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The true cost of roadside non-compliance


Although the vast majority of roadside equipment is compliant, an alarming number remain that don’t meet current standards.

The true cost of roadside non-compliance


Although the vast majority of roadside equipment is compliant, an alarming number remain that don’t meet current standards.

The true cost of roadside non-compliance


Date: 9th April 2019

Although the vast majority of roadside equipment is compliant, an alarming number remain that don’t meet current standards. This puts a number of parties at risk – including contractors and road users themselves.

Managing Director of Rennicks UK, Ross Bullerwell has worked within the highways sector for almost twenty five years. In this time, he’s seen significant changes in regulation and legislation – and has viewed the industry from different sides including the public and private sectors, material supply and contracting. Compliance has always been a passion of his – most importantly understanding and communicating the true cost of non-compliance.

Recently Ross discussed compliance at road traffic and transport industry event Traffex, and touched on what can be done by individuals within the industry to drive change. Here we share some key insights from his presentation, highlighting the alarming consequences of non-compliance for all parties, and how clients and contractors can begin to implement positive changes quickly and cost-effectively.

Non-compliance, however insignificant, is an issue

You’d think it safe to assume that there’d be no room for error when it comes to road safety compliance in the UK – but various reviews and Ross’ own research suggest otherwise. “I still see an alarming number of non-compliant products on the road network every single day…even though it’s a small amount, whilst that still remains, we have a problem.” He explains. “Standards in compliance don’t just protect the reputation of a company and result in a better customer experience. They are there for a reason – they save lives.”

Standards and quality regulations are the foundation of safer highways

Whether you’re driving or working on the network there’s no doubt you’ll be using products from small elements to large pieces of technology that are required to be of a certain standard, or, have regulations to meet. These stringent rules each have stipulations relating to various areas of road safety – from visibility and clarity to longevity and durability. Most of us pass by these products without thinking but the technology that shapes them and the regulations that safeguard them are strict and thorough – and can be complex.

Compliance isn’t as difficult as people make out

“Often when I talk to people they say: ‘Compliance isn’t serious…we shouldn’t worry’,” says Ross. Companies come up with a variety of excuses to explain non-compliance. “They tell me it’s impossible to meet all the UK standards. That simply isn’t the case.” In fact, the TMF Complexity Index 2018 ranks the UK 49th out of 85 countries when looking at those with the toughest compliance standards. Sitting at the top is the UAE, whilst Ireland is ranked the easiest location in terms of compliancy.

Another major issue companies cite as a reason for non-compliance is cost. It isn’t viable, it’s too expensive. “In reality, we know that compliance actually increases productivity,” explains Ross. Rather than depleting precious financial resources, being compliant usually saves or makes companies money. He also stresses the potential cost of non-compliance in relation to the initial outlay for compliant materials. “It reduces rework, (but it also) reduces the risk of reputational damage. If an incident occurs the company reputation is on the line. Is it really worth it?” Not to mention unforeseen legal fees, compensation pay-outs and fines. Weighing these up against the actual financial outlay it’s clear to see that the true cost of being non-compliant is much higher than investing in and ensuring compliancy.

Ross recognises that the price differentiation on the market is ‘vast’, but stresses: “We’ve done studies on this…there’s literally pence in a square metre difference between a compliant and non-compliant material. It’s not an excuse and should never be an excuse.”

When considering the cost of a life, the loss of reputation and contracts in the future, and the fact that compliant products can actually save money long-term, is it really worth risking a non-compliant product for the sake of a few pounds or pence?

Identifying the causes of non-compliance is the key to combatting it

During his presentation, Ross also focused on the responsibilities of various individual parties in ensuring compliance across the board. “There’s an obligation on both client and contractor to ensure you’re putting products on the network that are fully compliant. If you’re putting a tender in and someone from a client, perhaps a local authority or council, says: ‘you didn’t get that work because you were 30% more expensive’. Did you question that? There’s a reason why something is cheaper.” He explains: “When something complies to a standard, it’s warrantied for the correct period, it’s the right standard piece of equipment for that job, the right material for that position.” Lengthy approval processes may be frustrating – but there are reasons for that, too. A lack of understanding and knowledge surrounds the regulatory processes in some areas and compliance relating to each product. The specifics within certain industries mean trades and contractors have to get smarter and appreciate what signifies a compliant product – and the importance of understanding how it is installed and operated. Lack of inspection is another issue – once the product is installed, is it checked regularly? Ross emphasises that the responsibility lies with everyone – material suppliers, contractors and clients to make sure products are easily identifiable as meeting the standard.

A simple, easy to implement takeaway message

The clear takeaway from Ross’ presentation is that clients and contractors must be sure of compliance, and act with integrity at all times. “Let’s lead the way, make the investment, make the standard correct. Don’t allow non-compliant products on the network.” He urged the crowd at Traffex to ‘Use common sense.’ “We forget that common sense comes into why we have standards set in the first place.” Ross also discussed other solutions – including enforcing contract fines, and upscaling and educating engineers. Suppliers can consider introducing new quality markers – to make compliant products more easily identifiable.

Ross finished off the presentation with a sobering final thought – ‘The true cost of non-compliance won’t be known until it’s too late.’ This is perhaps the most pressing issue of all within the industry. Full compliance after all means safer roads – and ultimately fewer avoidable road traffic incidents on Britain’s highways.

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Watch the video below to hear Ross’s presentation from Traffex.

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