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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Thermal Road Repairs welcomes Dave Wright

“The best advice I was ever given is that you should embrace change; don’t try to fight it.”

These are the words of Dave Wright, former Kier Highways managing director, an expert in the transport sector and now an executive adviser to Thermal Road Repairs.

Dave’s professional journey has embodied that mantra of “embrace change”. Trained as a traditional, confrontational-style QS, he became interested in working differently back in the early 1990s while working on a Toyota project alongside Japanese contractor Shimizu. When he took the helm at the organisation that was to become Kier Highways, his team turned road maintenance contracting on its head with their proactive, professional and empathetic approach.

Fast-forward to 2017 and Dave was awarded the Collaborative Leader Award by the Institution for Collaborative Working, an achievement he followed up by establishing the Collaborative Learning Circle which brought like-minded highways sector suppliers together to share information and views, improve safety and create social value. He also received the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation’s Inspirational Leadership Award in 2018 and was awarded the Highways magazine’s first Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019, as he stepped down from Kier.

Now he sees change coming again – from another direction. “There’s a recognition among highways clients and organisations such as LCRIG (Local Council Roads Innovation Group) that they need to get a better understanding of what the tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers are doing,” comments Dave. “They are changing the way they deal with tier 1s in order to make access to the lower tiers easier.”

Change is needed by national and local highways authorities to help them tackle the challenge of reducing carbon emissions, says Dave: “We are going to have to do things differently. That means looking at standards, changing the way we procure, design and construct things.”

“All new and existing maintenance contracts will have to have carbon reduction plans built into them,” he continues. “Technologies like Thermal Road Repairs’ will fit into that.”

Alongside carbon, Dave identifies the highway maintenance industry’s ageing demographic as an issue that needs a different mindset. He believes that there is a huge untapped resource among the 25% of 16-to-24-year-olds who have been forgotten, the so-called NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

From its inception, the Collaborative Learning Circle worked with the OnSide Youth Zones through events and challenges to provide pathways and careers for underprivileged young people. “If you give young people a chance, the majority of them will rise to the challenge,” he says. “Everybody deserves a chance – the postcode where you are born should not be a barrier to opportunity.

Experience has shown that bringing people with a diversity of backgrounds and education into teams creates new dynamics – vital in a sector that is actively seeking to do things differently. It’s a win-win-win situation, says Dave, for the individual, the company, and society.

So, change is coming to the sector from multiple directions: new approaches from clients, new products and technologies, new workforces and new ways to manage people and benefit from their differences. There could not be a better time for Thermal Road Repairs to welcome Dave and his mindset to the table.

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