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  • Writer's pictureTanya

Top 9 Products from Traffex 2018

Updated: Jan 9, 2020

It’s been some time since I last attended Traffex Seeing is Believing, and the show has definitely grown in popularity. I believe there was nearly 70 exhibitors in all, with both indoor and outdoor exhibition areas, and sessions from speakers about a range of highways-related topics.

I was only able to attend on Day 2 (Thursday 28th June), but I saw plenty of new innovations and came away enthused by the work going on in our industry. Here’s some of my favourite products from the show, as well as my thoughts on the two sessions I was able to attend.

Prefer to watch? Here’s my show video, filmed on the day – so please forgive the poor camera work and my extremely technical(!) expressions; it was a long day and there was no coffee involved!

Top Products

I wasn’t able to get to every stand, but of the products I did see, these are my top picks from the show based on their usefulness and innovation.

navtech clearway radar
The ClearWay Roadwork Zone Protection Radar Unit

Navtech’s product features a radar mounted on a trailer that can be used to detect traffic management breaches as well as unauthorised access to sites. While I have seen other products that are similar in nature, such as Intellicone, what struck me about this particular product was its accuracy as well as the ability to track the person breaching the line of cones.

The gentleman who walked through the TM was shown on the video screen very clearly, which would be extremely useful for getting prosecutions for traffic management incursions. And if people start to see these offenders as criminals, perhaps traffic management will start to be taken more seriously.

In addition, it’s also useful for alerting site staff when they have left the designated work area and are entering live traffic zones. If you have ever worked on site at night, you’ll know that this is easier to do than you would think, so anything that helps keep our workers behind the cones gets a thumbs up.

One of the THB staff came up with the idea for the product that was to become Safe Steps for Schools, which features an attention-grabbing surfacing that can be placed at designated crossing points. The idea was that if you could get the children interested, they would want to cross at the fun crossing point and get used to using safe areas to cross roads.

The patterns are fun and playful, and they stand out to drivers as well, alerting them to the crossing area. I first came across their surfacing in Coventry, where it’s used on a shared space area near the university. This addition for schools seems the next natural step.

The material comes in pieces that fit together – like a thermoplastic jigsaw – and then a tailor-made machine is used to heat the panels for a uniform application. I was impressed at the speed of installation – the product was down in 4 minutes. It also had excellent grip, appearing to be similar to high-friction surfacing.

If you want to see how it’s applied, check out the video above. I’m sure we would all want something like this near our schools to teach our little ones how to cross safely.

MyMobileWorkers Job Management Software

This appears to be an excellent piece of software for managing your staff and information, particularly on site. The app can be used on phones or desktop PCs and lets staff complete online risk assessments, site checks and other needed documentation, or upload photos.

What’s the benefit? Instant proof that jobs were completed or processes were followed on site, with real-time information available and the ability to prove where your staff were. Contractors can ensure that they are compliant on site and provide a more transparent service to customers.

This is a simple idea that is well executed. The ability to complete your site inspection reports on your phone and have it available instantly – instead of trying to fill out a paper report that subsequently got lost in the back of the van – is very useful.

Stanton Bonna Slot Drains

This is a slot drain on a scale I’ve never seen before. Like their Super Gully I raved about last November, this massive precast unit is perfect for areas that need extra drainage capacity.

I could also see it being used in areas that are unable to be maintained regularly, perhaps where road space is difficult to obtain, because the large capacity should – in theory – reduce the frequency of maintenance interventions.

Being a Class D400 product also makes it suitable for areas where drainage is required but there is regular verge or central reserve overruns by heavy vehicles. Which is just another reason why you wouldn’t want your staff out rodding it every month, putting themselves at risk.

And because it’s precast, the modular units are quick to install – top marks all round.

If you think that “intelligent road studs” means that they just change colour if you’re going the wrong way, think again. The Internet of Things has finally caught up with highways thanks to Valerann.

These road studs provide real-time, high-resolution data from the road to detect risks, prevent accidents, and a host of other benefits. They transmit data to a receiver that then relays information about the road conditions, traffic flows, weather and other hazards to it’s Cloud Control Centre for real-time monitoring.

