Category Archives: RSTA News

WORKFORCE TRAINING A MUST FOR RECEIPT OF INCENTIVE FUNDS

Local authorities in England may have to provide evidence of their highways staff competence and training as part of their bids for road maintenance incentive funding in 2020 as DfT intend to instigate the “audit and review” process for the self-assessment process. With the self-assessment questionnaires due to be presented to the Department for Transport (DfT) early 2020, the launch of the RSTA’s autumn road training programme is well-timed.

As part of their self-assessment questionnaires bids for 2020/21 road maintenance incentive fund, local authorities need to provide data to demonstrate which Band they are in. The higher the Band the higher their share of the available funds with those in Band 3 receiving their full share, Band 2 receiving 50% and Band 1 just 10%.  DfT will not necessarily want to see the supporting evidence from every local highway authority, but it may undertake sample audits for the first time. The completed self-assessment questionnaires must be submitted by February 2020. Failure to submit a questionnaire will mean that the local authority will receive nothing from the incentive fund (which makes up 20% of the traditional highways budget for most local authorities

For many local highways authorities ongoing budget constraints has seen significant cutbacks in their training budgets. This is despite their full appreciation of the importance of having a well-trained and competent workforce and the fact that having such a workforce is an important element of the Highways Sector Scheme 13 whereby the workforce competence must be proven. The impact of training cuts is further compounded by many experienced highway engineers and operatives having been made redundant or have retired and not been replaced.

Against this background is the simple fact that if road maintenance is to be correctly carried out then a well-trained and competent workforce is essential for improved health and safety, quality of work, and increased productivity.

To assist local authorities meet their training needs, RSTA has developed a comprehensive training programme specific to the road maintenance sector. The programme offers training in surface dressing, slurry surfacing, and high-friction surfacing, as well as a series of ‘highways maintenance techniques’ training days held throughout the UK that are aimed at providing asset managers with knowledge of a wide range of surface treatments for optimising the life performance and reducing the whole life cost of asphalt pavements. Courses are linked to Sector Scheme 13 for the supply and application of road surface treatments and assessment is also available for operatives at NVQ Level 2, NVQ level 3 for Foremen and for supervisors at NVQ Level 4.

In addition, RSTA is working closely with local authority organisations such as LCRIG to deliver specific training events that facilitate best value through collaboration by allowing local authorities to train together. The RSTA is also collaborating with Xais Asset Management to provide skid policy courses for local authorities.

Mike Harper, chief executive at the RSTA commented: “In recent years, we have encouraged local authorities to collaborate and get engineers together from neighbouring authorities as well as their own staff.  We can provide training courses within a local authorities own premises for a fixed cost. Not only does this save on associated travel and hotel costs by taking the course to the learners, but by local authorities grouping together to get higher numbers of attendees for a one off fixed costs, the cost per learner may be more than halved, making those training budgets go further.”

He continued: “The inclusion of workforce competence and training within the incentive fund self-assessment underlines the essential role that training has in delivering cost efficient road maintenance. This is not lost on the DfT who very keen to see local authorities collaborating with each other and the supply chain. The RSTA autumn training programme is an excellent opportunity to do just that.”

BREXIT IS NOT VOTERS ONLY CONCERN SO ARE POTHOLES

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge of a one-off £1.8bn cash boost for the NHS shows that he knows that come a General Election Brexit is not the only concern of voters. He would be well-advised to also address to deteriorating local 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 £9.79 billion because successive governments have failed to provide the funding levels required to carry out the necessary levels of road maintenance. Continued cutbacks in local authority funding means that the situation can only get worse.

“Any political party that commits to real investment in our local road network would have significant approval from voters,” said Mike Harper, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

With thirty five million drivers in the UK, most with the ability to vote, the prime minister would be well-advised to take note of that concern. Of particular concern is that the billions of tax paid by drivers does not seem to go towards funding a better road network.  Motorists pay £58 billion in taxation to the Exchequer – £26.9 billion in fuel duty, £25 billion VAT on fuel and £6.1 billion for other motoring taxes. Against this just £2.06 billion is provided by central government as funding for local road maintenance. Furthermore, as it is not ring-fenced, the funding may not even be spent on road maintenance but on other council services as cash-strapped councils struggle to balance the books.

RSTA is calling for the investment of an additional 2p per litre taken from the existing fuel duty to fix the plague of potholes. This would provide an extra £1 billion to fix roads.

“A further £1 billion annual investment would certainly help local authorities tackle the damage done by under-investment by successive governments,” argued Harper. “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 their local roads.”

