SWEEPER specialist Schmidt UK has developed a truck-mounted magnet which it claims will speed up highway maintenance operations, safely remove motorway debris and save thousands of pounds in contractors' tyre costs.
The hydraulically operated Permanent Magnet fits to the sweeper plate of any 7.5-tonne vehicle and is designed to pick up nails, bolts and other metal debris at speeds of 12-25 km/h.
Schmidt says the £7,000 high-powered magnet, originally developed for airport runways, will enable maintenance contractors to clear the hard shoulder or highway without using a sweeping device.
The 150 mm-deep magnet runs the width of the vehicle and its height can be adjusted hydraulically for transportation.
The company contends that punctures are caused by small sharp objects rather than avoidable larger debris.
Neil Farrow, Schmidt's product manager, said: 'A simple shunt can spread metal objects all over a motorway, then there is a constant shower of metal from vehicles and loads that ends up on the hard shoulder.
'The hard shoulder is used all the time by maintenance vehicles and emergency services and as well as being costly in terms of tyre damage, the debris is also dangerous.'
Carillion Highway Maintenance, which was the first company to use the magnet, believes it will save considerable costs in tyre replacement.
Graham Lloyd, transport manager for the division on the Highways Agency Area 5 contract, covering the M25, said: 'I am spending between £6,000 and £12,000 every eight weeks on tyres for our fleet and I expect that to drop dramatically.
'After just one run we had a dustbin full of nails, bolts and metal shavings.'