Importance of Tracking Work Activities and Treatment Costs
This section describes the factors that should be considered for keeping a management system current.
Why It Is Important to Track Work Activities and Treatment Costs
Asset management systems, such as pavement and bridge management tools, rely on the availability of complete, up-to-date inventory information to serve as the basis for all system recommendations. At a minimum, the most recent work activity and completion date are necessary for establishing an asset’s age or the length of time since work was last performed. These factors are key to setting a maintenance service interval or predicting the need for future work. Treatment cost information is used to estimate the cost of recommended work activities, so realistic numbers are important for planning and budgeting.
The level of detail required to track work histories is largely dependent on the sophistication and maturity of the asset management program. It is important to have access to information indicating when the asset was installed or constructed, or when the most recent major work activities were performed. Additional information about maintenance activities performed to preserve or improve the asset is beneficial if it can be provided efficiently and incorporated into decisions about managing an asset over its life cycle.
An agency should incorporate completed work activities into a management system at least annually, at the end of each construction season. At a minimum, the asset management database should be updated to reflect any changes to the asset properties, such as a change from a concrete to an asphalt pavement, and the date when the change was made.
Including the cost of maintenance and rehabilitation activities in a computerized maintenance system provides a historical record of how treatment costs have changed over time. The information from the management system, as well as bid documents, can be used to establish unit costs for each type of work activity possibly recommended by the system. Unit prices for each work activity included in the system are needed.
For many transportation projects, improving the condition of the asset is only one part of the total cost of a project. There are many other costs to incorporate into the unit price when estimating the cost of a treatment recommendation, including the cost of pavement markings, guardrails and signs on a pavement project. If these costs are ignored, the cost of a project will be underestimated, and an agency may program more work than can be constructed over a given timeframe. Some agencies inflate treatment costs by a factor of 30 to 40 percent to ensure the costs associated with project design and the improvement of ancillary assets are considered in the unit cost for a given treatment. Using this approach, $0.30 to $0.40 is added to every dollar associated with the cost of the work itself. The inflated cost (e.g., $1.40) is stored in the management system as the unit cost for estimating treatment costs.
Different unit costs may also be established to reflect different costs in urban and rural areas, or in different geographic regions of a state. These differences improve the accuracy of asset budgeting activities by reflecting the realities agencies face due to work activities in highly congested areas, differences in the availability of contractors and the scarcity of materials in certain areas.
In addition to being used to estimate budget needs, treatment cost information serves many other purposes. For instance, the cost of a proposed project and its expected life can be used to determine a Return on Investment to help ensure that the most cost-effective projects are being selected. The information can also be used to compare the effectiveness of one treatment over another, or one life cycle strategy over another. Cost information has also been used to demonstrate the benefits to using proactive maintenance across a transportation network rather than reactive maintenance.
Montana, Tennessee, and Utah DOTs
Several state DOTs are employing the use of technology to track maintenance work activities as noted below.
When new assets are installed as part of a construction project for the Montana DOT, Construction personnel are required to provide Maintenance with the information needed for updating the asset inventory. Maintenance verifies the information provided by Construction before inputting it into the system.
The Tennessee DOT uses an automated data collection van to establish its asset inventory for approximately 20 assets. The inventory is entered into a maintenance management system at a summary level for each county and a “ghosting” technique is used to identify differences in the inventory from one year to the next year.
The Utah DOT extracts its asset inventory every two to three years from the LiDAR collected as part of the agency’s annual pavement condition surveys; however, the DOT is moving towards a continuous inventory updating process that would be the responsibility of Maintenance supervisors.