03 – On the aim of my project

Hey crew! How are you doing?

Are you ready for a new post? Today I will explain you why my project is so important for Europe as well as for the rest of the world. I’ll be honest with you: this time the post will be a bit more boring than usual. So, get yourself a pillow before you start reading.
“Forewarned is forearmed.” cit.

I will start this post with some questions for you. I hope they will allow you a better understanding of the issues that I’ll be dealing with.
Have you ever remained stuck in a traffic jam? For example: while you are coming back from school or from work, or maybe when you were going to watch a football match at the stadium. Probably, you were just cursing the closest driver or all the cars around you because maybe you were missing your train or you were going to arrive late to the meeting you had with your boss.
Have you ever cursed the local administration while driving on a rough road? Probably you’re so used to drive in such terrible road conditions that you don’t really care anymore. Do you?

Have you ever thought about how much more fuel do you spend every time you get stuck in the traffic? Maybe some of you did, but how many realized that rough roads also produce more fuel consumption? So, what’s the impact of road pavement conditions on vehicles fuel consumption? It basically means a major usage of oil, an increase of oil price, an increase of costs, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, major impact on the environment, etc.

Due to the continued reliance on fuel oil derivatives, road transportation system has become a very important cause of CO2 emissions but it also remains one of the major contributors to the economic growth of most of the countries all over the world.

Studies about the recent world economic crisis (Rothengatter et al. 2011) showed how the traffic and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions consistently reduced due to a temporary collapse of the entire system. However this reduction was just temporary and the more the general economic situation improves the more the road traffic increases.
Recently, some studies showed that 1/4 of the total energy consumption in Europe are used for transports, with more than 80% consumed by road vehicles (Haider et al. 2011).
For this reason, reducing GHG emissions due to road transport is an important issue still to be solved. When you think of the emerging markets (e.g. China, India and Brazil among other countries) that have not expressed their entire productive potential yet, it is possible to have a brief idea about how large this problem can become.
Since the ‘90s, it has been seen that surface conditions of a road can have an impact up to 3% on fuel economy (Sandberg, 1990, Laganier & Lucas, 1990)(ASTM 1990). Recent studies have focused on United States situation but they almost confirmed this theory saying that roads in good conditions should help into saving up to 2% of entire consumed fuel (Zaabar & Chatti 2010).

Basically, it means that by maintaining roads it would be possible to save approximately 15 billion liters of fuel of the 757 billion liters consumed by the entire vehicle fleet around the USA every year.
Can you please convert these volumes in pounds (or euros)? (..no worries, take your time..)
Do you think it is a negligible amount of money?
I think it is not and I suppose you agree.
It is a large amount of fuel and lots of money that can be saved every year and that can be used for maintaining roads more often compared to what currently happens.
Using different words it means that - considering a typical fuel consumption of 2.13km/l for heavy-duty vehicles (National Academy of Sciences 2010) - 0.94 liters of fuel can be saved on average every 100km travelled. Two more kilometers can be travelled by each truck every 100km.
For all these reasons, an optimal maintenance of roads should be a tool to reduce fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, social costs and public spending. However highway maintenance strategies in the UK as well as in good part of the rest of the world lack a consideration of the costs due to an increment of vehicles fuel consumption (and GHG emissions) because of poor condition of road pavement.

In England the road network is the most valuable infrastructure asset. With more than 300,000 kilometers of roads its value – including highways and local roads - has been estimated at approximately £344 billion and just considering 2012/13 expenses, £4 billion have been approximately spent in total by the UK government for road maintenance. Nevertheless, public satisfaction with the condition of roads in the UK is at the lowest level since the survey assessing confidence began (House of Commons 2011).

Because of a lack of good information, resources and planning, road performances still varies locally. A tool able to support highway authorities in decision making about road maintenance strategies is needed. If road pavement condition data was analyzed, it could be possible to correctly define, evaluate, locate and prioritize damages and consequently maintenance.

