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Highways maintenance operatives help ensure that roads, pavements and motorway networks are well maintained.

Average salaries are in the region of £16,000.00 to £25,000.00. Salaries will vary depending on location / employer

Career Profile

Highways maintenance operatives (also known as road workers) ensure that roads, pavements and motorway networks and other surfaces are well maintained.

What they do

They build brand-new roads and widening, repairing and resurfacing existing networks, often on behalf of the government.

They install a variety of specialist surface treatments to improve safety and provide decorative finishes. Large mobile spray tankers spray bitumen emulsion onto existing road surfaces. This is followed by a chipping machine which covers the coated surface with chippings.

Working in construction as a highways maintenance operative involves:

  • Operating, maintaining and transporting construction equipment
  • Removing unsafe obstacles such as rocks and fixing guardrails
  • Laying drainage, curbs and pavements
  • Working on street lighting
  • Installing safety fencing
  • Warning and directing traffic during repair operations
  • Operating, maintaining and transporting construction equipment and supplies

There is also a need for operatives to maintain road networks in winter, which requires major resources and therefore requires careful decision making. This might therefore mean that you are doing very different tasks depending on the time of year. On major schemes, some of these activities may be carried out by private or specialist contractors where contracts are outsourced.

As with many other construction jobs, highways maintenance involves a large amount of outdoor physical work. You would use a wide range of tools and would need a good knowledge of health and safety regulations.

Typical tasks include:

  • Warning motorists of obstacles and/or repair work ahead and setting out signs to divert traffic
  • Driving machinery to sweep debris from surfaces and structures
  • Measuring and marking out the locations of features 
  • Spreading sand, asphalt, gravel and clay to build and maintain surfaces
  • Cleaning and repairing drainage systems, bridges, tunnels and other structures
  • Installing and repairing guardrails, road lighting and other features
  • Performing roadside landscaping work including clearing weeds and trimming trees
  • Painting traffic control lines
  • Applying oil to road surfaces
  • Inspecting equipment and materials to identify resolve defects
  • Testing and repairing equipment and machinery 

Hours & Salary:

Highway maintenance operatives work around 37 hours a week, with the work mainly taking place outdoors and in all weather conditions. 

  • Newly trained highways maintenance operatives can earn in the region of £16,000 - £20,000
  • Trained with experience highways maintenance operatives can earn in the region of £20,000 - £30,000
  • Senior highways maintenance operatives can earn in the region of £30,000 - £40,000

Your construction salary will typically range depending on location and overtime. Self-employed highways maintenance operatives set their own pay rates.


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Qualifications & Training

There are no set qualifications that highways maintenance operatives need to have studied at school to begin a career in construction, although it is beneficial to have GCSE/Standard grades at A*-C in maths and English as this can help with the calculations, measurements and theory needed. 

Construction apprenticeships in highways maintenance is the most common entry route to this occupation and provides a formal two-year training programme to agreed national standards. You also need to develop competency with handling heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

If you have a minimum of five years’ experience and do not need any further training or construction qualifications, you may wish to take the Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA).

This combines the key criteria of the NVQ into one practical assessment, together with work-based evidence and employer endorsement, which must be completed within a specified time. Alternatively you may wish to consider On-Site Assessment and Training (OSAT).

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Want to find out more?

Try our Matching Service for work experience opportunities in your local area, with new opportunities being added on a regular basis. 


Looking for a vacancy? 

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The number of jobs vacancies related to your preferred job role may vary daily, as these are external websites. Check regularly to see new opportunities as they are posted.


Career trends and forecasts

1090 additional staff needed

The UK construction industry will need an additional 1090 workers in civil engineering operatives and related occupations (which includes highways maintenance operatives) to meet demand every year from 2017 - 2021, according to the latest Construction Skills Network research (LMI). The majority of the demand for these construction jobs in the UK will be in North West England and Scotland.

Progression Opportunities

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