Delivering high quality road maintenance

Motorway trafficThe three main themes of the recently published Pothole Review include prevention is better than cure, get it right first time and clarity of communication. These can all be addressed by the availability of the suite of best practice guides being developed by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) together with ADEPT reports Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive

The Pothole Review was undertaken by the Department for Transport’s Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP). It was instigated following the devastating impact of three successive severe winters upon the road network which resulted in over 2.7 million in 2010 and a cumulative repair bill of £1.3 billion.

The Review carried out a comprehensive examination of why potholes occur and how best to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Three key messages were determined: Prevention is better than cure – intervening at the right time will reduce the amount of potholes forming and prevent bigger problems later; Right first time – do it once and get it right, rather than face continuous bills. Guidance, knowledge and workmanship are the enablers to this, and; Clarity for the public – local highway authorities need to communicate to the public what is being done and how it is being done.

These key messages underline the Review’s 17 recommendations for improved highway maintenance. The recommendations range from the need for long-term programmes of preventative maintenance work, the adoption of good asset management practice, the need to adopt and share best practice and the need to develop a national scheme to ensure the quality of workmanship and repairs. The recommendations aim to provide the basis for a more efficient approach to improved road maintenance.

Fundamental to achieving that approach is the availability of best practice guidance to ensure a quality of workmanship and the delivery of consistent maintenance solutions. In order to provide such guidance, the RSTA together with ADEPT have been developing a comprehensive suite of road surface treatments codes of practice.

The need for industry accepted codes of practice has been underlined by the change of highway authority service delivery through outsourcing and a diminution of in-house expertise that has resulted in a greater reliance on the expertise of the specialist road surface treatment contractor. The new codes aim to share that expertise and experience. The codes also reflect the increased emphasis on asset management. For if the best use of the road network is to be achieved in the most cost effective manner then there must be consistency of quality delivery that ensures that the installed solution is right first time. Good asset management is based upon information and the codes will provide this for they address a major issue that was identified by the HMEP Pothole Review,
that of a gap in knowledge.

Furthermore, there is no standard national policy for maintaining and repairing roads. Local highway authorities adopt different approaches. The codes of practice will provide benchmarks of industry best practice that can be widely adopted and used.

Codes of practice
The codes of practice so far developed cover the following road surface treatments: Surface dressing, high friction surfacing, slurry surfacing, re-texturing, geosynthetics and steel meshes, velocity patching, thermal road repairs, in-situ recycling, crack and joint repair systems and preservation. In addition the following codes are in preparation: surface preservation systems and grouted macadams.

Each code examines the process and installation of the surface treatment. They set out of the responsibilities of client, contactor and installer concerning planning, co-ordination, health and safety and work execution. The codes make full reference to the relevant regulations, standards and training qualifications and, usefully, include pre-contract, on-site and post-contract check lists. Importantly, the codes have been industry developed and peer reviewed by ADEPT and are able to interact with CE marking and the National Highway Sector Schemes. As industry best practice, the codes form the basis of the RSTA workforce training programme.

Although these codes are voluntary rather than mandatory, their widespread adoption by clients and contractors can only be for the good of all concerned. Furthermore, by being developed by industry they have innate flexibility which means that they can be altered quickly in response to new product or process developments or to meet new client requirements.

Road surface treatments that are properly specified, correctly designed and installed by a well trained and qualified workforce will work well and deliver the performance, service life and value for money expected by the client. The codes of practice aim to ensure consistency and efficiency of delivery that is right first time with zero remedial costs. Yes, prevention is better than cure. Getting it right first time should be standard not a one-off. Plus, the availability of benchmarks of agreed industry best practice minimises the risk of confusion and enables clear communication. The codes of practice from RSTA and ADEPT address the main themes of the HMEP Pothole Review and so forward the improvement of the road surface industry.

Further information

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