Beyond mandated track safety inspections using a mission-focused, knowledge-based approach

Uzarski, D.R. and M.N. Grussing. 2013. Beyond mandated track safety inspections using a mission-focused, knowledge-based approach. International Journal of Rail Transportation. 1 (4): 218-326. doi:10.1080/23248378.2013.836397.


The inspection of railroad track is typically mandated by applicable track standards which generally address intent (safety and/or maintenance) and calendar frequency. Likewise, the maintenance and repair (M&R) of track is often compliance-driven with the intent of sustaining the condition requirements associated with a track standards-based track class. This approach falls short of optimising inspections because it is not based on strategic asset management needs. This approach also does not lead to an optimal mix of M&R work activities under varying budget constraints. This paper expands on a “knowledge-based” concept developed for building asset management whereby maintenance inspections are optimally scheduled based on knowledge of the asset and not the calendar. Included is the introduction of a “mission-focused” scoring metric that measures track segment importance. This track priority score along with other readily attainable track condition metrics form the basis for developing a knowledge-based optimised inspection plan. While the discussion in this paper focuses on military railroad track asset management, the process is directly applicable to the entire small railroad niche (military, shortlines and industrials) due to the specific metrics used. Discussion beyond military trackage is provided to demonstrate this application. The concept, however, has even broader implications throughout the industry (Class Is, regionals, transits, etc.). Finally, the paper addresses research into a framework for incorporating mission and other information to develop knowledge-based optimised M&R plans.