Mar 28, 2018
NCHRP Shows Agencies How to Spec Pavement Preservation Pay Adjustments
Between 2014 and 2016, I came to the conclusion that a few members of the pavement maintenance sector of the industry were not as meticulous when it comes to quality control as they should be. It worried me when individuals told me pavement repair best practices weren’t worth dissecting or discussing because pavement repair contractors were “too small” or too focused on completing a job and moving on to the next.
Even if the number of people who believe such a thing is small, it’s a mindset that needs to be rectified.
I think anyone who’s in any sector of the asphalt industry has a vested interest in seeing his or her work done to perfection. Of course there are “awards” in the pavement industry that anyone can receive just by sending the bean counter’s report with a check to a tallying entity. Then there are commendations, awards and bonuses that a contractor only achieves by proving merit and/or quality in construction, materials, and craftsmanship. Let’s take a look at the latter for a moment, as a set of researchers in Michigan and North Carolina has done recently.
Seven researchers from Michigan State University, East Lansing, and North Carolina State University, Raleigh, prepared the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) report Performance-Related Specifications for Pavement Preservation Treatments to offer guidance that could help agencies prepare performance-related specs (PRS) for pavement preservation projects. The authors not only recommend guidelines for specs; they offer guidelines for adjusting pay factors based on how closely contractors meet the specs. It could force quality into a sector where contractors have, heretofore, been working without financial-penalty enforcement.
Contractors who place asphalt for new construction or mill-and-fill projects should be familiar with percent within limits (PWL) specs, and with the concept of receiving bonuses or penalties based upon whether or not various parameters (acceptance quality characteristics) meet the limits an agency has set. The guidance from NCHRP Research Report 857 suggests this methodology could improve material selection and work practices for pavement preservation/maintenance as well. The report outlines how to implement quality measurement characteristics and methods and pay factors while keeping risk to the contractor and risk to the agency in mind. The researchers looked at PCC texturing, chip seal, microsurfacing and preservation of high-volume roadways specifically.
The authors summarized: “PRS are quality assurance specifications that describe the desired levels of material and construction quality characteristics that correlate with long-term performance of the finished product.”
That’s a noble goal and adding PRS to pavement preservation work would only bring quality up. The authors of the report gave credence to the concerns any wise contractor or agency would have when considering implementation of new specs on existing pavements. They spoke to existing pavement conditions and climatic conditions as variables for agencies to work into their new specs.
Data and more data seemed to be their overriding caution: “The selection of PRS should be based on a combination of data availability and demonstrative ability to characterize performance. PRS should be amenable to acceptance testing at the time of construction and adhere to sound sampling and testing acceptance plans. Both the quality measures and thresholds used to describe the specifications and determine PRS compliance must be well-established.”
The authors also looked to good old-fashioned common sense. “Lastly, payment mechanisms must be developed to provide a rational basis for pay adjustment to the contractor based on adherence to the specifications and expected performance of the end-product.”
If contractors performing pavement maintenance and preservation jobs adhere to best practices regularly and focus on quality control/quality assurance principles now, they’ll be better positioned to make bonuses and avoid financial penalties when agencies begin adopting PRS for materials and treatments in the future. With the recently released NCHRP report, that future could be closer than we think. While agencies gear up for improved maintenance and preservation treatment performance, contractors can gear up to provide what agencies are after: long-lasting quality in all projects.