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Strategies for Coping with Construction Project Staffing Demands
(A document of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Construction, Contract Administration Task Force)
Many states have been experiencing both an increased highway construction program and a reduction in the amount of construction project staff that are available to administer these projects. At times, these contrasting forces have placed severe demands on the resources of many State Department of Transportation (DOT) construction inspection staff.
A recent study by the Missouri DOT (MODOT) revealed some interesting statistics regarding the workload of project inspection staff. The MODOT study noted the following comparisons:
How do states such as Missouri handle increased workloads? Typical strategies include: improvements in office and field equipment, transportation, management techniques, more training and experience, performance specifications, random testing, prioritization of inspection, acceptance by certification and other management techniques.
At the 1997 mid-summer meeting, the Contract Administration Task Force of the Subcommittee on Construction agreed that there is much valuable experience to be shared on this subject area. A survey on this subject was initiated in early 1998 and the following document is a summary of the responses received by the Secretary for the Contract Administration Task Force for the AASHTO Subcommittee on Construction.
The responses were not developed in response to a specific detailed questionnaire which listed a menu of techniques. Therefore the responses vary from state to state and some states may not have listed all of the techniques that are currently being used.
Summary of the Coping Strategies Noted by the States *
* Many of the states may be using these strategies, however, the original questionnaire only asked the state construction engineers to identify some of the strategies that were being used in their state.
Much like most of the other states in the nation, the Alaska Department of Transportation Public Facilities (ADOT/PF) is trying to meet the challenge of providing the staffing for the administration of more dollars of capital work projects with fewer state employees. ADOT/PF has had three retirement incentive programs (RIP) in the last 12 years, with another RIP slated for this winter. At the same time we are having some difficulty recruiting new employees due to the fact that our salary schedule and working conditions (per diem allowances, overtime policy, etc.) currently aren't that competitive.
Here are some of the strategies we've employed to meet the staffing challenge.
During the construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline in the late 1970's, the private oil companies lured away most of the experienced surveyors that ADOT employed. Faced with this loss of experienced surveyors, ADOT began requiring contractors to perform the construction staking including cross-sections for payment for excavation. The contractor is compensated for the work by a lump sum bid item. Virtually all of ADOT's projects are now staked by the contractor's survey crew, with only a portion of the preconstruction surveys being performed in-house.
Use of Consultants
ADOT uses private consultants on a limited basis for construction administration,
typically about 5% of the dollar value of our program. We contract out to the private sector in two different ways. The first method is to contract out the entire construction administration on an individual project, to include the on-site project engineer and all the project staff. The second method is a term contract for materials testing that is not project-specific and can be used for any project.
It's noteworthy that when we hire consultants to manage our projects, we end up hiring back our own retired personnel (that's the good news). It's also about 30-49% more expensive than utilizing our own staff- (that's the bad news).
Use of Student Interns
Through a Reimbursable Service Agreement with another state agency, ie. the University of Alaska, we are able to hire student interns for the peak summer construction season. They are used to augment the seasonal technical force. They tend to learn quickly and we have realized an additional benefit by hiring several of the interns upon their graduation.
In our rural roads and aviation projects, specifications are tailored to reduce project staffing needs. Examples of this are: compaction by coverage, visual acceptance by the engineer, lump sum items that do not have to be measured for payment, etc.
Use of Computerized Scales
At one time ADOT required a State employee in each scale house to either weigh each truck or witness the weighing of each truck. We now use computerized scales that cannot be tampered with by contractor / supplier personnel.
Use of Contractor Roadway and Bridge Construction Control: Arkansas Highway Transportation Department (AHTD) has included pay items for Roadway Construction Control and Bridge Construction Control on most projects since 1988. The contractor is responsible for performing all construction staking required as well as calculating bridge grades and subgrade widths and elevations.
Contractor Quality Control and Acceptance Testing: The Department's 1996 edition of the Standard Specifications for Highway Construction established the use of contractor testing for acceptance of earthwork items, granular base course, asphalt concrete hot mix items, Portland cement concrete pavement, and structural concrete. The contractor performs acceptance testing at roughly the same frequencies as Department inspectors previously did. Department inspectors now sample and test roughly on a 1:4 basis for acceptance purposes.
Use of AHTD Manpower Forecasting Program: The Department contracted the development of a manpower forecasting program to the Mack-Blackwell Transportation Study Center at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. This program utilizes a table of projected projects and predicts the inspection manpower needed through out the state, based on historical data, estimated contract amounts, and the type of work. The results of this projection are used to determine the staffing levels needed at the various Resident Engineer's offices through out the state.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) uses the following Consultant and Contractor services as "Strategies for Coping with Construction Project Staffing Demands.":
Contractor Surveying: ADOT implemented Contractor Surveying in 1980.
Full Service Construction Contract Administration: ADOT currently has 10 construction projects administered by 5 consultants, totaling 1.4% of the total CE and construction cost.
Full Service (on-call) Construction Administration: ADOT currently has 5 construction projects administered by 3 consultants, limited to a fee of $250,000.00 per project.
Materials Testing (on-call): ADOT currently has 3 projects with consultants providing all materials testing.
ADOT staff consists of:
Temporary Technicians (3 contracts): ADOT staff for construction administration is currently 400 full time positions, and the current temporary technicians are 24. There are only 50 available in the consultants labor pool.
