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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - Winter 1994

The National Quality Initiative

by Donald Tuggle


Quality Management (QM) is a broad term for the overall process of ensuring quality products. Within the highway community, it encompasses such issues as contractor/consultant process control, owner acceptance issues, personnel qualifications and training, information management systems, performance-related specifications, innovative contracting practices to achieve quality, incentive/disincentive provisions, performance recognition, improved materials/tests/equipment, and quality improvement techniques. A formalized QM program can be applied to all aspects of highway engineering and operations.

FHWA Demonstration Project No. 89 Workshop

In 1989, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) Construction and Maintenance Division began discussions with the Office of Technology Applications to initiate a demonstration project (DP) on QM that would both reemphasize earlier concepts and address the broader topic of total quality management, which had just begun to receive widespread attention.

As the first activity under DP No. 89, FHWA sponsored a workshop (held on December 12-13, 1990) for approximately 30 top leaders in the QM field from state highway agencies, the construction industry, construction associations, academia, and FHWA.

Workshop attendees made the following specific recommendations:

  • A broad-based national initiative on quality is essential.
  • Top management's understanding and commitment to quality products and delivery is critical.
  • A national statement or policy should be a part of an initiative to show national commitment. This posture should be developed jointly by FHWA, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and industry leaders.
  • FHWA should provide leadership in launching a national initiative on quality.
  • One element of this initiative should be a DP focused on construction and materials quality.
  • A major emphasis should be placed on a partnership between designers, owners, contractors, and suppliers in achieving quality results.
  • Technical skills and tools (including certification programs such as sound, statistical specifications and a long-term commitment to technical training) are essential, and they should be provided.
  • A long-range plan for implementing a national initiative on quality should also be developed and followed.

Workshop participants also suggested the establishment of a panel of top managers from FHWA, AASHTO, and various industries to address the broad issue of quality improvement in the highway community and to discuss the need, form, and content of a national policy on highway quality. Following the DP No. 89 workshop, the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways (SCOH) on June 9, 1991, stated AASHTO's commitment to a "Constructive Quality Assurance Initiative" with FHWA and the construction industry and took several other actions aimed at the overall improvement of highway construction quality.

Following the creation of the National Quality Initiative (NQI) Steering Committee, the newly elected president of AASHTO, Wayne Muri, declared he would break with AASHTO's tradition of creating multiple emphasis areas for the year. He declared that there would be but one emphasis during his tenure and that would simply be Quality.

Early NQI Activities

The first meeting of the steering committee was held in January 1992 during the Annual Transportation Research Board Meeting. The focus of the effort, which started out primarily in the construction arena, was soon broadened to include all aspects of the constructed product, since each phase of the project is dependent on the previous phase in order to advance a quality endproduct to the highway user.

The joint FHWA/AASHTO/ industry steering committee currently consists of the following organizations:

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

American Consulting Engineers Council (ACEC)

American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA)

Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA)

American Public Works Association (APWA)

American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA)

National Ready-Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA)

During that meeting, the steering committee established the mission for the NQI. The ultimate goal would be to place a national emphasis -- from all corners of the highway industry -- on producing quality products. The overall objectives of the NQI are:

  • Improving the technical quality of the nation's transportation systems and responsiveness to public needs.
  • Increasing the strength and competitiveness of the U.S. transportation industry in the global marketplace through quality emphasis and improvement.
  • Advancing the quality of transportation delivery systems through partnership efforts among FHWA, AASHTO, industry, and academia.
  • Maximizing the use of transportation investment through better system and product performance.
  • Encouraging technological developments and innovations through quality incentives.

An implementation strategy was then developed. First, a "National Policy on the Quality of Highways" would be developed to establish some of the common quality principles among the associations and to create a partnering agreement indicating a unified industry approach and commitment toward quality products. The second phase of the NQI involved a series of seminars with the objective of educating managers on quality principles and the importance of technical excellence to achieve a quality product. The first of the seminar series was the November 10,1992, "Partnerships for Quality" seminar held at the Dallas/Fort Worth Hyatt Airport Hotel. Nearly 250 top state highway officials, FHWA managers, and key industry officials attended the seminar, where the newly formed "National Policy on the Quality of Highways" was signed.

The policy concludes by saying, "The development and preservation of a high-quality highway system requires a close partnership between all stakeholders; therefore, the undersigned organizations have cooperatively developed this national policy and will strive to fulfill its principles." In fact, the element of cooperation among each of the participating organizations has been the corner stone of the success of the NQI to date. The national seminar was funded under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.

Next, there were four followup "NQI Regional Quality Seminars" (one per AASHTO region) held in April and May of 1993. Approximately 1200 top career state highway agency (SHA) personnel, FHWA mid-level managers, local governments, industry representatives, academicians, consultants, suppliers, and others attended these regional seminars. There has been very good feedback received from these seminars that were funded by FHWA.

