FEHRL was formed in 1989 in the United Kingdom by the Directors of road research institutes of thirteen countries. Since then its primary objective has been to provide opportunities for identifying research priorities and to create a positive climate for cooperation between its institutes. Over 20 years the memberships and associates has grown to thirty-one countries, including members throughout the EU states, EFTA countries, Eastern and Central European countries, but also the USA, South Africa and Israel. In 2000, FEHRL became an international association, with its registered office in Brussels.

FEHRL has developed an on-going Strategic Road Research Programme (SERRP) that is defined by a series of detailed implementation plans. SERRP I was published in 1993-4 to ensure that many of FEHRL's research topics were pursued with the assistance of the EU Framework Programme of RTD and the COST Programme. Following early successes, FEHRL then established a network of Research Coordinators in the member Institutes, in order to provide effective and expert communication routes within the organisation. This was followed by the development and adoption of a 5-year Development Plan for FEHRL , and preparation of SERRP II in consultation with CEDR (Conference of European Directors of Roads) - one of FEHRL's main client bodies - and the Industry.

This long term approach was also adopted in the elaboration of the ongoing SERRP III setting out the research needs for the years 2002-2006. 
SERRP IV was published as the programme for the period 2006-2011 and SERRP V has now been published for the years 2011-2016.