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What is risk based asset management?

26 March 2015

By Simon Topp

The Highways sector in the UK has seen a great adoption of asset management practices in the last 5 years through programmes such as Financial Valuation under the CIPFA guidelines and the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP). These programmes have helped move our Local Authorities on into considering longer term strategies for the maintenance of their highways asset.

Risk based asset management is the particular flavour that has been adopted both by other highways authorities in the US, and also largely used in other infrastructure sectors such as utilities.

Risk based asset management doesn’t solely consider the current and future condition when determining best value for an asset across its whole life. The level of service required from an asset is considered, along with its risk and likeliness of failure and a consequence or severity if it were to fail.

Recent legislation in the US called the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) was passed to secure federal funding for roads over the next 5 years. Under this a provision has been made that each State Roads Authority must possess a FHWA approved Risk Based Asset Management Plan or risk losing budget for future years.

What this means is that each State Roads Agency must not only consider all of its highway assets and a method of measuring future performance, but also consider the likeliness of failure and the risks this may pose as a way of prioritising maintenance programmes.

Within the Utilities sector risk has been used for a long time. When you consider utilities assets, quite often there are a series of assets within a process which determine whether that service is provided to the end user. A failure of any asset within that series may lead to a stop in service, even if it only plays a small part – for instance a pump within the water supply. Given this, risk is far easier to equate given the binary nature of the supply.

Cleary roads are far less binary than an asset process such as the supply of water – a deteriorated road does not necessarily mean a road service stops immediately. However, certain events can and do impact them – whether it be flooding, snow (and it’s after effects) or something as extreme as a bridge collapse. As the last few UK winters have shown, we are having to deal with more severe events and plan accordingly, and perhaps this is now the time for UK Road Authorities to start considering risk in their asset management planning.

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