Browse Projects > Detailed View

Manual for Incorporating NDT in Quality Assurance


To date, state highway agencies (SHAs) routinely accept highway materials based on quality assurance (QA) procedures. These QA procedures are based on certifications and material requirements, a variety of material specifications (method, end-result and performance requirements) and acceptance plans, which are part of a QA program. These quality assurance requirements consider in most cases the federal regulations for construction QA procedures 23 CFR, Part 637B, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recommendations on developing QA programs, and AASHTO recommendations for QA.

Several studies have identified the potential advantages of incorporating nondestructive testing (NDT) into the QA process for highway materials. Use of NDT methods provide “added value” in the QA process since they allow for: quickly assessing product uniformity in real-time as construction progresses; identification of potential defects during construction allowing for quick corrective actions; inspection/testing at higher frequency and replication without destructive or damaging effects related to coring and other destructive testing; and thus, can lower testing and inspection cost while improving construction quality and available data for SHAs to use in the acceptance process. In regards to concrete, NDT methods are able to evaluate concrete properties and uniformity, honeycombing and segregation, cover depth, and detect reinforcement location and characteristics. Similarly, in asphalt mixtures NDT methods can identify thermal uniformity, density and stiffness. While several NDT test methods have been explored for several years, the transition from research and forensic investigations to QA has been somewhat limited because of either the complexity of such methods or lack of required training by QC technicians and agency inspectors.


Develop a manual to assist state highway agencies with the development and implementation of Quality Assurance Plans incorporating Non Destructive Testing.


NDT based QA plans have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of accepted highway materials and reduce SHA buyer risk since they allow for: quickly assessing product uniformity in real-time; identification of potential defects during construction allowing for quick corrective actions; inspection/testing at higher frequency and replication without destructive or damaging effects; and thus, can lower testing and inspection cost while improving construction quality and reducing SHA buyer risk and potential for contract litigation. The long-term effects of higher quality construction will be improved durability and performance of highway structures, which would result in millions of dollars in savings for state highway agencies.

Related Research:

A variety of NDT methods for assessing asphalt and Portland cement concrete quality have been investigated over the years. These include both “simple and easy to use” and “higher complexity and more time consuming” NDT methods. Several of the “simple and easy to use” methods are currently implemented by SHAs in QA specifications (e.g. penetration resistance, rebound hammer, maturity, covermeter for concrete, and field density and stiffness of asphalt mixtures). However, limited systematic assessment of the potential use of NDT in a QA process and acceptance procedures has been investigated to take full advantage of the “added value” of such methods. Specifically, quick assessment of real time material uniformity, early warning of potential defects that can be coupled with quick corrective actions as construction goes on, inspection of higher quantity of highway materials without destructive or damaging effects related to coring and other destructive testing. In addition, several of the “higher complexity” NDT methods that have been used in many cases for forensic/research investigations (such as Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity, Impact Echo, Ground PenetratiingRadar, AIMS aggregate image analysis), have been further developed and coupled with easier and faster to use instrumentation, and simpler data analysis algorithms and software that can be easily operated by trained technical level construction personal (for QC testing) and agency inspectors (for QA and acceptance testing).

One of the major efforts to close the gap between practitioners dealing with day-to-day quality assessment testing and researchers developing and refining NDT technologies is the establishment of the Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) Web Manual by Federal Highway Administration. The NDE Web Manual can provide valuable and up-to-date feedback on the potential use of applicable NDT methods in QA and QC operations for highway structures.

Federal Highway Administration, FHWA. “Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) Web Manual.” Washington D.C. 2016.

The American Concrete Institute has long established a guide documenting the potential use of several of these NDT methods in concrete that can be coupled with recent developments in this field with several of the SHRP2 reports in regards to developing an NDT based QA process for concrete.

American Concrete Institute, ACI, “ACI 228.2R-13 Report on Nondestructive Test Methods for Concrete in Structures.” Pp. 53-61. Farmington Hills, MI 2013.

