The development of today’s road markings
With ever increasing volumes of road traffic and the need to improve safety, highway line markings probably provide the biggest impact to the road user in all its various forms for direction guidance and information on the move, especially at night. It is less than one hundred years ago that the first road markings were recognised officially as an aid to movement on the highway.
The original white line was a hand painted line and it wasn’t until the early 1940’s that screeded thermoplastic was used, due to the shortage of fuel based solvent for paint.
For many years thermoplastic has been the solution for the road marking market in the UK with its relative ease of application in most conditions for 12 months of the year.
Until the late 1990’s thermoplastic road marking materials were specified to meet a recipe of ingredients and application thickness in tender documents. In the case of retro-reflectivity performance, this was met by the percentage and type of glass beads within the mix and initially applied to the surface of the new marking.
However, its inability to retain the surface applied glass beads and dependence on vehicle wheel-overs to expose the glass beads held within the material has in some cases resulted in the product failing to provide adequate retro-reflectivity performance at night.
However, despite the exclusive use of thermoplastic in the U.K. for road markings paint remained the number one choice for around 70% of the worlds highway markings market due to its high performance in luminance and retro-reflectivity.
The effect of change to Performance Standards
A steady decline in the standard of materials used and road marking services workmanship through the late 1970’s and 1980’s came about through increased competition, lack of investment in employee training and central governments emphasis to reduce local authority costs that led ultimately to manufacturer and contractor price cuts. It is believed that road marking expenditure in 2006 has not significantly increased since this earlier period.
The introduction of European Standard EN 1436 in 1997 meant an end for the BS3262 recipe specification. This change has meant that engineers can select and specify a standard of performance they require for their highway marking service.
It is suggested that the road marking service industry, as a whole, was not properly prepared for this change
The launch of BSEN 1436 led to the development of several products with improved performance characteristics that make them suitable for consideration in the UK.
Two specific areas of development have been Waterborne Acrylic Paints and a two-component resin based system, Methyl-Methacrylate (MMA), both have high performance characteristics.
In particular a new generation of improved resins have enabled Waterborne Acrylic Paints manufacturers to improve drying time, durability, high luminance and retro-reflectivity and safer operator handling. Combined with a speed of application, the product becomes more acceptable for road marking maintenance with improved health and safety benefits.
HyperLine used as a Maintenance Treatment
As stated previously Paint has been used for highway markings successfully in Europe and other countries for many years with outstanding retro-reflectivity results.
Five years ago, a West Country based road marking services company identified a need for the use of Waterborne Acrylic Paint (HyperLine) on UK roads during discussions with Term Maintenance Agents and Contractors. Various stretches of highway markings were re-sprayed with the product on a number of different types of road and the visual impact was impressive. The results indicated performance levels of retro- reflectivity far higher than comparable thermoplastic markings.
Further development of product formulation and the purchase of a purpose-built, truck mounted high-speed applicator; has provided improved performance both in durability and retro- reflectivity together with productivity five times greater than with conventional sprayed thermoplastic methods. Clients have started to see the advantages and benefits of the system justify its consideration as an alternative for the maintenance of existing centre and edge line road markings.
In the last five years a wide range of roads varying from high speed Motorways and Trunk Roads to Principle and Rural roads have been treated with equal success.
Since their introduction all those years ago road markings have become an essential aid to safety and guidance on our road networks. Their continuing improved performance is critical, considering today’s increasing demands on our highways.
Maintaining the road markings within the true meaning of quality assurance supported by documented evidence and the visual impact from high performing road markings should be an Industry standard.
The will to use a range of new processes/products to improve performance is essential if the Industry is to meet the requirements of the new Standards, the Highways Agency and our customer the Road User!