Dispute resolution boards (DRBs) have been used since the 1970s to avoid litigation and resolve controversies early. DRBs are typically used in high-dollar, long-duration projects such as highway construction or other public works projects.
DRBs commonly have three members with significant experience in appropriate subject matters such as engineering, architecture, project management, law, etc. Boards are established at the beginning of a project, before disputes arise, and the parties typically agree on the members and share the expenses. As a standing panel of neutrals, DRB members become very familiar with the particular project and this in turn enables the DRB to quickly facilitate resolution, or if necessary, issue non-binding decisions to resolve disputes.
According to a survey by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, at least eighteen departments of transportation at the state-level use DRBs, each with different specifications, guidelines, thresholds and practices.
The use of DRB’s in federal projects has apparently declined in recent years. One reason may be the ready availability of other ADR processes at the the BCAs as well as the increasing use of facilitated partnering.