Comment: UKPMS accreditation has evolved

06/07/2020
Ro Cartwright and Chris Spong

Ro Cartwright (Linhay Consultancy Ltd) and Chris Spong (Hyperion Infrastructure Consultancy Ltd) are UKPMS Accreditors approved by the RCMG (Road Condition Management Group).

In this article, they explain recent fundamental changes to UKPMS (the standard for UK Pavement Management Systems) and a process for new systems to become accredited.

UKPMS is a name familiar to most in the highways industry – but what many might not realise is that in the last year it has made significant changes to meet the evolving needs of the maintenance industry. 

What is UKPMS?

UKPMS is a standard used for pavement management systems in the UK.

It is described by the UK Roads Liaison Group as 'the national standard for management systems for the assessment of local road network condition and for the planning of investment and maintenance on paved areas of roads, kerbs, footways and cycle tracks on local roads within the UK'.

Any platform that is UKPMS-accredited provides certain core functionality (mainly centred on national reporting in all parts of the UK) so that key outputs are consistent regardless of which UKPMS has produced them.

So are all UKPMS the same?

Very definitely not. Beyond the core requirements, UKPMS-accredited systems can innovate. For any local authority choosing a highway maintenance system, a UKPMS-accredited system offers reassurance that key outputs will be produced in a consistent way. But beyond this, all the systems offer different approaches so when choosing a system, you also need to consider what will suit your wider requirements.

How do we know that UKPMS-accredited systems meet the required standard?

Each year every UKPMS system is independently tested. The tests use reference data to check for basic consistency and then supplement this with real-world data tests that ensure that different systems match each other across a broad range of data.

How easy is it to become accredited?

System developers who currently don’t offer a UKPMS-accredited system should take a look at what is now required to become accredited. An approach for new entrants has recently been introduced that is streamlined, affordable and flexible.

Peter Davidson of XAIS Asset Management Ltd says: 'We are delighted to have successfully obtained UKPMS accreditation through the recently available accreditation system. The new accreditation mechanism has been carefully thought out and whilst it applies vigorous and extensive testing of all the required UKPMS functionality it is very streamlined and easy to understand.

'The staged approach of providing initial tests alongside pre-calculated results means that a new developer can self-navigate through the core requirements of UKPMS processing before applying their software to blind tests at later stages of the accreditation. We found the support from the accreditation team to be very prompt and helpful but without compromising their impartiality and overall we felt that the accreditation process represented an affordable and pragmatic solution for new entrants into the UKPMS software market.'

Even if you’re only interested in producing some of the national reports, there is likely to be a route to accreditation to suit you. For example, accreditation can be offered for systems that only handle visual data, or for those that only handle SCANNER data.

The balancing act – consistency versus flexibility

UKPMS has always been valued for offering consistency, but previously the UKPMS requirements were defined in a way that was perhaps overly rigid and cumbersome. With the new approach, core requirements have been identified so that the process is much more streamlined and there is flexibility about how the core is delivered.

The emphasis is on ‘what’ (i.e. the outputs) rather than on ‘how’ (i.e. the processing details).

What will happen if the requirements change?

An added benefit to the new approach is that UKPMS is much more agile and has a well-defined process for introducing new requirements (and dropping those that are obsolete). The requirements for each stakeholder of UKPMS are captured in a technical note, owned by that stakeholder. When the stakeholder wants to change their requirements they simply revise the technical note.

Oversight for the process is provided by the RCMG (Road Condition Management Group) which ensures that the requirements are in keeping with the overall scope and ethos of UKPMS.

Amanda Richards, Surrey County Council and chair of RCMG, said: 'The RCMG provides the governance for UKPMS and associated surveys so that the requirements for national reporting determined by Department for Transport, HM Treasury and the devolved governments are met. UKPMS also provides assurance that data used to make local maintenance decisions is consistent.'

How can I find out more?

The starting point is the UKPMS accreditation requirements. This document sets out the accreditation process and provides a link to each of the UKPMS technical notes underpinning the requirements.

Is there a take-home message?

If you have an innovative approach to highway maintenance and you’d like national recognition for this under the UKPMS umbrella via the RCMG, then talk to us about developing a technical note to capture that approach and allow independent tests to be developed.

If you’re a system developer and you’re interested in producing any of the national reports, then talk to us about the options for accreditation. We’re here to encourage you to consider accreditation to help to maintain standards in the industry while welcoming innovation.

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