Use of consultants in Construction Management:
Colorado DOT began using private engineering firms to assist and supplement our contract administration and field engineering work force in 1984/85/86. The first project was a pilot where we utilized a private firm for the entire project team, from Project Engineer to inspectors, surveyors and materials testers. By the late 80's we had begun using private firms for a supplement to our field materials testing forces. Today, all of our 6 Engineering Regions are using a concept where non-project specific contracts are awarded to one or more firms in each region, and when the need arises for help on a specific project, an order is cut from the master contract assigning the private firm to that project. The scope of work today, generally includes a provision for the state's engineer to included people provided by the private firm, that are capable of performing materials testing at a specified NICET level, and for people capable of performing construction inspection services, again at a specified NICET level.
We expect that within a few months, we experience some need for full project teams to be provided by private firms, much as we did in the pilot of 1984/85/86.
We have also since the late 80's, included in some design contracts, a provision for the private design firm to provide engineering assistance to the field force once construction is under way. This is primarily targeted at complex structures where the design expertise and responsibility belongs to the private firm but has occasionally been extended to roadway design.
We are piloting warranted bituminous pavement warranties this year. Although the target of the pilot was not to supplement field forces, we believe it will help in that area if the concept proves to be of value.
We currently have two design-build projects underway and expect to have more in the next few years.
Quality Control / Quality Assurance by the Producer:
We are well into QC by the contractor in pavements and pre-stressed structures.
We are working toward a Quality system that will eventually place responsibility for all QC and one level of QA on the producer. We have recently begun pilots for this Quality System that place the burden of all QC and one level of QA on a private design firm that is under contract to perform most functional area work on a mid-sized rural project.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation has utilized consultant firms for construction engineering and inspection assignments to supplement its in house staff for many years. This program allows the Department to meet short term staffing needs while at the same time maintain an experienced core staff to perform the construction monitoring functions. The percent of projects on which consultants are utilized has varied from ten percent to as high as forty-five percent depending on the Department's construction program and staffing levels. Generally, it is more cost effective to utilize in house staff on smaller projects (under $5 million) and consultant staff on larger projects, although that is not always possible.
The Department also has periodically reduced testing frequencies on those materials which have exhibited a high probability for passing the tests. CONNDOT utilizes Materials Certificates and Certified Test Reports for documentation of conformance to materials requirements for many manufactured products. CONNDOT also participates in regional testing programs and utilizes acceptable materials lists in lieu of materials testing for many products. The FHWA division office is consulted whenever a proposal is made to reduce testing frequencies.
Contractor staking has been a standard in Connecticut for more than twenty years and has been found to work extremely well.
CONNDOT is currently developing specifications to transfer the compaction testing functions to the contractor under a QC/QA initiative. The specifications for this change have been developed and reviewed with the industry and several trial projects will be undertaken this year.
CONNDOT is also in the process of developing specifications to change the method of paying for drainage installations. The new specifications will eliminate the need to measure and pay for the various items of work associated with a drainage installation. Under the new specifications, payment will be made based on the linear meter of pipe and the number of drainage structures. Associated items such as trench excavation, bedding, select backfill, etc. will be included in the unit cost. In addition, such items as rock excavation and unsuitable material excavation will include the cost of the replacement material required by the specification, instead of paying for these materials as a separate item.
This is in response to your letter dated June 15, 1998 for the strategies for staffing demand. As you outlined in your letter, Delaware DOT seeks the help of Consultants to supplement our in house staff for construction inspection. However, we have taken a different approach in the following area.
Subdivision Streets Acceptance: Delaware DOT maintains all the roads in the State ,which includes the suburban streets. Under our Subdivision Development Policy, the Developers of the new subdivision get the street and drainage plans approved conforming to our standards. The Developer will post 10% of the value of street construction either bonds or surety to the Department. Department will not pay the Developer for the construction. However, we accept those streets under our Maintenance, and maintain roadways, curb and drainage systems as required. Due to the growth explosion in the northern part of the State, DOT was unable to inspect all the streets built by the developers during the construction. We require material certification submission, and do random cores to check pavement thickness. In addition, we require the developers to submit a complete video inspection of the drainage system. After accepting the street, we hold the bond for one (1) year. This has helped us to cope with increased workload at the same time assuring the quality we need.
The Construction Program in Florida began to increase about 10 years ago. It has now doubled from 1989. Also the projects have become more complex and difficult to construct. Florida also hired a lot of engineering and inspection personnel at the beginning at the Interstate Program in the late 1950's. Florida has a 30 year retirement plan and, therefore, many employees are eligible to leave the Department.
For all the above reasons the Department would either have to hire additional people or hire Consultant Construction Engineers and Inspectors. Florida decided to privatetize by hiring Consultants. They handle about 60 % of all CE & I in Florida. The program has worked well. We can handle varying work loads. DOT did not put additional people on payroll. The expertise on complex projects was available. We can assure ourselves of good inspectors. (Consultants can fire them.) Florida does not have long-term employee liability - retirement, etc.
Consultants have hired many ex-DOT employees. This has good and bad points. The consultants get good experience, but the DOT loses experience. However, the DOT can hire younger people and train them. It also gives DOT employees a chance for a second career.
We also require the contractor to do all staking on the project. We have been doing this for about 20 years and it is successful. It has saved at least one survey crew on every major project. We have made most of our pay items "plan quantity". This eliminates a lot of final measurements, and writing truck tickets.
We have also reduced our testing frequencies on some items - Non-stress concrete, densities on shoulders, etc. We have let some projects on a "lump sum", basis - no other bid items.
We have turned our pre-stress plant quality testing and control over to the contractor. At each plant this has reduced several people. We are trying to write performance or end result specifications. This should reduce testing and inspection.
