Friday, February 17, 2006

AREMA Recommends, but Consultants Must Specify!

But what happens when AREMA recommendations from years ago become unchanged by Railroad Engineering Consultants, or Transit Agencies? Short answer, what happens isn't good.

Changing the direction of momentum is a tough thing to do. Both Consultants and Agencies can have their own built-in momentum to continue going with what has worked in the past. Even ISO 9000 can give force to this momentum. Problem is, momentum isn't changed. New technology goes unused. Old products prevail. Money is spent that might be saved.

As an example, I am told that Committee 30 of AREMA (The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association) has updated the standard for Tie Plugs. Right, this is a small item, but it does show some of the momentum that can take hold. The current AREMA Chapter 30 notes a standard for an old wooden plug that was obviously designed for timber ties. For years, now, railroads have been using various other materials and methods to fill the holes in timber ties left by a pulled spike. So if a spec writer from today calls for Tie Plugs that meet AREMA Chapter 30, all new technology is eliminated!

Sometimes, AREMA Committees rewrite their various chapters in advance of new developments. Sometimes, these committees are reactive. No matter, these rewrites are pertinent and valuable.

Then, it is the job of the consulting spec writers to take these AREMA Recommendations and turn them into good Project Specifications that are precise enough to get the required level of quality, but simple enough to avoid "frightening the bid".

So, spec writers and users have to be vigilant. It is important that Consultants keep up-to-date with industry developments, and update their specs accordingly.

It is equally important that Agencies review the specs submitted to them, and not rely on something outdated in lockstep fashion. Their staff must hold consultants responsible for providing an up-to-date and quality specification.

It does take vigilance. That's what billable hours are for. But the results will be worth it, for everyone. Most of all, the taxpayers will benefit, because they won't be paying more for outdated material.


At 8:57 AM, April 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be a mandatory requirement for agencies to review and update their specifications at least every 5 years. This should not be done by the agency. It should be put out as a peer review and comments and suggestions recieved. We should be using peer reviews more and more. Federally funded projects require this prior to putting out an RFP. I have participated in a few and they all have been very productive and brought the standards current with the technology we have in this industry. The supply guys are coming up with some great stuff to solve problems, yet change has always been our greatest fear. I still run into people that believe cut spikes hold better than resilient clips, despite the test data out of Pueblo.


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