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The MUTCD and the NCUTCD

by Frank Brewer

On June 8-10, 2016 the NCUTCD met in Savannah Georgia for the summer session of its bi-annual meeting, I was able to attend this meeting and had the opportunity to sit in on the Temporary Traffic Control Technical sessions. Let me explain how this group affects the MUTCD.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is not a stagnate document. Where does the MUTCD come from? It is compiled by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), distributed nationwide by transportation organizations, e.g., AASHTO, ITE, and adopted by all states, districts, territories, and tribal government transportation agencies within the United States. Although the current edition was released in 2009, it had undergone revision. The 2009 MUTCD has been revised twice. How are these revisions added and is this all done by the FHWA? MUTCD is a document that has been around in several forms since the early 1920’s. Although the MUTCD is a federal document it is not wholly created by our federal government. The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) is the primary organization to advise the FHWA on what is included in the MUTCD.

The NCUTCD is a group of over two hundred people, including engineers, academics, members of traffic organizations, and practitioners. They continually review the MUTCD and advise the FHWA of needed revisions, additions and interpretations. Changes in several areas, e.g., technology, driver abilities, traffic volume, are considered. Areas such as these have great effect on efficiency and safety of our roadways and highways.

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices assists in the development of standards, guides, and warrants for traffic control devices and practices used to regulate, warn, and guide traffic on streets and highways. The National Committee also develops public and professional awareness of the principles of safe traffic control devices and practices and provides a forum for qualified individuals with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints to exchange professional information.

The FHWA is responsible, under federal law, for maintaining the standards in the MUTCD. Changes to the MUTCD (often responding to advances in technology) are made through rulemaking in the Federal Register. Any interested person or organization may provide input to the rulemaking process by submitting comments to the rulemaking docket.

The National Committee is highly regarded for its consensus building. The Committee’s strength lies in its ability to forge a consensus among the diverse viewpoints represented by the National Committee members. The Committee is the preeminent voice for the provisions in the MUTCD.

The National Committee meets bi-annually. It is comprised of voting members, associate members, and technical members. The technical members make up eight separate committees that concentrate on the different parts of the MUTCD. The Technical Committee members review the MUTCD against the current transportation environment and evaluate the efficacy of its standards and recommendations. Research on specific devices or procedures considered for inclusion is also reviewed. Any revision or addition that is approved by the Technical Committee is presented to the Voting Committee. The Voting Committee having agreed with the submission then presents it to the FHWA.

When proposed changes are received by the FHWA, the rulemaking process will begin including a lengthy period of public comment and evaluation. Once all evaluations and comments are considered and the changes are approved for acceptance, the FHWA will then submit the changes to the Federal Register and they become a part of the MUTCD.

A new MUTCD is coming. However, it will not be very soon. The NCUTCD is working to create the most accurate document possible. Some revisions on critical items may receive interim release. A new MUTCD may not be seen until 2018. When a new edition is released, there will be an adoption period, usually of one year. TTAP will keep you advised with any significant revisions to the MUTCD as they are released.


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