RENT-A-TECH: Consulting Engineering & Inspection
In an effort to supplement the existing Department staff and compensate for fluctuating workloads throughout the state, Georgia has found an innovative solution, Rent-A-Tech. In the Rent-A-Tech program, consultant inspectors are assigned to Department Project Engineers within defined geographic areas based on workload demands of various projects within the area. Inspectors may be reassigned regularly during the duration of the consultant contract, as inspection needs dictate. The consultant is responsible for providing inspectors in the numbers outlined in their contract, but must make adjustments to staff levels during the life of the contract, including the need to reduce personnel during lulls in construction activity. In addition to providing qualified inspectors, the consultant also provides a vehicle for each inspector to fulfill the transportation needs of their inspection duties.
Consultants provide Inspector Aids, Inspectors, and Senior Inspectors. Senior Inspectors serve as an on-site liaison between the consultant and the Department in addition to their routine duties.
This is in response to your inquiry relating to strategies for coping with construction project staffing demands. The Indiana Department of Transportation faces this problem along with all state D.O.T.'s. Indiana went to construction engineering many years ago. We also have, on a select basis, used consultants for contract administration and inspection.
The thrust now is to get to performance contracting and reduce our testing and inspection. We believe the QC/QA must be in place to get to performance based contracting. Indiana developed a warranty specification for mainline asphalt pavement. The contractor is responsible for quality control and no testing or inspection is done for the mainline asphalt pavement. The contractor is responsible for the pavement for five years. This definitely reduces staff requirements but not all contracts can be warranted.
In 1992, the department began developing our Certified Aggregate Producer Program. Once an aggregate producer is certified, their aggregate may be shipped without testing. Certified producers are randomly audited once a year. We do no acceptance testing for a certified producer.
Indiana developed a contractor acceptance testing specification in 1996. The contractor provides a quality control plan for the work with statistical tolerance limits for verification testing by the department. A pilot contract with this specification was let in 1996 and three more contracts with this feature were built in 1997. At least six more contracts with this feature will be let in 1998. After refinement this specification will reduce staffing needs.
As more QC/QA specifications are developed and refined in our transition to performance based specifications, the QA audits will lessen in frequency which should further aid in our staffing requirements. Also INDOT is considering cross training of construction and testing certified technicians which will facilitate a lessor more versatile staff.
The following is a summary of the strategies for coping with construction project staffing demands currently being used by the Kansas Department of Transportation:
Contractor Construction Staking: All construction staking is currently being bid as a contract item and is being done by the contractor or by a subcontractor hired by the prime.
Consultant Inspection: All city and county projects are inspected by consultant personnel. Also as much as thirty percent of all KDOT project inspection personnel are consultants. In some cases entire projects are inspected by consultants and on others they are used to supplement KDOT personnel.
Consultant Design: At this time approximately seventy five percent of KDOT design is being done by consultants.
Quality Control/Quality Assurance: Some of the burden for inspection is relieved by requiring the contractors to do much of the testing. Currently all Portland cement concrete pavement projects are QC/QA and an increasing umber of bituminous paving projects are also. We also plan to begin QC/QA in the area of structures in the near future.
Construction Management System: KDOT has developed a construction management system for use on all projects and for paying consultants. This system has reduced the amount of paper work and reduced the delays in making payments. The reduced amount of typing has also reduced the manpower necessary to process vouchers.
In the past ten years, we have not made any changes to reduce staffing requirements for construction engineering personnel. Before that, around 1985 to 1988, we did several things, but the main one was to promote the inclusion of an item for construction layout in the contracts. This reduced the number of personnel needed in surveying (laying out) the project.
Other changes, such as specification changes in measurement and pay and reduction in sampling and testing, have not proven to be effective in staffing reduction to this point, but probably do allow for better inspection by giving inspectors time to be inspectors instead of testers.
We do plan to implement performance specifications in the near future on pavement markings, based on reflectivity. Specification requirements have not been finalized yet and are not available at this time.
Maine DOT has undertaken the following initiatives to cope with the Departments down-sizing and the expanded work program:
Construction Managers: The Construction Division reorganized consolidating the Bridge and Highway Construction Units and the Testing Units into one multi-disciplined Construction Division. New roles and responsibilities have been transferred to Construction Managers (CM) who manage multiple projects throughout the year. The CM in turn manages the inspection and testing on an as needed basis instead of full-time on-site inspection. We have supplied the CMs with pagers, cell phones, computers and faxes as needed. Training, resource scheduling and strengthening the seasonal work force is key to our continued success.
Alternative Work: To ensure meaningful work for the permanent workforce during periods of slack construction periods the Construction Division is designing the Resurfacing Program for the Bureau of Project Development. The Construction Division is also actively developing a role in the design of bridges. The Construction Division Preliminary Engineering charges are currently averaging $ 500,000/ year.
QC/QA: MDOT is 100% Superpave starting the 1998 season. QC/QA with incentives and disincentives are used for all concrete and paving items. The contractor is perform the QC in the hot mix asphalt and concrete plants resulting in a reduction in field testing personnel from 25 to 10 employees.
Construction Layout: On selected projects, a special provision is included in the specification requiring the contractor to provide the construction layout. The CM establishes the centerline of construction, benchmarks and key points as appropriate. The contractor is responsible for setting all reference stakes, points and layout from these control points.
Reduced Specifications: MDOT has reduced Specifications and Contract Procedures for small and/or routine projects to reduce MDOT and contractors paperwork requirements by reducing the total number of items and paying more quantities by lump sum or plan quantity.
Prequalification: On projects over $150,000, contractors need to be pre-qualified to bid as of August 1, 1998.