In addition, RSTA is calling for a 5 year funding settlement for local roads, as is the case for the strategic road network, so that highway managers can make long term decisions about how to manage their pavement assets, rather than relying on twindling budgets that are topped up on an ad hoc basis by additional pothole funding. Harper said: “Appropriate funding as part of a 5 year settlement will allow highway authorities to intervene with surface treatments, at the appropriate time in a roads life, to avoid potholes forming in the first place.”

ROAD SURFACE AUTUMN TRAINING PROGRAMME LAUNCHED

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has launched its Autumn 2019 training programme.

Aimed at asset managers and highway engineers, the courses have been developed to ensure that highway departments choose the right process or product for the right place at the right time. Courses include slurry and micro-surfacing, surface dressing, and collaboration with LCRIG’s southern technical training day, following a successful northern event in March.

All the RSTA courses are Silver Certificate and as such are compliant with the requirements of Sector Scheme 13 for road surface treatments. Full details of the training programme can be found at www.rsta-uk.org

DROP IN POTHOLE NUMBERS WELCOMED BUT NOT CELEBRATED

News that the number of potholes on local roads in the UK has significantly fallen is welcomed but should not be celebrated said the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

New data obtained under that Freedom of Information Act by Insurance Emporium has found a 27% drop in the number of potholes on the local road network from over 1 million in 2016 to 780,000 in 2018.

“Whilst local authorities, who are faced with long-standing and continued budgetary cutbacks, are to be congratulated in reducing the number of potholes, the fact is that potholes are a failure to undertake planned programmes of maintenance. A well-maintained road will not have potholes”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive.

He continued: “Successive governments have failed to understand the economic and social importance of a well-maintained local road network and have failed to provide local authorities with the necessary assured funding to carry out planned programmes of maintenance. The result is that councils are playing a never game of pothole patch-up.”

Harper pointed out the economic folly of this approach explaining that: “It costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs an average £52m2 to repair potholes”.

Regular planned programmes of preventive maintenance would significantly improve the road network. The 2018 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance found that rate of deterioration of the local road network is accelerating. 1 in 5 roads may need to be replaced within the next 5 years, it would cost £9.31 billion and take 14 years to bring the road network up to a reasonable standard. Worryingly the survey also found that English councils have seen a marked decrease in road surfacing frequency reporting, on average, for all classes of road, a jump from once every 55 years, to once every 92 years. For unclassified roads the leap is even more pronounced – going from 87 years, last year, to once every 132 years. Figures for Wales also show a dramatic change, with a figure of once every 71 years now reported for the frequency of resurfacing for all roads.

“Patching up the road network and filling potholes is all very well, but had local authorities been able to invest in planned maintenance then the potholes would not have been there in the first place,” said Harper.

VARYING COUNCIL POTHOLE REPAIR TIMES UNDERLINE NEED FOR NATIONAL POTHOLE DEFINITION

A new analysis of the different times taken by councils to repair potholes has underlined the need for a national pothole definition. The analysis raises the question of when is a pothole not a pothole and if it is a pothole when is it large enough to warrant repair?

The analysis, undertaken by the RAC Foundation, found that Cumbria, Flintshire and South Lanarkshire councils aim to act ‘immediately’ to repair potholes that pose the greatest risk to the state of the road and the safety of drivers and riders. However, Coventry City Council’s stated policy is to aim to intervene within five days.

Between the two extremes, Harrow Council sets a target repair time of half an hour, while a further 16 councils aim to patch things up within an hour, and five within 90 minutes. The most common response time to the most urgent problems is two hours, with 79 councils looking to patch up the road within this timescale.

The analysis was based on Freedom of Information data from 190 of the 207 local highway authorities in Britain.

The significantly different response times taken by local authorities to repair potholes underlines calls from the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) for a national statutory standard definition of what comprises a pothole. “The lack of a national pothole definition means that we have a postcode lottery of road repair as different local authorities take different approaches. There is no consistency,” said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. Under the Road Traffic Act 1980 local authorities have a duty of care to properly maintain their road network but within the Act there is no national definition or agreement as to when a pothole is a pothole.”

The RAC Foundation found that while 37 local highway authorities said they would investigate further when a pothole was between 20-30mm deep, 26 said the depth had to be at least 50mm or more.

Harper went on to warn: “Councils taking a risk-based approach to repair the worst potholes first will be of little comfort to those cyclists dislodged by a pothole or those motorists whose vehicle is damaged by a pothole that does not meet the risk criteria of the individual council. We need a national definition of at what depth and width a defect is recognised as being a pothole. This would enable a consistent road maintenance risk assessment, intervention and repair approach.”

