Councils are being urged to consider increasing their use of high friction road surfaces following new research that has found that the average thinking time to brake and stop is double than that previously thought. This results in a significant increase in vehicle stopping distances.

The road safety charity Brake asked transport research agency TRL to investigate the time taken by car drivers to perceive, recognise and react to emergency situations. TRL reported that the average thinking time is 1.7 seconds. This is more than double the 0.67 seconds set out in the Highway Code.

Brake have calculated that this means that the average total stopping distance – including thinking and braking distance – is an extra 2.75 car lengths (11 metres) at 30mph and an extra 3.75 car lengths (15 metres) at 40mph, compared with the distances used in the Code. This difference rises to an additional 6.25 car lengths (25 metres) at 70mph.

“The increase in real-time stopping distances emphasises the need to have road surfaces that offer a high level of skid resistance particularly approaching junctions and pedestrian crossings”, said Howard Robinson, chief executive at the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “High friction surfacing is a well proven road surface that makes potentially high risk road locations far safer for both pedestrians and drivers by providing a skid reduction of up to 50 percent. Unfortunately due to perceived concerns over cost and durability many councils have reduced significantly their use of high friction surfacing in recent years”.

Some Councils have decided to use high polished stone value (PSV Asphalt). However, this does not offer the same level of skid resistance as high friction surfacing.  A new British Board of Agrement (BBA) report has found the average service life of high friction surfacing is 12 years for cc cold applied systems and 8 years for hot applied systems, when it was previously thought it was 8 and 4.

“The BBA audit has significantly increased the expected average service life for high friction surfacing. This proves the long-term cost effectiveness of using this surface treatment,” said Robinson. “Using high friction surfacing saves lives and money particularly when you consider that the associated accident and investigation costs for non-motorway accidents is calculated to be £1.4 million. Councils must balance the cost of high friction road surfaces against their legal requirement to ensure that roads are safe and the financial cost of accidents.” Also the new Code of Practice – Well Managed Highway Infrastructure – is based on authorities making decisions after assessing risk so in this context the use of high friction surfacing is well aligned with the new code as it reduces the risk of skid related accidents occurring.

He continued: “The reality of the increased emergency stopping distances underlines the need to have a high level of skid resistance at potentially dangerous road junctions and crossings. Councils should reconsider and increase their use of high friction road surfaces.”


Driving in England is set to become more hazardous as roads are set to deteriorate further. New government expenditure statistics report that councils’ funding for highways and transportation is to suffer from further budget cutbacks as councils struggle to balance the books.

The ‘Local Authority Revenue Expenditure and Financing: 2017-18 Budget, England’ produced by the Department of Communities and Local Government, show that spending by local authorities on highways and transportation is set to fall to £4.24 billion in 2017-18 compared with £4.4 billion in 2016-17. This is a drop of 3.7 per cent or £162 million. The reduction comes at a time where it is estimated that the local road network has a £12 billion pothole bill which could reach £14 billion by 2020.

Total revenue expenditure by all local authorities in England is budgeted to be £94.5 billion in 2017-18. This is an increase of 0.4% from £94.1 billion budgeted for 2016-17.

“For decades there has been a lack of investment in local road maintenance. With continued budget restrictions local authorities are having to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and are cutting back on highway expenditure in order to fund other council services”, explained Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Local highway authorities are working hard to address the problem and last year repaired 1.7 million potholes. However, they are playing a never-ending catch-up game that is made worse by ongoing budget cuts. Without a significant increase in funding our roads will go from bad to worse.”

Robinson believes that as the road network is the country’s most important infrastructure asset it should have a realistic level of investment that is ring-fenced for spending on highways maintenance: “Highway budgets should not be dipped into to fund other council services. We need to have real, long-term assured funding that allows highway authorities to undertake planed, cost efficient programme of maintenance and not expensive emergency repairs.”


Following a two year audit, the RSTA ADEPT guidance ‘Service Life of Road Surface Treatments for Asset Management Purposes’ has been updated to reflect the increased service life for high friction surfacing.

The service life guidance provides an agreed service life of a range of road surface treatment including surface dressing, slurry surfacing and high friction surfacing. It enables highway authorities to undertake proper asset management by providing a recognised baseline for lifecycle planning and asset valuation. A key part of this is awareness of the expected durability and performance of road surfaces that have been correctly specified, designed and installed.

