The white van with the big front bumper is actually $100,000 worth of state-of-the-art DOT testing equipment.
Technician Greg Bennett says laser beams in the front bumper analyze pavement problems. All of the data goes into an onboard computer, forming a cross-section profile of the road.
"We're able to get a transverse view of the road and how it could possibly hold water in the case of hydroplaning problems," Bennett says.
Almost every driver has had a bad experience with a pothole. The Profiler can spot weak pavement, and the DOT can shore it up before the asphalt caves in.
Laser technology has catapulted DOT troubleshooting light years into the future. In the past, DOT workers looking for problems had to drill holes or just walk the road, often using a best guess to fix pavement. The process is now much more precise, saving time, materials and money.
"We stretch our taxpayer dollar as far as we can in providing a smooth and safe road for the traveling public," Bennett says.
The state still has far more road problems than money to fix them. With the high-tech Profiler, the DOT hope to get more for the money.
The Profiler can gather road information at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour. The DOT has two Profilers, one based in Raleigh, and the other is in the mountains.