National Academies Press: OpenBook

Alternative Delivery Methods for Winter Maintenance Operations (2014)

Chapter: Decision-Making Framework

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Suggested Citation:"Decision-Making Framework." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Alternative Delivery Methods for Winter Maintenance Operations. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22345.
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Suggested Citation:"Decision-Making Framework." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Alternative Delivery Methods for Winter Maintenance Operations. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22345.
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Suggested Citation:"Decision-Making Framework." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Alternative Delivery Methods for Winter Maintenance Operations. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22345.
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Suggested Citation:"Decision-Making Framework." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Alternative Delivery Methods for Winter Maintenance Operations. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22345.
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2referred to as state forces, in-house forces, depart- mental forces, and force-account labor). Alternatives to this delivery method would therefore comprise es- sentially different forms of outsourcing. Outsourcing employs either contracting with public- or private- sector entities, or collaborating through intergovern- mental agreements or other arrangements, to perform needed work. There is an apparent increase in the use of recent innovations in outsourcing mechanisms for highway maintenance and operations as shown by the increased consideration of performance-based contracting and use of comprehensive long-term contracts. Therefore, although this study focused on alternative methods of delivering winter services for snow and ice control, the potential methods to deliver a highway maintenance and operations pro- gram needed to be considered, for the following reasons: • Decisions on ways to provide snow and ice control are not independent of wider agency considerations. An agency’s snow and ice control unit is one part of its maintenance and operations organization. Delivering winter services would be expected to be compatible with an agency’s overall approach to provid- ing comprehensive highway maintenance and operations functions. Thus, understand- ing an agency’s approaches for its delivery of highway maintenance and operations will help frame the options, motivations, incen- tives, and constraints associated with the dif- ferent approaches available for delivery of winter services. • To build a decision framework, it is necessary to understand the rationale of the process and its elements (i.e., analysis or decision factors and criteria). Much of the literature explaining highway maintenance and oper- ations delivery options and decisions deals with the broader maintenance and operations program as seen from the maintenance-unit and agency levels, rather than for snow and ice control alone. Therefore, understanding the factors and criteria influencing decisions on delivering highway maintenance and op- erations overall is a necessary step in deal- ing with the methods of delivering winter services specifically. Also, the factors affecting decisions on winter services delivery may derive from policy and political determinations, as well as from technical, contrac- tual, and managerial considerations. CURRENT PRACTICES IN DELIVERING WINTER MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS SERVICES The research categorized the current practices for delivering winter maintenance and operations services in the United States in four groups: • One group relies almost completely on agency employees, using other methods (such as rental agreements or short-term contracts) only in extraordinary circumstances (e.g., severe storms, or to haul away excess snow that has been plowed to the side of the road). • Another group relies primarily on agency per- sonnel (say, 90% of the total effort) and out- sourcing a small amount on a recurring basis (e.g., contacts with selected local governments to provide snow and ice control on state routes within their jurisdiction). • A third group employs state forces and con- tractors for winter services, with contractors handling the majority of the effort. • A fourth group employs a comprehensive con- tract mechanism for winter maintenance op- erations such as an asset management contract or public-private partnership. Numerous factors were found to influence the agency’s selection of delivery methods for winter services; examples are listed in Table 1. While there is general agreement among highway agencies on the relevance of these factors, agencies view their collective impact differently. This study found that even neighboring jurisdictions in the United States can have significantly different approaches to pro- viding winter services. Moreover, the current find- ings are consistent with those of earlier research studies indicating that the major drivers of change in highway-service delivery in the United States have been related to policy/political factors and agency resource constraints. DECISION-MAKING FRAMEWORK This study dealt with the organizational or con- tractual approach to providing winter services, and not with the technology and techniques of snow and ice control materials or applications. Thus issues