A method to obtain a good overview of the environmental impact of highways at construction, maintenance and operation is to perform a LCA, Life Cycle Assessment (Beuving et al. 2004).
Some studies have been conducted in the past about LCA of road pavements especially in Europe and in the United States (Carlson 2011; Yu et al. 2013; Bryce 2014; Harvey et al. 2015). It was seen that applying LCA to comparable road pavement structures can bring different results. The latter are derived from considering different phases of the road lifespan together with specific procedures in their conclusions (Ventura & Jullien 2009).
Recently, specific LCA studies about roads took into account pavement design characteristics also (structure and roughness), but more research is needed to understand how such impacts should be indeed evaluated (Santero & Horvath 2009; Santero et al. 2011). Similar studies needs to be conducted in order to definitely evaluate the impact arising from road service life on the environment.
From another point of view, some studies recently suggested treating road maintenance strategies applying Geographic Information System (GIS) (NCHRP 2004). GIS database have the main advantage to locate data or in other words they have the possibility to assign a specific geographical position to data contained in a certain database. Similar systems can be extremely useful for the highway authorities helping them in maintenance decision-making process (Obaidat & Al-kheder 2006; Ibraheem 2012; Bryce 2014).
Compared to the current road maintenance strategies an integration of LCA and GIS can bring to a more efficient system. It is a challenge that must be faced.

For this project a Big Data approach will be initially used in order to face the problem and assess the correlation between road pavement conditions and truck fleet fuel consumption. Multivariate analysis will be performed to evaluate the degree to which changes in the variables included into the problem – especially for what concerns road pavement conditions data - can influence truck fleet fuel consumption.
Later, an ad-hoc experiment will be set up. More variables will be taken into account and more accurate data will be collected and analyzed. Results will be then compared. It is expected that both approaches will bring to similar results.
An empirical model able to control the relationship between the variables will be developed in order to evaluate the current road maintenance strategies.
Integrating GIS and LCA it would be possible to suggest a review of the current maintenance strategies leading to a more environment-friendly road transportation system for the future.

By the way, are you still awake? Have you understood why this project is important?

In the next post I will talk about data, about the data analysis and I will introduce also “R” the computer programming language I’ll use.

So, one more time, thank you for your attention and as usual:
Stay tuned!



ASTM, 1990. Surface Characteristics of Roadways: International Research and Technologies, W.E, Meyer and J. Reichert ed., ASTM STP 1031, 1990.
Beuving, E. et al., 2004. Environmental Impacts and Fuel Efficiency of Road Pavements. , (March 2004).
Bryce, J.M., 2014. Applying LCA to enhance sustainable pavement management decision making. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Carlson, A., 2011. Life cycle assessment of roads and pavements- Studies made in Europe, Linkoping;
Haider, M., Conter, M. & Glaeser, K.-P., 2011. Discussion paper – “ What are rolling resistance and other influencing parameters on energy consumption in road transport .” , 2.
Harvey, J., Kendall, A. & Saboori, A., 2015. The Role of Life Cycle Assessment in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Road Construction and Maintenance for Sustainable Transportation,
House of Commons, 2011. House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts Departmental Business Planning. , (May 2011).
Ibraheem, A.T., 2012. Applying Geographic Information System (GIS) for Maintenance Strategy Selection. Engineering, 04(01), pp.44–54.
National Academy of Sciences, 2010. Technologies and approaches to reducing fuel consumption of medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
NCHRP, 2004. Pavement Management Applications Using Geographic Information Systems, Washington, D.C. Available at: www.onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_syn_335.pdf.
Obaidat, M.T. & Al-kheder, S.A., 2006. Integration of geographic information systems and computer vision systems for pavement distress classification. Construction and Building Materials, 20(9), pp.657–672.
Rothengatter, W., Hayashi, Y. & Schade, W., 2011. Chapter 2 - Economic Crisis and Consequences for Transport Sector. In Transport Moving to Climate Intelligence. pp. 9–29. Available at: http://www.springerlink.com/index/10.1007/978-1-4419-7643-7.
Santero, N.J., Harvey, J. & Horvath, A., 2011. Environmental policy for long-life pavements. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 16(2), pp.129–136. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.trd.2010.09.005.
Santero, N.J. & Horvath, A., 2009. Global warming potential of pavements. Environmental Research Letters, 4(3), p.034011. Available at: http://stacks.iop.org/1748-9326/4/i=3/a=034011?key=crossref.37309774ec7831d4f0ff5f26f01607fe.
Ventura,  a. & Jullien, A., 2009. Life cycle assessment applied to road pavements : an analysis of method and results relevancy. The Sixth International Conference on Maintenance and Rehabilitation of Pavements and Technological Control, pp.1210–1219.
Yu, B., Lu, Q. & Xu, J., 2013. An improved pavement maintenance optimization methodology: Integrating LCA and LCCA. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 55(December 2015), pp.1–11. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2013.07.004.
Zaabar, I. & Chatti, K., 2010. Calibration of HDM-4 models for estimating the effect of pavement roughness on fuel consumption for U. S. conditions. Transportation Research Record, (2155), pp.105–116. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3141/2155-12.


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