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Construction Program Management and Inspection Guide
4. Inspection and Review Activities (continued)
Processing and Distributing the Report
Construction inspection reports, as official FHWA documents, should be professionally completed. They should be neatly prepared, legible, and grammatically correct. Standard reporting forms are available on FHWA-wide software (see Appendix G). Timeliness of reporting is important. It is recommended that preparation and distribution be accomplished within 2 weeks of the time the field review is completed to increase the value and effectiveness of the report. Inspection reports should be numbered in sequence for each project.
It is recommended that there be at least one level of review by the division management prior to release. Field engineers should report on their observations, findings, recommendations, and conclusions as they see conditions and needs in the field. Recommendations and conclusions should be supportable and based on fact, technical soundness, and compliance with Federal policy.
The inspecting engineer should accept constructive criticism aimed at improving a report's conciseness and clarity but should not be expected to rewrite reports for minor reasons or to satisfy the supervisor's personal preference. Rather than revise reports, it may be preferable for the supervisor to add supplemental comments. These additions should be signed and dated.
The division office should have a routine procedure for routing construction inspection reports. Some individuals will be designated to read all reports while others, such as bridge engineers, environmental specialists, and right-of-way officers, should be designated to receive only those reports containing topics within their specialties.
Inspecting engineers and their supervisors should be responsible for assuring that appropriate individuals have access to individual reports. A designated individual should be responsible for summarizing observations, findings, and followup actions. Significant data should be included in the division office control system.
The State and FHWA should agree on the distribution of reports within the STA. Distribution may be routine, or it may vary with the type and content of the reports. It is recommended that all construction inspection reports be transmitted to the State for appropriate distribution.
Followup Action, Controls, and Information Sharing
Frequently it will be necessary for the inspecting engineer to follow up on previous review findings and recommendations. The need for followup action may be created by a variety of conditions, such as the following:
- Obsolete or substandard procedures
- Plan deficiencies
- Changed conditions
- Contractor requests or disputes
- Construction deficiencies
- Supervision, inspection, and testing deficiencies
- Materials problems and low quality levels
- Excessive cost variance
- Construction time creep
- Inadequate or incomplete information
- Need for special or additional studies
- Construction and performance of experimental or other special features
- Completion and implementation of environmental commitments
Depending on the findings and recommendations, the responsibility for implementation may rest at various levels within the STA or FHWA. Project-related findings should be discussed with the responsible project individual prior to leaving the site. The inspecting engineer is responsible for following through and for updating the division office control system. In cases where action is taken at the project level, resolution may occur at the time of the inspection or later. Repetitive findings generally require upper management program level correction. Both types of actions should be reported to document FHWA's involvement and to provide a basis for detecting repetitive problems and deficiencies.
Method of Presentation
A variety of methods exist for presenting findings to those responsible for taking further actions. The method used depends on the significance of the findings and the level within the STA to which the concern must be directed. Minor items may be presented verbally or by furnishing a copy of the inspection report. Significant items not fully resolved at the project level require followup in a future construction inspection report.
Findings from statewide reviews are usually presented to STA management at a closeout conference. Significant items requiring action require formal transmittal to STA management.
Division Office Control System
Each division office should have a control system for documenting, reporting, tracking, and resolving significant construction findings. Either engineering or administrative personnel may manage this control system. If the system is not managed by engineering personnel, there should be engineering participation to determine what findings are significant. Construction inspection reports should be routed to the individual responsible for the control system so findings may be logged, trends identified, and both evaluated for their significance. In addition to tracking construction observation and findings, this system should track positive trends, cost savings, new innovations, and technology enhancements.
See the sidebar entitled "Construction Management Report" for a summary of items suitable for inclusion in the periodic evaluation of the STA's construction management program. A construction management report is a summary of strengths and weaknesses observed. This report can serve as an excellent management tool and as the basis for future risk assessment and development of the division's stewardship report. This practice is not mandatory but discretionary, based upon each division's needs. It is also recommended that this type of evaluation report be coauthored by the division and the STA's central office.
Information Sharing and Technology Transfer
The division office's construction monitoring program should include procedures for reporting on special, experimental, or innovative construction materials, methods, or equipment. These procedures should be directed toward encouraging technology transfer (T2) and information sharing.
Experimental features are considered a material, process, method, equipment item, or other feature that (1) has not been sufficiently tested under actual service conditions to merit acceptance without reservation in normal highway construction, or (2) has been accepted but needs to be compared with alternative acceptable features for determining their relative merits and cost-effectiveness. FHWA procedures for incorporating experimental features can be found in https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/contracts/expermnt.cfm.
General reporting procedures should include these actions:
- Identifying appropriate features
- Working cooperatively with the STA
- Encouraging adequate monitoring and data gathering
- Ensuring report preparation
- Ensuring report distribution
- Followup as needed
Information on many valuable features, methods, and procedures is frequently not reported because people at the project level may not be aware of what is significant; because the information is not officially tagged with an experimental or similar title; or because the information is relatively new to the contracting agency. FHWA field engineers, as independent observers, need to make a conscientious effort to overcome these roadblocks to information sharing.
A natural reluctance to write reports is also a problem. Emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that reports need not be long, detailed, or prepared in a formal style to be of value. FHWA field engineers are encouraged to report on such features in normal or special construction inspection reports. Where appropriate or needed, FHWA should identify alternative resources to assist in data gathering and report writing. This may include other STA, FHWA, or industry resources, use of T2 funds, or other mechanisms. Engineers should coordinate with the division T2 engineer, division specialist, or other appropriate offices for information, technical assistance, and report distribution.
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