An ‘even, comfortable and quiet’ ride on the UK’s motorways may become a thing of the past as the Highways Agency plans to introduce new rules that require contractors to carry out emergency repairs only if potholes are more than 4cm deep or 15cm wide. The new guidelines could result in motorways and trunk roads not being fit for purpose.
The new rules are a cost saving measure and counteract previous requirements that contractors must ensure that the road gave an ‘even, comfortable and quiet’ ride and called for minor defects to be repaired within 24 hours. However, the new instructions could prove to be an own goal with the Highways Agency having to pay more in repair bills and insurance claims. Shallow pot holes can quickly become deeper and present a significant hazard to motorists particularly as they will be travelling at high speed.
This is a short-sighted approach that could result in significant deterioration in the condition of and safety of motorways and trunk roads. It means that there will be less preventative maintenance which will ultimately cost the Highways Agency more. It costs of £2 m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs £75 m² to repair potholes. There is also the potential safety issue of motorists swerving from one lane to another as they try to avoid a pothole.
The Highways Agency aims to implement the new instructions in the West Country later this year and then introduce it nationally in 2015. It mirrors similar moves by local authorities who have re-designated a pothole as only being a pothole if it is 4cm or deeper. This is double the previous designation of 2cm. The problem of potholes is endemic throughout our local road network. Now the national trunk road network is facing the same shortfall in preventative maintenance.
Whilst welcoming the Audit Commission’s acknowledgment of the problems facing local authorities trying to address the continued deterioration of the local road network, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) believes that the Commission has failed to address the main issue, the lack of adequate government funding for local road maintenance.
The Audit Commission’s report, ‘Going the Distance – Achieving Better Value for Money in Road Maintenance’, found that the local road network is deteriorating significantly. The combination of highway authorities struggling with decreasing budgets, increasing traffic demands and the impact of recent severe winters means that the current huge maintenance backlog will continue to grow. The report predicts that road traffic will increase by over 30% by 2025 yet highways departments face budget cuts of up to 40%.
Highway authorities are advised upon a range of cost efficiency models such as collaboration with other authorities, whole life costing, and asset management. Particular praise is given to the £5.1 million savings for council members of The Midland Highway Alliance and for £7.8 million for the Highways Agency since it was set up in 2007. The Alliance estimates that it will save a further £14 million between 2010 and 2015. In the east of England, ten councils have formed an alliance to save £6 million over five years of which £3.3 million will be saved from share back office costs alone. The Commission also advises councils to work more closely with contractors to reduce costs and encourage innovation, to work with professional trade bodies in order to determine the best balance between planned maintenance and unplanned repair and to address and remove the barriers to joint purchasing.
The recommendations of the Audit Commission fail to properly address the issue that the significant backlog of road maintenance and repair would cost £10 billion to put right. The cut of government funding to local councils means that highway departments are fighting a losing battle. The Commission has failed to make the fundamental link between the lack of funding and road deterioration.
Carbon footprinting of road surface treatments is of growing importance if local authorities are to meet the CO² reduction requirements called for by the National Indicator 186 and if contractors are to meet their sustainability objectives. A one-day seminar, to be held by the Road Surface Treatments Association in association with ConstructionSkills, will examine the need for carbon footprinting of road surface treatments and how the development and operation of a carbon calculator can provide a useful tool.
The seminar is to be held on 16th November 2011 at the Cranfield Management Development Centre, Bedford, and on 6th December 2011 at the Scottish Government building, Edinburgh – in association with Transport Scotland.
In addition to examining a range of road surface treatment techniques, the seminar will provide a number of worked examples demonstrating how the carbon calculator tool measures the CO² impact. The delegate fee is £99 plus VAT. For further details and registration visit: www.rsta-uk.org/calendar.
Compulsory CE marking is coming. Currently there are several different processes to follow in order to deliver a consistent quality assured product into the roads surface treatments market. These include the BBA Highways Authorities Product Approval Scheme (HAPAS), BSEN ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems, National Highway Sector Schemes and CE marking – the later demonstrating compliance with a European Product Standard (EN). Of these schemes only HAPAS, EN’s and CE marking are product specific.
CE marking involves bi-annual audits by a notified body such as BSI, Lloyds or similar covering the quality management system, factory production control system to ensure that the appropriate level of quality control testing is being undertaken. CE marking is a manufacturer’s declaration that the product fully complies with the requirements of the relevant European Product Standards and Construction Products Directive.
Although it is limited to compliance to Directive’s specification and only covers the product’s factory condition rather than installation, CE marking is often referred to as a ‘ product passport’ as it does what it says on the tin. Standing for ‘Conformite Europeen’ (European Conformity), CE markings demonstrates that the product complies with EU legislation and so can be used throughout the European Economic Area. It provides confirmation that the product or system meets the minimum requirements of the relevant harmonised European Technical Specification – either a harmonised European Standard (hEN) or a European Technical Approval (ETA).
Currently, CE marking is only voluntary in the UK but this is due to change. In April the Construction Products Regulation was adopted by the European Commission and UK government as a replacement to the Construction Products Directive and although the main provisions will not come into force until July 2013 there are major implications for the road surface treatments sector as contractors need to ready themselves as CE marking will then be mandatory in the UK. After July 2013 any contractor installing surface dressing or slurry-micro surfacing products without CE marking runs the risk of criminal prosecution.
