Lab Corner – Spring 2013 That’s like 35 in dog years

By Mike Anderson, P.E.

By the time you read this, the Asphalt Institute’s National Binder Technician Certification (NBTC) program will have turned five years old.

How significant is it to be a program that has reached five years? The answer, as with many things, depends on perspective. In the human world, a five-year old child is far from mature. But in the canine world, a five-year old dog is a mature adult.
So, is the NBTC program a tiny tot or a full-grown adult? I think the answer is a little of both.

On the one hand, the NBTC program has seen the number of technicians seeking and achieving certification grow significantly since the first classes were conducted at the Utah Department of Transportation Laboratory in January 2008 and the Asphalt Institute in March 2008.

In those initial classes, the “pass” rate for the certification test was approximately 60 percent. Since, the “pass” rate for the certification exam has risen to approximately 80 percent. This doesn’t imply that the technicians in the first few classes were somehow less skilled or knowledgeable than students in the later classes. Rather, we like to think that the first students were trailblazers for the later students. They carried the message that the certification test wasn’t just a “gimme,” but requires an understanding of the procedures and concepts highlighted in the review course.

The number of technicians seeking and achieving certification has also steadily grown. In 2008 and 2009, a total of 52 technicians attended an NBTC course and took the certification exams. In 2012 alone, 68 technicians participated in the NBTC program – most achieving their certification.

One area where the NBTC program is still somewhat in its infancy (or tot-hood) is in reaching out to more user agencies. One way of better reaching user agencies is to hold NBTC courses and certification exams away from the Asphalt Institute laboratory so that the travel restrictions felt by many user agency personnel can be circumvented.

Courses held in Iowa, Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and California have been instrumental in reaching user agency technicians and helping them to achieve certification. Still, more is needed. With the exception of the Northeast, which is served by the Northeast Transportation Technician Certification Program (, AI’s partner in maintaining a nationwide certification program for asphalt binder technicians, consistent state participation is missing.

To have maximum effect, all technicians – whether from user agencies, producers or independent testing labs – should participate in a certification program. This is the best way to:
• provide a concise, standard interpretation of test methods;
• promote a consistent laboratory best practice;
• decrease retesting;
• reduce the instances of penalties, deducts and disputes; and
• tighten the precision and bias statements in published standards.

You can help realize these goals by talking with your producers and testing labs or user agency about participating in the NBTC program. We’d be more than happy to discuss the possibility of taking the program on the road and visiting your state.

For more information on the National Binder Technician Certification Program, please visit or contact Mike Beavin ( or Mike Anderson (