U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
FHWA Order M 1324.1A
This Directive was canceled July 29, 2013.
|FHWA Files Management and Records Disposition Manual: Chapter 1|
||Office of Primary Interest
||November 4, 1999
CHAPTER 1 - FILES CLASSIFICATION
- PURPOSE. The purpose of a files classification system is to provide a
set of policies and procedures for organizing and identifying files or
documents to speed their retrieval, use, and disposition. The type of
files classification preferred for FHWA use is a hierarchical files
classification system. This type of system may be organized by concrete,
abstract, or functional words, or by project or case number, or a
combination of these; but to work well, it shall be:
- Representative of informational needs. The classification
should conform to users' requirements. The kinds of records users needed,
the way users request them, and the terms users use to request records
should shape the files classification system.
- Logical. Subjects should be grouped in a clearly logical
order so that the reasons for the arrangement will be easily obvious to
- Precise. Each subject title should be precise in describing
the category, thereby encouraging filing at the lowest possible rung on
the hierarchical ladder, if volume requires.
- Restrictive. Each subject title should be phrased to be as
exclusive of others as possible. There should be only one term to denote a
subject, no matter how many synonyms may express the same idea.
- Complete. There should be suitable categories for all
existing and anticipated records.
- Flexible. There should be a way of contracting or expanding
the classification outline to allow subjects to be dropped or added as
- Hierarchical arrangements that meet the above criteria facilitate
document retrieval by limiting the area of search; this reduces search
time and increases the likelihood that no appropriate files are missed
when searching for a record.
- A good files classification system also makes filing easier and
reduces the chance of misfiling records. This increases confidence in the
ability to locate records quickly when needed and minimize the use of
duplicate or "cuff" files.
- Records are the result of business processes and functions and are
used in relation to them. This establishes the principle that records
should be grouped and maintained according to the business function to
which they relate. When files are arranged in functional groups, files can
be added, deleted, or modified easily without changing the structure of
the filing system. When reorganizations occur, functions can be
transferred from one office to another with slight or no modifications in
the file structure.
- PROCEDURES. The files classification system as presented in this
Manual, is a modified subject-numeric filing system. Under this system,
the main topics are organized alphabetically, and the subdivisions of
those topics are coded numerically. The main topics are coded by symbols
to remind the user of the subject; for example, IRM for Information
Resources Management and PER for Personnel.
The subjects are arranged in a hierarchical system in which records
pertaining to a particular subject are arranged under primary categories
and then, as necessary, under secondary and tertiary subdivisions.
- Filing Classification. Classifying records involves the ability to
select the most appropriate subject classification, to recognize related
subject matter of sufficient importance to warrant cross-referencing, and
to distinguish between papers that belong in subject and case files.
(1) Classifying subject file material. Papers to be filed in subject
files are marked in the upper-right corner with file codes taken from the
left column of the File Outline. The following techniques are used in
selecting the correct subject file classifications:
(a) read the subject line, if any, first.
(b) look for key phrases or familiar terms used in the text and check
these against the file outline or the index.
(c) note the addressee and/or originator. The identification of either
may help to establish the subject area with which the document is
(2) Classifying case files material. Papers are marked in the same
manner as the subject material. However, not all papers for case files
need to be marked. Certain forms and reports used in personnel, fiscal,
and other operations show numbers, names, and other identifying
characteristics that are self-classifying, and need no further identifying
markings to ensure that they are correctly filed. If a document is
to be filed in a case file folder, also underline the case file
identification in red where it first appears in the document.
(3) Classification review. Files personnel should double check file
codes before filing to ensure that they are accurate.
- Cross-Reference. Cross-referencing is the filing of a document or a
cross reference form when the same document is needed in two separate
subject or case file folders.
(1) Cross-reference of file folders. Use cross-reference labels on file
folders when two files are frequently used in conjunction with each other.
(2) Cross-reference of papers. Cross-reference papers when information
must be placed in more than one file. Place the official file copy in the
file to which it most closely relates. Avoid unnecessary cross-references.
This consumes time and greatly complicates records retrieval.
- CLASSIFIED RECORDS. Classified records are filed in security file
containers (see DOT H 1350.2, DOT Information Resources Manual, Chapter 11 - Systems Security), apart from unclassified papers, including those
marked "For Official Use Only."
- The interfiling of unclassified and classified papers is restricted
to those papers that directly support, explain, or document the record of
the action or transaction. A file containing mixed classified and
unclassified documents is filed in a security container.
- If a very few pertinent documents are classified, they can be
cross-referenced in an unclassified file and removed from the security
container only when required.
- In cases where matters requiring the transaction of official business
occur in personal correspondence, the portion of such correspondence that
pertains to official business is extracted and made part of the official
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Page last modified on October 19, 2015