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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
FHWA Highway Safety Programs


In this day and age the job is not over until the paperwork is complete. The importance of keeping good, up-to-date records of maintenance activities cannot be overstated. Aside from making the agency’s management program more effective and efficient, record keeping is necessary as a risk management strategy—keeping records of inspections and maintenance activities will help in avoiding liability claims of insufficient signing allegedly contributing to vehicle crashes.

Keeping good records will help technicians:

  • 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 the area and need to effectively manage the 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.

In addition to the sign inventory itself, there are two main elements of maintenance records:

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

Incident reports

Incident reports should include:

  • The date and time the report was 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, 2010.”

Maintenance Activity 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 improve driver and worker safety, reduce costs, and reduce 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.

The maintenance activities records should then be used to reflect the changes made to the signs and/or sign supports by adjusting and updating the sign inventory.