugation, loose material, large boulders, ruts or erosion channels.

Grading should be done when there has been long periods of average moisture. This is when the road material is most easily cut, moved and compacted.

Light blading is a light trimming of the road surface and can be done regularly.

Heavy blading, which is deeper, should be done when there are excessive defects, the surface material is moist and the aggregate is more than 75 mm deep.

Special road maintenance needs

Some roads have large stones that make grading ineffective and can cause damage. First remove the stones, then spot regravelling (see below) to remedy this.

Loose material on the road surface can also cause significant problems on unpaved roads by collecting into windrows (“sandwalletjies”) along the sides of the road. This can cause accidents by making it easy for cars to tip over, especially at high speeds.

These windrows should never be allowed to get higher than 50 mm. Windrows can cause damming of water on the roads, which is damaging and hazardous. Periodic removal of any windrows should prevent these issues.

Regravelling of unpaved farm or reserve roads

Unpaved roads that have lost most of their gravel through inconsistent maintenance, extreme weather and heavy traffic may need to be fully or partially regravelled.

Spot regravelling is usually done by hand and is used to fix areas of road that have grown thin or to fill in large potholes that can’t be fixed with grading.

Potholes should be cleaned out to remove loose material then moistened with water before being back-filled with moist gravel in 50 to 100 mm layers.

Full regravelling is a large undertaking and should be approached with as much consideration as a new build. Any improvements to the drainage system should be done before regravelling takes place.

Regravelling should be done before the subgrade is exposed or else the road might require full reconstruction.

Investing in a trustworthy motor grader

Of all road maintenance tips for farms, lodges and nature reserves, possibly the most useful is to invest in a reliable motor grader.

Having access to a grader when and where it’s needed makes on-going road maintenance faster, simpler and more affordable.

A grader also has a myriad of uses. Along with maintaining unpaved roads and tracks, it can be invaluable for preparing land for farming, constructing irrigation ditches, building culverts, smoothing building foundations, creating terraces and more.

At KH Plant, we specialise in rebuilding Caterpillar 140G, 140K and 140H motor graders to as new condition. This means you can get the benefits of a new grader at a fraction of the new price. Contact us for more information or to discuss your needs.

Do you need expert assistance?

Call us now on +27 83 274 4882 or email us.

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