BBA undertook a comprehensive study of 220 high friction road surface sites and found the average service life for cold applied systems to be 12 years and for hot applied systems to be 8 years. Previously the average service life was reported as being 8 years and 4 years respectively. The audit was the first of its kind in terms of scale and independence. It confirmed a much longer life than had been previously perceived.

“The BBA audit has significantly increased the expected average service life for high friction road surfacing. This proves the long-term cost effectiveness of using this surface treatment,” said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association. “The service life guidance provides the performance data necessary for highway authorities to make an informed decision.”

‘Service Life of Road Surface Treatments for Asset Management Purposes’ maybe viewed and downloaded free of charge at www.rsta-uk.ork/publications/


Whilst welcoming the Government’s announcement that £1bn is to be made available for English local councils to tackle congestion hotspots, the Road Surface Treatment Association (RSTA) has questioned the short sightedness of investing in new roads when the funding to maintain the roads that we already have is woefully inadequate.

“A billion pounds spent on tackling local traffic jams will not address the £12 billion gap necessary for essential repair and maintenance of the local roads that we already have”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Why build new roads just to let them fall into disrepair?”

The funds are part of the £5.8 billion National Roads Fund (NRF) raised from the Vehicle Excise Fund announced by the then Chancellor George Osborne two years ago. Primarily the NRF was aimed at motorways and major A-roads.

“This is not new money. The NRF was announced two years ago and Councils will not have access to the funds until 2020 at the earliest. What is now announced is that some of the fund is to be allocated to the local road network,” said Robinson. “That is to be welcomed but we also need more funding for the rest of the local road network. Current maintenance expenditure on the local road network in the round amounts to little more that 1% per annum of its replacement cost which is far too little and we are talking about maintaining an ageing road network, not new.


The current heatwave means that local highway authorities have one eye on the thermometer and the other one on their road surfaces as the current high temperatures are causing some to melt.  With temperatures topping 30C, the bitumen in some road surfaces may soften and rise to the top. This makes the road surface sticky and more susceptible to pressure loads from heavy vehicles resulting in surface ridging and rutting.

Most roads will not begin to soften until they hit a temperature of around 50C. However, even a sunny day in the 20Cs can be enough to generate 50C on the ground as the dark asphalt road surface absorbs a lot of heat and this builds up during the day. The response for local highway authorities is to send out the gritters to spread granite dust or sand to absorb the soft bitumen and so stabilise the road surface and make it less sticky.

“Drivers may be bemused to see the gritters out in the summer when they are usually spreading grit and salt during the winter”, said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association. “However, this is effective standard practice for keeping a road surface safe during extreme hot temperatures.”

He continued: “Asphalt is like chocolate – it melts and softens when it’s hot, and goes hard and brittle when it’s cold – it doesn’t maintain the same strength all year round.”

Following a heatwave in 1995, the road industry introduced a new asphalt specification introducing the use of polymer modified binders in hot rolled asphalt (HRA). These polymers raise the asphalt road surface softening point to around 80C which prevents it from softening under extreme hot weather. Other asphalt products such as thin surface course systems also normally contain polymer modified binders. Modified asphalts tend to be more expensive and are generally only used on heavily-trafficked roads. Robinson estimates that less than 5% of all the UK’s road surfaces contain polymer modified asphalt.  Surface dressings which are used to seal road surfaces and restore skid resistance also now predominantly contain polymer modified binders which will resist softening during periods of hot weather.

“Melting of some roads is not surprising during this heatwave but they can be quickly treated and revert back to normal once temperatures decline,” said Robinson.


New Department for Transport statistics underline the unprecedented demands being placed on our road network which, due to decades of under investment and facing a £11.8 billion of pot hole repairs, is simply not up to the job reports the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

According to the recently published ‘Road Traffic Estimates: Great Britain 2016’, the total number of vehicle miles travelled grew by 2.2% in 2016 to 323.7 billion. Traffic on ‘A’ roads and minor roads has increased to record levels. Traffic on ‘A’ roads increased by 3%, compared to 2015, to 93.8 billion vehicle miles. Traffic on minor roads increased by 2% to 45.5 billion vehicle miles.

Despite this significant increase in traffic, the latest Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM), published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, found that the overall local highway budgets for road maintenance have fallen by 16%, that the cost to bring the road network to a reasonable standard would cost £11.8 billion and it would take 14 years to complete.

