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Low-volume road grading maintenance management: New Zealand experience with a Canadian system


Like Canada, New Zealand leans heavily on a handful of primary industries. The health of those industries in turn depends on low volume roads (LVR). Over 45% of the national New Zealand road network carries fewer than 100 veh/day. About a third of the network is unsealed. Only about a tenth of the network is designated State Highway, controlled by the national authority, Transit New Zealand. The rest, in district road networks of up to 4700 km, is controlled by 74 District Councils. New Zealand has adopted a performance-based, contracted regime for road maintenance. Contractors make decisions on maintenance treatments, meeting specifications during and at the end of the contract. This has led to significant innovation in maintenance management practices. In New Zealand, a leading forestry company and a major road contractor both experimented with a system called Optigrade, developed by the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada originally to manage the grading maintenance of unsealed forest haul roads. The system comprises accelerometer and GPS hardware mounted on a haul truck routinely traveling the road, and software designed to assist managers making decisions on grading frequency. The system schedules grading only for those road segments that need it, based on road roughness measurements. To apply Optigrade to the management of public LVR networks laid out in grids rather than the dendritic road systems typical of forest operations required modifications to the hardware and the monitoring and analysis routines. Modifications to the system are described, together with the challenges and successes. A discussion of the implications for applying Optigrade to Canadian public LVR maintenance management practice is provided.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Douglas, R.A
Pidwerbesky, B
Mercier, S