Due to the infinite wisdom of forward thinking Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Traffic Operations staff, beginning in the early 1970s traffic control signals and devices have been evaluated and certified (approved) by the FDOT Traffic Operations Office located in Tallahassee Florida. This certification is still being performed today due to Florida law 316.0745 uniform signals and devices, which was championed by these early Traffic Ops predecessors, requiring FDOT to develop specifications for official traffic control signals and devices and then to certify said devices to the specifications before they can be used in the state.
The intent of the law was to ensure all traffic control signals and devices used in Florida meet applicable Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) standards along with other FDOT specific standards or specifications. Meeting MUTCD requirements ensure all traffic control signals and devices used in Florida are conformant to national standards and are easily recognized/familiar to motorist traveling in the state. Florida’s specific requirements ensure functional and material requirements have been met.
The law requires vehicular and pedestrian signals, traffic controllers, vehicle detectors, etc. to be evaluated and certified before installation and use in the state. Other devices that either work directly with a traffic control device, such as mounting hardware, etc., or that are an important component of an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), such as a network switch, video encoder/decoder or CCTV camera, also require evaluation and certification before use.
Soon after the implementation of the law FDOT began issuing certification letters to manufacturers of traffic devices once their product had been verified to meet all certification requirements. The certification letters soon became an official Approved Product List (APL), but was only available to FDOT personnel. By 1998 the list was on the Internet allowing access by all State and local maintaining agencies.
Two objectives of the original task force that created the APL were to consolidate all products that fit under the certification requirement into one approved list. At the time, several FDOT offices maintained their own list of products allowed for use. The second objective was to consolidate all initial product testing to one statewide test facility located in Tallahassee, thus reducing the instance of testing the same product to the same requirements multiple times by the many traffic signal maintaining agencies in Florida.
Since 1997, the FDOT Traffic Engineering Research Lab (TERL) has acted as the single statewide test facility that develops and maintains all traffic control signal and device specifications and evaluates all traffic control signals and devices submitted for use in Florida for listing on the APL. To help facilitate the testing of traffic control and ITS devices, test infrastructure such as a mast arm and span wire test intersection and a traffic management center mock-up has been constructed at the TERL. Although system testing may still be needed at the project level, initial testing of the product occurs one time at the TERL in a manner that the purchaser/user of a product listed on the APL can be confident the product meets all applicable requirements.
The benefits of having a statewide test lab and an APL are invaluable to maintaining agencies in Florida, especially smaller agencies that do not have the resources of larger agencies. Users of the APL not only feel confident that any product selected from the APL have been tested to meet all applicable Federal and State requirements, but also that the product has been evaluated to be a safe and reliable product.
Another benefit of the APL and the APL approval process is that it provides an equal competitive environment by funneling all manufacturers through the same set of requirements before a product can be listed on the APL. For example, each manufacturer that requests listing on the APL must first undergo a quality system evaluation. This evaluation verifies the company meets minimum quality management system requirements developed by the FDOT based on the ISO 9001 standard. The quality system evaluation requirement was added to the APL approval process in the early 2000s to ensure the APL includes only products produced from manufacturers with accepted quality management systems in-place.
As a last note, an APL statewide contract has been in place for several years that includes a competitively bid contracted price for most products listed on the APL. This contract has been very popular with FDOT districts, local maintaining agencies and product manufacturers.
The APL product approval process has been continuously refined throughout the years and is now divided into the three basic steps. Step 1 consists of completing a one page form that begins the approval process and provides FDOT the information needed to determine how the manufacturer should proceed. Step 2 consists of the quality system evaluation. Step 3 consists of the actual product evaluation, but only after a review of certain required documentation that reduces effort on FDOT staff by making sure the applicant has the best chance possible of meeting all requirements before the product is submitted for testing. Once all requirements are met the product is listed on the APL. Re-certification is performed on a periodic basis.
Currently, the APL contains approximately 1200 traffic control signals and devices from approximately 150 manufacturers and can be accessed at the following URL: https://fdotwp1.dot.state.fl.us/ApprovedProductList
For more information you can view the FDOT APL Approval Process at the link below:
Jeffery M. Morgan is the Product Certification Manager with the Florida DOT Traffic Engineering Research Lab