FAQs About the Scanning Program
- What is the purpose of the scanning program?
- What are the goals of the scanning program?
- Does the program exist under legislative authority?
- How do FHWA, AASHTO and NCHRP interface on the program?
- How is the program administered?
- Can you describe a scan study?
- How long does a scan study last and how many countries are visited?
- How many scans are conducted per year?
- Can you describe the scan timeline?
- How are countries selected?
- How are scans documented?
- How does the team implement new technologies?
The International Highway Technology Scanning Program (henceforth "Scanning Program") serves as a means to access innovative technologies and practices in other countries that could significantly improve highways and highway transportation services in the United States. The program enables innovations to be adapted and put into practice much more efficiently without spending scarce research funds to re-create advances already developed by other countries. Personal domestic and international networking, team dynamics, and the creation of domestic champions for promising foreign ideas are keystones of the scan process. Successful implementation in the U.S. of the world's best practices is the goal of the program.
The goals of the Scanning Program are to:
- help ensure that the U.S. highway community is world class in technical and managerial areas of the highest priority;
- enable the United States to access the results of foreign investment in highway research and development and implementation;
- avoid unnecessary U.S. duplication of advances developed by other countries, enabling advanced technology to be developed and put into practice more quickly and allowing more efficient use of research funds;
- facilitate opportunities for joint research and technology sharing with international counterparts, further conserving resources and advancing the state of the art;
- foster international networking and the development of valuable professional connections between U.S. transportation professionals and their international counterparts; and
- facilitate the successful implementation of key foreign innovations in the United States.
The program was established under Title 23, United States Code, Section 506, International Highway Transportation Outreach Program, which states that the U.S. DOT Secretary may establish an international highway transportation outreach program and inform the United States highway community of technological innovations in foreign countries that could significantly improve highway transportation in the United States.
Section 506 further outlines authorized activities, including developing, monitoring, assessing, and disseminating information about highway transportation innovations in foreign countries that could significantly improve highway transportation in the United States.
Since 1991, FHWA, AASHTO and NCHRP have cooperated on the Scanning Program. However, beginning in 2000, FHWA, AASHTO, and NCHRP have undertaken the program cooperatively. This cooperation has included joint proposal and selection of topics to be studied, joint funding and joint responsibility for implementation in the U.S. of useful foreign practices and innovations identified.
FHWA, through its Office of International Programs (OIP), is responsible for administering the Scanning Program. This responsibility includes managing and directing a contractor that assists and supports FHWA in carrying out the Scanning Program in all of its phases. These phases include: (1) pre-scan coordination and planning; (2) assessment of foreign innovations and practices by U.S. transportation specialists; (3) development of a scan report and other deliverables that describe and assess foreign innovations and practices; (4) development of a plan for implementing the most promising scan findings in the U.S.; (5) facilitating the implementation of scan findings in the U.S.; and (6) tracking and documenting scan implementation and scan benefits. This is done in close coordination with AASHTO and NCHRP.
Scan studies involve teams of managers and specialists in a particular discipline who are dispatched to consult with foreign counterparts in Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other countries where advances in transportation relevant to the United States are being made. Each study focuses on a topic of high interest to the domestic transportation community.
The team normally consists of 9 to 12 members. While the team makeup varies from one scan study to another, participants typically include representatives from FHWA, State Departments of Transportation, local governments, and, when appropriate, transportation trade and research groups, the private sector, and academia.
A scan usually lasts 15 days. Teams normally visit four or five countries during that timeframe.
Historically, the program has averaged about four scans per year. The number of scans is a function of budget, subject, and assurance that scan team visits do not overwhelm our international partners.
The process normally begins approximately 9 months before the scan. FHWA and AASHTO identify co-chairs who are experts in that subject area. The co-chairs identify the scan report facilitator. The reporter conducts a desk scan to identify target countries and prepares a first draft of amplifying questions for the team and host country officials.
Team members participate in an organization meeting at least 6 months before the study in order to get to know each other, review the desk scan, complete the amplifying questions, identify the key countries to visit, and to review administrative details related to the scan.
Team members travel independently to the first country and then travel together, under the guidance of the contract team throughout the scan.
During the scan, the team collects and organizes the information provided by each host country. The report facilitator is key to this effort.
After returning to the United States, the team develops a 30-day executive summary, powerpoint presentation, and implementation plan. The team also works with the report facilitator to complete the scan report. We have just recently added a team meeting 60 days after the scan to further expedite report development and implementation efforts.
A desk scan is conducted to gather information on prospective countries to visit on a scan. Desk Scans are typically conducted by the report facilitator and do not involve travel. They are limited, office based information-gathering projects designed to supplement and further define scan topics that have been approved. Desk Scans do not gather information on domestic practices nor in-depth information on foreign practice. These tasks are reserved for the full scan team. The objectives of a Desk Scan are to:
- further the efforts of the full scan team in acquiring information of value to the U.S. highway community;
- increase the cost effectiveness of a full scan, by advising a team where best to commit its time abroad; and
- help to refine the scope of the scan by identifying relevant sources of information abroad and narrowing the focus of the scan if it is determined to be too broad.
Desk Scans are undertaken after scan co-chairs are selected. They are completed at least 6 months prior to the anticipated date of foreign travel.
An initial summary of scan findings (30-day executive summary), that concisely documents what the scan team observed, is prepared within 30 days after the conclusion of the scan. The executive summary is also is the first attempt to develop an implementation plan.
With the 30-day executive summary, each team develops a powerpoint presentation that is used at workshops, conferences, and symposiums around the country.
Scan study findings are compiled into a full scan report. Reports serve as valuable tools to inform the domestic highway community about innovative foreign transportation technology and methods. The report facilitator is responsible for drafting the scan report in coordination with team members. The full report is coordinated with our foreign hosting agencies, edited, formatted, printed, posted on the Web, and distributed throughout the transportation community. The report development process takes approximately 9 months to complete.
After developing a list of key implementation items, team members are responsible for moving the concept through their agency, committee, or association, as appropriate.
AASHTO and FHWA also provide a small amount of money to help the scan team initiate one or two of the key implementation items. This process is known as the Scan Technology Implementation Program (STIP).
Finally, many items lead to demonstration projects, research statements, or policy discussions. It is amazing how many topics lead to solid implementation efforts.