Fuel Usage Factors in Highway and Bridge Construction

Price adjustments of selected commodities in highway construction are used in construction contracting as a way of reducing risks to the contractor related to price fluctuations over the life of a contract. The benefits to contracting agencies are bids that better reflect real costs. Fuel is a commodity for which price adjustments are allowed. Fuel usage factors are commonly applied by state and local agencies in calculating the amount of fuel for an escalation/deescalation contract specification. The current fuel usage factors were first published in Highway Research Circular Number 158 by the Highway Research Board in July 1974. They were later incorporated into FHWA Technical Advisory T 5080.3, released in 1980, to provide direction on the use of price adjustment contract provisions. These factors have remained unchanged over the past 35 years, despite changes in the purchasing power of construction dollars, construction methods, industry processes, efficiency of equipment, and fuels used. Thus, it is unlikely that fuel usage factors are accurate or effective in addressing the current risk of fuel price fluctuations. Gasoline and diesel fuel usage factors exist for excavation (gallons per cubic yard), aggregate, asphalt production and hauling (gallons per ton), and Portland cement concrete (PCC) production and hauling (gallons per cubic yard). Of even greater concern, fuel usage factors for structures and miscellaneous construction are expressed in gallons per $1,000 in construction. Current fuel factors are required, in addition, to consider environmental impacts of construction methods related to lower fuel consumption and emissions, urban heat island mitigation, smog reduction, and lower energy footprint. The fuel usage factors in FHWA Technical Advisory T 5080.3 are subject to at least three analytically separable sources of error. First, the effects of inflation on construction costs over three decades is primarily of concern for the usage factors for structures and miscellaneous construction because these fuel usage factors were established in gallons per thousand dollars, and the dollar amounts were established in 1980 and have never been revisited. Second, the relationship of fuel consumption to production and hauling of specified quantities of aggregate, asphalt, and PCC have likely been affected by changes in construction practice, use of new and prefabricated materials, improved equipment, and improved fuel efficiency. Third, and last, there have been changes in fuel preference, particularly in the substitution of natural gas for diesel in asphalt plant operations. While an examination of inflationary trends is a relatively simple analysis, addressing the other impacts is far more complex and challenging. The objectives of this research are to (1) analyze the effects of inflation in relevant areas of construction, (2) develop a revised table of fuel usage factors for the major categories of highway construction addressed in FHWA Technical Advisory T 5080.3, and (3) develop a recommended method and schedule for future updates to the fuel usage factors. The research findings will be of immediate use to FHWA in updating the information in Technical Advisory T 5080.3. The following tasks are anticipated to accomplish these objectives: (1) review existing research, including (i) the original study compiled by FHWA and published in Highway Research Circular Number 158, July 1974, (ii) the questionnaire sent to more than 3,000 highway contractors in the United States in 1974 with 400 responses, and (iii) the analysis performed by the Federal Highway Administration's Region 8 office on the data acquired in 1974, to the extent that relevant information is still available; (2) survey the state DOTs to develop a synthesis of current practices by state DOT agencies and document what methods they have developed to address costs related to fuel usage factors issues; (3) analyze inflation effects to develop a construction inflation index that will provide estimates of the present and expected future value of construction, based on the categories in the 1980 FHWA Technical Advisory T 5080.3; (4) identify changes in construction practices since 1980 in the major categories of highway construction addressed in FHWA Technical Advisory T 5080.3 (excavation, aggregates, asphalt concrete, PCC pavement, structures, miscellaneous); (5) based upon the results of the previous tasks, develop fuel usage factors that apply to current construction practices; (6) develop a method and schedule for future updates of fuel usage factors, including identification of data sources and recommended analytical procedures; and (7) prepare a final report and recommendations that provide (i) full documentation of the research methods and findings and (ii) recommendations for the updated fuel usage factors in highway construction.<div></div><div></div>


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 10-81

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Harrigan, Edward

  • Performing Organizations:

    Jack Faucett Associates

    Bethesda, MD  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Skolnik, Jon

  • Start Date: 20100510
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20121130
  • Source Data: RiP Project 22352

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01464200
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Cooperative Highway Research Program
  • Contract Numbers: Project 10-81
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:38PM