Warranties: MDOT is currently piloting a $1,700,000 highway reconstruction project with bituminous pavement warranties.
Overall these initiatives have reduce MDOT construction engineering from 14.6% in 1991 to 10.9% in 1997.
Maryland State Highway Administration's (MSHA) strategies for coping with project staffing demands. Our organization is comprised of seven engineering districts with a centralized headquarters. The Construction Inspection Division (CID) of the Office of Construction is responsible for projecting manpower needs and supplying inspection personnel to the engineering districts. As mentioned in your letter, our agency, like many others, uses supplemental consultant inspection contracts to augment our permanent workforce. In addition to this practice, MSHA has developed various other strategies to meet our manpower needs.
Student Technical Assistants (STA): Each year, CID recruits Student Technical Assistants (STA) who are trained to inspect construction operations on highway and bridge projects. Applicants must be Civil Engineering majors who have completed their freshman year of college. I have enclosed a copy of the job specification for your information. CID hires an average of 45 STAs who are assigned to the engineering districts based on need. This program has proven to be very successful, and many of the STAs return in subsequent summers while they pursue their engineering degrees.
Reduced Testing Frequencies: Maryland has also significantly reduced testing frequencies. Since developing QC/QA specifications, more responsibility for testing has been placed on the contractor, particularly in the areas of concrete and asphalt. with assurance sampling by the agency. We are in the process of developing end-result specifications which should reduce testing even further. In addition, asphalt and concrete plants are now certified, which has eliminated the need for construction and laboratory plant inspectors.
Construction/Maintenance Rotation: Our agency also has various rotation programs in place. One of the most beneficial and productive of these programs is the Construction/Maintenance Rotation, which allows Engineering Technicians (ET) and Highway Technicians (HT) to gain valuable experience working in another area of the organization. The HTs usually rotate into construction during summer, while ETs work in Maintenance during the winter which helps each division to bolster its workforce during their busier time of the year.
Graduate Engineer Recruitment Program: SHA also has an aggressive Graduate Engineer Recruitment Program. Engineers hired through this program have the opportunity to rotate through three divisions within the organization. While two of the rotational choices are optional, all graduate engineers must spend a minimum of one year in construction. This gives the new engineer the opportunity to put theory into practice while, at the same time, we increase our manpower. In addition, we have a less formal Engineering Technician Rotation Program which allows ETs throughout the organization to gain experience in other areas.
District Inspector Transfers: As I mentioned earlier in the letter, our agency consists of our headquarters office and seven engineering districts. Managers form all areas meet regularly to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern. Twice a year, usually in the Spring and Fall, the managers discuss their anticipated manpower needs and how to best meet them. As a result, inspectors may be transferred from one district to another to maximize our available resources.
Construction Warranty Development Summary: The Michigan Department of Transportation is developing a comprehensive construction warranty program as summarized below. The use of a warranty covering workmanship, materials and/or performance has greatly reduced the inspection and testing requirements on construction projects. For projects including a 2-5 year warranty on the finished product, the total Construction Engineering Costs are typically less than five percent of the contract total. (This compares to construction engineering costs of 10-15 percent on traditional contracts.) This is proving to be a very effective tool in coping with construction field staff reductions.
Michigan enrolled Senate Bill 303 of 1997 included the following provision for development of warranties on state truckline construction projects:
"Of the amounts appropriated for state truckline projects, the department shall, where possible, secure warranties of not less than 5-year full replacement guarantee for Contracted Construction Work."
In response to this, the department has worked in partnership with the road building and surety industries to develop warranty specifications "where possible". The following is a listing of the progress to date as reflected by 1998 contracted construction projects that will include a warranty requirement. Major Pavement Reconstruction (5 Year Warranty)
Preventative Maintenance Program (2-3 Year Warranties)
Statewide Program Including:
Bridge Painting Program (2 Year Warranty): All bridge painting projects include a two-year performance warranty. This program was developed in the late 1980's and has been very successful in eliminating materials and workmanship deficiencies.
Highway Signs: Highway signs currently carry a seven-year manufacturer's warranty on the sheeting placed on the sign face. The department is currently working with industry to formalize this into a ten year warranty of the entire sign structure. Pavement Markings: The department is looking into options for requiring a performance warranty on pavement markings. In 1997, a pilot project was completed in the Southwest Region with a 60-day warranty on marking performance. A major manufacturer of pavement marking tape now offers a product that they will warranty for five years when inlayed on a concrete pavement and the department plans to develop a pilot project for this long range marking warranty. Turf Establishment: Pilot projects were let in 1997 that required a warranty on the growth of grass planted in the restoration of roadside areas after construction is completed. Guard Rails and Endings: The department is working with industry to develop a two year warranty/certification program for contracted installation of guard rail and endings. This program will be developed and implemented on contracts to be built in 1999. This summary represents the department's progress to date on the development of construction warranties. This constitutes significant progress and the Michigan Department of Transportation is now a leader in the country in the development and use of highway construction warranties.
Over the past several years, Minnesota has been modifying our specifications and procedures to improve our methods. As a side benefit, these changes have frequently resulted in a reduction in Mn/DOT personnel being required on a project. Examples of changes that have been made are listed below:
Mn/DOT is moving more toward end result specifications. This started with a QC/QA program in the bituminous area, and is now spreading to other areas. With the shift to the contractor performing quality control testing, there has been a reduction in the personnel needs on a project, but the addition of quality assurance testing by Mn/DOT has reduced slightly the gains made by this change.
