By Andrew Aho
Geotextile manufacturers participating in public roadway applications are enrolling in a new program that requires a quality audit of their manufacturing facilities and their QA/QC processes. And, for the first time, it requires printing of the manufacturers’ name or identification number on the geotextile.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) provides testing of materials used in roadway construction on behalf of its members—the state departments of transportation. AASHTO’s National Transportation Product Evaluation Program (NTPEP) was developed to eliminate duplicative testing that could have been done by the DOTs. Its expansion now includes the audits and geotextile printing. Geotextiles that meet the testing and auditing requirements are listed on the NTPEP website. State DOTs can check the list to make sure that the geotextiles they are considering for their projects meet specifications.
NTPEP tests both geotextiles—the GTX program—and also geosynthetics used for reinforcement—the REGEO program—which is designed for geogrids and other geosynthetic materials used in reinforcement applications. The GTX program is managed by a committee chaired by Tony Allen of Washington state DOT and includes members from other state DOTs. GMA has two industry representatives participating on the GTX committee: Brian Whitaker of Fiberweb and Davis Taylor of Thrace-LINQ.
The new audit program has its roots in GMA’s desire to improve the quality of materials purchased by state DOTs. GMA approached NTPEP to develop an audit and geotextile printing program similar to the program NTPEP created with the Plastic Pipe Institute. The plastic pipe program brought assurances to the DOTs regarding quality of the pipe produced by manufacturers. It has been extremely successful and is a contributing factor of the tremendous growth of that industry.
Several state DOTs indicated they wanted to create their own audit/printing programs for geotextiles. They needed a simplified process to identify the prime manufacturer of the geotextiles used in their projects.
GMA welcomed a national program to circumvent having a hodgepodge of individual state programs. GMA worked with NTPEP to develop the geotextile printing and labeling that would resolve the DOTs’ concerns about tracing materials to the prime manufactures and also a more efficient way of determining if the geotextiles meet the specs for DOT projects.
Manufacturers who supply geotextiles to Quebec, Scandinavia, and the EU have had to meet similar audit and geotextile printing requirements for years.
“The exciting improvements to the NTPEP program are all focused around increased assurance,” said John Henderson, past chair of GMA’s executive council. “The improved program brings assurance that the geosynthetics used by regulatory agencies are produced and tested to high quality standards. The new printing and labeling standards provide assurance to the regulators and end users that the products that are specified are indeed the products that will be shipped to and installed at the project site. In addition, this new standard elevates geosynthetics to the same or higher standard as traditional construction materials, which will greatly increase the acceptance of these revolutionary materials,” Henderson said.
One area of concern is whether the program should be modified as it relates to private label companies. The new program also includes private label companies, but the audit requirements are less that those required of a prime manufacturer. All private label products are labeled at the manufacturers’ facilities. If a private label company is sourcing at an NTPEP-audited manufacturer, it is the manufacturer that is printing its code and label on the geotextiles. This process eliminates the concern of the DOTs regarding tracing products to the prime manufacturer.
GMA will work with NTPEP in 2012 to help it fine-tune the audit process to make sure that this program works both for the industry and its customers, the DOTs. GMA believes that NTPEP has taken a necessary step to assure the DOTs that the products they are testing and qualifying will meet their needs.