The road to tomorrow

HTMA is an informed and influential force in the highways maintenance industry and provides a unique forum for discussion and information sharing on core issues affecting the industry as a whole

The leading voice of the highways term management and maintenance industry, The Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA) works to improve the image of the industry, shares knowledge and feedback, fosters best practice and improved industry standards, whilst also working to influence government and other stakeholders’ policies.

As George Lee, HTMA’s Chief Executive explained, ensuring that the organisation is functioning in the most efficient and high-quality way is paramount, and continuous improvement is key: “The past year has been a successful one for HTMA, as we have focused on the confirmation and implementation of our new five-year strategy; a strategy designed to provide increased representation and support for our members, as their operational environment continues to change at pace. Within the Association this has meant the appointment of our first full time Chief Executive and a refined focus on communication with our key internal and external stakeholders, across a range of industry critical areas.”

The Association’s evolution reflects the broader changes developing in the sector as contractual structures undergo further change, most noticeably within Highways England, but also with the emergence of further regional devolution leading potentially to new client structures and maintenance models throughout the UK. “The changing approach by Highways England to progressive implementation of its Asset Led Delivery Model represents a fundamental shift in engagement, as it expands its involvement with the supply chain, with an increased interface with more contractors. This has been reflected in the changes in HTMA’s membership structure, where we have seen a significant growth in members whose role in the market had traditionally been as sub-contractors, but are now emerging as direct suppliers, in their own right, to the Strategic Road Network (SRN),” George added.

Whilst the investment in the SRN has remained in contrast with the comparative squeeze on funds for the local roads network, this financial challenge continues to drive deeper engagement between HTMA members and their Local Authority Clients. This is reflected in the commitment that HTMA has continued to provide to the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) and the significant partnerships many HTMA members are developing with their clients to lever in greater productivity, in highways maintenance, through better asset management practices.

Leading voice
As George noted, the delivery of efficient and effective highways maintenance remains key not just to HTMA members but also to the broader economy; a well-maintained roads network is a critical part of delivering the Government’s Industrial Strategy, economic growth and housing targets.

“As the leading voice of the highways term management and maintenance industry, HTMA engagement reflects the strategic importance of our sectors’ activities,” he stated. “In the past year, we have built stronger constructive engagement with a range of key stakeholders and partners such the Department for Transport, ADEPT, CBI, the Office for Road and Rail, and Transport Focus.” However, the activities of HTMA go well beyond being simply a leading voice; its deep understanding of industry issues and challenges has created a foundation of legitimacy that is demonstrated by its involvement in a range of projects each led by industry experts, drawn from the membership, and undertaken through its specialist Working Groups.

These projects have included:

  • At a strategic level: Working with Highways England to refine their Asset Delivery Model; advising Transport Scotland on options for their forthcoming 5G contracts; providing input to Transport for London and other Local Authorities on procurement options for highways maintenance.
  • At a functional level: The development of a Fatigue Management Tool to promote best operational practice and address health and welfare risks; Launching a Sustainability Charter promoting environmentally and socially responsible maintenance.

“These specific projects have been supported by a range of presentations, articles and responses to requests from client bodies for advice and guidance; a telling reflection of the standing the Association has as a trusted and reliable contributor to best practice within the sector,” added George.

Policy and practice
The development and change within HTMA over the past 12 months is, of course, a mirror of the fast pace of change within the highways sector, which continues to face significant challenges in delivery, in a very competitive business environment. As George pointed out, one example of such an issue was the demise of Carillion.

“It is important that the correct lessons are learned from that situation and that we are not swept along by a tide of political indignation or dogma; at the end of the day Carillion did not go under because it made too much money, but rather a combination of factors including, but not exclusively, cash flow and unrealistic margins,” he noted. “In the highways sector we are seeing a variety of pressures that make it difficult for contractors of all sizes; these pressures include increasingly complex and expensive tendering and contract structures often without any guaranteed work for successful tenderers, constant price pressures that do not reflect the reality of delivering a reliable and efficient service, and even cherry picking of low risk activities by clients that they choose to retain, whilst believing that the private sector will happily take on the high risk activities on a tenuous margin.”

HTMA is focusing a lot of attention on these areas going forward. “At a policy level, we continue to promote and provide evidence that private sector provision does offer the most efficient form of highways maintenance, as it drives innovation and collaboration; at a practical level, we are working with clients and client groups to simplify processes and structures, with initiatives such as HMEP,” said George.

Positive change
There are other practical challenges faced by the sector, including training, recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce, whilst worker safety and welfare remains an ongoing issue. These are areas where the Association and its Working Groups remain at the forefront of driving positive change.

“Our recently launched Highways Training Strategy Group brings together sector professionals and other highways trades bodies to try to build a consensus approach to a standardised training regime within the highways sector, simplifying structures and helping to create a clearer career path, to help attract new entrants into the sector. At a strategic policy level, we are working with the CBI to lobby for policies that will minimise the impact of Brexit on the makeup and profile of our workforce,” George elaborated.

Looking forward, George highlighted some of the immense changes that the highways sector is going through: “These include funding, contractual relationships and supply chain management, as is seen on our Strategic Roads Network; a change in Network structure, as is heralded with the development and implementation of the Major Roads Network, and; a potential change in Local Roads Funding which could result from the imminent Highways Spending Review in late 2018, early 2019,” he said. “These changes require a strong voice for the highways sector, a voice tempered with the experience and knowledge of experienced practitioners, and a desire to develop collaborative and mutually beneficial solutions to those challenges. HTMA will continue to be that voice and will sustain its role in promoting innovation and best practice, sharing knowledge and experience and influencing government and key stakeholder policies.

“As such our priorities over the coming 12 months are to ensure continuity of input into those areas of strategic importance to our members and further develop relationships with Government departments, regulators and client groups; all underpinned by operational best practice solutions developed by our members, through their input into our Working Groups.”

Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA)

Services: Leading highways maintenance industry association