“As traffic levels increase so do the demands being placed on an under-funded road network”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive. “An efficient, well-maintained road network is essential for the social and economic well-being of the country. Unfortunately successive governments have failed to realise this and increasingly the UK is a first world nation travelling on a third world road network.”


As they canvass for the forthcoming election, the political parties are failing to address a major issue for voters: the poor state of the road network.

Decades of under investment has resulted in a deteriorating local road network riddled with potholes. The bill to restore the road network to a decent standard is £12 billion because successive governments have failed to provide the funding to carry out the necessary levels of road maintenance. Continued cutbacks in local authority funding means that the situation can only get worse.

“The political party that commits to real investment in our local road network would gather significant approval from voters,” said Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

RSTA is calling for the investment of an additional 2p per litre of the existing fuel duty to fix the plague pf potholes. This would provide an extra £1 billion to fix roads. RSTA has set-up a parliamentary petition forwarding the need for more funding which may be found at:  – the petition has been cancelled by the DfT because of the election

“A further £1 billion annual investment would certainly help local authorities tackle the damage done by under-investment by successive governments,” argued Robinson, RSTA. “The poor state of our roads is a major social and economic issue. Voters should make it a political issue too asking the party activists and parliamentary candidates what their political party plans to do to increase investment in road maintenance.”


A new industry Code of Practice for Ironwork Systems Installation and Refurbishment has been published by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). It forwards industry best practice and has been peer reviewed and endorsed by Highways England and ADEPT.

The Code provides practical guidance on how to avoid early life failure, how to achieve a high quality installation and ensure a high quality repair. It covers installation and refurbishment of ironwork systems including gulley tops and chamber covers. The Code cross references HA104/09 Chamber Tops and Gulley Tops for Road Drainage and Services: Installation and Maintenance in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. It also cross references the Specification for Reinstatement of Openings in Highways (SROH).

The Code aims to increase the average service life of ironwork installations and refurbishments by illustrating a ‘right first time’ approach using appropriate materials and good design, which when combined offer lowest whole life cost. Currently the service life expectation and specification guidance for the installation and refurbishment of ironwork varies greatly from location-to-location and between clients. Furthermore, guidance often covers products and components in isolation. The Code considers all aspects of installation and maintenance, including potential areas for failure. It consolidates existing industry experience into one document offering comprehensive industry best practice. Particular advice is given for brickwork supporting the frame and cover, bedding mortar selection and backfill selection around the ironwork installation plus surfacing and over-banding around the ironwork installation.

The health and safety, environment, training and quality assurance responsibilities of client and contractor are also set out by the code. It also provides guidance on site planning, programming, co-ordination and traffic management. A useful inclusion is the pre-contract, on-site and post-contract check-lists. Copies of the Code of Practice for Ironwork Systems Installation and Refurbishment may be downloaded from the RSTA website:



A quarter of A-roads in England may be unsafe to drive on according to figures from the Department for Transport (DfT).

The DfT’s latest Road Conditions Statistics reports on the skidding resistance of trunk roads in England from 2007/08 to 2015/16. It found that the poor surface condition of 26% of A-roads required ‘further investigation’ of possible inadequate skid resistance. This is the highest level since 2007/08 and is indicative of the continued deterioration of the road network due to decades of under investment in road maintenance.

The deterioration of the trunk road network looks set to continue as a recent Freedom of Information request for forecasts of the miles of trunk roads to be resurfaced in 2017/18 cited that just 994 miles of the 5,300 mile network is to be resurfaced. This compares to 1,471 miles in 2015/16.

“Over time the road surface becomes worn and polished. This lessens the road’s skid resistance. For good road safety it is essential that the road’s texture is maintained on a regular basis in order to ensure skid resistance,” explained Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

There is a wide range of surface treatments to choose from that restores a road’s skid resistance. This includes surface dressing, high friction surfacing, slurry-micro surfacing, and re-texturing. All provide cost-efficient skid resistant solutions.

“The road surface sector has developed a number of skid resistance surface techniques for a wide range of road applications. All are able to ensure that roads are safe to drive on,” said Robinson.


The winners of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) 2017 Safety Health and Environment Awards have been announced.