3relevant to the “method of delivering winter mainte- nance operations” include: • Who provides winter services? • Who directs and manages this effort? • Who oversees and enforces the quality of this effort? • What are the respective organizational re- sponsibilities of the parties involved and the relationships among them? As noted earlier, there is a wide range of con- tracting mechanisms, extending from simple, short- term agreements for renting equipment with a driver, to large, complex, long-term public-private partner- ships. Moreover, the decision-making framework for winter services needs to recognize that winter maintenance operations are but one part of an agen- cy’s overall approach to delivering a comprehensive highway maintenance and operations program to the public. Other organizational units within the agency, as well as external stakeholders, may need to partici- pate in the decision process, particularly where com- prehensive, longer-term contracting mechanisms are involved, or where activities critical to public safety and mobility are involved. The proposed decision framework has therefore been designed with a rec- ommended structure and coverage of topics, but it is not prescriptive in its content. It allows flexibility and adaptability to accommodate the varying practices now existing among U.S. state highway agencies, and the factors that mandate or constrain options in delivering highway maintenance and operations. Outline of Decision Framework The proposed decision framework is illustrated in Figure 1. It comprises three stages needed to eval- uate alternative methods of delivering winter ser- vices and to provide the rationale for the selection of a specific delivery method. These stages are: • Stage I: Identify preconditions affecting method selection; • Stage II: Analyze and select candidate meth- ods to deliver winter maintenance; and • Stage III: Anticipate steps to effective imple- mentation an operational readiness. Identify Preconditions Affecting Method Selection—The objective of this stage is to identify the factors that constrain the consideration of alter- native delivery methods toward particular options. These factors include two broad groups: (1) require- ments (mandates) or commitments to consider par- ticular approaches (referred to in Figure 1 as “Game Changers”) and (2) other considerations and con- straints that influence the selection of methods. This stage will yield an understanding of the motivation for updating methods of winter services delivery, and the key factors that will influence that decision. Table 1 lists some of the factors that influence decisions on Table 1 Example factors influencing selection/decision. A. Availability of enabling legislation (i.e., allowing certain delivery mechanisms, but not necessarily requiring their use) B. Feeling that agency forces are already able to meet winter levels of service technologically and cost-effectively C. Ready availability of options among qualified public or private winter service providers D. Capability of agency to manage new methods of delivering winter maintenance and operations E. Cost of transitioning agency to a new method of winter maintenance and operations delivery F. Competitiveness of local construction industry (i.e., availability of sufficient number of qualified bidders) G. Agency resource constraints: dollars, work force, equipment H. Aging employee workforce I. Desire to balance the agency workforce seasonally (winter–summer) J. Desire to reduce financial burden of wages and overhead K. Employee union-related considerations (if applicable) L. Risks inherent in fulfilling winter maintenance and operations services satisfactorily (financial? performance? other risks?)

4methods to deliver winter maintenance, and Figure 2 shows an example of how the information is pro- cessed to identify potential options for winter-service delivery that merit further consideration. Analyze and Select Candidate Methods to Deliver Winter Services—This stage is unique to a particular agency, the nature of the preconditions, and the deliv- ery options that are considered. It will comprise sev- eral analyses and individual decision steps, including: • Determining how the preconditions translate into potentially new options for winter-service delivery; • Evaluating these new options in several ways, including the capability of the agency to under- take them and what additional capabilities may need to be developed; • Analyzing the options in terms of their sus- tainability impacts; and • Making a preliminary recommendation of the most viable candidates for further consideration. Anticipate Steps to Effective Implementation and Operational Readiness—This stage will screen the identified options for additional preparations that will ensure effective implementation and operational readiness for the targeted winter season. Some op- tions may entail little or no change in fundamental agency practice (e.g., an extension or enhancement of current delivery methods, with which agency per- sonnel are well familiar). Other options, however, may require significant effort to address issues such as (1) new delivery methods that have not been used previously by the agency; (2) contract terms that will modify critical elements such as the type of specifications, method of cost reimbursement, and allocation of risk; and (3) particular methods of con- tracting, such as total asset maintenance contracts or privatization. Preparations may include several po- tential initiatives, each of which can be substantial: new training programs, outreach to the construction industry, redrafting of contract specifications and procurement procedures, proposal of enabling leg- islation, review of information technology and field Figure 1 Overview of decision-making framework. Selection of the candidate method should be reassessed if the agency feels that implementation may not be feasible for whatever reason. New options should try to address the particular impediments or issues that have been identified. Requirements posed by Game Changers must still be adhered to. STAGE 1—IDENTIFY PRECONDITIONS STAGE 2—ANALYZE & SELECT CANDIDATE METHODS GAME CHANGERS Two types historically in U.S.: • Policy or political mandate • Critical constraint on agency’s ability to perform winter M&O satisfactorily Other Game Changers possible in future. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS AND CONSTRAINTS Other key factors that influence or need to be considered in method selection: e.g., • Need for enabling legislation • Availability of resources and capabilities • Competitiveness of contracting industry • Organizational and institutional issues • Risks in performing winter M&O • Other factors (refer to Figure 2) This stage is at the heart of the decision process. It identifies candidate methods for further assessment in Stage 3. It brings together all preconditions from Stage 1, plus knowledge, experience, agency decision criteria, and other factors to be considered, including guidance from this and other research. The agency should perform analyses in two areas: • Delivery mechanism, to identify the most promising way to provide winter service. • Sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line, to identify preferred solutions promoting economic, environmental, and social advancement. This decision process is iterative. If Stage 3 finds impediments in steps anticipated for implementation, overcome the impediments or reassess the selection and advance a new candidate. STAGE 3—ANTICIPATE STEPS IN IMPLEMENTATION Proceed to IMPLEMENTATION. Can these example steps be accomplished realistically and feasibly? • Review prior experience by others in implementing new delivery methods • Advocate needed legislation • Discuss new method with employees, contractors, and other stakeholders • Develop mechanics of new method (e.g., contracts, procurement procedures, performance measures) • Conduct research on major innovations • Consider a pilot program as part of a staged implementation • Train employees and contractors • Develop needed support activities: e.g., field data collection, purchase of vehicles and equipment, preparation of data on winter operations, development of a web site

