April 17


Traffic sign for Winners or Losers - business conceptOur clients come to us at Traffic Data Inc when they need a traffic count.  They have our standard price list and we usually don’t even provide a quote.  They send us an email with what they need and we confirm the price with an email.  Basically a handshake agreement.  More than nine out of ten of these email exchanges turn into projects for us.

At Spack Consulting, our customers email us their development plan and we write an engagement letter for them that details our scope and fee to do the traffic study.  More than seven out of ten of these proposals turn into traffic study projects for us.

We also have a handful of cities who call us up when they have a small traffic issue and we take care of these for them based on an emailed scope/fee they can authorize.  Basically a handshake agreement at Spack Consulting too (I’m usually that kind of a guy – especially since we offer a full money back guarantee – a customer can always back out of paying us).

I don’t pay attention to all of the government sites that post Requests for Proposals.  We can do some of those projects that are listed, but I made the decision I’d rather have us focus our time on doing engineering than on proposal writing.  The twenty firms chasing traffic engineering work in my region all have marketing departments behind them to put together glossy proposals.

Two recent experiences related to responding to RFPs –

  1. A civil engineering firm two hours north of us was invited to put together a proposal for a corridor study for the county up there.  The county invited the three local firms to propose on it.  The civil engineering firm is close to full service, but they don’t have a traffic engineer.  I’ve worked with them in the past and we teamed together.  We talked through what we should propose and I put together a scope/fee letter detailing my portion of the work.  The civil engineering firm is the prime consultant and they put together a proposal.  We ended up winning, which is especially great because I have a cabin up there  We just had our kick-off meeting and the county may be adding on to the scope of the study (I spent the night at the cabin).  Excellent!
  2. A Twin Cities county sent out a one page Request for Qualifications to do a very well defined analysis to confirm their road diet design would provide adequate Level of Service.  A very basic, check the box on the federal funding form project.  No looking at alternatives, just pass/fail.  They said they were sending the RFQ (I think they could have called this an RFP) to qualified firms.  I think they got half a dozen proposals.  I sent in our standard one page scope/fee letter.  They went with a competitor (a good friend of mine, who’s smarter than me).  Strangely, my price was about $5,000 to do the study and the winner’s was price was $14,000.  The feedback I got was that they put together a better proposal.  This confused me since I thought we were all pre-qualified and that this was a price based decision.

So, I’m largely back to ignoring RFPs.

A tangent on this topic – a friend of mine, whose at one of the top three firms in my region told me they have an internal push to pull their winning percentage up to 30%.  I can’t imagine how depressing it must be to lose three out of four projects.

I’ll always put in the effort if a client wants me to be a sub, like project 1.  Our win rate is lower on those, but they reinforce those clients calling us up directly when they can direct select us.

What I’m debating with myself while I’m brushing my teeth every morning – should I have just went ahead and done a 75% draft of the study on project number 2 and submitted that as our proposal?  I think our proposal writing is poor compared to the other firms in town, but our engineering reports are actually in the top tier.  And I’d rather do the study than write a paper detailing how I’m going to do the study.

Have any of you submitted a rough draft of a study in lieu of providing a proposal detailing what was going to be in the study?


  • Dear Mike Spack,

    I trust this finds you well.

    My name is Mohammed Khan and We’re also running a sub-consultancy in the United Arab Emirates. We believe that a comprehensive fee proposal is an added advantage to win the projects.
    We aren’t telling about the glossy or glistening fee proposal but it should be a well produced or high-quality or detailed fee proposal.
    The following points shall be provided in the fee proposal to carry out traffic surveys:
    1. Client should have a clear understanding of what survey methodology is being carried out.
    2. Fee should be competitive compared to the current market.
    3. Data submission date should be mentioned in the fee proposal depending upon the project scale.
    4. Individual work or team work is more important in delivering the data on time. (For eg. Counting, data tabulation in excel format and a clear key plan of the study area locations).
    5. There should be at least 95% of accuracy in the data.

    Best regards,

    Mohammed Khan

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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