The planning, implementation, and maintenance of transportation asset management (TAM) systems requires a significant investment of time, labor, and money to acquire or develop computer software, train staff, collect and manage data, and adapt management procedures to the philosophy and practices of asset management. Replacing disparate, outdated information management systems, spreadsheets, and data bases with more robust analytical tools may make sense to agency engineering and information technology professionals, but developing the business case that doing so will pay off is always challenging. Once a decision has been made to adopt a TAM system, implementation—necessary to realize a return on investment—can be challenging as well.
As is generally the case for the transportation assets themselves (pavements and bridges, for example) initial costs are monetary expenditures and concentrated in the near term, while returns will accrue over years of system use and may include conjectural or non-monetary benefits such as avoided asset-repair expenditures or asset-user time savings. In addition, the particular characteristics of agencies (for example, their sizes, reliance on in-house versus out-sourced professional services, inventories of assets under management, transportation-system geography and user population, and the like) as well as their level of experience with TAM systems will certainly influence the returns realized on their investments in those systems. In the more than two decades since practical TAM systems began to be available, an extensive literature has been developed presenting the theoretical benefits of their adoption—measured primarily in terms of reduced life-cycle costs of asset ownership—but few if any analyses have been undertaken to assess the actual return on investment (ROI) realized by agencies that have adopted and used TAM systems.
The objectives of this research were to (1) assess the experience of selected agencies that have adopted TAM systems, in terms of the investments made and returns realized; and (2) develop guidance for estimating the ROI for adopting or expanding TAM systems in an agency. The research team examined the experience of several agencies to develop consistent measures of investment and return, as reported by the agencies themselves. Based on these agencies' and others' experience, the researchers described a methodology that an agency may use to assess their own experience and to plan their investments in TAM system development.
The final report was published as NCHRP Report 866; the document may be downloaded by clicking here. A spreadsheet, also available for download via that link, was developed that agencies may use as a template for evaluate the return-on-investment of their own TAM systems.