Highway maintenance operations requiring cone placement and cone retrieval are often both inefficient and unsafe. While it is a seemingly simplistic operation, lane closure operations are often the most dangerous. As changing traffic conditions are paired with the slow relative speed of the work truck, it creates an increasingly hazardous environment. The longer the work crew is in the zone, the more unsafe it is for them. To combat these conditions, the Roadrunner, an automated cone placement and cone retrieval system, makes these operations much safer.
Let’s learn about how this system can transform your lane closure operations into a safer and more efficient work environment for everyone involved!
How the Roadrunner Works
The Roadrunner system is comprised of two separate units: the Cone Placement System (CPS) and the Cone Retrieval System (CRS). As each of their names suggest, each unit is dedicated to a specific element of your lane closure operation. Each unit is individually be attached to the bed of your truck in short amount of time. If you want to switch deployment of retrieval sides, this can also be done in a matter of minutes.
See the Roadrunner in action, including both cone placement and cone retrieval!
Now that you have seen the Roadrunner in action, let’s learn how the system can improve your company’s future operations!
In standard lane closure operations, the cone safety truck can only drive as fast as the worker in the man basket can place or retrieve cones. Often times, this truck cannot travel with any sort of pace, as the individuals doing the work from the truck can only place or pick up cones so quickly. This leads to lengthy operation times. Even if the truck’s speed is increased, consistency is dramatically reduced. In practice, increased speed leads to improperly placed cones and missed cones in retrieval. Both these mistakes are incredibly time consuming to fix and could potentially lead to even more dangerous scenarios.
With the Roadrunner system installed on your truck, the time it takes to place and retrieve cones in a lane closure operation is significantly reduced. With the Roadrunner automatically doing both tasks, the likelihood of an improperly placed cone or a missed cone is dramatically decreased. As manual placement and retrieval is eliminated, speed can be increased. In fact, both facets of the operation can be done at speeds up to 15 miles per hour!
With the ability to open and close lanes quicker, not only can more projects be completed but it also leads to a safer work zone. By reducing the amount of time it takes to open or close a lane, this in turn reduces the amount of opportunities an errant vehicle can enter the zone and harm a worker. Ultimately, by reducing the amount of time an operation takes, the more beneficial it is for your company!
In addition to efficiently, and more importantly, the Roadrunner improves safety for your crew. The current practice of opening and closing lanes is extremely dangerous for the workers involved. Some of these operations involve a worker operating from the side or rear of the truck or a worker physically walking down the lane laying cones. In these situations, workers are left exposed to oncoming traffic at varying speeds. With work zone deaths increasing by 7% in 2016, at a total of 765 fatalities, 19% were workers. We should take all possible measures to reduce the risks associated with lane closures.
By automating cone placement and cone retrieval, the Roadrunner significantly reduces the likelihood a worker is struck in a lane closure operation. By the nature of its design, the system removes the worker exposed to oncoming traffic in the man basket or side man buckets. Perhaps more importantly though, the Roadrunner takes “boots off of the road,” meaning that workers no longer have to walk in the zone to place and remove cones. In moving workers as far away from live traffic as possible, the Roadrunner decreases the opportunities a distracted driver will enter the zone and hit an exposed worker.
Frequently Asked Questions
With the Roadrunner being such a foreign concept to many organizations, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions about the system and answered them for you! If you still have any remaining questions, do not hesitate to ask us!
Why are lane closure operations so dangerous?
When comparing all highway maintenance operations, perhaps the most dangerous to workers is closing and re-opening a lane. Why is this? As simple as this may sound, it is because of sudden change. When closing a lane, oncoming traffic is often forced into suddenly slowing down their vehicle and merging into another lane. Even with their speeds reduced, this often is still much faster than the truck closing the lane operates at, creating a dangerous variance. With so many changing conditions and variables, the process of placing and removing cones in a lane closure becomes an incredibly dangerous work environment for the crew. By automating one of the most dangerous tasks, the Roadrunner significantly improves worker safety.
Does the system work with any type of cones?
While the Roadrunner does have limits to which size cones it can deploy and retrieve, most standard cones fit within the minimum and maximum size limits. The Cone Placement System (CPS) can deploy cones with a 15” base and heights ranging from 28” up to 42” tall. Similarly, the Cone Retrieval System (CRS) can pick up cones with a 15” base and heights ranging from 28” up to 36” tall. You will find that most cones on the market today fall comfortably within these ranges, making the system widely usable.
What happens to cones that are knocked over? Can the Roadrunner pick them up successfully?
Even if you have never worked in a work zone previously, by just driving through a work zone you would notice that often cones are inadvertently knocked over onto their side. A frequent question we receive is that if that prevents the Roadrunner from being able to pick up the cone automatically.
As you can see in the GIF above, the Roadrunner easily accommodates for fallen cones and can pick them up with ease. This makes the inevitability of a fallen cone into a non-issue for retrieving the cones automatically. Again, this keeps workers safe by keeping “boots off of the road.”
How does the system attach to the truck?
Both the Cone Placement System (CPS) and the Cone Retrieval System (CRS) are attached to the truck via stake pockets found on most flatbed, traffic control, and cone safety trucks. Additionally, because of their relative light weights, both systems can be attached and removed in a mere matter of minutes.
Can I use the Cone Retrieval System (CRS) in reverse in addition to going forward?
The answer to this question is “Yes!”. The CRS can be set up and be utilized while the truck is traveling in either direction, forward or in reverse. This gives your workers the flexibility to utilize the Roadrunner as they see fit, or as regulations require in your state of operation.
How is the unit powered?
With the Roadrunner being so powerful, we are often asked how the units are powered. To make things simple, the answer is actually the same for both systems! According to the manufacturer, “your vehicle’s standard 12 volt DC power source and an air compressor are all that is needed.” Where the units differ is in the minimum amount of air required to operate. The CPS requires 4.5 SCFM of air at 80 PSI while the CRS requires 16 SCFM of air at 100 PSI with a 20 gallon reservoir. This means that no special charging unit is needed to power the Roadrunner!
Can the distance the cones are spread apart be set before the operation begins?
Yes! There are actually two ways the distance between the placed cones can be set. The first way is that once the cone is placed into the cone magazine from the bed of the truck, the worker can manually release the cone to be placed via a release button on the handheld control. The second way this can be done may be even easier than the first! Using the standard programmable timing package, you can set the interval the cones are released at before the operation begins. This ensures little variability in the distances the cones are placed apart and allows for a consistent cone placement in your lane closure every time!
Are there any restrictions on when the Roadrunner can be used?
In terms of weather, “as long as it is kept in good condition it will operate if it has a clean and dry air supply.” This means that no matter if your operations are being performed in extreme heat or the frigid cold, the Roadrunner will stand up to the harshest conditions.
Does the Roadrunner offer any other benefits?
As many of you know, repeatedly placing and retrieving cones can lead to a serious back injury over time, even if good form is being utilized. Did you know though, that 16.4% of all construction-related injuries resulting in lost time were to the back? This is not only the most out of any body part, but it is also one of the most expensive. According to the Spine Research Institute, the “average cost of a back injury related workers comp claim can be $40,000 – $80,000 per employee.” The Roadrunner limits back strain and, thus, should be able to keep your workers injury-free and able to work!
The Roadrunner automatic cone placement and cone retrieval system can transform your highway maintenance operations into a much smoother experience. By limiting the amount of people exposed to oncoming traffic, the system can increase your work crew’s safety while also significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to close and re-open a lane. Ultimately, if safety and operational efficiency are your company’s primary concerns, as they should be, the Roadrunner can be a valuable addition to any organization frequently doing maintenance on the highway!