Many Minnesota construction contracts now require the contractor to provide survey crew staking from control points provided by the Department. This change was made in response to manpower shortages.
Minnesota has recently been utilizing pilot projects to gain experience with design/build. As a next step in this evolution, we are strongly considering a design-build-maintain-warrantee project that involves primarily asphalt surfacing.
Minnesota has traditionally paid for asphalt surfacing materials on the ton basis. One of our District Offices is planning to utilize a square yard method of payment with deductions being made for any thin sections. This would reduce the personnel needs on a project by elimination of the need to collect weigh tickets on the project.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) uses the following methods as "Strategies for Coping with Construction Project Staffing Demands." :
Consultant Survey/Design Contracts: We have developed a hybrid contract type between a Master Agreement Contract (MAC) and a Time, Cost and Quality Contract (TC&Q) that furnishes our District Offices the opportunity to choose from an pre-approved list of consultants for preliminary survey and design of selected projects. This allows the project office to use survey personnel as inspectors.
Contractor Construction Staking: Most of the construction projects utilize contractor staking. This allows the project engineer to supplement inspection requirements with the survey crews.
Consultant Inspection and Contract Administration: MDOT started using consultants in 1996 to supplement our staffing. We currently have from 8 to 10 projects either completed or underway with 2 consultants. Three of the projects were awarded through an option in the design contract that allowed the MDOT to exercise the inspection clause. We anticipate having more consultants involved in the near future. Consultant administration of projects is only used by MDOT when our staffing is inadequate.
Quality Control/Quality Assurance: QC/QA specifications are used for asphalt on most of our projects and for concrete production on projects with at least 1500 cy of concrete. We are studying ways of making QC/QA feasible on smaller volume projects.
Certified Weigh Master: MDOT was using certified weigh masters for materials paid by weight, but, this is no longer allowed because of a change in the law. The MDOT hopes to get this reversed because this saves personnel and vehicles.
GPS Control: The MDOT is going to the State Plane Coordinate System on plans and is requiring GPS control. This saves survey time, increases accuracy and assures us that we can reproduce the survey.
Consolidation of Pay Items: MDOT is also lumping similar items into one pay item such as plant establishment.
Pavement Warranty: MDOT is in the process of producing an asphalt pavement warranty specification and hope to let to contract a project in early 1999.
College Co-op Program: MDOT has agreements with Universities and Community Colleges to co-op students. We normally retain some of these students after graduation.
Nebraska has started to include contractor construction staking in some of its construction projects. This has reduced the manpower requirements for construction projects and allowed field districts to more effectively use survey crews for preliminary surveys. We have found that we get much better preliminary surveys with our own forces than by the use of consultants. Designers have less calls for additional information using our own surveyors vs. Consultants. Contractor staking has worked well; the only negative feedback has been from the industry who would like a consistent amount of construction staking so they can gear up and hire their own surveyors.
In the past we have accepted project management and inspection responsibility for City and County projects let through our system. Because of the increased work load we had almost eliminated this service. Cities and Counties are now require to furnish their own project management and inspection. A few are large enough to do some work on their own but most use consultants to perform this service.
We are also in the process of trying to allow local entities to let more of their projects with the hope of having at least the larger entities let all their projects.
Nevada DOT is using many of the same methods employed by other states to address increased work load with limited staff. The turnover due to retirements and technicians leaving NDOT to work for more competitive local agencies is a challenge. Unlike other states, our legislature approved an increase in staff to address the phenomenal growth in the Las Vegas area. We also hired additional Assistant Resident Engineers in order to create a larger pool of candidates for the Resident Engineer positions, as half of our R.E.'s have retired in the last four years.
Contractor Staking - Contractors are responsible for stake-out of major structures. On selected projects, contractors perform all stake-out after a preliminary stake-out by NDOT (control points and a bench circuit). NDOT survey crews use total stations with data collectors and surveying software to save time during stake-out.
Contractor Profileograph - Nearly all hot mix asphalt projects have a pavement smoothness requirement. The contractor is responsible for providing and operating a profileograph. The trace is provided to NDOT for analysis.
Construction Aids - For six months out of each year, construction aids are hired. Normally they are used for ticket taking and surveying but they have been used for inspection in certain cases. We also hire co-op students from the engineering colleges of the University of Nevada at Reno and Las Vegas. These students receive one credit for their summer work. Both of these options result in exposing people to NDOT in order to consider them for potential permanent positions.
Consultants - Consultants are used for full construction administration and for augmentation (assistant R.E. inspectors, testers, and surveyors) on NDOT crews. We are also pursuing an on-call list for inspectors and testers for the two major urban areas of the state.
Release Projects - Working with the FHWA, we plan to enter into inter-local cooperative agreements with local entities so they can administer smaller enhancement projects.
Reduced Testing Frequencies - On smaller projects, we revised our testing frequencies to the Resident Engineer's discretion.
With the increase in funding from TEA-21, we are looking into other options such as paperwork reduction and consolidation of bid items. For hot mix asphalt, we are pursuing payment by the square meter in-lieu-of by the ton.
New Mexico currently has 2 consultant contracts in place to provide complete construction management services, including testing. Each consultant is managing 2 construction contracts. We have not had time to completely evaluate this approach yet, but it seems to be working well.
We are currently negotiating a contract for design and construction management services for a 120-mile, $200M reconstruction project. This will involve multiple construction contracts, designed and managed by the same consultant. We are preparing a Request for Proposals for a similar contract for design and construction management of a major interchange reconstruction in Albuquerque. This concept appears to be the most feasible way to manage these major projects.
