Why States Need to Improve their Bridge Inspection Processes with Mobile Forms

By Jason Peck on February 15, 2017

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) recently declared almost 56,000 bridges in the United States structurally deficient. Almost half of all states fall into the category of having 9% or more of their bridges structurally deficient. According to the ARTBA, "this means one or more of the key bridge elements, such as the deck, superstructure or substructure, is considered to be in "poor" or worse condition."

Percentages of structurally deficient bridges by state 2017 data

More than 25% of all bridges (about 174,000) were reported as being at least 50 years old and never having major construction work. 

This is pretty scary stuff. Officials tend to agree on the need to find new sources of funding for bridge and highway repair projects, as the current funding mechanisms haven't kept pace with the cost of construction in recent years. However, this data also highlights the potential need for improved bridge inspection processes to ensure accurate data is collected, shared and analyzed quickly. Here are 5 reasons why bridge inspectors should be using mobile forms and apps for bridge inspections. 

Mobile Bridge Inspections

Easily document bridge conditions and structures with photos

 If inspections are currently being done on paper, it may not be easy to see visually the extent of damage and it may be easier for folks to put off improvements. If an inspector does happen to have a digital camera, time is probably wasted around getting the photos off the camera, printing them, attaching them to the inspection report and then storing them somewhere in a filing cabinet. 

With mobile forms and devices, inspectors can complete bridge inspection forms and add photos to the reports at the same time, eliminating the need for an additional device and time wasted compiling the photos into a report later. 

Prove an Inspection Happened

Ever wonder if an inspection really happened? Or if the form was filled out on-site instead of at another location? With mobile forms, a GPS and time stamp can be required as part of the process, so you can ensure inspectors are where they are supposed to be and doing the inspection on-site. 

Standardize Inspection Processes

Ever have the problem where one person may fill the same form out differently than another? Maybe person A starts on page 3 and works backwards while person B starts on page 1. Or skips around. Or skips various fields. Or standard langauge to describe something isn't being used so analysis becomes difficult. 

With mobile forms, you can set them up so that various fields must be filled out, in a specific order, or the inspector cannot advance forward. This helps standardize inspection processes and ensure the right data is captured every time. 

Get Data Back in Real-Time

With paper bridge inspection forms, someone fills them out and then has to get them back to the office. Many times, they're just physically taken in, then scanned into a computer or worse, transcribed by hand into another system. All of this takes time and resources. And if there's a crucial issue, it might not be seen until days later! 

With mobile bridge inspections, the data is captured via mobile devices and stored in the cloud so it can be accessed instantly. No waiting around, no manual data re-entry or having to worry about expensive and annoying filing cabinets. 

Digital Data = Easier Analysis

Can you imagine combing through paper inspection forms for thousands of bridges and trying to determine what the most common issues are with the deck or substructures? And trying to look for trends based on location, temperature, time of year, inspector, building material, etc? And you're doing this with data that may not be structured optimally, having to read messy handwriting and account for missing fields and forms? 

NIGHTMARE. 

With digital inspection data, dashboards can easily be set up so you can see data at an aggregate level for a variety of fields and conditions. It is much easier to analyze digital data, look for trends and then prioritize issues so action can be taken! 

As you can see, there are clear benefits to digitizing bridge inspections with mobile forms and apps. If you'd like to see how Canvas can help you improve these kinds of processes and save time while getting more accurate data, try us free today!