A survey of State and local transportation agencies found that AVL applications for highway maintenance can have benefit-to-cost ratios ranging from 2.6:1 to 24:1 or higher.

January 2004
Nationwide; United States

Summary Information

Sponsored by the Kansas DOT, the University of Kansas conducted a study of the use of automated vehicle location (AVL) for highway maintenance activities, especially snow removal. The report indicted that few State DOTs and local agencies have used the technology to support highway maintenance activities, but those that have generally indicate the technology improves operations.

To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of AVL for highway maintenance, costs data, and qualitative and perceived benefits data were collected from State and local transportation agencies in the United States and Canada. Initially, all 50 State DOTs, Canadian provinces, and 6 municipal public works departments were contacted to evaluate their experience with AVL for highway maintenance. Researchers found that 15 agencies were actively using AVL to track highway maintenance vehicles, and eight of them were State DOTs. Questionnaires and follow-up emails and telephone calls were provided to these agencies to further explore the technologies being used, benefits and costs experienced, and obstacles encountered.

The benefit-cost analysis included four components:
  • Determination of life-cycle costs
  • Methodological approach to cost/benefit analysis
  • Quantification of risks
  • Assignment of dollar values to intangible benefits
Two risk perspectives were examined: very low risk translated into conservative assumptions and low risk translated into moderate (but somewhat conservative) assumptions. Costs remained constant across the scenarios.

Expected benefits were drawn from the experiences of those who implemented AVL to support maintenance activities. Researchers compared the benefits reported, such as improved fleet management, reduced paperwork, and reduced snow-related crashes, with the system costs (capital and O&M) to establish a range of benefit-to-cost ratios.

  • The assessment indicated that the application of AVL in highway maintenance has a benefit-to-cost ratio ranging from 2.6:1 using conservative assumptions, to 24:1 (or higher) using moderate assumptions.
  • Overall, the literature, the results of the survey, and the analysis conducted suggest that AVL can provide a significant benefit to highway maintenance operations.

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Benefit-Cost Assessment of Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) in Highway Maintenance

Author: Meyer, Eric, and I. Ahmed

Published By: Paper presented at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board

Source Date: January 2004


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Goal Areas


Typical Deployment Locations

Metropolitan Areas, Rural Areas, Statewide


road weather vehicle tracking, winter maintenance vehicle

Benefit ID: 2008-00536