Footage of a new automated cone-laying vehicle being tested at a facility in Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire, has been released by Highways England.
As previously reported by CiTTi, the solution, which is being developed by Highways England and a group of industry experts, aims to eliminate the safety risk associated with road workers putting out cones manually.
This task is currently undertaken by two people on the rear of a vehicle working in tandem, with the bulk of this work undertaken at night and carried out in most weathers with workers lifting up to 10 tonnes of equipment per shift.
The automated cone-laying machines, which could be in use by the end of the year, should improve safety and free up two workers to carry out other tasks.
Two solutions have been developed. The first, created by Highway Care, has been undergoing testing at the Bruntingthorpe site in Lutterworth.
The second, developed by competitor King Highway Products, is due to be trialled next month.
Martin Bolt, head of lean and continuous improvement at Highways England, who leads the project, said: “We are constantly looking for ways to improve safety for everyone who works and travels on our road network and have been delighted with the initial tests of this innovative vehicle.
“The first tests have been very positive. We have already received a lot of interest and support from the industry, applauding an initiative that will take the human element out of putting cones and therefore take away an element of potential risk.
“As well as taking away this physical and laborious task, these automated machines will also help us to redeploy the workforce to some of the many other traffic management duties.”
Highways England, Kier, HW Martin Traffic Management and competitors Highway Care and King Highway Products are working together to resolve this potential safety risk.
Highways England is funding the development and establishment of a minimum standard while the companies themselves are developing the vehicles.
According to the partners, ergonomics experts have to date struggled to identify a suitable method of placing and removing cones that doesn’t have an impact on workers due to the twisting of the body required or a vehicle that does not require any workers on the back.
It is hoped the automated cone-laying machines will tackle this issue. Highways England criteria stipulates that not only must the machines offer a safer method for highways workers, they must be safe for all road users and pose no further risk to traffic.
Furthermore, the machines must be able to lay/collect at least 400 cones at a rate of one every 10 seconds
Should the tests prove successful, Highway Care and King Highway Products will then take their solutions to the marketplace.
Highways England said it hoped both machines will be implemented in late 2020.