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It's 1989.
Do You Know Where Your Bolts Are From?

Illinois Department of Transportation

A bolt is a bolt. How can something so simple be made complicated? But what is a bolt that fails in a commercial aircraft? It certainly could be a source of disaster. Likewise, bolt failures in military tanks, transmission towers, submarines, or highway structures can be the cause of tragedy.

Substandard bolts, as well as nuts and washers, have been found in these and hundreds of other locations. Financial loss is a certainty, even if personal injury or loss of life is averted.

Fasteners have been big news for several years. The syndicated columnist Jack Anderson has written columns on the subject. ENR, ASTM Standardization News, and other technical magazines have addressed the fastener problem. A congressional committee has studied it. Our question is, "What can one small unit of government do?" There are two things to do: get smart and get tough! Know what to look for and don't accept less than you pay for.

We often hear of "substandard", "foreign", and "counterfeit" fasteners. In the course of testing thousands of fasteners at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) laboratory in Springfield, no conclusive evidence of "counterfeit" fasteners has been found. There has been evidence, however, of falsely supplied certifications indicating an approved manufacturer when the identification marks clearly were not his. Very few fasteners from domestic producers have been "substandard". Most problems have involved "foreign" fasteners.

The Federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 placed severe restrictions on the use of imported steel. The Illinois Steel Products Procurement Act (Public Act 83-1030) placed even stronger limits on the use of foreign steel. These two pieces of legislation are the authority and the mandate to eliminate all foreign fasteners.

Foreign fasteners were installed in some of the early work on the rehabilitation of the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago. They were found by IDOT inspectors and removed.


The top three bolts pictured in the accompanying photograph were taken from the Dan Ryan project. The identifying marks which the manufacturer is required by specification to put on each structural nut, bolt, and washer indicate that they were produced by Infasco of Canada, K)saka Kogyo of Japan, and Mitsuboshi of Japan. The three bolts pictured on the lower line are domestic. They were manufactured by Lake Erie Screw, Nucor, and St. Louis Screw & Bolt.

In order to reject foreign fasteners, you must be able to identify them. Paperwork is a big help, but it doesn't do the whole job. Insist on and check certifications carefully, and then physically check the material. Construction inspectors are usually spread pretty thin, but it is important that each container of fasteners be checked before being used. Unscrupulous suppliers may ship several cartons of out-of-spec nuts, bolts, or washers along with a large shipment of approved materials.

There are several fastener identification guides available. One that includes foreign and domestic sources is the "Fastener Technology International Buyers Guide". It is available for $35.00 from Initial Publications, 3869 Barrow Road, Suite 101, Stow, Ohio 44224. The Industrial Fasteners Institute, 1505 East Ohio Building, 1717 East Nineteenth Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44114, has a North American guide available for $15.00 and an International guide available for $14.00

Armed with an awareness of the problem, knowledge of the State and Federal laws and one or more source guides. Project Engineers, managers, and inspectors can know where your bolts are from.

Credits to: Bruce Neunaber, Physical Test Engineer, IDOT

September 1989 / Illinois Municipal Review / Page 13

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