How to become certified as a road contractor
With more than 245,000 miles of road surface to be maintained and mended, Britain is reliant on a small army of road contractors to keep traffic moving, planes taking off and landing, and pedestrians and cyclists free from the mercies of potholes and cracked pavements. The integrity of our road surfaces is critical to our safety whenever we travel, so it should come as no surprise that Highways England, and its equivalents in Scotland and Wales, require certification for any road contractor or subcontractor who tenders to work on the UK road network.
National Highway Sector Schemes for the road contractor
To qualify to work on the UK’s roads, organisations need to be certified under the National Highways Sector Schemes (NHSS). These are bespoke quality management guidelines based on the ISO9001:2008 standards. As a road contractor, there are 20 different NHSSs under which you can be certified, allowing you to undertake a range of activities such as road surfacing, road marking, traffic management, landscaping and so on. To supply services to Highways England, you’ll need certification for each of the services you are proposing to provide.
Each of the NHSSs has been devised and is administrated by a technical advisory committee drawn from the appropriate areas of the industry, local authorities, trade associations and certification bodies. The schemes lay out the minimum required standards for certification, including training and competency requirements.
As a road contractor, you need to consider being certified in schemes that fall into these four main categories:
- road surfacing and marking
- fencing, landscaping and vehicle safety restraints
- lighting, electronics and corrosion protection
- traffic management
The benefits of being certified for the road contractor
NHSS certification is compulsory for any road contractor wanting to tender for work on Highways England schemes, but there are additional benefits to certification that make it even more worthwhile:
- being certified will give you competitive advantage over uncertified contractors, even for work that does require you to be certified
- it verifies to potential clients and partners that you work to recognised quality standards
- achieving NHSS certification gives you the opportunity to assess your business and pinpoint areas of weakness or risk
- certification opens the door to new opportunities on the national road network that you would not otherwise have been able to tender for
- as contracting bodies look for certified contractors, you can be listed on the online Schedule of Suppliers—a comprehensive national register of independently-approved contractors
- being NHSS certified may give you access to certain trade associations which offer expertise and support
For every road contractor that wants to build their business and achieve the credibility to tender for larger jobs, NHSS certification is absolutely essential.