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A Day in the Life of a CEI Technician

Ever wondered what a construction engineering & inspection (CEI) technician does each day? One of our communications colleagues recently interviewed Patrick (Pat) Young, a CEI technician who has been with SSR for five years, to find out. Read along as he’s asked about his contributions to the project, what a typical day entails, and how he’s bringing value to the project.   


What role does a CEI technician perform?  

A CEI technician is the eyes and ears on site for a transportation construction project. We’re there daily to represent the owner, typically a DOT (department of transportation) or local municipality, ensuring that the contractors are building the project as it was designed. We observe, test, and approve the materials being used, confirming they are consistent with what was specified in the design. We measure and document the amount of material used to make sure the contractor is appropriately paid; we test the concrete and asphalt to ensure the mix design is consistent for the project’s duration; if there’s guardrail, pipe, or steel in a structure we will inspect the installation. 


What does a typical day look like? 

There’s no typical day for CEI work. The one constant is we’re on site, our trucks are our offices. Every project has different requirements, if it is a new road there are some environmental considerations when the land is being cleared and leveled; stretches of road with bridges require pouring a bridge deck; if there’s a sidewalk, we do a lot of testing. We can perform numerous tests or inspection on a given day – completing an EPSC inspection, testing concrete for bridges or sidewalks, testing a section of new asphalt, testing a stone base layer before asphalt is installed, inspecting storm pipe, answering questions from the contractor, or handling traffic issues. 

It’s not unusual for us to work overnight. There are many reasons a project would require night work, not limited to the task being completed can be done safer at night, traffic flow is lighter, temperatures are cooler for the concrete or the asphalt, or the impact of our work to the public will be minimized by doing the work at night.     


How many CEI technicians are typically on a project? 

That really depends on the size of the project, the length of the road. There’s always at least one CEI technician on site if construction workers are present. If there are multiple construction crews working, we might have more than one technician observing and testing. 


What’s been your favorite project to work on?  

The Albert Gallatin Avenue / Hatten Track Road Extension project was one of my first with SSR. It was a great learning experience because it was a 1.77 mile section of brand-new road, and had three bridges. I experienced a lot through the duration of that project. We also had a great partner on the project that I enjoyed working with. 


Do you have any special training or certifications?  

I have several certifications that are required to do the testing and inspection. All CEI’s are ACI certified for concrete testing, we also have asphalt, soils, and aggregate certifications from TDOT.  Most of SSR’s CEI colleagues have a Level 1 EPSC inspection for erosion control and soil conservation. 

I’m also a licensed drone pilot; I’ll go out and fly various projects for documentation. I really enjoy this element of my job – getting to see the progress on so many different projects. The videos and photos can end up being used in future proposals, progress photos of a project for the project team, or for SSR’s marketing needs. 

As SSR’s radiation safety officer (RSO), I have administrative responsibilities for maintaining and securing our radiological equipment that is required for different tests. We have a nuclear density gauge that is used for a few tests, primarily verifying how compact the soil is before pouring asphalt, and it can also be used to test the density of the stone and dirt that is holding pipes in place. We use this to test whether the soil is consistent for the project’s entire length. As the RSO I am responsible for ensuring that the Nashville office is adhering to all the provisions in our nuclear license; mostly this is an administrative role to be certain we are handling the equipment safely and our people and the public is not over exposed to radiation from the equipment. The CEI’s that use the equipment in the field have training and certifications for the testing that is done. 


What advice do you have for someone starting out in CEI work? 

Understand that there’s a lot more people skills required than you think. The best thing I can tell you is to get out of the truck and talk to people, build relationships. It will make any difficult conversation you might need to have much easier. Things are constantly changing on a construction site and most issues can be resolved with simple communication, asking why they’re doing things a certain way. You must be open-minded that they might do things differently, but it is still meeting the standard. Everyone wants the project to be successful, building a relationship with the contractor can help make the process smoother.