The High Cost of Cheap Data

Low quality data can result in high cost errors

Road condition assessment is the lowest cost stage of the entire road maintenance and rehabilitation cycle. This low cost however hides the critical importance of this stage. Roads are dynamic assets where unaddressed surface problems will, over time, progress deeper into the pavement. The further they progress into the pavement, the more expensive they become to fix. For example cracking, if detected early, can be sealed at relatively low cost thus stopping water from penetrating into the pavement and weakening the base. If the road is ignored, the rehabilitation methods often require reconstruction of the base. Typically the total savings over the life of the road that can be achieved through this type of monitoring and maintenance is orders of magnitude more than the cost of data collection.

Consider alone the labor cost associated with poor repeatability of rutting, roughness and texture depth measures: with the countless hours spent working out if a road has actually dilapidated - or if it is just an artifact of the data quality. Add to that the incorrect designs often made when you base a design on false data. You will soon realize the true value of quality data.

The role of PMS (Pavement Management Systems) is changing. As the power and ability of computers increase, road asset management is increasingly overlapping with project level assessment. As a result, we now have the tools and the ability to plan better for the future. However if this increased capability of PMS systems is not matched with improved data quality, then the results produced by a PMS system will not match reality. A PMS plan is only as accurate as the input data.

The high cost of cheap data: lower cost data normally means that finer cracks in the road surface are not detected. For a road authority this means that you lose the opportunity to fix cracks when they are small and receptive to lower cost rehabilitation methods. When you consider the total pavement life, low quality cracking data can cost many millions of dollars in the long run.

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