The awards recognise health and safety best practice and environmental innovation for one of the most dangerous work spaces: live roads. The four categories include Health and Safety Innovation, Workforce Involvement, Behavioural Safety and Environmental Innovation. They were judged by Ray Cooke, head of construction safety unit at the Health and Safety Executive, and sponsored by Nynas Bitumen.

First prize for Health and Safety Innovation went to Multihog UK Limited for the development of its Multihog machine. The fixture of a road planer attachment, development of front and rear sweeper attachments together with a 400 litre water tank for dust suppression has resulted in an innovative multi-purpose road repair machine that removes worker exposure to hand arm vibration syndrome, suppresses on-site dust and reduces noise levels to 82dBa compared to readings of 109dBa for traditional jackhammer methods. In addition, the machine offers significant productivity and efficiency savings. Of the developed and enhanced machine, Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive said: “Multihog have shown how to reinvent traditional methods of surface treatment into something that is innovative and superior offering a win:win of both health and safety benefits plus productivity gains.”

Second prize for the Health and Safety Innovation category was awarded to Asphalt Grid Systems for its improvements to the loading and unloading of asphalt geosynthetic materials, some of which can weight up to 130kgs each, to reduce the potential hazard of back and arm injuries.

WJ Products Limited won first prize for the Workforce Involvement category. To encourage a culture of safety and best practice, WJ products have implemented a email system to capture site incidents and practice information. The system recognises that the most qualified group of people able to identify and advise of safety improvement opportunities is the workforce who actually carry out the day-to-day operations. Such close involvement of the workforce has seen ongoing improvements in the company’s WJ Guardian system for road stud installation which has resulted in a 100% elimination of operative injuries whilst installing road studs, and a further 20% reduction of overall accident/incident rates. Above all, there has been the establishment of a culture of individual responsibility which has led to improved teamwork. “WJ Products are to be congratulated on their realisation of a company’s most important resource: the experience and input of its workforce,” said Robinson.

Eurovia Specialist Treatments was awarded second prize in this category for its programme to improve communications and engagement with its transient workers via regular team site Meetings, team site briefings and safety tours. This has seen a significant improvement in the company’s overall health and safety culture.

The Behavioural Safety category was won by LKAB Minerals Ltd. The company recognized that it is the behaviour of the workforce that determines whether or not injuries occur. With this in mind, LKAB introduced Visible Felt Leadership techniques to its sites. Trained personnel undertake ‘safety walks’ of sites to review the health and safety issues, discuss potential hazards and solutions with operatives and encourage commitment to safer working. Since the introduction of the safety walks the number of harm incidents has reduced by over 70%. There has been an increased openness which has seen the visitors undertaking the walks being actively welcomed and approached as operatives feel encouraged to provide feedback. “LKAB Minerals have implemented a culture of empowerment and openness that encourages the workforce to identify the potential problem and to propose the answer. To install such behaviour is key if accidents are to be prevented”, said Robinson.

Second prize for Behavioural Safety went to Tayside Contracts for its novel Safety and Health Awareness Day held as an enacted trial in a real court, the No. 1 Courtroom, Perth. Complete with defendant, legal team and jury the enactment demonstrated the potential legal ramifications and underlined the message that prevention is better than cure.

WJ Products Limited won a further first prize for winning the Environmental Innovation category for its innovation to reduce omissions. The development of a 3-boiler bank for placing white, yellow and red road markings reduces the need for two separate site visits. This effectively reduces vehicle movements, and the corresponding CO2 and particle emissions, by 50%. Eliminating the need for a second site visit also increases productivity and reduces the on-site work-related road risk.  Robinson commented: “Poor urban air quality is becoming a major issue. This simple yet effective innovation has seen WJ Products cut its on-site emissions by half.”

Kiely Brothers and Total Bitumen were awarded second prize for their joint initiative to reduce the potential for accidental spraying or spillage of bitumen emulsion when it is transferred from tankers to sprayers. Their ‘Safe Transfer of Emulsion’ passport scheme saw the development and implementation of a new set of delivery rules that has resulted in zero spill incidents.

“The welfare of workers and of the environment are paramount considerations. The RSTA awards celebrate the ongoing programmes of improvement being implemented by the road surface sector to ensure that its workforce is safe and that its impact on the environment is managed and reduced”, said Robinson. “The RSTA members who have been recognized by these awards are to be congratulated for their ability to think ‘outside the box’ to deliver initiatives that really work and for their willingness to share their developments for the good of the sector as a whole.”