The National Academies

NCHRP 08-136 [Anticipated]

Guidance on Using Performance-Based Management Approaches for Maintenance

  Project Data
Source: AASHTO Committee on Performance-Based Management
Funds: $500,000
Staff Responsibility: Christopher T. McKenney
Fiscal Year: 2021

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected in June 2021. The project statement will be available on this site. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

Ongoing investments in maintenance are key to preserving the highway system and keeping the traveling public moving in a safe and reliable manner. However, it has been difficult for state departments of transportation (DOTs) to obtain adequate and consistent levels of funding to support maintenance needs.  In 2014, a domestic scan was conducted to identify Leading Management Practices in Determining Funding Levels for Maintenance and Preservation (Scan 14-01).  The scan identified three state DOTs that are using maintenance performance data to support the statewide allocation of funding for maintenance activities. Several additional state DOTs use maintenance performance data to allocate the funds provided for maintenance, but the degree to which performance data are used varies considerably. Using implementation funding provided under National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 20-44, a peer exchange was conducted to promote and disseminate the leading practices that were revealed during the 2014 domestic scan. A total of 45 individuals participated in the peer exchange, representing maintenance personnel from 27 state DOTs, private-sector industrial firms, and the Transportation Research Board (TRB). Although many of the maintenance practitioners collect maintenance performance data as part of a Maintenance Quality Assurance (MQA) program, the results are largely underutilized because agencies had little confidence in the data, an inadequate amount of data is being collected to make meaningful decisions, and/or early champions in an MQA program have retired and new employees do not understand its purpose. 

Because of the importance to maintenance in life-cycle planning and with the planned investment strategies included in a state DOT Transportation Asset Management Plan (TAMP) specifying planned expenditures in maintenance and preservation activities, it is critical that the disconnect in the use of performance-based management is addressed through the development of guidance on how those management approaches can be best applied to maintenance activities. This will help advance the use of performance-based decisions, as promoted by the AASHTO Committee on Performance-Based Management, and advance the objectives of the AASHTO Committee on Maintenance. To address the needs of both asset management and maintenance personnel, the guidance should address three items: (1) Data-related issues, including the types of performance measures to use (level-of-service [LOS] or pass/fail), the number of samples needed to confidently report levels of service at the district or shop levels, strategies for ensuring consistency on a statewide basis, and leading practices for using technology to maintenance inventory and condition information. (2) Business processes and procedures that support performance-based management, including data strategies to influence maintenance funding allocations, methods of estimating resources required to move from one LOS rating to another, approaches for linking maintenance work activities to performance measures, and ways to hold employees accountable for their performance. (3) Informational or educational needs, including strategies for estimating the benefits associated with a shift toward performance-based management for maintenance and building buy-in among practitioners. 

To satisfy those needs, the research will develop guidance in each of the areas listed to support the increased use of performance-based management strategies in maintenance departments.  Rather than produce a written guidance document, the results of the research will be presented within a web-based MQA portal that allows maintenance practitioners to navigate the issues associated with the use of performance-based management techniques for maintenance.  Following completion of the research, the team will establish the portal framework and populate high-priority areas.  Over time, additional features can be incorporated into the portal as funding allows.  Initially, the MQA portal, which is expected to be hosted by AASHTO, may include a document library, web-based training modules, MQA apps and tools, and a peer exchange forum.  In the future, the portal could be expanded to include a question-and-answer (Q&A) forum, tools to calculate the cost of moving from one level-of-service rating to another using agency data, or apps and tools developed by one DOT to be shared with others.  A final report will be developed to document the portal content, the results of the research efforts, and the primary sources used to generate the content. 

The objectives of this research are to develop guidance promoting the use of performance-based management strategies in maintenance and to present the resulting information in a format that is easily accessible to the maintenance community. Using a web-based portal, the guidance will be presented in a variety of formats, including peer comparisons, online tools to help agencies address issues that hinder their use of MQA programs, online resources produced during the research, and online training materials to further assist maintenance departments with implementing performance-based practices.

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