ROAD INDUSTRY WELCOMES PROPOSALS FOR LOCAL ROAD FIVE-YEAR SETTLEMENT

The Road Surface Treatment Association (RSTA) has welcomed proposals to develop a five-year funding settlement for local roads similar to that provided for the national road network.

The proposals were revealed by the roads minister Jesse Norman at the recent Highways UK event.

A business case is currently being worked on. It will examine the possibility of the Department for Transport (DfT) securing a long-term combined capital and revenue settlement. Such a settlement has long been resisted by the Treasury to provide the capital funding and will also require the support of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government who provide local authorities with the revenue funding for local roads. Neither funding streams are currently ringfenced but the ringfencing of Vehicle Excise Duty from 2020 for strategic roads suggests a dedicated fund might be possible for local roads too.

Welcoming the proposals, Howard Robinsons RSTA chief executive said: “We have long argued for a confirmed, long-term funding settlement for the local road network. This would provide a necessary level of certainty that allows local authorities to plan and implement long-term road maintenance programmes rather than play a never-ending game of pothole catch-up.

We hope that the business case currently being developed underlines the need for the country’s most important infrastructure asset to have the funding that it needs and deserves.”

ROAD SURFACE TREATMENTS ASSOCIATION BUDGET RESPONSE

The additional £420 million for local road maintenance announced in today’s Budget (29th October 2018) is welcomed but it is far short of the £9.3 billion necessary to bring the deteriorating local road network up to a reasonable standard. It is also only a small percentage of the £58 billion that motorists pay every year in fuel duty, VAT and other motoring taxes.

Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) said: “The reactive additional funding announced by Phillip Hammond shows that he has failed to do the maths and understand the economic folly of spending an average £52m2 to repair a pothole against the £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road. The odd additional funding for pothole repairs is welcomed but it is no substitute for the long-term funding of road maintenance programme that would prevent the potholes from forming in the first place.”

Robinson points to the ALARM 2018 survey carried out by Asphalt Industry Alliance that found that there are over 24,400 miles of local roads that require essential maintenance. That equates to one-in-five local roads now classed as being structurally poor and requiring replacement within five years.

He also questioned the Chancellor’s decision to award £28.8 billion to fund improvements on the national road network: “Whilst improvement to the strategic road network is welcomed. The Chancellor must understand that a well-maintained local road is essential for the national economic prosperity of the country. It is the prerequisite link to the national road and rail network, to the ports and airports, between peoples’ homes and places of work. Despite the vast majority of journeys being taken using the local road network, Government continues to fail to match the expenditure provided to maintain the national road network with that provided to maintain the local road network. National roads and motorway maintenance already receives 53 times more funding than local roads.”

RSTA is calling for a number of simple cost effective policy changes that would make a real difference. This includes allowing the local road network to also receive funds from vehicle excise duty – currently, the monies raised are only available for motorways and A roads – injecting £1 billion a year to address the £9.3 billion backlog of local road pothole repairs by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty and ring-fencing local highway budgets. Starved of funding, by 2020 local councils will spend 60p in every £1 raised by council tax on social care leaving less to fund essential road maintenance.

“If the Chancellor is to show that he is really serious about improving the national economy and showing that post-Brexit the UK is open for business then he must recognise the national economic importance of investing in a well-maintained local road network. This budgets fails to do that,” said Robinson.

NEW CEO AT ROAD SURFACE TREATMENTS ASSOCIATION

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has appointed Mike Harper as their new Chief Executive from 1st January 2019. Harper takes over as Dr Howard Robinson steps down after nearly 10 years in the role, during which time the RSTA has grown to represent 87 member companies that provide surface treatments and techniques to maximise the service life of UK roads.

Harper said: “Howard has very much become the figurehead of the RSTA over the last decade and has represented the interests of our members with many of the major highways client bodies. The RSTA provides quality guidance and impartial advice as well as training hundreds of highways engineers every year throughout the UK, and I look forward to leading the organisation as we continue to support our clients and members.

“The role of surface treatments is key as highway authorities strive to maximise their maintenance budgets through asset management and seek to take on board the new guidance in the “Well Managed Highways” code of practice. The RSTA provides help and support for a wide range of pavement repair and protection techniques to stretch those scarce financial resources whilst maintaining a safe highway network.”

Harper has 30 years experience in highways materials and joins the RSTA from materials specialists GCP Applied Technologies (formerly Stirling Lloyd) where he headed their highways activities. He has been active with the RSTA for the last 8 years on numerous committees, working groups and industry events, previously holding positions as a sector chairman (high friction surfacing), RSTA chairman in 2015, a former RSTA director and is the current Chief Technical Officer.