To assist with routine project administration, New Mexico annually enters into a contract for on call construction management services. The contractor will provide construction management personnel as requested by individual project engineers. These vary from weigh masters to project engineers as needed. They are utilized to fill in during peak times and are sent home when not needed. This contract has been very popular with State construction personnel. Many of the consultant's personnel are retired State employees and are very experienced. Some problems have been encountered with project managers wanting to keep these contract employees instead of filling State vacancies and training new people. All in all, however it has been very successful. This year's contract will run approximately $1.5M.
Patterns - We have developed standard staffing patterns that represent the typical staffing expected to be assigned at the peak of activity based on project size and type. The goal is to have reasonable assurance of uniform, efficient utilization of inspection staff resources. (Regional managers assign actual staff based on capabilities / experience of staff and contractor, geography, etc.)
Flexibility - We have an explicit policy that staff should be used where the work is. Many contractors have peak and slow periods, so some stiff may move among projects if skills match, geographically reasonable, etc. Support Staff. Our field staff are generalists to some degree; we support them with substantial assistance from specialists in materials, bridges, paving, safety, automation, etc.
Seasonal Personnel Our permanent (civil service) technician inspectors are supplemented with seasonal staff, reflected in the staffing patterns. These people may be two or four year engineering students, seasonal workers who do other things in the winter, and graduated students looking for an entry into the system. Limited use of NYSDOT retirees is allowed by NYS Law.
Engineer-In-Charge Where appropriate, our Engineers-In-Charge (EICs) are assigned to multiple projects.
Training We have developed a four day "school" for EICs and a series of training modules for inspectors, to supplement on the job training and ensure basic proficiency. Manuals and inspection guidelines are being updated.
Automation To enhance productivity of technical staff, PCs are used to do "bookkeeping" tasks to generate progress payments for contractors, for engineering applications, correspondence, etc. Field offices are equipped with PCs, printers, copiers, faxes.
Personnel Expenses Overtime and travel expenses are tightly managed, often resulting in development of project-level budgets by Regional managers.
Inspection Engineering consultants are utilized when there are insufficient state staff for inspection. There is an increasing tendency to assign them to projects that may be overtime and travel intensive (because those resources are budgeted and scrutinized separately for State staff). Some agreements provide for only technician staff, sometimes assigned to multiple projects or only as-needed.
Support Engineering consultants are used (as-needed) for plant inspection, shop drawing reviews, constructibility reviews, hazardous materials removal inspection, and other specialized tasks to supplement State staff capacity and skills.
Priority We have an explicit policy to prioritize inspection activities to focus on critical and hidden elements. Where feasible, some work is inspected after-the-fact or spot checked.
Specs We have an explicit policy to move toward QC/QA, incentives performance and warranty specs to maximize the value of staff effort and focus contractors' attention properly on satisfactory results.
Services & Equip Contractors provide survey and stakeout, certain inspection equipment, field office, supplies., PCS, communications, etc.
Partnering We have adopted a partnering philosophy in contract language, specs and management style, resulting in substantially less effort & costs in conflict, formal disputes and claims.
Time Related Specs We have dramatically Increased our use of incentives and milestones, often via A+B or lane rental provisions. Contractors work faster, to meet our goals often resulting in staff being freed up sooner to work on other projects.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) contract construction program has steadily increased since 1980, with a dramatic jump in 1998. With governments everywhere holding the line on adding additional staff, managing project staffing has become a difficult task. The NCDOT has, since 1990, employed the use of both contract surveying and private engineering firms to ensure projects are adequately staffed. I have also enclosed lists of projects that show how they were used (attached to file copy of this report).
You will notice that our State is divided into 14 divisions. Each division is responsible for the construction personnel within their division. Our central construction office works with each division to determine overall staffing needs. We first look at filling all vacant positions. As the work demand allows, we then transfer existing positions from one division to another. At this point, we determine which projects need contract surveying and where there is a need to supplement forces with private engineering firms. In North Carolina we only use technicians from the private engineering firms. Management and project engineers are provided by the Department.
North Dakota is experiencing the qualified employee pinch expressed in your request for ways of dealing with limited staffing. Construction staffing is at 75% of the level three years ago. Listed below are some of the methods used to cope with cutbacks.
Contract Coring: North Dakota Department of Transportation quit using nuclear density gauges to document Hot Bituminous Pavement density in the mid 80's and started using asphalt cores obtained from the roadway surface to establish pavement density. Because of safety constraints, the coring function required three people, two vehicles an arrow board, coring machine and a diamond saw mounted on a trailer. The process increased staff by two and added one vehicle on every asphalt surfacing project.
In 1990, specifications were changed requiring the contractor to obtain the cores and prepare them for weighing. Coring unit costs were high for two years ($26.31 per core avg) but as equipment costs were recovered, contractor coring costs dropped and are considered reasonable at the 1996-1997 average bid price of $11.30 per core. The change reduced staff by two and vehicles by one.
Contract Surveying: Contract surveying was tried in the mid 70's on one grading project. The second attempt was in the early 90's when three bridge replacement projects listed contract surveying. In 1996, contract surveying was required on a large structure and is working well.
In 1997, because of employee constraints, contract survey was used on a large recycled concrete project in an urban area and on a bituminous surfacing project. Again, because of the lack of staff, more contract surveys will be required in 1998. This trend will continue because of cuts in staff and the availability of temporary personnel. DOT crews still conduct surveys for payment purposes as well as ramp alignment. Contractor surveyors are setting grade stakes, establishing elevations and grade staking.
