|Josh Beakley is technical director for the American Concrete Pipe Association in Irving, Texas. He serves as secretary for the AASHTO Rigid Culvert Liaison Committee, where producers, consultants, and DOTs review rigid culvert items prior to submitting them to AASHTO. He is a 10-year member of ASTM Committee C13 on Concrete Pipe and currently serves as its secretary.
State Department of Transportation Involvement in ASTM Standards Development
Since its inception in 1898, ASTM International has been developing consensus standards that are used throughout the world. These standards are used by producers as a definition of the attributes needed in the products they manufacture. They are also referenced by users of the product to ensure a certain level of performance. In this way, ASTM standards have served the public sector for over 106 years.
Originating in 1914 as the American Association of State Highway Officials, what is now known as AASHTO, the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials, has been serving public needs with regard to bridge and highway construction and repair for over 90 years. Safe roadways and bridges begin with quality standards. Thus, in many ways, the goals of ASTM and AASHTO technical committees are consistent.
AASHTO subcommittees have representation from the departments of transportation of American states and territories, as well as the federal government. These subcommittees are actively involved in developing AASHTO design specifications for bridges and substructures, as well as materials and testing standards for products used in bridge and highway construction. Unlike ASTM, there is no direct involvement from industry in AASHTO subcommittees.
The Importance of State DOT Standards
For many industries, including the buried pipe industry of which I am a part, the public sector is a primary end user of the materials they produce. This includes departments of transportation, as well as municipal public works agencies. Much of what we produce must meet the requirements of Department of Transportation specifications. Not only does the state require it, but the counties and local municipalities within a state typically use the states requirements as a basis for their own specifications. In fact, if a municipality does not have a standard addressing a specific product, they are required by federal law to follow the state standard if federal funding is involved. Although specifications may vary to some degree from state to state, most are based on the
national AASHTO standards. AASHTO standards are developed by subcommittees with members from these very states getting together and pooling their knowledge to develop a standard that they feel meets the publics needs.
Sharing of Standards
It is not uncommon for AASHTO or state specifications to reference an ASTM standard, thereby making it essentially a part of their specifications. In many instances, AASHTO directly adopts ASTM standards, or works with ASTM to develop standards. In fact, the AASHTO material and testing specifications are placed into three categories.
Category A standards are AASHTO-only standards that were originally developed by AASHTO, and do not have an ASTM counterpart, or that have an ASTM counterpart that differs significantly on the same subject.
Category B standards are those that are developed and maintained by both organizations.
Category C standards are those in which AASHTO and DOT personnel have had little involvement in development, but which appear in the AASHTO specification books.
In Section 126.96.36.199 of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Materials Guide, it states:
To the extent feasible, AASHTO Standards included in Categories B and C should be technically equivalent to the latest version of corresponding ASTM Standards, and likewise, technical section chairs should seek to have the appropriate ASTM technical committees keep ASTM Standards technically equivalent to the latest version of the corresponding AASHTO Standards.
Thus, the importance of state DOT participation within the ASTM standards development process cannot be overemphasized. The balance of producers and users within ASTM technical committees provides an excellent opportunity for each to share their concerns and priorities. Participation from members of state DOTs within an ASTM subcommittee allows the producer to hear firsthand what the primary customer for their product deems to be necessary requirements for that product to support the U.S. infrastructure. On the other hand, the DOT members can get a better grasp of the modern innovations and capabilities of products that will lead the United States into the future. Perhaps most important, producers and users get a chance to work together and experience the commitment to the overall quality of public life that each is working toward. If you sell someone a product, he or she is a customer. If you work with them to get the most from that product, they are a partner.
There is a perception among state employees that ASTM committees are primarily producer-driven. Many ASTM committee meetings have very few DOT representatives in attendance. With state budget reductions, it is difficult for individuals who work for departments of transportation to get the funding to attend ASTM meetings. Fewer and fewer state representatives are attending AASHTO meetings, let alone ASTM meetings. However, DOT participation on ASTM subcommittees remains strong. While many DOT members of ASTM cannot make the meetings, they actively participate in the ballot process.
Since many ASTM standards make their way into AASHTO standards, either directly or indirectly, it is logical for individuals from the ranks of DOT to participate in the ASTM standards development process. Spending time now saves time later when the same item is addressed within an AASHTO committee. Because all comments and negative votes are addressed at ASTM meetings, the thoughts and concerns of the DOT membership are given consideration. That being said, there is nothing that can replace the education to be had, and the give-and-take that occurs, during a subcommittee meeting. To that end, many ASTM committees such as C13 on Concrete Pipe are focusing on ways to assist the DOT community in getting sufficient funds to attend the meetings. Many ASTM committees have funds supported by voluntary contributions from their membership to subsidize the meeting functions. In C13 and other committees, consideration has been given to develop a fund to support the travel needs of the non-producer members.
There is always a need for more non-producer members in ASTM committees. This is particularly true of DOT personnel who represent both a specifying and user interest in products such as buried pipe. Producers of these products know that specifications are of little use if they do not address the needs of their primary customer. As state money has diminished over the past several years, most personnel working for state DOTs are learning to do more with less. Those individuals with little knowledge of ASTM may see it as just one more thing they are asked to do and, in this case, without any pay. It is up to members of committees such as C13 to convince them of the benefits of membership. Producer members of these committees must make it clear that we want, and need, their active participation in ASTM to develop the best standards possible.
DOTs Bring a Unique Perspective
Personnel working for state departments of transportation are usually on the front line of progress. Unfortunately, America has a national highway infrastructure whose bridges get a C and roads get a D grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in their 2003 Progress Report for Americas Infrastructure. In todays economic climate, DOTs are left with limited money with which to repair/build infrastructure to rectify this situation. Solutions to these problems can only be obtained through the use of products that are cutting-edge, with proven durability that ensures additional costs will not be incurred in the future. Transportation departments need innovative ideas to help them make the most of their limited budgets. Representatives of new products and services continually bring promises of longer design lives, lower costs, and better performance, but without performance-based standards, who is to say what really works?
Even with limited budgets, the larger infrastructure projects are generally the publicly funded projects that ensure safe and efficient public facilities and means of travel from one destination to another. Working on projects like these generally gives DOT personnel valuable insight into the total picture of what is required to satisfy the wants of today and the needs of tomorrow. They develop an understanding of the importance of planning, design, construction, and oversight of the entire project. With this comes an understanding of how much the details affect the overall picture, and the importance of creating quality standards that address the details. It is this experience and know-how that benefits the ASTM committees on which state DOT representatives serve.
DOT personnel put a great amount of effort and commitment into providing the U.S. populace with transportation facilities that will allow us to continue to improve our way of life. It is this commitment to the big picture, and the detailed building blocks required to achieve it, that will always be of benefit to ASTM committees.
ASTM Committee C13 on Concrete Pipe has been fortunate to have the leadership of many employees from departments of transportation, including several who have served as chairman of the committee. One of the highest awards that can be bestowed on a member of C13 is the Robert R. Litehiser Award, presented to an individual in recognition of outstanding service to the advancement of standards and test criteria related to concrete pipe. This award is named after Col. Robert R. Litehiser, chief engineer of test for the Ohio Department of Highways from 1930 to 1963 and chairman of Committee C13 from 1952 to 1962. Colonel Litehiser is quoted as saying, If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. If ASTM committee activities are going to be done well, then the involvement of state personnel is critical. //