Several NCHRP and SHRP2 studies have examined recent developments and applicability of NDT methods in asphalt and Portland cement concrete highway structures. These can serve to identify NDT methods that can be included in the various components of an NDT based QA process either for concrete or asphalt, along with the extensive literature on past studies recommending integrating multiple NDT methods in QA.

Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Report S2-R06A-RR-1: “Nondestructive Testing to Identify Concrete Bridge Deck Deterioration.” 2016.

National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 626: “NDT Technology for Quality Assurance of HMA Pavement Construction.” 2009.

National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 626 Volume 2: “NDT Technology for Quality Control and Acceptance of Flexible Pavement Construction.” 2008.

Breysse, D., G. Klysz, X. Dérobert, C. Sirieix, and J. F. Lataste. “How to Combine Several Non-Destructive Techniques for a Better Assessment of Concrete Structures,” Cement and Concrete Research, vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 783–793, 2008.

Lim, M., and H. Cao. “Combining Multiple NDT Methods to Improve Testing Effectiveness,” Construction and Building Materials, vol. 38, pp. 1310–1315, 2013.

Verma S.K., Bhadauria S.S., and S. Akhtar. “Review of Nondestructive Testing Methods for Condition Monitoring of Concrete Structures.” Journal of Construction Engineering. Volume 2013, article #834572, 11 pp. 2013.


Task 1 – Literature review. This should include: i) an overview of existing Quality Assurance procedures in place for concrete and asphalt materials for highway applications; ii) review the current practice in NDT methods applicable to asphalt and concrete materials for highway applications.

Task 2 – Identify NDT methods that are likely to be included in quality control (QC) and acceptance testing for asphalt and concrete.

Task 3 – Recommend QA program(s) incorporating NDT for asphalt and concrete materials in function of the specific highway applications. NDT methods could be considered for adoption into a QA process during: quality control testing by the contractor; and, inspection, verification and acceptance testing by SHA inspectors. Determine the impact of implementing these NDT tests and procedures on SHA QA programs, including: technician training and certification; laboratory accreditation; Lot and sublot sizes; material sample sizes; turnaround time for test results; cost of testing; applicability of various tests for process control, quality control, acceptance; IA procedures; dispute resolution process.

Task 4. – Develop a guidance manual that provides an overview of the current practice of NDT methods applicable to concrete and asphalt mixtures along with a brief description of the principles of operation, detection capabilities, potential benefits, and, associated limitations and drawbacks. Objective of such manual is not to recommend to SHAs any specific NDT method but rather to illustrate the features of different methods and how they are applicable to QA. Include guidance for agencies on the: development and implementation of NDT based QA procedures; on setting up pilot QA procedures before full scale implementation; assessing appropriate control and specification limits, and suggest ways to gain buy-in from agency and construction personnel.

Task 5 – Publish the final guide as an AASHTO recommended practice and provide workshops and webinars to SHAs and FHWA personnel.


Implementation of the guide will be accomplished through presentations at the AASHTO committees pertinent to materials, pavements and bridges, adoption as an AASHTO recommended practice, workshops and webinars to SHAs and FHWA personnel, and through presentation at various regional and national meetings and conferences, including the TRB annual meeting.


This project would be suitable for NCHRP funding and it is suitable for PhD research. The research team would need familiarity with the current state of practice in quality assurance practices by SHAs, up-to-date development on NDT testing for concrete and asphalt materials, requirements of Title 23 CFR 637, and FHWA and AASHTO quality assurance recommendations.

Sponsoring Committee:AFH20, Quality Assurance Management
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Dimitrios Goulias, AFH20 Committee Research Coordinator (CRC).
Source Info:Members of AFH20.
Date Posted:10/10/2018
Date Modified:12/31/2018
Index Terms:Quality assurance, Manuals, Nondestructive tests, Paving materials, Building materials,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Bridges and other structures

Please click here if you wish to share information or are aware of any research underway that addresses issues in this research needs statement. The information may be helpful to the sponsoring committee in keeping the statement up-to-date.