USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation
FHWA Highway Safety Programs


Knowing what signs are on your roads allows the agency to develop a systematic sign maintenance program as well as to determine the amount of resources that will be needed to provide the desired level of traffic sign maintenance activities contained within the agency’s sign maintenance policies. An inventory can serve many purposes:

  • Sign Life — when signs are installed, the installation date is labeled or recorded so that the age of a sign is known. Signs degrade over time and when combined with periodic night time inspections, an agency could determine when a sign has reached the end of its useful life.
  • Manage and prioritize — an inventory that records the location of signs and recent maintenance activities can help establish the following:
    • Where a single sign needs to be replaced.
    • If a corridor needs sign improvements.
    • When to clear back brush away from signs.
  • Minimizing tort liability — an inventory can document the inspection and maintenance activities.
  • Budgeting — an inventory can help manage resources for sign replacements on an annual or as-needed basis.
  • Efficiency — combining work orders with the inventory allows the monitoring of signing activities and scheduling of maintenance activities.

Inventory systems can be simple manual card systems, but with the availability of several inexpensive and even free computer software packages, computer-based inventories are much more effective and are easy to use. Also by using global positioning systems (GPS) technology, signs can be easily and accurately located and mapped on geographic information systems (GIS). Computerized sign inventories are available through sign vendors or your Local Technical Assistance Program. An example of sign inventory can be found at the Utah LTAP website:

"Photo. A sign technician uses a laptop while sitting in the cab of a parked maintenance truck."

With a computerized sign inventory, the sign technician can easily record data while in the field.

The key to a successful inventory program is collecting the appropriate data elements and keeping it up to date. Table 3 shows the data elements that should be considered when developing an inventory.

Table 3. Data Elements for Sign Inventory.

Data Element


Sign Identification Number

Unique number identifying sign


Route name, distance, etc. depending on location reference system; could also be GPS latitude/longitude

Sign Code

Usually MUTCD designation

Sign Position

Location of sign relative to road (left, right, overhead)


Distance from edge of pavement


Height of sign above road level

Sign Size

Width and height of sign

Sheeting Type

Grade of retroreflective material

Installation Date

Date when sign installed

Post/Support Type

Type of sign support (e.g. wood, tube)


Inspection Items


Sign Condition

Quality of sign based on visual inspection


Measured value or visual assessment condition

Maintenance Activity

Type of maintenance last performed

Inspection/Maintenance Date

Date when sign was last inspected or maintained


Name or initials of person who inspected or maintained sign


Supplementary notes about the sign

"Image. A scanned image of a sign dating label with an anti-theft warning is shown."

Sign dating labels with anti-vandalism warnings can be applied to the back of the sign.