Current and Future Activities

Beginning in the fall of 1993, the SHAs will receive technically oriented workshop materials, references, and training aids to allow the program to be presented around the country to a broader range of mid-level managers. These workshops will provide an overview of quality management and provide a synopsis of the technical tools available. Training courses can be developed for project-level personnel from both the public and private sectors with those technical tools.

A memorandum to FHWA field offices is being developed that outlines the suggested process for each state to follow in developing a state-level quality initiative. This memorandum will also state that DP No. 89 will provide financial assistance in conducting these seminars. The level of this assistance will be at least $5000 per state. This funding will be provided by FHWA.

NQI is a partnership of AASHTO, industry, and FHWA to place a national emphasis -- from all corners of the highway industry -- on producing quality products.

The steering committee believes it is important to market the NQI and the subject of quality both within and outside the highway community. One element of a marketing plan that is already being pursued by the steering committee is the development of a videotape on the NQI effort. This can be used in the state-level seminars as well as for the other activities.

In addition, congressionally mandated studies on quality (Sections 1043 and 6014) in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 indicate increased attention to the quality issue by members of Congress.

At a meeting held in April 1993, the steering committee developed an initial long-range plan to move into some of the more pervasive quality issues in the highway industry. This long-range plan is intended to be a flexible document that will be modified as necessary. The initial plan was conceived to provide a longterm commitment to continuous improvement rather than a short-term program or merely increased emphasis. Some of the overall objectives of the long-range plan include:

  • Considering international applications and technology for possible use.
  • Building regional and national consensus on issues in this country that may enhance cost, quality, and performance of our highway system. This includes such issues as specifications, designs and design assumptions, training and certification requirements, laboratory quality control requirements and accreditation, and so forth.
  • Improving the technology and technology sharing through research, training, incentives, demonstration, and use of information-sharing techniques.
  • Heightening awareness for the need for quality and encouraging the use of quality improvement techniques, partnering, and state-of-the-art planning, design, construction, and maintenance techniques in the highway industry.
  • Providing a followup mechanism for Transportation Circular 386 on "Innovative Contracting Practices" to explore new ways of con tract ing and p rov iding increased quality and quality incentives in the highway industry.

The specifics of certain elements of the long-range plan are still in the development stage; however, a number of workshops are being planned to address some of the issues identified. Separate efforts are also underway in the areas of training and information sharing. Funding and responsible organization will be identified in the plan. FHWA will support many of these activities under DP No. 89.

FHWA Future Actions

FHWA has been a major force behind the NQI effort, however, we have emphasized throughout this process that this is a cooperative effort of the entire highway industry. It is essential to the longterm success of the NQI that it not be viewed as one organization's program. Top management support for the partnership of federal and state agencies and the private sector will be needed to ensure that the momentum that has recently begun will continue. While it is recognized that each party must maintain their separate responsibilities, the NQI has demonstrated that this diverse highway industry group can work successfully toward achieving a common goal. The ultimate goal for FHWA is to continue to foster this long-term partnership approach in the highway industry and to maximize the public investment through an emphasis on quality

National Quality Initiative Steering Committee

AASHTQ Representatives:

*Dwight M. Bower, Dep. Dir; Colo. Dept. of Highways

Ken Morefield; State Highway Engr., Fla DOT

Gary Robinson, State Engineer, Ariz DOT

Don Lucas, Chief Highway Engr; Ind DOT

Joseph Filippino, Dir., Bureau of Construction and Materials, Pa. DOT

Wayne Murphy, State Construction Engr; Minn. DOT

Gary Robson, Dir; Materials Div., WVa DQT Jirn McManust Dep. Chief Engr., Div. of State/Local Project Development, Calif. DOT

Industry Representatives:

*Peter K.W. Wert, VP; Haskell Lemon Construction Co; AGC

William R. Cape, Pres., James Cape & Sons Co; ARTBA

Richard D. Gaynor, Exec. Dir; NRMCA

Michael Acott, Pres., NAPA Sanford P. LaHue, Dir. of Engineering Highways, ACPA

Richard Sparlint Sr. VP; Centennial Engineering, ACEC

APWA Representative:

R. Giancola, Bureau Chief, Highways and Transportation, Frederick County

FHWA Representatives:

E. Dean Carlson, Exec Dir.

William Weseman, Chief, Construction and Maintenance Div.

Thomas Ptak, Regional Administrator, Region 9


Donald Tuggle, Construction and Maintenance Div; FHWA

*indicates co-chairman

Donald Tuggle is in the Construction and Maintenance Division of FHWA's Office of Program Development. He is also the secretary of the NQI Steering Committee.