Imagine the day when autonomous vehicles are the norm, and your car receives data from the road studs about a closure at the next junction. Your car could take this information, re-route your vehicle and your journey would carry on undisrupted. With technology like this, this scenario is a very real possibility.

On top of this, data analytics is becoming huge in other industries like IT and marketing. People are taking data and using it in ways that we previously hadn’t thought of, like using network analytics and natural speech processors to detect criminal activity in financial sectors.

I’m interested to see what we in highways can do with this information once we start collecting and analysing it. My review video above has better footage of the system.

This unique product – along with it’s smaller version, the Integrated Vehicle Mounted VMS shown below right – is perfect for incident response when you need a VMS at the scene quickly. Vehicles can arrive at the scene and wirelessly control the unit so they aren’t at risk setting it up.

With this, valuable time is saved getting people to the incident, without worrying about getting a VMS deployed from the depot. The flexibility of the messages they can display, as well as being easier for drivers to spot, makes them particularly suited to incident response.

While it would be great not to have an incident in the first place, I think this product will help manage them better and more safely when they do occur.

Kier’s Road Rake (provided by Barber)

Another useful innovation for incident management is Barber’s Road Rake, specially imported from the USA and adapted to UK standards by Kier.

I was extremely impressed by the demonstration during the Kier Innovation Tour. Stood behind some traffic management, I watched as the Road Rake came racing by, picking up a wide range of debris like planks of wood and tyre pieces.

Honestly, I was expecting to have to jump out of the way as debris went flying past the cones towards us, but that never happened. The Road Rake picked up nearly everything across the lane, leaving a clear area behind it. See the review video for the best footage.

Firstly, this gets the area cleaned up and opened to traffic in record time. Secondly, any time an operative is on the road – even behind a road closure – is a risk to their safety, so getting people off the roads faster is a win in my books.

Kier and DBi Robotic Grass Cutting

Both companies had remote-controlled mowers, and I got some footage of Kier’s RoboCut in action on the day. Not only are they quicker than hand-mowing, the operator can be kept safe by not working adjacent to live traffic, steep slopes, and the machine itself.

I appreciate that this is a simple idea, but I’d argue that the risks during grass cutting can be quite high. On trunk roads, for example, grass cutting is carried out regularly on the verges during the summer months, especially at areas where visibility is a problem such as at the tops of slip roads or near junctions. So, improving workers’ safety by keeping them away from traffic management and areas where there’s a risk they wouldn’t be seen by nearby vehicles is a brilliant move. Check out the review video to see the Kier RoboCut in action.

And bonus points to DBi who visited schools and let the students have a go at controlling the mower. Showing them how construction is a cool place to work is how we’ll get the next generation interested in our industry.

On display by Eastern Concrete, this concrete is finer than traditional Portland cement-created concrete. It reaches 80% of it’s strength within 1 hour of laying, meaning that concrete roads or runways can be open within hours.

This has obvious benefits for airports or highways, where the roads need to be re-opened to the public as soon as possible. In addition, the time saved means that staff are on site for the least amount of time possible, reducing their health and safety risks.

Speaker Sessions

The two sessions I was able to attend were the “Updates to the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB): unlocking innovation in road surface maintenance” by Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Associations (RSTA), and “Building Information Modelling - a business process to reduce whole life costs of infrastructure assets” by Will Baron, from the Association for Road Traffic Safety and Management (ARTSM) and Keysoft Solutions.

The sessions were delivered in the main indoor exhibition area, but the organisers had thoughtfully provided wireless headphones for the audience, so hearing the speakers was not an issue. I certainly appreciated the crystal-clear sound.

Here’s what I took away from these sessions.

Updates to the DMRB

The DMRB is currently under revision, with the overhaul expected to be completed by 2020. Some chapters are being revised, some combined, and others added in. The numbering is changing to CD – Construction Design documents as opposed to the old system (HDXX/YY, BAXX/YY as shown in DMRB Vol 0 Sec 1), perhaps to make the DMRB seem more cohesive.

New chapters will be included for treatments such as surface dressing, slurry sealing, high-friction surfacing (HFS), retexturing, geosynthetics, deep in-situ recycling and asphalt preservation systems, amongst others. Some of these that are already included in the DMRB will be updated and extended to feature more prominently.