5framework), including perceived interactions among key factors. • The importance of ongoing communications with the contracting industry and other key stakeholders regarding planned new methods of delivery and their implications for key parties. • Comprehensive and objective considerations of agency and industry capacity and capability to undertake the desired options (some which may include innovative approaches to winter maintenance operations). Therefore, it is important that agency personnel involved in implementing the proposed decision- making framework would have adequate familiarity with these elements. In this manner, implementation of the framework will yield a method for delivering winter maintenance and operations that is feasible and meets the agency expectations in terms of ser- vice quality and environmental, economic, and social sustainability. sensor technology, and formulation of pilot projects. An agency should consider such implications, and proceed with the necessary tasks if they can be ac- complished realistically and cost-effectively. Other- wise, other options for delivery methods should be considered. Table 2 lists examples of the items that may be considered in the evaluation process, including those pertaining to the environmental, economic, and social impacts of candidate delivery methods. Implementation Issues Implementation of this decision-making frame- work would require a good understanding of relevant elements such as the following: • The factors that influence an agency’s decisions on winter-service delivery methods (i.e., the “preconditions” addressed in Stage 1 of the Figure 2 Example processing of information in Stage 1. Game Changers Constrain alternative delivery methods toward particular options Current U.S. examples: • Policy or political mandate • Critical constraint on agency’s ability to perform winter services satisfactorily Other Game Changers possible in future. Other Considerations and Constraints Describe additional influences on selection of delivery method, or on related recommendations Examples from this study are listed in Table 1 Other examples also possible: e.g., • Forecasted changes in traffic volume & network routing • Projected changes in characteristics of traffic demand (age, demographics, etc.) • Addition or relocation of significant trip ODs (e.g., residential, commercial, historical, cultural, educational) Stage 1 Analysis of Game Changers What is required by Game Changers? What options in delivery methods are allowed? What constraints or restrictions are imposed by Game Changers? • What delivery methods are possible? • What existing methods need change? Can restrictions be overcome/mitigated? What is existing legislative framework? Is enabling legislation needed? What is existing policy/ LOS framework? Are revisions/updates needed? What are boundaries of these effects? • Geographical • Highway classification Summarize the most significant changes to way of doing business. • Time frames • Other Stage 1 Analysis of Other Considerations and Constraints How will current Conditions and Constraints be affected by Game Changers? Do current forecasts (if any) portend significant, long-term changes in the agency’s winter service strategy? • If so, how will they interact with the Game Changers? • What effect will they have on allowable options for winter service delivery? For Potentially Significant, Long-Term Changes: Agency should consider meetings/discussions with interested groups: e.g., • Employees/union • Local governments • Individual contractors • Construction industry associations • Surety firms • Government agencies and stakeholders in relevant topic areas — Environment — Safety — Auto, Trucking, Public Transportation — Cyclist, Pedestrian — Law Enforcement Bottom line: What options for winter-service delivery should be assessed in Stage 2?

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TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Research Results Digest 387: Alternative Delivery Methods for Winter Maintenance Operations develops a decision-making framework to guide public road agencies’ delivery of winter maintenance operations.

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