Rik Nuyttens - vice president of the European Union Road Federation (ERF) and reflective commercial & regulatory affairs manager at 3M Traffic Safety Systems
Q. What risks are posed by low quality glass beads made from recycled glass containing heavy metals? Q. What impact is the global economic crisis having on the creation of new, and upgrade of existing, road marking products and technology?
A. In all honesty the risks may not be fully understood at this point. Heavy metals such as Arsenic, Antimony and Lead, which have been found at extreme high levels, may look to be locked up permanently inside the glass beads. Glass beads are claimed to be inert once released in the environment. Personally I find this the easy answer out, as it tries to shift our waste issues to future generations. I fully support the changes to EN1423, where maximum threshold levels of 200ppm have been established. Note that glass beads will be the first components to disappear from the markings. This effect is noticed almost immediately by fading night visibility on paints. Using recycled window glass has always been common for the production of beads, and more than ever a sustainable approach is needed. Secondly, road markings are often the only traffic signs available to provide guidance to the different road users. This means need for focus on performance and durability.
A. A crisis always implies better budget control. The road owner may start to take risks by delaying maintenance or look for lower cost products. A better solution is to approach the road and road furniture from an asset management point of view. Mapping the road network and early detection of areas in high need of preventive maintenance, will lead to a better use of the overall budget and keep the roads visible and safe. We see more and more cases where road maintenance has been turned to the private sector as multi-year performance based contracts. Here again durable products reduce the need for intervention and lane closures.
Q. What developments has there been on raising US and European standards for wet retroreflectivity?
A. The EN 1436 standard is unique compared to other international standards. It clearly identifies 3 levels of nighttime visibility: Dry, Wet and Rain retro reflectivity classes. In simple terms it means night visibility before (Dry), during (Rain) and after (Wet) the rain. Unfortunately, but due to the complexity in measuring and enforcement, Rain or Wet night reflectivity are often considered as wet night visible “Type 2” markings. Extra large beads and a well structured profile may help to provide the “Wet” aspects, but only special beads with a very high refractive index will give you the “Rain” visibility effect.
Q. How is the road marking industry tackling what has been dubbed by some as the ‘rainy night problem’, when road markings are difficult for motorists to see?
A. As mentioned before, road markings are often the only available delineation of the road during dark hours. The COST 331 and IMPROVER 4 projects, funded by the European Commission, clearly indicated the role of road markings in relationship to driver reaction time and road safety. But during rainy nights, even “good” road markings may completely disappear. Facing demographic changes and the large number of heavy goods vehicles, the risk for accidents will increase. Where previous funded projects only considered dry roads, the recently started project “RAINVISION”, coordinated by the European Union Road Federation (ERF), will study the driver impact of the 3 different levels of night visibility. Results are expected by 2014.
Q. What is the road marking sector doing about sourcing and developing more environmentally friendly materials for its applications?
A. Sustainability connected to “Green Public Procurement” is clearly a driver for the future. Here again the European Commission is leading the effort. Establishing “sustainability” standards is not a simple task, as using recycled materials is not necessarily the answer. (Remember the “Recycled Glass Beads with Heavy Metals”). A full cradle to grave, cradle to cradle or life cycle analysis seems more appropriate but it will require a mind shift if we want to achieve reliable and comparable data. At least for Europe, REACH, is opening this door already. For the moment we notice an increasing marketing activity around sustainability. Ultimately the market will require uniformity and enforceable procurement standards.
Q. According to EuroTest Mobility, which carries out the annual EuroTest pedestrian crossing assessment, almost 25% of the 8,000 pedestrians killed in road accidents each year in the European Union die in accidents on or in the vicinity of a pedestrian crossing. What is the road marking industry doing to help tackle this problem not just in the EU but globally.
A. Many NGO’s and associations lobby for the safety of vulnerable road users. Also 3M offer several solutions for safer school zones and better visible pedestrian crossings in general. The “Roads to Respect” (“R2R”) organised by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) stimulated graduating civil engineering students to create low cost solutions for local safety hazards. Many projects focused on urban safety and vulnerable road users.
There may not be separate concerted effort by the road marking industry as such, but the European Union Road Federation has several key road marking companies and associations as a member and coordinates several working groups related to road safety and sharing best practices.