Defending Street Sweepers from Distracted Drivers

Distracted drivers are a top safety threat to street sweeping organizations. Ask any sweeping professional for first-hand accounts of crashes or near misses and you’re sure to hear some horrific stories. Incorporating highly-visible advanced warning equipment (flashing lights, arrow boards, etc.) and a physical barrier to provide protection from distracted drivers for those working on the roadway has never been easier.

Street Smart Rental– Offering Superior Safety Solutions

In traditional lane closures, a maintenance crew may be working in one location for many hours or days. It’s a fixed operation. In this situation, it’s easy to set up cones, barricades and flashing lights to get cars to move over. A sweeping operation is moving, very slowly, and does not have the luxury of the beforementioned cones, barricades and flashing lights.
More and more DOTs from across the country now have advanced warning/attenuator requirements in place anytime there’s a lane closure or mobile operation that’s taking up a lane of traffic when performing pothole repair, sweeping, mowing, landscape improvements, etc.
Brady Markell, of Street Smart Rental, details the purpose of trailer attenuators, available for rent or purchase through his company, and explains why these devices are becoming a “must-have” for anyone working in roadway operations. He also talks about the benefits that have been realized by commercial street sweeping businesses that have increasingly been adopting this kind of Street Smart safety equipment for use in their daily operations:
Trailer Attenuators are mobile crash-absorbing cushions that to attach to the back of a heavy-duty truck or host vehicle. Built to withstand crashes from vehicles traveling at highway speeds, once impacted, the attenuator is designed to crush in stages, protecting all parties involved in the crash. A large 4’ x 8’ arrow board, controlled by a wireless, in-cab remote, acts as an advanced warning device, directing oncoming traffic to safely maneuver around slow-moving street sweepers or other heavy equipment operating on roadways.

Trailer Attenuators Specifications

Markell explains that while the specifications of trailer attenuators can vary between manufacturers, the most common trailer attenuators weigh 1,640lbs, is just over 17’ long by 8’ wide and has about 12” of ground clearance. The host vehicle, or vehicle that the trailer is pulled with, must be 12,000 lbs. and most often does not require any modifications. The trailer has a pintle hitch and can be trailered at highway speeds when traveling between projects
Brady comments on the exceptional compatibility of this type of safety equipment for commercial sweeper operations. The ease of incorporating this device into an existing fleet of sweeping equipment lies in the fact that sweeping companies already have large dump trucks as part of their fleet to act as the host vehicle.
The trailer attenuators are maintenance-free. They have no engine, and the only moving parts are its two wheels and the arrow board that moves up and down. One person can easily push the trailer by hand in the shop/yard when it’s not needed. From an operations perspective, using the TAs is not a significant change in procedure for a sweeping company.
Trailer attenuators are designed to survive minor crashes and fender-benders. Certain components can be repaired/replaced by certified repair facilities. For example, if a trailer is accidentally backed into a wall during an attempt to park it, or if a driver crashes into the unit at a low speed, the unit can be repaired. If units are hit at higher speeds, they are usually totaled. That’s by design. In those cases, a replacement trailer can be delivered within a few days.

Risks of Insufficient Safety Measures on Commercial Street Sweepers

Crawling along at 7 mph with motorists whizzing by at speeds anywhere between 30-80 mph just inches from the side of a sweeper is a daily occurrence for most sweeping professionals. It’s the nature of the job. It does not need to be this way, however. Most DOTs and governmental agencies require their own workers to use arrow boards + trailer attenuators while performing any type of work on the roadway. They require them for one reason. Because they save lives. Period.
For contractors who may think such equipment is only necessary on heavier-traveled interstates, it’s important to recognize that 61% of fatal accidents in the United States happen on non-interstate roadways, highlighting the importance of these devices when performing work on any type of roadway.

Rent or Buy a Trailer Attenuator for Your Sweeping Operation

With offices around the country, Street Smart rents and sells trailer attenuators and additional traffic safety equipment to contractors and governmental agencies. Equipment is delivered directly to the customer within a couple of days of contract signature. Many contractors take advantage of the economical seasonal rental rate offered by Street Smart allowing contractors to rent the equipment they needed, only for the period of time they will actually be using it.

Bidding Projects that Specify Trailer Attenuators

Many DOTs require the use of attenuators and specify their use when releasing bids for upcoming projects. When contractors are replying to a sweeping bid where attenuators are not specified, it’s worth indicating/noting the additional cost/line item associated with adding a trailer attenuator to the operations as DOTs oftentimes reserve a dedicated pool of funding that can be used for additional safety equipment.

The Right Way to Think About Street Sweeping Safety Equipment

Brady Markell puts the message well about the kind of perspective that the street sweeping industry and other professionals working on the roadway need to maintain about commitment to optimum safety measures.
When Street Smart receives a call that one of our trailers has been hit, it makes us pause at the realization of the magnitude of what “could have” happened. These attenuators prevent what would have been a far worse outcome, death or serious injuries. It validates that the equipment we rent and sell saves lives. We can easily replace a trailer but the lives of the distracted driver or those working in the roadway cannot be replaced.
Once a business has experienced the aftermath of a gruesome crash involving one of its employees or once a worker has been part of an operation that utilizes a trailer attenuator to provide protection behind them, they don’t ever want to work in the roadway without an attenuator. It gives workers a sense of security that you wouldn’t believe.

Time to Commit More Fully to Employee and Public Safety

Distracted driving is an epidemic that very few people want to discuss. Arrow boards and trailer attenuators have been around for many years. It’s no coincidence that virtually every DOT across North America has attenuators in their fleet, often both truck-mounted and trailer models, protecting their crews and assets.
Unfortunately, the majority of contractors performing work on public roadways only use attenuators when it’s specified or mandated by their state. Street Smart’s economic rental program allows contractors to defend their crews and assets from distracted drivers easily and protect other drivers on the roads where they’re working.
Road safety devices meet the crash test and evaluation criteria contained in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH). Trailer attenuators go through extensive testing to pass MASH certification to ensure they operate as designed. It is important for contractors to check with local/state requirements around the use of MASH products.
For a more thorough understanding of the signage used on public roadways contact the American Traffic Safety Services Association and your local Department of Transportation.

For more information about Street Smart trailer attenuators and the additional traffic safety equipment they provide, please visit Safe travels!

Brady Markell

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