A new approach to highways maintenance

  • The Department for Transport has launched a revised highways code of practice, which will require local authorities to take a risk-based approach to managing their highways assets
  • Local authorities will have a two-year transition period to meet the requirements of the new Well-managed Highway Infrastructure
  • We can offer you support as you plan your highways asset management strategy and decide how to implement a risk-based approach

The long-awaited revised Code of Practice for Highways Maintenance, titled ‘Well-managed Highway Infrastructure’ has finally been launched.

This two-year transition period is an ideal opportunity to talk to us about how we can help you to make the most of your resources and manage your highways assets in the best possible way”
Steve Thomas, Senior Risk Consultant, Zurich Casualty Risk Engineering Practice

This new code will require you to adopt a risk-based approach to managing your highways assets, with evidence to back-up your decisions regarding the frequency of maintenance and inspections.

There will be a two-year transition period from the date the revised code is published for you to prepare for the new requirements.

Here, we discuss how we can help with this process.

Backing-up highways maintenance decisions with evidence

One of the challenges is that the new code gives very little guidance about how you should go about evidencing your risk-based approach.

Steve Thomas, Senior Risk Consultant, Zurich Casualty Risk Engineering Practice, says: “While this lack of guidance is disappointing, it is encouraging that some of the new code’s recommendations reflect what we have been talking about with local authorities for some time. This includes ensuring that all decisions relating to highways maintenance and inspections can be backed-up with evidence.

“This is vital to improve your claims defensibility. For example, if you receive a claim relating to an accident on a category C road, you need to be able to produce evidence to justify your decision to class that particular highway as category C, and to justify how frequently you are maintaining and inspecting that road.”

What the two-year transition period will mean

In most cases, personal injury claimants have up to three years following an incident to make a claim for compensation. While you may be considering changes to your highways asset management procedures in the light of the new code, it is important you retain all documentation relating to your existing procedures, as you may be required to disclose this information to a claimant.

Thomas says: “If, for example, you had moved to the new code six months ago – and you had received a claim that related to an accident that happened last week – you would be required to disclose to the claimant information about your current approach to highways asset management.

“If, however, the claim related to an accident that happened two-and- a-half years ago, you would need to disclose information about your previous procedures under the old code.

“It is vital that you can access both sets of documentation and that your records are clear and articulate.”

Collaborating with neighbouring highways authorities

To improve claims defensibility, understanding what your neighbours are doing regarding highways maintenance and inspections is also important.

Local authorities involved in the South West Highways Alliance, for example, have been developing a standardised network hierarchy, so each member authority understands how the others have reached their decisions to grade their roads in a particular way.

How we can help you manage your highways resources

One of the services we can offer is a Critical Friend Appraisal, where we visit your authority, assess the strengths and weaknesses of your approach to highways asset management, and suggest ways of improving it.

We can also provide you with data to show you the value of investing in resources to manage your highways assets more effectively.

Clive Speed, Regional Senior Claims Service Manager, Zurich Municipal, says: “If your neighbours are successfully defending a higher percentage of highways claims than you are, we can show you in pounds and pence how much you could save by bringing your claims defensibility rates in line with theirs.

“Having clear data about the value of investing in highways resources can be very helpful if, for example, you are facing pressure to reduce your number of highways inspectors in order to save money.”

Thomas adds: “This two-year transition period is an ideal opportunity to talk to us about how we can help you to make the most of your resources and manage your highways assets in the best possible way.”