Due to reduction in project inspection forces ODOT has adopted the following procedures:
Administration of this project will involve a minimum of field inspection by ODOT personnel. In order to accomplish reduced inspection, the Contractor is required to notify the Project Engineer/Supervisor of the necessary inspection of certain items of work be conducted, in a timely manner, prior to advancing to the next phase of associated work, i.e., prior to backfilling, covering, building upon or otherwise creating a condition whereby the work cannot be visually inspected or readily corrected. These are items of work requiring a high degree of inspection (nearly 100% during performance).
It may be necessary for the District to rotate experienced inspectors from project to project to provide the intended level of inspection required for critical work items.
If the contractor has given proper advanced notice and ODOT personnel do not respond [in a timely manner], the Contractor may proceed according to heir schedule. This does not relieve the Contractor of any contractual requirement. In the event the request for inspection is canceled or delayed, the Contractor is required to notify the Project Engineer/Supervisor as far in advance as possible. Cancellations resulting from an Act of God are excluded from this requirement.
Items of work being performed which can be reviewed/inspected at a later date (not covered or buried) will not require the level of inspection described above. However, the Contractor is expected to keep the Project Engineer/Supervisor informed of their scheduled work on these items to permit random inspection and project documentation of work being performed.
Ohio DOT Items Requiring Random Inspection
Flexible Pavement Construction:
Regulated Waste And Underground Storage Tank Removal:
Pipe And Manhole Construction:
Rigid Pavement Construction:
Sediment And Erosion Control:
Structural Steel Painting:
Ohio DOT Items Requiring Full Time Inspection
Bridge Deck Overlays:
Flexible Pavement Construction:
Regulated Waste And Underground Storage Tank Removal:
Pipe And Manhole Construction:
Rigid Pavement Construction:
Sediment And Erosion Control:
Structural Steel Painting:
Like many other states, the Oregon Dept. of Transportation has had to find ways to deal with a reduced number of employees, and currently are looking at doing more work (with help of TEA 21) with the current workforce. Listed below are some of the ways we are dealing with this:
Contractor Surveying - For several years now, Oregon DOT has looked at turning over most of the project surveying over to the construction contractor during construction. This includes layout, grade lines and R/W monumentation. The DOT continues to be responsible for nearly all measurement for payment, however, we are considering turning some of this over to the contractors once we have developed an adequate assurance/ audit program. This shift of responsibility has had the added benefit of forcing the contractors to become better at scheduling their work and protecting the stakes.
Contractor / Supplier Weighing - For most projects, we use contractors or suppliers to provide the weighing and receipt preparation for products paid by weights. This is now included in project specifications, with no additional payment for this work. The specifications also require this weighing and receipt writing to be done by automated weighing and printing devices. A random check-weighing process provides assurances of accuracy
Contractor Mix Designs - ODOT has required PCC mix designs to be prepared by contractors / suppliers for a number of years, now. We are currently in a transition to contractor / supplier preparation of AC mix designs. This has resulted in a reduced staffing need, especially in the materials lab. The driving factors for this shift of responsibility has been for quality improvement reasons rather than simply reduction of staff. This has been very successful for the PCC, however, we are still fine-tuning the requirements for the AC mix designs.
QC / QA by Contractors - When ODOT first looked toward shifting QC / QA responsibilities to contractors, it was done with the intention of increasing construction quality. Similar to the shift of mix designs, we expected (and are seeing) a more responsive focus on product quality by the people producing the products. Tied to incentives and disincentives for measured product quality, this move appears to be pretty successful. However, the pressures to reduce staff size prompted ODOT to speed the transition into QC / QA considerably quicker than intended, so we had a few bumps along the way.
Consultant Usage - We have been using consultants for a portion of project development and some for construction, too. Although the primary use in construction has been for inspectors and some survey crew work, there has been very little movement towards consultants taking over the entire contract administration duties on DOT projects. Local agencies, however, make considerable use of consultants for this.
Seasonal Employees, College Trainees, and High School Interns - Much of the high demand for personnel during the busy summer season is met with the use of seasonal, college trainee, and high school intern employees. This has been done for many years at ODOT, and is very successful for helping to meet our current needs, as well as provide interest for these employees to become permanent employees. The primary down side of this strategy is that inexperience limits the number of these people we can effectively use.
Maintenance Personnel Usage- Where possible, construction crews are borrowing maintenance personnel during the summer months. This works especially well from snow zone maintenance crews, as they have to staff up for the winters, and do not have as high of demand for employees in the summer. The added benefit is the payoff of getting staff back in subsequent years once training and experience is provided.
Rotational Assignments from Centralized Staffs - Although somewhat limited in numbers, some design and other centralized personnel are rotating out to the field offices to get some construction experience. This experience helps those employees for future work and assignments, as well as providing some additional resources to the project field offices.
Reduced Paperwork Requirements - Some time savings is now provided by changes made in some paperwork requirements. This includes more lump sum pay items, and the combining of pay items such as pipe, trenching, and bedding.
Supplier Quality Assurance Programs - We are also increasing the number of construction products being inspected at suppliers by a quality assurance program and/or supplier certification instead of having to inspect individual pieces at individual projects. This method includes re-bar, cement, concrete barrier, pipe and guardrail components. We are currently working on a quality assurance program at supplier facilities for liquid asphalts.
Manpower Projection Modeling - Although not providing additional people to meet the needs on field crews, we have been using a manpower projection modeling method to help ensure a more effective usage of current employees. This tool also helps to forecast budgets.