The thinking behind including these treatments is to improve productivity, sustainability, and reduce asset management interventions – essentially, making the most of what we already have rather than planing out existing surfaces and replacing them. Highways England also want to see treatments that offer value for money, or a good cost-life index.

Interestingly, Mr Robinson also mentioned that HFS – which has come under heavy scrutiny in recent years – has been confirmed by the British Board of Agrément to have a service life of 8-12 years if laid correctly. It was only recently I had had a discussion with a highways colleague that HFS was lasting only two years once laid, so it was good to hear another side to the story.

Another noteworthy product I hadn’t previously heard of was grouted macadam, which creates a very strong surfacing for highly trafficked areas. Mr Robinson estimated that this type of surfacing could last up to 15 years if laid correctly, which would be extremely useful for making pavements last as long as possible in areas that are prone to wear.

For a 20-minute session, there was a ton of information and by no means did I catch everything that was discussed. I appreciate that there was likely a focus on road treatments from the RSTA, however, it was extremely useful to get an overview of what is happening with the DMRB and proved popular with the attendees on the day.

BIM as a Business Process

I noticed that the conference area had roughly half of the audience that the DMRB talk had, which I was disappointed to see. I suspect that this is a reflection of highways professionals’ feelings towards BIM, with the majority unclear on what the advantages of BIM are for highways.

I thought Mr Baron made some excellent points during his talk. BIM, he said, is a process, not a piece of software. There is no such thing as “BIM in a box”. And while this is true, I do think that BIM is inextricably linked to 3D modelling software, hence why many people believe that BIM is a computer program. But his distinction was that data drives the output from BIM, while the model contains the 3D information.

With that said, perhaps a better explanation of BIM would be Better Information Management. Mr Baron highlighted the “sawtooth effect” when handing over information throughout the design-construct-manage-maintain cycle, where each handover loses information. With the model – which contains information such as specification requirements, attributes, and costs – the project team has a single source of truth for the entire project. There’s no need for our current fragmented approach of 2D drawings, specification documents, and a bill of quantities, because all this information is in the model where everyone can access it.

Or at least, that is the intention. BIM Level 3 is meant to be a fully collaborative environment where the entire project team, from the client to the contractor and even fabricators can have access to all the project data contained in the model. Mr Baron said this is how BIM helps us integrate, collaborate, and coordinate, and provides the most business value.

His final point was that in infrastructure we need to lead this change. And I agree. The first question from the audience asked, “Why? BIM is for buildings, highways is different.” But in reality, it isn’t.

I think of this reaction as similar to what another engineer (or surveyor) must have faced when the first person suggested that the Ordnance Surveys (OS) were developed for the whole of the UK. It must have seemed daunting creating a detailed survey of this entire island, but look at how integral OS maps are now to highways.

Imagine having a digital, 3D model of your site, complete with existing structures, street furniture and utilities, with all the asset information available with a click of your mouse. Currently, to find out what the pavement structure is on a trunk road, you’d need to get the information from HAPMS or do a core survey. Then you would probably investigate HADDMS or possibly even HAGDMS depending on what you wanted to achieve.

Even worse, then you would need to ask the statutory undertakers for their utilities information, wait for their reply and then transcribe what they have into your drawings, and hope it includes everything and you’ve read it correctly. And if you have ever seen a BT utilities plan, you’ll know that this is – ultimately – a futile wish.

With a digital model, all that wasted time is gone and all the information you need is at hand. And that is just the beginning of the benefits that BIM has to offer for highways. Mr Baron also touched on the benefits of an accurate and up-to-date as-built models, and the business value offered by BIM.

Overall, this session didn’t disappoint, and I was interested when he mentioned that some cities were already beginning to create a digital city model. Getting buy-in from highways professionals seems to be an uphill battle, but I think Mr Baron made a good start.

Final Thoughts

Traffex is a more hands-on show than other events such as Highways UK, and the venue for it at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground is perfect for it. If you haven’t been before, or even if you have, it’s well worth attending to see the latest developments in action. I’m already looking forward to next year’s show.

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