Highways experts are creating technology that will allow automated vehicles to lay cones on motorways and major A roads, eliminating one of the biggest risks faced by England’s road workers
Highways England and its partners are joining forces to create automated vehicles that lay cones on the UK’s motorways and major A roads – and prevent workers having to lift an average 10 tonnes of equipment per shift.
Cones are required to protect road users and road workers while vital improvements or maintenance is carried out on the busy routes.
Footage released on 17 January shows how terrifying it can be for the road workers who traditionally put the cones out, working in tandem from the back of a vehicle as motorway traffic thunders past just yards away.
As the workers manually lift and place each of the cones, the footage shows vans and lorries rushing by.
Developing cone laying machines
Now Highways England is working with a group of highways experts to develop ground-breaking machines that will take away the need for cones to be manually placed. This will improve safety and free up two road workers to carry out other tasks.
Highways England group leader Martin Bolt, who oversees innovation in the Midlands, said: “Safety is always the priority for Highways England and we are constantly looking for ways to ensure everyone who works and travels on our road network is protected.
“By taking out the human element in the laborious task of putting out cones, we will be taking out an element of potential risk. As well as taking away this physical labour, these automated machines could also save valuable person-hours and allow us to redeploy the workforce to other traffic management duties.
“We are delighted to be working with all of our partners to create an innovative vehicle that will make this possible.”
Collaborate to reduce safety risks
Experts from Highways England, Kier, HW Martin Traffic Management and competitors Highway Care and King Highway Products are working together in a collaborative effort to resolve this potential safety risk.
Highways England is funding the development and establishing a minimum standard while the companies themselves are developing the vehicles.
Two automated cone laying machines are being developed with testing due to get underway next month at a centre in Lutterworth, Leicestershire. If the tests prove successful the two companies will be able to take their vehicles to the marketplace.
The automated cone laying machines could be in use by the end of 2020.