Partial Payment of Materials-on-Hand
A special provision in our contracts transfers the responsibility of tracking and reporting Materials-on-Hand (MOH) quantities from TxDOT to the contractor. The contractor is responsible for submitting the MOH request on TxDOT forms and maintaining all records relating to payment; however, TxDOT has the authority to audit the contractor's records. This new system has reduced the work load for project personnel without producing an averse impact on the control of payment for MOH.
The TxDOT administration formed a "Contract Administration Review Team" consisting of representatives from the division and district offices; Associated General Contractors of Texas and the Federal Highway Administration. This team was charged with reviewing required project documentation to determine which forms or reports could be eliminated or modified thus reducing the time required to process project paperwork. Several forms and reports were found to be outdated and subsequently, were discontinued allowing construction personnel to devote more time to other important activities.
At the present time, TxDOT area engineers are directed to provide the contractor with surveying control points. The contractor is then responsible for providing a qualified and experienced survey crew to correctly locate and maintain construction stakes throughout the course of the project. The area office may spot check for accuracy, but the contractor is still ultimately responsible. This procedure has considerably reduced the demand on project engineers.
Reducing staff: Some of the things we are doing to reduce staff:
Phase Inspection: Beginning in the early 1980's Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) was capped with a maximum level of employment (MEL) for our construction inspection program. Prior to this cap Virginia had practiced full or continuous inspection.
With the restriction of MEL and an increase in the construction program, we implemented the concept of "Phase Inspection". Phase inspection is inspection at predetermined stages of completion of the various work activities. The stages are identified as the point at which contractors can proceed no further without eliminating the opportunity for the inspector to verify that the construction is in conformance with the contract or to document a quantity for payment. Some items may be inspected after completion without significant risk to VDOT (such as end walls, fencing and clearing) while others may still need continuous inspection where the consequence of failure is great (such as structural concrete).
Although other strategies have been initiated, phase inspection is still used in conjunction with them.
Construction Survey: Construction Survey was introduced as a bid item and contract requirement in 1991. This primarily relieved the staffing demands on our survey personnel. It has not relieved our project inspectors from their responsibility to check the contractor's stake out or insure that items are constructed in accordance with the contract.
Consultant Inspection: Prior to 1991, consultant inspection was used primarily to obtain specialized or highly technical expertise required for inspection of certain projects. Since workforce reduction in 1991 and 1995, VDOT was required to maintain the same maximum employment level (MEL) for construction inspectors that it had prior to 1991. Therefore, use of consultant inspection increased dramatically. Now, 30% to 40% of VDOT's inspection force consists of consultant inspectors.
Consultant inspection is used for specialized projects (moveable bridge, traffic management systems) for inspection on individual projects, and for region-wide supplement for our internal forces.
QC/QA: The VDOT has used the concept of contractor quality control and owner quality assurance for all aspects of the contract on several projects. We are still in the process of evaluating these projects, but early response from the contractors and Department personnel involved indicate the concept has been successful. Under this concept, the contractor is responsible for the quality control that VDOT had traditionally performed. There are not VDOT inspectors on these projects. The contractor QC Team also does the project diary and prepares the monthly estimate. In some instances the contractor put together an internal team and in other projects the contractor employed a consultant to provide the quality control.
In order for this concept to work the quality control team must be independent from the contractor's production team and they must have the power to accept and reject work.
You requested that I share Washington's experience at coping with Construction Staffing Demands. The Washington State DOT is currently experiencing a moderate to high turn-over in engineering positions with a lack of success in attracting replacements. Much of the turn-over is obviously affecting construction. Some strategies currently being employed to deal with the engineering workforce shortages are contractor surveying , evaluating current processes for better efficiency and supplementing our workforce with consultant personnel.
Contractor Surveying At the time projects are developed, the region assigned the responsibility for managing the contract projects both the workforce needs and availability's, and then utilizes "contracting surveying" as a contract requirement. This has proved to be a useful tool to match projected workforce demands with available workforce. However, we have a unique problem in dealing with Washington State statute and organized labor unions. Our workforce is unionized. We have a law that limits the department from contracting out work that has traditionally been performed by state employees.
Supplementing Workforce with Consultant Personnel Another approach we have used is to enter into agreement with consultants to provide engineering personnel within our field offices. The engineers provided work for the field office along side other state employees, however we do not pay them directly. We pay the consultant for services provided and they pay the people that they provide. This helps address the engineering shortage in the short term but has proven to be a more expensive because we are paying higher salaries as well as paying for the consultant's overhead.
Evaluating Processes for better Efficiency One of the strategies used to address the demand on workforce has been a "Quality Team" chartered specifically to review all aspects of contract administration, including inspection, sampling, testing, approvals, etc., with the perspective of eliminating processes that do not have value. The overall impact of this level of refinement is to substantially reduce workforce hours.
One recent exercise we are going through is called "Succession Planning". This strategy employs recruitment and interviewing for a large number of positions simultaneously that are either presently vacant, or soon will be. The advantage of recruitment and filling positions in this manner is to obtain the best fit for each available position based on both the ranking after interview as well as the preferences expressed by the candidate.
In the past, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) has used consultants for inspection, but in certain cases this caused more work. WYDOT is currently shifting some of the testing responsibility to the Contractor through Quality Control/Quality Assurance (QC/QA).
The WYDOT occasionally shares or shifts personnel, on a temporary basis, from crews with lighter workloads to crews with heavier workloads. This type of practice should be done more often to meet labor needs.
The WYDOT uses Maintenance personnel in the summer months to offset workloads. Once again, this type of practice should be used more often to meet labor needs. In addition, temporary personnel can be used for weigh-in materials for short durations of about 1-2 weeks.