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Thu September 23 2021

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DfT opens the way for new road survey technology

16 Aug The practical monopoly of a single technology for surveying the condition of roads is set to come to an end.

A typical SCANNER vehicle that is used to monitor local highway condition
A typical SCANNER vehicle that is used to monitor local highway condition

The Department for Transport is planning to allow local highway authorities to use technologies other than the standard SCANNER vehicles for assessing surface conditions.

Every year local authorities are required to supply the Department for Transport with accurate and comparable data on the condition of local highways. Currently, this data must be collected using Surface Condition Assessment for the National Network of Roads (SCANNER) survey vehicles.

While SCANNER technology continues to be “robust and valued by many local authorities”, the DfT acknowledges, there is an increasing number of competing technologies that offer alternative to local authorities. However, so long as DfT mandates SCANNER, there is now way for new developments to enter the market.

To pave the way for the end of the SCANNER monopoly,  DfT is planning a new standard for road condition data and technology; local authorities will have to meet the standard, but will have some freedom in choosing how they meet it.

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“Local highway authorities will have flexibility to choose whichever surveying technology best supports their asset management strategy, providing the technology aligns to this new data standard,” the DfT says in a new position paper. “This will open the market, driving choice and technological innovation while still ensuring that data will be sufficiently comparable for us to maintain a national view of the condition of the highways network.”

The Transport Select Committee’s October 2019 report, Local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap, identified problems with, and obliged government to review the regime around, local road condition monitoring data.

The development of the new standard is expected to take some time to get right. An advisory board will be set up this year and a steering group in 2022. By the end of 2022 a draft data standard should be completed, ready for testing in 2023 and 2024, before formal implementation.

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