Build support for the use of an MDSS tool in order to overcome institutional barriers.

From the experience of Maine Department of Transportation.

September, 2007
United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

The Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) deployed by MaineDOT in the winter of 2006-2007 offered the DOT and the Scarborough crew a useful winter storm planning tool that supplemented other resources in some important ways. First, the MDSS added capabilities that they previously didn’t have from their other tools, including pavement temperature forecast trends, bridge and pavement frost forecasts, and a tool that could provide pavement treatment recommendations based on an analysis of multiple weather parameters. Second, the MDSS offered an integrated platform for the display and analysis of National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts in a user friendly GIS format. MaineDOT found their experience overall with the MDSS to be a beneficial one. However, an evaluation found that institutional issues hampered effective utilization of the tool. These institutional issues are presented below as a set of lessons learned.
  • Be aware that it will take time for management and maintenance crews to adopt and accept an MDSS into their standard operations. The deployment of an MDSS necessitates organizational change, as managers and maintenance crews have to incorporate a new decision-making tool into their operations. Organizational change, however, tends to be slow and requires the support of strong leadership willing to champion the MDSS. At every level of the DOT in Maine, there was strong support for an MDSS; however, the Scarborough crew had no advance preparation or training, and the MDSS tool was deployed just as the winter season was getting underway. This meant that all the stakeholders in the process were learning together as the storms were upon them.
  • Provide training to maintenance crews before MDSS introduction, in addition to ongoing support once the tool is being used. In order to achieve the full benefits of an MDSS, the users need to fully understand how it works, how to interpret the information it offers, and how best to apply it in support of decision making. This type of training needs to occur before the tool is even introduced. As described above, there was no initial training of the Scarborough crew since the project was initiated just as the winter season began.

    Once an MDSS is adopted, the MDSS vendor can offer active support to the maintenance crew that is using the tool to explain its capabilities, answer questions that arise, and suggest effective ways to take best advantage of its capabilities. The more active this relationship between the vendor and the state DOT users, the more effective the MDSS will be in supporting the DOT’s maintenance operations. In Maine, the MDSS vendor worked closely with the DOT, offering MaineDOT the services of their meteorological staff and encouraging the Scarborough crew to call before every storm event to obtain further guidance and interpretation of the forecasts being provided.
  • Offer the MDSS tool initially to one or more of the state's more progressive crews. An MDSS is a very different and more complex technology compared with many of the systems used throughout Maine and other states. Maintenance personnel who are uncomfortable with computers and related technologies may be resistant to work with an MDSS initially. MaineDOT selected the Scarborough crew for an evaluation project based in part on their enthusiasm and willingness to work with the MDSS throughout the winter season. If more progressive crews adopt MDSS initially, they can serve as an example to other crews, and can also provide training to other crews.
The MDSS deployed by MaineDOT raised awareness throughout the state of the value and potential of a tool that could supplement their existing weather forecasting and management tools. However, to derive full benefits from the tool, agencies need to address key institutional issues. DOTs need to build support for the tool by exerting strong leadership in support of the tool and by providing training to maintenance crews prior to the introduction to MDSS (as well as ongoing support while the MDSS is being used). DOTs should expect that it will take time for their management and crews to adopt and accept an MDSS into their standard operations. By addressing potential institutional barriers at the outset, DOTs will enable their maintenance crews to more effectively use an MDSS, and through improved maintenance decision-making, DOTs can realize the benefits of increased safety, mobility and productivity.

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A Case Study of the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) in Maine

Author: Chris Cluett (Battelle) and Jeffery Jenq (Battelle)

Published By: United States Department of Transportation ITS Joint Program Office, HOIT 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE Washington, DC 20590

Source Date: September, 2007

EDL Number: 14387

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/3972

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Lesson Contacts

Lesson Contact(s):

Chris Cluett
(206) 528-3333

Agency Contact(s):

Brian Burne
Maine Department of Transportation
207- 624-3571

Lesson Analyst:

Margaret Petrella
RITA/Volpe National Transportation Systems Center


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Lesson ID: 2007-00405