Reflective Tapes for Work Zones or Temporary Traffic Control Zones
In work zones or temporary traffic control zones, reflective tapes and sheeting are utilized for a variety of purposes. This article focuses on those applications.
A “Work Zone” is a designated section of a traffic thoroughfare where construction, maintenance, or utility work operations are marked by beginning and ending warning signs, signals, indicators, and transport systems. From the initial cautionary sign, signal, or set of flashing lights to the sign that reads “END ROAD WORK” or the final traffic control device that applies to that work activity, there is a work zone. Work zones might also include parts of the road where ongoing, mobile construction activities, like lane line painting, are taking place.
The guidelines for identifying work zones are outlined in the most recent MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices). The instructions are thorough and offer full explanations and diagrams of how to set up a legal work zone location. The new regulations aim to reduce road fatalities and accidents in and near work zone zones. A work zone consists of the following elements:
- Signs to mark the start and finish of the work zone.
- Road Barrels in Orange and White.
- Roadway cones (orange traffic cones)
- Arrow or message signs that flash
- Delineators and Tubular Markers (Channelizing Devices)
- Temporary Lane Dividers
- Lane shifting signs with Arrows
- Signals for temporary traffic control
- Type 1, 2, and 3 Striped Barricades (orange/white)
- Vertical Panels
- Temporary raised pavement markers
- Pavement marking tape (temporary)
- Movable barriers for traffic control
- Safety crash cushions
- Rumble Strips
- Screens (to obscure the view of the work area)
- Warning lights and floodlights
- Raised Temporary Islands
- Edging that is Visible to Pedestrians
In addition to the devices above, work zones or traffic control zones also contain road construction workers and work vehicles of different types. Since these zones need to be kept safe and visible, extensive use of reflective tape is employed.
We carry several types of reflective tape that can be used to mark traffic control devices as well as work vehicles. These are
- Flexible High Intensity Barrel Tape
- Reflective Traffic Cone Collars
- Pre-Striped Slanted Reflective Tape
- DOT Truck Tape
- Temporary Pavement Marking Tape.
- Raised Pavement Markers
Flexible High Intensity Reflective Barrel Tape (ASTM D4956 Type 3) is a specially designed product that can withstand an impact and return to its original shape. This is often referred to as being reboundable. This type of reflective tape is suitable for use on barrels and delineators (4′′ and 6′′). This tapes brightness and conformability make it perfect for uses like delineators or road barrels. White, yellow, or orange versions of this material in 4 and 6 inch widths are available for barrels. Maintaining new tape on the barrels will ensure that they continue to comply with MUTCD rules and regulations. You can gain more knowledge about how to mark your specific barrels appropriately by consulting the MUTCD manual and your State DOT. This material also works well for many additional applications where brightness and flexibility are important.
Traffic Cone Collars (reflective) also need a reboundable and flexible material that is rugged. Traffic Cones experience even more punishment than barrels in work zones which is why a reboundable tape needs to be used. Traffic cone collars are cut with a curve in them so that when you wrap them around a cone they come out straight. To apply cone collars straight and level, you position the strip on the cone with the backing on it first. Get it perfectly level where the ends meet and then tape one end with masking tape to create a hinge. Begin peeling the backing off starting at the hinge and wrap the collar around the cone. The hinge insures a straight application. We carry cone collars by Oralite that are specifically designed for this application. They are even brighter and more rugged than the Type 3 Flexible material used for barrels.
Pre-Striped Reflective Barricade Tape (engineer and high intensity grades) — Reflective barricade tape that is used to draw attention to a construction zones and to indicate which way traffic should go around the area. Work zones are marked with orange and white striped tape, while dead ends and areas with washed-out roads are marked with red and white stripes. For certain applications, engineer grade is acceptable, but other zones and applications call for high intensity tape. The appropriate intensity tape can be determined by your local DOT office or inspector. Also, as a rule, whichever way the tape points when slanting downward, is the way traffic should go. Generally speaking, you would apply one slant to some barricades on one side and the inverse on the other. An illustration of this is a type 1 barricade, such as those seen over manholes.
Reflective Tape for Work Trucks – trucks that work within work zones should be marked clearly so that they can be seen both day and night. For large trucks like semi trailer rigs, Red and White DOT reflective tape is required. This regulation is applicable to all tractor trailers or semi trucks whether they are used in work zones or just on the road. In work zones, trucks that fall below the threshold for DOT tape requirements should still be marked in a way to call attention to them. Nothing that is within a work zone should be invisible to oncoming drivers to where it causes danger. So this includes vehicles.
As mentioned above, many of the trucks and equipment used in work zones do not fall under the federal FMCSA or NHTSA regulations requiring DOT tape. However, because they either move slow or are stationary around fast moving traffic, it is often more important to have them marked conspicuously so that they are visible both day and night. A common pattern for reflective panels is the chevron pattern pictured below. This pattern consists of alternating yellow and red striping that slants outward and downward at 45 degree angles. This pattern and color combination is normally seen on fire apparatus. However, since work zone vehicles are not under the same regulations that fire apparatus are, they are able to use different color combinations. Oralite V98 tape is a popular reflective film for this type of application. It is prismatic, rugged, conformable and very bright, which makes it a great choice for work zone vehicles.
Temporary pavement marking tape is also used extensively in work zones to mark temporary traffic lanes. Lanes are required to be marked at all times so when a lane is temporarily diverted a new lane must be created. When work is complete, permanent lines can be put down. Foil based traffic tapes are designed to create temporary lines on pavement. They are easy to install and simple to remove. To install the tape you lay it on a clean, dry surface and press it in with a rubber tire to conform it to the surface. To remove the tape you can peel by hand or heat the tape with a torch. (the heat vaporizes the adhesive and removes the tape) Two types of aluminum based tapes are available for pavement. Wet reflective and Construction grade. Wet reflective is brighter.
Raised Pavement Markers are reflective road markers used on road ways to mark lanes and alert drivers when they cross over a line. At night, car headlights cause them to light up. When lanes are temporarily moved because of road work, new markers as well as lines should be put down immediately. For work zones the marker color will most likely be white or yellow and in some cases white/red or yellow/red. Butyl or epoxy is used to secure the markers to the ground.
Steven Cole (Economics, MBA – University of West Florida , Business & Innovation – Stanford University) 25 years of experience in the reflective safety business. Specializing in vehicle accident and rear end collision reduction through increased visibility.