New highways operation takes to road with advanced safety gear
State-of-the-art safety measures to protect the public and workforce are at the forefront as a new fleet of highways maintenance vehicles takes to North Yorkshire’s network of almost 5,800 miles of roads.
Next week will see a quiet revolution in how everyday highways maintenance and bigger improvement schemes are delivered across North Yorkshire County County’s network – which laid end to end would reach from North Yorkshire to Tokyo.
From today (1 June), services will be provided by NY Highways, a company created by the County Council but operating as a private business. NY Highways takes on the role after the County Council’s contract with private sector company Ringway ended.
While County Council highways work will form NY Highways’ main workload, there will be opportunities to work for other public and private clients, providing additional income to underpin other County Council services. The vast majority of staff who worked on the Ringway contract will transfer to NY Highways, retaining experience, knowledge and consistent services from day one.
The close relationship between the County Council and NY Highways will enable the operation to be fleet of foot and to react quickly and flexibly to changes in circumstances.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said: “Creating this company is an innovative, forward-thinking move that gives us greater control and flexibility over our highways service delivery.
“Many members of the highways team live in North Yorkshire. They are passionate about their communities and take pride in delivering services that are used by their friends and families. This new company will benefit from that local pride and passion. This is local people providing services where they live.”
The efficiency and effectiveness people expect from the county’s highways operation will be further enhanced as the company develops.
Cllr Mackenzie added: “On day one of NY Highways, the residents of North Yorkshire should see no difference in the standard of service they receive. The company will ensure the continuity people would expect during the transition and will then look continually to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the service delivered to the people of North Yorkshire over the years ahead.”
NY Highways’ fleet of 170 vehicles is made up of 80 new vehicles, ranging from vans to tippers, gully cleaners, street lighting vehicles and gritters, plus vehicles transferring from Ringway. The safety of the public and its workforce is at the top of the agenda.
A unique safety measure is reflective logos on fleet vehicles – of huge benefit in servicing the vast rural network at night.
Ross Bullerwell, managing director of NY Highways, said: “Ours will be the first local authority highways fleet in the country to have reflective logos down the side of the vehicles. I believe our vehicles should be visible from all angles, much as police vehicles are. The reflective logos will give the vehicle greater visibility at night.
“Our line on safety is ‘go home safe, go home healthy’ and that applies to the public as well as our workforce. The more visible we can be, the safer for our workforce and the people we are serving and the lower the risk of accidents.”
The reflective chevrons on the rear of the vehicles and the hi-vis stripes down the sides are made from the highest-grade material. They are top of the range, going beyond existing safety standard requirements, instead working to standards that are likely to be introduced in the future.
“Given that we are a very rural county with many minor roads, it is very important that our vehicles are always as visible as we can make them,” said Ross. “Even on country roads, this will help other drivers to see us, protecting the public and our operatives.”
Other safety features, in addition to the familiar driver cameras and reversing alarms, include:
- a scanner on the nearside to alert the driver to cyclists and pedestrians;
- an audible alert to cyclists and pedestrians when the vehicles turn left; and
- a cutaway panel in the passenger side cab door to give the driver greater visibility of cyclists;
Trucks will have a walk-in tipper body, so drivers won’t need to climb to reach the body of the vehicle.
“We have taken a belt and braces approach,” said Ross. “We are investing in safety and in providing the workforce with the right resources. We have the absolute best in PPE (personal protective equipment) for individuals, but also on the vehicles. Every aspect of the resources we’re providing has been thought about very carefully.”
NY Highways operatives were invited to give their feedback on a range of innovative PPE, looking at things like ease of movement, heat control and UV protection, to ensure they got the gear they needed.
Some items are made from recycled material – supporting the County Council’s carbon neutral ambition – such as the 100 per cent recycled polyester rain jacket. The gloves include graphene, a very thin but incredibly strong material, as well as being anti-bacterial, dispersing heat and having extra UV protection.
Cllr Mackenzie praised Ringway for the service the company has provided since starting the contract in 2012. Ringway delivered improvements to the network, provided essential winter gritting services and an effective response to emergencies, as well as providing support during the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire. However, as the contract ended it was concluded the best way forward was for the authority to create a company to provide the service.
“NY Highways is about building on what we have and taking it to the next stage, enhancing it with innovation and new techniques,” said Cllr Mackenzie. “It’s about building on best practice and new technologies and maximising efficiency.”
NY Highways will be one of North Yorkshire’s largest employers, with a locally based workforce of more than 250 full-time and part time staff, as well as supporting an extensive supply chain.
For every £1 spent, NY Highways aims to get 70p re-invested into the local economy by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in North Yorkshire and spending an estimated £28m during the coming year on local supplies and services.
The company will invest in its employees by supporting the development of further education, skills and employment opportunities.
There will be no change to how members of the public report issues on the roads. They can continue to get in touch through the council’s website and its customer service centre.