Achieving certification: NBTC

By Pete Grass

Achieving certification in any field is the benchmark of a professional. You see those designations all the time in the design and construction industry—Registered Land Surveyor, Professional Engineer, etc. Now there is a relatively new one, Certified Binder Technician.

Three years ago, at the request of the Asphalt Institute’s Technical Advisory Committee, we worked with Dr. Dave Anderson and the New England Technical Training Certification Program (NETTCP) to develop a national program to address a need to reduce variability in Performance Graded binder test data. The National Binder Technician Certification (NBTC) program also established reciprocity with the New England group.

Dr. Anderson wrote a new manual titled Asphalt Binder Testing Manual (MS-25) and its first edition was released in January 2007. We are in the final stages of publishing an updated edition that will be available in January 2009. This new edition introduces the latest changes to the AASHTO M320 Table 3 materials specification, including the new Multiple Stress Creep Recovery test. This manual is well illustrated, making it an extremely useful tool for any binder technician, certified or not.

MS-25 is the foundation of the National Binder Technician Certification program, but there is a lot more. The premise of the program is that a technician must have verified work experience, attend a binder testing review course, and finally take both a practical and written examination. Like the New England program, a technician may take a review course followed by the certification exam—all at one location. This simplifies the logistics for a technician who must travel. The review course contents and exams of the New England group and the Asphalt Institute are the same—in order to achieve and maintain reciprocity.

We are actively working within the five Asphalt User-Producer Groups to find suitable locations to partner with the Asphalt Institute to host the review course and exam. For local students, this reduces the barriers to getting certified, which is what the program is all about. Alternatively, we have also exported the course to specific locations as we did in Utah earlier this year.

A technician who passes the exams receives a letter within two weeks of the exam date and receives an NBTC certificate and wallet-sized identification card—the credentials of a binder professional.

Recertification is required on a five-year cycle to ensure our technicians remain demonstrably current. There are procedures in place for retaking the exam should one or more portions be failed by the technician.

The exams are changed frequently and the entire program will have an oversight board comprised of professionals from around the country. Their role is policy making and ensuring that the standard is fair and achievable.

While any qualified technician can take the exam, it is up to each state to adopt the program and establish certification requirements for their testing laboratories. Remember our goal: reduced variability in PG binder test data. Binder technician training is a solid first step. If we are concerned about quality, we should learn more about what certification can offer and get on board.