Roads & Paving
Managing resource roads
By Glen Legere
Resource roads are long-term investments
By Glen Legere
August 11, 2015 – Resource road networks provide vital year-round access to forestry operations across Canada, in addition to general public access for remote communities and recreational activities. They also provide access for silviculture, land management and fire suppression crews.
Maintaining these roads in a cost-effective manner has always been a huge challenge for both the public and private sectors. The level of maintenance provided varies for each road and is heavily dependent on factors such as traffic volume, road surfacing quality and climate.
There are a variety of factors that play a role in how well a resource road can stand up to common distresses, such as dust, corrugation, raveling, potholes and ruts. These factors include the roads being built with whatever native resources are available; quality of drainage in an area; material specifications not being well understood or implemented; and designs being based off of past experiences.
The best way to manage resource roads and their distresses is to look at the roads as long-term investments, optimizing transportation and maintenance costs through the use of life-cycle costing analysis (LCCA) principals.
When implemented properly, LCCA effectively combines and quantifies the costs and benefits that should occur over a specified period of time. By using “discounting,” it is possible to evaluate the tradeoffs between initial rehabilitation costs and future maintenance costs, including all anticipated costs and benefits over the life of a road network. This will help a resource road manager find the most cost-effective solutions.
Maintenance costs are only one of the variables that need to be added into the equation when applying LCCA principles to a resource road. Another big factor is transportation costs.
Factors like cycles times and speed, safety and user costs should all play a role in a road network’s life-cycle costing analysis. For example, drivers hauling harvested logs to sawmills can only tolerate a specified range of roughness levels on the resource roads they travel on before their speeds are impacted. The worse the road conditions, the lower the speed they can typically travel. And when speeds are impacted, delivery times to sawmills are impacted, which impacts how much wood the mills purchase and process, and so on. This is why investing in preventative maintenance or rehabilitation of a road – which increases maintenance costs – can end up saving a company in the end by lowering transportation costs.
There are a variety of tools that have been developed for helping plan, monitor and manage resource road maintenance.
For automated measuring of road conditions, FPInnovations is currently looking into a variety of smartphone road roughness apps that have already been developed externally and are available in the market that could be used for collecting data to use for research purposes.
On the monitoring side, FPInnnovations’ FPDat Grader can be used to collect data on grader productivity and monitor what the grader is doing to help determine road maintenance costs. That information is then sent back to the FPTrak web-based platform, where we look at maintenance costs, machine utilization and what areas of the road network have been graded, how often and when. FPDat also provides in-cab navigation features for the operator. Soon, we will be rolling out a feature for dispatching the grader. The operator will receive map-based information on which sections of a road require maintenance.
Remember to pay close attention to the factors that impact road performance, such as the thickness of a material being used, the quality of the top 100-mm wearing coarse layer, proper drainage and optimizing grading frequency, for example.
By using life-cycle costing analysis and incorporating transportation costs, annual maintenance costs, and present and future rehabilitation costs to strategic decisions, you will be able to ensure a smoother financial ride for your resource road networks now, and in the future.
Glen Legere is the research leader of the resource roads group for FPInnovations. He can be reached at Glen.Legere@fpinnovations.ca.