Pavement warranties began in the United States in the late 1800's as local agencies began to pave all weather roads to improve the lives of millions of Americans. Fred Warren, of the Warren Brothers Company, was an entrepreneur of the times. On June 4, 1901, the Warren Brothers Company patented their product called "Warrenite Bitulithic Pavement," and offered 15-year warranties. Early concrete pavements also came with warranties. In 1889, George W. Bartholomew initiated the first Portland Cement Pavement warranty in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Warranties remained in use for several years, but as competition increased they were no longer offered. The Warren Brothers Company continued to offer warranties until the early 1920's.
In the 1950's when the Interstate construction expansion began, the use of warranties was explicitly disallowed. The federal government participated in the cost of building highways but maintenance was completely a state function. The Bureau of Public Roads (Federal Highway Administration) determined that warranties fell under the category of maintenance activities and were therefore not permitted.
For the next 40 years warranties had limited use with States and local agencies, but they surfaced again on highway projects in the 1990's. Federal regulations were revised in 1995 to improve the long-term quality of roadways. Since then, several agencies have used different types of warranties with varying degrees of success. In some states legislative mandates have required the use of warranties. In addition, other state agencies have chosen to use them to achieve a higher quality product.
Responding to several State requests for more information the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed warranty guidance documents and a one-day workshop entitled "Basic Pavement Warranties." The guidance documents are intended to provide agencies with more detailed information regarding the background, selection procedures, specification development, and verification programs for warranties. The one-day workshop is based on best practices from across the country and internationally, and includes research and input from Industry. The FHWA is promoting warranties and providing updated information to state agencies that want to introduce, expand, or update their warranty programs.
Warranties are used to specify the desired performance characteristics of a particular product over a specified period of time and to define responsibility for the project. Warranties are not appropriate for addition to contracts after the fact to address substandard materials or lower quality operations performed by the contractor. Warranties are intended to increase pavement performance by addressing quality during construction, not as maintenance agreements for covering maintenance costs or activities due to less than desirable execution of the construction contract.
The two types of warranties in the highway industry are materials and workmanship warranties and performance warranties. Particular attention should be given to the difference between the two warranty types. Risk allocation varies a great deal between the warranty types and is directly related to the benefits and cost effectiveness of the innovative contracting practice.
- Material and Workmanship Warranties: These warranties are generally related to preventive maintenance treatments such as crack sealing, chip and seal coats, microsurfacing and thin HMA overlays typically have warranty periods from 2-4 years in duration.
- Performance Warranties: These warranties are generally related to new, reconstruction or rehabilitation type projects and have warranty periods from 5-20 years in duration. Short-Term Performance Warranties range from 5-10 years with Long-Term Warranties 10-20 years.
Short-Term pavement performance warranties have been demonstrated by a number of states to be effective not only in the cost effectiveness but also in improving the quality of the roadways.