2.3.2 Defining and Prioritizing Improvement in TAM Approaches


Defining and Prioritizing Improvement in TAM Approaches

Agencies managing different types of assets are faced with the decision of where to prioritize advancing formal asset management. Determining where to improve the organizations effort can depend on different factors, but should always align with the organizational context and priorities.

For transportation agencies, asset management typically begins with the high-visibility, high-value assets, such as pavements and bridges. However, operating the transportation system requires a supporting cast of assets, typically referred to as ancillary assets, that include lighting structures, roadway signs, ITS assets or even operations facilities and technology hardware components. Establishing the appropriate management approach, and future desired approach for each asset is an essential step in strategic planning for asset management, defining boundaries around the effort. Furthermore, for each type of asset, it is important to determine how broadly to define the inventory of assets, such as the decision to include only arterial roads initially or all roads in a network.

Defining Appropriate Management Approaches for Different Asset Categories

An appropriate approach to manage and monitor each asset governed by the TAM framework needs to be established. Depending on the nature of the asset and the level of risk involved, different approaches can be selected by an agency.

Structuring asset management also involves evaluating different management approach- es and defining the appropriate level of maturity. There are several approaches to managing highway assets, each with different data needs, and several ways to structure and implement asset management processes. These include:

  • Reactive-Based. Treatment is performed to fix a problem after it has occurred.
  • Interval-Based. The asset is treated based on a time or usage basis whether it needs it or not.
  • Condition-Based (Life Cycle Approach). Select intervention based on a forecasted condition exceedance interval.

Chapter 4 provides more details on these different approaches to managing assets.

Processes and approaches can range in their level of detail and complexity. This is what forms the foundation of some asset management maturity levels. Much like deciding on the scope of assets to manage, the level of advancement of the asset management processes an agency adopts should depend on the context and readiness of the agency, as well as the problem being addressed. Consideration should be given to the data, processes and tools available to support the asset management approaches and processes, as well as resource availability and capability. It is common for an agency to begin at a simple level and mature over time towards more complex asset management that integrates processes and decision-making.

Utah DOT

To accomplish the objective of allocating transportation funding toward the most valuable assets and those with the highest risk to system operation, UDOT developed a tiered system of asset management. Asset Management tiers range from one to three with tier one being the most extensive management plan for the highest value assets.

Tier 1. Performance-based management

  • Accurate and sophisticated data collection
  • Targets and measures set and tracked
  • Predictive modeling and risk analysis
  • Dedicated funding

Tier 2. Condition-based management

  • Accurate data collection
  • Condition targets
  • Risk assessment primarily based on asset failure

Tier 3. Reactive management

  • Risk assessment primarily based on asset failure
  • General condition analysis
  • Repair or replace when damaged

Source: Utah DOT. 2018. Utah TAMP. https://www.tamptemplate.org/tamp/053_utahdot/

Prioritizing TAM Improvements

Deciding on the appropriate management approach and level of asset management is a strategic decision that should consider several factors:

Organizational Strategic Goals

The decision of which assets to prioritize should be driven by the organization’s strategic goals. A desire to focus on one aspect of the transportation system over another in order to meet a larger objective can present a good reason for prioritizing some assets over others.

Asset Value

A common consideration for selecting assets to include is the financial value. Monetizing value provides a consistent way of comparing asset classes. In general, assets that are the most expensive to replace or cause the greatest financial concern for an organization fall into the highest priority. Strategic management of these assets means strategic investments over the life cycle of the asset, which will prevent or delay the need for significant additional investment, help avoid premature failure, and allow time to plan for appropriate replacement.

Data Availability

TAM as a concept is heavily dependent on data. Deciding on which assets to focus on based on existing data collection and management practices and will often support achievement of “quick wins.” Data availability does not always indicate strategic priority or risk exposure of the asset, but can still be an important factor in selecting assets to include the cost of collecting and analyzing data to form the basis for more advanced TAM decision making can in some instances be significant, and require new skills and training.

It should be recognized that data does not need to be comprehensive and complete as a basis for TAM decision making. An accepted approach is to group assets into classes (age, type, function) and then inspect a sample set. This can provide important insights to guide long-term planning at minimal initial expense/time. It can also highlight any issues with particular types of assets and allow for more detailed inspections to be undertaken if required. A gap analysis to define future data requirements and determine how to collect this data should be considered for long term TAM outcomes.

Risk of Failure

Often, it can be necessary to consider including assets if the probability and consequence of failure is significant. Assets with a high risk of failure can be a high priority due to the potential losses to the agency and its stakeholders should they fail. Asset management can alleviate or prevent the impact of failure.

Asset Criticality and Network Reliability

Decisions to formally manage certain assets can be based on their importance to the service provided, such as operations, or the importance of the travel paths under consideration. Defining criticality is context specific, but is important, since user experience is based on the journey, not the specific assets. Considering criticality in selecting assets to include in TAM will ensure that the most important assets–those necessary to maintain network reliability–are managed first.

Stakeholder Influence

In general, the scope of TAM should be agreed to in coordination with leadership and influenced by stakeholders. Stakeholders can be any asset owners, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), cities, tolling authorities, P3 concessions, federal (mandated requirements), and others. The public can also be stakeholders who influence which assets to include, especially when high-profile incidents potentially attributed to the state of good repair occur.


Aurizon is Australia’s largest freight rail operator, transporting more than 500 million tons of coal to markets including Japan, China, South Korea, India, and Taiwan, in addition to over 800 million tons of freight through an extensive network throughout the country. Aurizon Network manages the largest heavy haul rail infrastructure network in the country. The network is economically regulated by the State through a process that sets investment levels and tariffs. Asset management practice is well-entrenched in the organization, with a focus on “optimizing the life of assets, keeping a tension between investment in maintenance and capital.” The scope of the Aurizon Network asset base, known as the Regulated Asset Base includes all assets used in the provision of the rail infrastructure service. Management is informed by external engineering standards and legislative and regulatory obligations including:

  • Prevention and intervention levels specified in an Asset Maintenance and Renewals Policy.
  • Commitments to the Central Queensland Coal Network.
  • A Safety Management System aimed to minimize safety risks.
  • Network Strategic Asset Plan models which are based on asset age, predicted condition and historical and forecasted usage.

Source: Aurizon. 2019. Network: Planning and Development.https://www.aurizon.com.au/what-we-deliver/network#planning---development