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Surveying Catch-22

29 May 2015

By Manish Jethwa

Since joining the Highways industry almost 8 years ago, little has changed in the area of pavement surveys. Clearly, surveys such as SCANNER, CVI and DVI are aimed at delivering a consistent approach year on year, enabling comparisons to be made and the accreditation process in place for these surveys to be designed to deliver this consistency. One thing that has changed however for these surveys, especially SCANNER, has been price. Prices have fallen by over 50% in some areas while the cost of surveying has remained the same or continued to grow. This price fall can be attributed to these austere times that we find ourselves in. Another factor however is down to the surveys being commoditised via the same accreditation process we use to ensure consistency.

This fall in prices can no doubt be seen as a good thing. It forces the surveying contractors to find more efficient ways of delivering the required annual surveys as long as they meet the accreditation standard. The problem however comes when we want to develop the surveying methodologies to deliver more value. With prices low, there is no investment in the R&D required to move these services forward technologically and hence they remain the same.

Whether there is an appetite for change in the field of surveying is questionable, but there is evidence to show that Local Authorities are willing to contract unaccredited surveys that deliver the condition data for pavement using novel techniques such as from captured video. The suitability of these surveys from a consistency standpoint will however be questionable without the audit process that accreditation provides.

So it would appear that we are in a Catch-22 situation with surveys. We need to decide as an industry if we want development to happen faster (or at all) and if the answer is yes, are we prepared to pay for this development to happen in a way that really does deliver real value?

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