Dr Robinson said: “Mike and I have worked closely together over the last 8 years and Mike’s appointment as CEO from January provides a seamless handover for our members and clients in the many committees and working groups that we support. I wish him every success in the role”.

RSTA chairman, Kevin Amos from Eurovia, added: “On behalf of myself and the executive committee we are delighted to appoint Mike to continue driving the RSTA forward and having him in place immediately, alongside Howard until the end of the year, will ensure continuity for our clients and members”.

CHANCELLOR ADVISED TO USE AUTUMN BUDGET TO RECOGNISE NATIONAL ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF LOCAL ROADS

If you want to ensure that Britain is open for business then invest in a well-maintained local road network. This is the advice given to the Chancellor by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) ahead of the Autumn Budget.

In its ‘Making the case for investment in the local road network – the economic argument’, the RSTA explains that the local road network is the country’s greatest infrastructure asset. It comprises 183,000 miles, represents 98% of the total road network and is worth over £340 billion.

“A well-maintained local road is essential for the national economic prosperity of the country. It is the prerequisite link to the national road and rail network, to the ports and airports, between peoples’ homes and places of work,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Unfortunately, the Government has failed to recognise this and despite the vast majority of journeys being taken using the local road network, it has failed to match the expenditure provided to maintain the national road network with that provided to maintain the local road network. National roads and motorway maintenance receives 53 times more funding than local roads.”

He added: “Successive Chancellors have failed to do the maths and understand the economic folly of spending an average £52m2 to repair a pothole against the £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road and so prevent the pothole from forming in the first place.”

The result is there are over 24,400 miles of local roads that require essential maintenance. That equates to one-in-five local roads now classed as being structurally poor and requiring replacement within five years. (1)

RSTA supports its call for greater investment with the research and survey evidence from key industry organisations such as the British Chambers of Commerce, the EEF and the CBI who all report that their members believe the deteriorating state of the local road network is increasingly a barrier to business.

RSTA also reminds the Chancellor of the growing discrepancy between the amount that motorists pay in taxation and the amount that is spent on local roads. Motorists pay £58 billion in taxation to the Exchequer – £26.9 billion in fuel duty, £25 billion VAT on fuel and £6.1 billion for other motoring taxes. Against this just £2,06 billion is provided by central government as funding for local road maintenance. Furthermore, as it is not ring-fenced, the funding may not even be spent on road maintenance but on other council services as cash-strapped councils struggle to balance the books.

RSTA calls for a number of simple cost effective policy changes that would make a real difference. This include allowing the local road network to receive funds from vehicle excise duty – currently, the monies raised are only available for motorways and A roads – injecting £1 billion a year to address the £9.3 billion backlog of local road pothole repairs by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty and ring-fencing local highway budgets. Starved of funding, by 2020 local councils will spend 60p in every £1 raised by council tax on social care leaving less to fund essential road maintenance.

“If the Chancellor is to show that he is really serious about improving the national economy then he must recognise the national economic importance of investing in a well-maintained local road network,” said Robinson.

NEW ASSET MANAGEMENT GROUP FOR LOCAL ROADS

A new Asset Management Group has been set-up by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). Aimed at local authorities, the Group will allow their highway departments to share best practice linked to the now mandatory Code of Practice – Well Managed Highway Infrastructure. The Code calls for a change in the way that road network is managed through the adoption of a risk-based approach. 

The Group has been established in partnership with XAIS Ltd, an asset management consultancy. It will develop and run a series of new courses on road surfaces and setting investigatory levels linked to road hierarchies. 

The first of these courses is on skid resistance. It will specifically focus on section B.5.6 of the Code and the recommendations for skid resistant surveys including setting the hierarchy, responsibilities, timescales and collating evidence. The course will examine how to develop a skid resistant strategy, how to measure skid resistance as well as the legal implications and liability risk. 

The two-day skid resistance course will run on 4/5th October in Wolverhampton, 17/18th October in Milton Keynes, 15/16th November in Bristol and 4/5th December in Doncaster. For registration and further information visit: www.rsta-uk.org or email: enquiries@rsta-uk.org 

“The new group will enable local authorities to take the best approach towards adopting asset management and we encourage them to join”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Given that, according to Department for Transport statistics, 27% of local roads need further investigation of possible inadequate skid resistance, the course on skid resistance and investigatory limits and road hierarchies will provide highway departments with the knowledge of how to meet their legal responsibilities via a risk-based approach.”