Efficient Winter Road Maintenance : A Study of Technical and Contractual Issues

Abstract: Since ancient times, roads have tied people and cultures together. Roads have been createdwith the aim of facilitating trade and cultural exchange among different regions in the world. After the technologic development in vehicle industry and dramatically increase of motoring in the world during the past century road communication has gained a great importance for transporting people and goods. Thus, good safety and accessibility on roads all year round is now a vital necessity for a healthy economy in all modern societies. In order to keep roads safe, available for use with high transport quality they need to be maintained in real time. One of the most difficult tasks in this context is to keep the roads in good condition and accessible even during winter. The main objective of this doctoral thesis is to attempt to specify the most efficient ways of executing winter road maintenance.  The preliminary issue in this context is whether it is the use of current assistive tools, that is, technical aspects that should be optimized and developed or whether it is the way in which winter maintenance services are procured and outsourced, that is, contractual aspects that should be improved which could give the optimal impact for both clients and contractors and make winter road maintenance more effective, or both issues. In order to define the outline of the research project a comprehensive state of the art survey was initiated with the intention of collecting and gaining insights into the earlier studies in the research area. Three basic areas associated with the performance of winter road maintenance were considered to be most relevant for review due to the anchorage between the areas. The selected areas were climatological, technical and contractual aspects. The literature review was followed by an electronic questionnaire survey. The results of the study in this stage showed that current technical methods almost functioned in a reasonable manner but there was an imprecise dissatisfaction with the current maintenance contract. The second stage of the research consisted of a number of additional empirical investigations in order to identify contractual problematic issues behind the current winter road maintenance in Sweden. Generally, those factors that are rarely considered as potential underlying causes to costly performance of winter road maintenance in Sweden were studied in this research project for example improper use of related technical assistive tools, procurement of improper bundled winter services and inappropriate contract structure. This thesis consists of six papers, five of which are related to each other, and the first one is completely independent but within research area. Findings in the thesis contributes to extend understanding about; how designing appropriate contracts can improve winter road maintenance, how proper use of assistive tools can reduce unnecessary winter road maintenance costs and minimize road traffic disruptions and delays, how a partnering structure in contracts can create confidence and trust between clients and contractors that in turn leads to minimizing or eliminating conflicts and disputes between parties involved, how choice of appropriate procurement methods through proper bundling of winter road services can contribute to shorten the procurement process and create incentives for contractors, and how selection of proper payment mechanisms can contribute to higher service quality of performed winter road measures. Additionally, an adequate knowledge and understanding of climate, proper knowledge of road weather and its impact on winter road traffic is essential for contribution of better planning of how to maintain the road network during winter. Since understanding about winter issues and its effect on winter road traffic is far from complete and winter road maintenance in the cold regions is a similar challenge, broad and complex, the results of this research may even contribute to improving winter maintenance problems in the countries with severe winters like Sweden.

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