Chairmans’ View: Rewards for Meeting Risks and Challenges
Firstly, I would like to pay tribute to Rob Gillespie as Chairman for the last three years where we have seen the RSTA stabilise its position as industry voice and increasingly be involved in consultations on highway maintenance matters. This is what we wanted RSTA to be – the voice of the members and of industry – where we can bring our considerable expertise and resources into the challenge of maintaining the nation’s roads in these stringent times. The RSTA has expanded and grown in disciplines, training activity and education in our quest for better knowledge, understanding and competency in surface treatments.
The challenges facing the road surface treatments industry are significant. Despite the rhetorical recognition of government concerning the importance of the road infrastructure, the lack of real investment means that highway authorities are struggling to maintain a deteriorating road network. They have to meet the asset management requirements of Whole of Government Accounts. They must answer their legal obligations to provide a safe and sustainable road network. They also face the anger of increasingly critical road users. All this is set against a financial background that dictates ‘more for less’. This is coupled with a negative skills environment of reduced training provision that is failing to counteract the drainage of experience and expertise.
Practical challenges include increasing customer demands on the industry in terms of bureaucracy, quality assurance and competency. The RSTA clearly supports the drive for quality and competency and indeed has set minimum standards for membership. We want to actively work with clients to improve competency and quality but we do need less wasted resource, i.e. too many bureaucratic hours in PreQual documents which are variations on a theme. WEATHER – the industry has truly suffered over the last two years with the wettest weather on record and, whilst it is not in the client’s gift to ordain the weather, the contractors have no control either and inevitably programmes will be affected – please bear with us! MATERIALS – there is a looming shortage, we are told, of high quality aggregates and possibly bitumen in the future. In addition, there is much consolidation taking place in the materials supply sector. All of these represent considerable RISK. And lastly PAYMENT MECHANISMS where there is a growing disconnection between the contract indexation mechanisms used in some contracts and the real world changes in material prices - this needs to be addressed by industry and clients.
The RSTA has a critical role in working with highway departments to help them not only meet these challenges but to surmount them. Accordingly, the Association is working closely with ADEPT and HMEP in the development and transfer of industry best practice that aims to increase understanding of the service lives and the delivery of optimum performance of road surface treatments and processes. In addition, the Association provides a formidable training programme that ensures the availability of a well-trained workforce and provides a conduit between members and highway departments for the delivery of innovation and best value.
However, it is important that there is a reward for meeting these challenges. Otherwise why bother?
What are these rewards? For highway departments the rewards are ready access to a range of best value, high performance road surface treatments and processes and the assurance of a well-trained, competent workforce. This will enable them to meet their requirements for asset management and provide a safe, well-maintained road network. For the road surface treatments industry the reward is a real working relationship with highway departments that underlines their determination to ensure proper investment in road maintenance, demonstrates a readiness to implement long-term maintenance programmes, and has a positive willingness to examine the potential of new products and processes.
These are challenging times but by working together we can obtain the rewards.
OUTGOING CHAIRMANS FAREWELL
I have been honoured to be the Chairman of the Road Surface Treatments Association for the last three years, a period when we have seen the association strengthen and grow in stature, with enthusiastic members and dedicated staff.
We have seen membership increase, not simply in numbers but also in the breadth of disciplines within our industry that have been established in our active association sectors. This has not only increased the accessibility of our organisation to companies and other interested parties, but it has also made our association more knowledgeable in the round and better equipped to take an active part in greater industry debates and to guide discussion on standards and best practice developments.
This increased activity has raised the RSTA’s profile considerably. We are more and more involved in industry initiatives, and in particular our work over the last two years with colleagues in ADEPT has seen an impressive body of work delivered in the area of Code of Practice development for our materials and processes. This extensive work, together with the development of the Service Lives document published with ADEPT in 2012, has allowed us to promote our activities with still greater technical foundation at a critical time for our sector of the industry.
The condition of the highway infrastructure in the UK is well documented and has been thoroughly discussed. There is now a much greater emphasis on and understanding of Asset Management and particularly the Whole Life Value attributable to investments made on our networks, and this further underpins the place that Surface Treatments have in the armoury of the Highway Engineer.
I feel confident that the professional way that our association and our industry has developed over recent years provides asset owners and asset managers with a greater range of available maintenance treatments, with greater demonstrable whole life value. In addition the work that the RSTA staff and members do in training and education programmes across the UK is also seeing an increased level of technical understanding that again allows our processes and materials to be deployed to the very best effect.
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