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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

VII. Sign Maintenance Records

Maintenance Records

Keeping records of sign maintenance and inspections is important, particularly small signs as these are the ones most often affected by weather and vehicular accidents. Keeping good records will help you:

  • Make good decisions about when old sign panels should be replaced,
  • Respond more quickly to relocating or replacing signs frequently damaged,
  • Determine which materials are best suited for your area and need to effectively manage your sign program,
  • Work with law enforcement personnel to reduce vandalism, and
  • Defend against lawsuits arising from collision with or challenges about the condition of the sign.

The three main elements of maintenance records include:

  • The sign inventory,
  • The log or record of incident reports, and
  • The sign/sign support maintenance records.

Sign Inventory

It is very important to develop and maintain a sign inventory. Without a record of the type, size, location, and age of a sign, it is often difficult to know what signs are missing or where maintenance efforts can be best applied. A sign inventory can help you respond quickly and more effectively to an incident report. It can help identify areas where there are vandalism or accident problems. Depending on the size of the community and the equipment available, a sign inventory can be developed on ledger books, file cards, microcomputers or mainframe computers. As long as the people using it know how it works and maintain current information on it, it can be effective. Information that should be included in the inventory includes:

  • Sign location including street or highway, milepost or block location, and the traffic direction it faces.
  • Sign type or name (i.e. STOP, NO PASSING, etc.).
  • Sign panel size ( shape) (i.e. 18"X 18", 30"X 30" ).
  • Date installed or replaced.
  • Date of any changes and a brief note of what the change was (i.e. raised it 2 feet, changed pipe post to 4" by 4" wood post, etc.).
  • Date of most recent inspection or repair.

Small communities with less than one-hundred to one-hundred and fifty signs may choose to use simple three by five inch cards to maintain information on each sign. Larger inventories of signs can be managed on computer systems available by both sign vendors and through local Technical Assistance Programs.

Incident reports

Incident reports should include:

  • The date and time the report is made or received,
  • Who made the report and who received and entered the report,
  • A brief description of the problem reported or observed, and
  • what action was taken, when it was taken and who was responsible for it. If there was a subsequent review of the work then note who made the review, when it was made and any subsequent actions required and taken.

This type report could read as follows: "The STOP sign (inv. #3412) on the Northwest corner of the intersection of Oak St. and Elm St. was reported bent by a concerned citizen. The sign was checked and straightened by J. Smith on January 16, 2000."

Maintenance Records

Maintenance records should be kept for any new installations, repairs of existing installations, or replacement jobs done on signs and sign supports. This will help to determine changes in your maintenance activities that improved driver and work safety, reduced costs, and reduced potential for liability lawsuits. A sign (and sign support) maintenance record, report, file, or log should include, as a minimum, the following information:

  • Time and date of work and name of person responsible for completed work.
  • Sign/support location by street or highway and traffic direction it is facing.
  • Type of sign and size of sign if replaced
  • Type and size of support if replaced.
  • If the following were/are to be checked what were they?
    • Height to bottom of sign
    • Color of sign
    • Size of sign
    • Any breakaway features of post
    • Orientation of sign (for night traffic)
    • Wear or fading of sign
    • Location with respect to pavement
    • Anything blocking driver's view of sign