How To Properly Plan Your Bridge Inspections? [Including Real Budget Calculations]

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

We will discuss one of the most important steps of the Bridge Inspection process- PLANNING

This blog will help you avoid surprises and additional expenses that results from bad planning, while maintaining a healthy relationship with your client.

To write this blog we had a discussion with Mark Bendok, P.E., S.E., a Project Manager and Senior Associate at Alfred Benesch & Co. Mark serves as project manager for civil and structural transportation projects, specializing in both the engineering planning phase and design phase.

Mark has a deep understanding of the industry, never loses sight of the big picture and is very meticulous with his work. This is what made him a perfect match for this first interview.


Credits: Photos courtesy of Alfred Benesch & Company

“Good planning is about optimizing and managing the inspection of multiple bridges. If done properly, engineering firms can save up to 20%!” - Mark Bendok

What’s involved in planning?

Planning is the first step to perform any inspection and a very important one, yet few give it the time and resources it requires. Mark mentions that each inspection type has its own specific planning process, and, in this blog, we will focus on the planning for routine inspections - the most common inspection type.

As a first step, the program manager assigns a team lead who handles the inspection and coordinate all the planning and reporting.  The tasks involved in planning are:

  • Review of existing data such as bridge plans, previous repairs, load rating data, condition rating data, etc.

  • Decide if any special equipment is needed

  • Decide it any permits are needed

  • Choose the inspection team

  • Prepare field books

  • Prepare exhibits (if needed)

  • Prepare required tools

  • Complete job safety analysis

Once these tasks are done, the field inspection can begin.

Mark mentions that if any data needed for planning is missing, additional time may be required during the field inspection.

What are the common mistakes in planning?

1. Not budgeting enough time to obtain permits

Permits take time to secure. For instance, bridges that go over navigable water require a permit from the coast guard at least 2 weeks prior to the inspection. Bridges that go over a railroad can require 8 to 10 weeks to secure the permit. Traffic control is another permit that requires time depending on the requirements of the affected agencies.

Delays in obtaining permits will delay your entire inspection, harming both the reputation of the engineering firm and the bridge owner who must report back to the FHWA on time. 

2. Not budgeting enough time to rent any required equipment

Renting equipment such as aerial lifts is a big part of planning. Engineering Firms should always allocate the proper time to book these equipment to avoid delays and additional expenses.

If not planned properly, engineering firms find themselves forced to find new vendors who could be more expensive just to get their equipment on time.

In other cases, engineering firms are forced to postpone the inspection which could results in the bridge inspection becoming delinquent (per FHWA requirements) or use the equipment on another field trip resulting in additional expenses

Credits: Photos courtesy of Alfred Benesch & Company

What are the costs involved in planning?

We asked Mark, on average, how much is spent on planning before any field work can start?

The calculations below are based on a bridge that goes over a railroad and requires traffic control:

Railroad permit: $3,000

Railroad flagger: $1,000/day

Traffic control: $1,000/day

Insurance: $500-$1,000

General planning & permit coordination: $1,500-$2,000



The cost can drastically increase if other equipment is used. As an example, the cost to rent a barge for a day is $10,000.

Finally, planning is what makes a good team lead stand out from the rest. It is the starting point of any inspection and should be given the time and resources needed to avoid unnecessary expenses and delays. For engineering firms, efficiency is key and results in time and money savings. As Mark mentions efficient planning can save up to 20% on inspection costs.

Efficiency can also be improved at the actual field inspection and the reporting levels. That’s why Data Recon exists, its main objective is to help engineering firms capture data and report on findings 80% faster and at 40% less cost.

About Data Recon:

Data Recon is the Bridge Inspection Software that proved to help engineering firms reduce their reporting cost by 75%, their inspection time by 30% and generate their reports 5x faster. Schedule a free demo instantly here.


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