Preventative Maintenance for Traffic Safety Signs
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Preventative Maintenance for Traffic Safety Signs

Preventative Maintenance for Traffic Safety Signs

MUTCD & Safety Guidance   /   Dec 9th, 2020   /  A+ | a-

Keeping signs in top condition can save lives. Use these guidelines for preventative maintenance for traffic safety signs to put together a plan that works.

We depend on traffic signs for a reason: they save lives. Replacing damaged signs costs extra time and money. Even worse, they may not be there to help guide drivers at critical moments. With some preventative maintenance for traffic safety signs, you can ensure they are in peak condition for as long as possible. With a plan, signs can prevent accidents and keep the roads moving without disruptions.


Sign Cleaning

Traffic safety signs are positioned close to the road, and become dirty and damaged just as cars do. You cannot drive your car if you are not able to see out the windshield, and you cannot read a sign if it is obscured by any materials. In many cases, signs are kept clear by periodic rainfall. But the sign’s location can increase the need for frequent cleaning. Signs might need cleaning more often if they are:

  • Under trees
  • Along routes with heavy truck traffic
  • In areas with infrequent rainfall
  • In industrial areas

It is also good to remember that if a sign needs replacing because of low night-time visibility, it could be due to dirt buildup. A good cleaning may extend the life of the sign. Keep these substances in mind:

  • Dirt
  • Road tar
  • Oil
  • Asphalt
  • Mulch
  • Mud
  • Grime
  • Mildew
  • Bird droppings

Picking the right cleaner is key, or you could end up doing more damage to the sign. You should use a non-abrasive wet detergent for high-quality paint surfaces. Avoid any products with strong, aromatic solvents or alcohols, and make sure it is chemically neutral—check with the supplier. Test any chemical cleaners on a sign in the maintenance yard before using them in the field. After cleaning, rinse everything off thoroughly and immediately with clean water.


Sign Graffiti

If someone sprays graffiti onto a sign that is not optimized, the removal process will render it unusable. 3M offers protective overlay films that can safeguard signs from the effects of graffiti and stickers. Screen printed signs should be treated with POF 1160. Even then, time is of the essence in getting rid of graffiti. If you do not remove it quickly, the sun will bond the graffiti to the sign, making it more difficult to save. If you use products other than the sign’s approved cleanser, you must follow up with an inspection to make sure the sign still meets retroreflectivity standards. You can test at night with vehicle headlights, or measure anytime with a retroreflectometer.


Vegetation Control

Regular inspections do not always account for vegetation that can obscure a sign. In spring and summer, weeds grow quickly and can engulf the sign face. Overgrown greenery from farther down the road can also make the sign impossible for drivers to see. Tree branches and brush can hide the sign from view. Make sure to conduct inspections during these seasons, so you can identify problems and resolve them before they can affect signs. With the right equipment, the inspector can take care of vegetation on the spot. For more detailed information, consult the FHWA field guide: “Vegetation Control for Safety: A Guide for Local Highway and Street Maintenance Personnel.”


Anti-Theft Measures

Traffic safety signs are a favorite target for thieves, vandals, and pranksters. Laws with stiff punishments for damage are the best deterrent if they are well-publicized and enforced. But a few precautions can make it much more difficult to steal signs. Special fasteners attach to support posts and prevent easy removal. These include:

  • Expanding anchor bolts and blind aluminum rivets
  • Bolts or nuts that require specific tools to install and remove (such as fluted nuts or star bolts)
  • Nuts with shear-off heads

Some measures are even simpler. For instance, you can hammer down the excess portion of the threaded bolt so that people cannot easily unscrew it.


Sign Support Adjustments

It is not enough to maintain the surface of the sign. Its effectiveness depends on stable support posts. Formal inspections should ensure that the post is firmly in the ground, and not wiggling or leaning away from a vertical position. Tilted signs demonstrate that the post or breakaway base are no longer properly mounted to the ground. It must stay in its designated spot, or it is less visible to drivers.

No Unnecessary Fasteners

Do not make the mistake of reinforcing a sign by adding more supports and braces. They may increase the strength of the pole, but they can immobilize the sign’s breakaway mechanisms. Then, the sign itself becomes a safety hazard. The post must be able to break away at the base if struck by a vehicle, so that it is free to swing over the car. This minimizes the impact of the collision and any aftereffects. Rather than adding to an inadequate support system, it is better to install a larger post with a breakaway mechanism in good working order.

Ideal Positioning

If a sign seems prone to damage from cars, re-positioning it can solve the problem while maintaining its visibility. Signs at the end of median islands are often hazards because large vehicles cannot maneuver the tight radius and stay within their lanes. Sometimes, moving the sign back a few feet can make all the difference. Adding an object marker on the post can also make it more noticeable to distracted drivers. Do not simply replace these signs. You must also reassess their locations.

The Environment

You may not immediately notice that a certain area is not suitable for long-term stability. Erosion of soil at the base of a sign and tree growth around the support can put drivers at risk. You can add materials to the ground to make it more stable, or in many cases, relocate it a few feet away.

Just as roads need to be clear of potholes and cars need regular checkups, signs need attention to guard against damage. At Custom Products Corporation, we manufacture custom traffic signs and make sure our customers are familiar with all the preventative maintenance for traffic safety signs. We love their business, but we want to give them signs that will reach the end of their expected lifespans. That additional peace of mind comes free of charge.

With a maintenance plan and scheduled inspections, we may see our clients less often—but it means that they are much more satisfied with their signs. Custom Products has been helping keep roads safe since 1985, staying up-to-date on the latest technology and regulations for fully functioning signs. Contact us for more information on proper safety measures.


Preventative Maintenance for Traffic Safety Signs
Tags:  custom · traffic · signs
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