Talking Asphalt: AMRL accreditation – December 2012

Something a little different this month, but you may need to know about this. Are you participating in AASHTO’s AMRL accreditation program or considering doing so? If you have a testing lab, I think you should consider it.

AASHTO is the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and AMRL is the AASHTO Materials Reference Library. And, the accreditation program is a way of establishing and measuring a testing lab’s proficiency. The program provides formal demonstration and documentation of testing competence to conform to specific national and international standards. It is a way to document your lab’s credibility. Test results from accredited labs carry more weight than those from non-accredited ones. State DOT labs are accredited.

Labs can be accredited in several areas of specialization, including asphalt cement, hot mix asphalt, emulsified asphalt, aggregate and several other fields. Certification is for specific, selected AASHTO and ASTM tests.

What’s required to be accredited? The specific requirements are detailed in AASHTO’s “Accreditation Procedures Manual.” An accredited lab must have a Quality Management System (QMS) which meets the requirements of AASHTO R-18, “Standard Recommended Practice for Establishing and Implementing a Quality System for Construction Materials Testing Laboratories.” The lab must also have regular on-site assessment inspections by AMRL inspectors and must participate in the proficiency sample testing program. Extensive documentation is required, including records of everything from ownership of the lab, all personnel along with resumes, equipment lists, calibrations, maintenance, and much more. This info must be recorded and kept up to date.

So, it takes quite a bit of work to be accredited. The Asphalt Institute has developed a new accreditation software system, R18LabQMS, which will help with managing a laboratory’s QMS. I communicated with AI’s lab manager, Gary Irvine, and here are some of the things I learned.

First, a test lab must establish an account. Then log-in to and go through the set-up process and input all lab-specific information. Once the set-up is completed, the lab will maintain their QMS through a “dashboard” that will indicate items that need to be addressed like calibrations, maintenance items and others.

On the website, you can learn all about a QMS system, including industry meetings and resources, and keep up to date with AI’s blog. When a lab has access to the QMS, you can walk through a set-up process to complete your quality manual. This can be done in several ways, including a self-guided, online process; free, recorded webinar training on specific features or fee-based on-site training.

The required documentation can be customized; there are two ways this can be done within R18LabQMS. First, there are templates that are created with a form builder that can be edited. Any form or template that is created by users will be available to others within the system. If a laboratory would like to continue using their current forms, they can be uploaded.

Once the user goes through the setup process, the quality manual will be completed and ready to be viewed by designated members of your organization. The quality manual can either be printed or saved as a PDF.

The software allows an AMRL assessor to review your quality manual (permission based) prior to their arrival for on-site inspections. This can expedite the on-site inspection and may allow for a shorter on-site inspection process. The software will prompt the user when various items within the QMS are due, including email notifications to all responsible parties.

There are several advantages to having an accredited lab. Several agencies are making it a requirement. If you are interested and think AI’s program sounds interesting, watch for it online. You can also email Gary Irvine at for additional information.  

Happy Holidays from Talking Asphalt!

Email Dwight at