Affixing the CE mark is the responsibility of the contractor. He is making the declaration that his product conforms to all necessary legislation (safety, health and environmental protection) and is therefore valid to be sold throughout the European Economic Area. In order to carry out this responsibility, the contractor must first carry out a conformity assessment, establish a technical file and sign an EU declaration of conformity. All documentation must be made available to authorities upon request.
It is for the contractor to determine which EN applies to his product and to obtain the necessary involvement notified body to assess conformity. The declaration of conformity must include the manufacturer’s details, essential product characteristics, relevant European standards and performance data, the identification of the notification body and a legally binding signature on behalf of the organisation. The CE mark must be affixed visibly to the product documentation.
Failing to correctly CE mark or to counterfeit CE compliance can have significant consequences of up to 3 month in jail and a £5,000 fine (for the director of the offending company). Penalties are dependent upon the respective EU member state.
CE marking aims to provide a ‘level playing field’ of market requirements across the European Community and so remove potential trade barriers. This means giving companies free market access across the European Economic Area without the need to meet particular local requirements. CE marking should also remove the need for individual contract testing. It should be remembered that CE marking is product specific and so does not cover the installation and competence of operatives. The installation of road surface treatments is regulated by National Highway Sector Scheme 13.
Although the Construction Products Regulation does not come into force until 2013, the clock is ticking and companies would do well to understand and start to implement their forthcoming CE marking legal obligations.
The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed the development of a new price indexation system for the highways maintenance industry as a way forward to address the potential problem of price fluctuation and inflation.
Developed by the Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA), Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and the Building Cost Information Services of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (BCIS) the price adjustment indices provides a monthly tracking of contract costs to enable lowest priced bids, fair allocation of risk between client and supplier and accurate cost profiling. The new indices are a development and improvement of the long-standing Baxter Indices and provide a more accurate reflection of the cost variations incurred during the life of long-term highway maintenance contracts. Cheshire West and Shropshire are the first local highway authorities to start using the new indices.
These new price adjustment indices provide a clearer and fairer mechanism to address price volatility over the duration of a highway maintenance contract. They will enable the tracking and accounting of inflation and facilitate forward planning for both client and supplier.
New guidance on the service life for road surface treatments will help highway authorities undertake proper asset management by providing, for the first time, a recognised baseline for lifecycle planning and asset valuation.
Developed by ADEPT, representing local authorities chief officers and RSTA, the guidelines provide an agreed service life for surface dressing, microsurfacing, slurry surfacing and high friction surfacing. The guidelines, ‘Service Life of Surface Treatments’, have been published at an opportune time for local authorities as they need to produce lifecycle plans for their assets and report their annual depreciation in the Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) which from 2012/13 will be formally audited and scrutinised.
A key part of establishing a lifecycle plan for roads, the largest single asset for local authorities, is understanding the range of potential surface treatment options available and how long that they should typically last. This is explained by George Batten, ADEPT President, who said: “In order to depreciate the road network it is essential that authorities, at the outset, have a nationally agreed baseline for how long surface treatments should be expected to last.” He continued: “I am delighted that ADEPT and RSTA have joined together in this initiative to establish the service life of various surface treatments.”
Also welcoming this joint initiative, Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive, said: “These guidelines will provide invaluable information for any asset manager dealing with highway maintenance. They have been produced by industry experts and should be regarded as being the definitive view of the durability road surfaces that have been properly specified, designed and executed.”
The guidelines are to be recommended to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Highways Asset Management Financial Information Group as the basis for lifecycle planning and asset management of the local road network.
The winners of the 2011 Road Surface Treatments Association Health and Safety Awards have been announced.
Competence and safety on road projects are essential as working on the road network can be particularly hazardous. The RSTA awards aim to capture and promote industry best practice and for 2011 had three categories: Innovation; Behavioural Safety; Workforce Involvement. The awards are sponsored by Nynas Bitumen.
The winner of the Innovation category was Eurovia Specialist Treatments for their development of an automated squeegee extension for micro asphalt machines that successfully addresses the potential for material ravelling on high speed roads. Of particular importance is the new equipment being located on the Breining box nearest to the road centre. This removes the need for personnel having to work close to live traffic. Second in the Innovation category was Colas for its introduction of a mobile eye collision prevention system. The system uses computer vision-based technology to detect vehicles and markings. Visual and audible alerts are given should the vehicle deviate from the lane or become too close to the vehicle in front due to driver fatigue.
First in the Behavioural Safety category was Breedon Aggregates Scotland Limited for its proficiency training scheme. This in-house training and assessment programme has gained external accreditation from the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework as being equivalent to S/NVQ levels 1, 2 and 3. The training scheme has significantly improved awareness of health and safety issues at both operative and frontline supervisory levels. Second place was awarded to Tayside Contracts who have introduced a comprehensive training programme aimed at management, supervisors and operatives to ensure an ongoing improvement in awareness of health and safety issues.
The final category of Workforce Involvement was won by Colas who introduced a Men’s Health campaign aimed at highlighting health issues to the workforce. The campaign was run to coincide with the National Men’s Health campaign in June 2010 and emphasised the impacts of life style at work and at home. Second place was awarded to Velocity UK for its integrated management system that addresses quality, environment and health and safety business process in order to optimise efficiencies. Significant improvements in health and safety awareness are expected to result from the resultant enhanced business data capture and internal communications.
Commenting on the RSTA Health and Safety Awards, Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive, said: “Health and safety is an essential part of the day-to-day business of our members. These awards seek to reward those companies who have developed exemplar initiatives to improve health and safety awareness and competence. The companies who won and all those companies who entered are to be congratulated on their drive to make health and safety competence integral to their day-to-day business processes”.