• The 2009 MUTCD: Some New Standards

    Yield SignsThe Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD is a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration that details the standards by which traffic control devices such as traffic signs, road markings and various signaling devices are designed, installed and used. Standards include font sizes, colors, shapes, reflectivity and other factors affecting how road markings can be perceived by motorists.

    At the start of the 20th century, traffic and road signs were far from uniform, leading to a lot of confusion and sometimes even conflict. This lack of uniformity led to the creation of the MUTCD, which was first released in 1935. Since then, many states have conformed to the standards set in the MUTCD, resulting in roadways that are now less confusing and ultimately safer for motorists.

    It should be noted that the MUTCD regularly receives updates. What this means is if it’s you’re a manufacturer, or it’s your responsibility to install signs and other road markings, it’s your job to keep up with these updates.

    The last update to the MUTCD was in 2009. Much like older versions of the document, revisions and additions are based on recommendations given by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), which is a private, non-profit organization. Revisions were also made based on items identified by the by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) itself and requests made by public agencies.

    Based on the new edition of the MUTCD, some of the newer standards include:

    The MUTCD now applies to all roadways and streets open to public travel.

    If you or your organization owns or operates a private road that is open to use by the public, all your signs, road markings, traffic control must comply with the MUTCD.

    Only NEW traffic control devices must be compliant.

    It used to be that both new and existing traffic control devices must be compliant by a certain date, which is typically within 2 years of the regulation updates. With this new standard, only newer devices must be compliant, allowing older devices to be updated as they wear out. However, older devices must be replaced if there is a specific compliance date listed.

    Stop Signs - Diamond Grade ReflectiveRetroreflectivity standards

    Traffic control devices should follow MUTCD standards. While parking lots and aisles are exempted from this new rule, larger parking lots that are a part of circulating roadways, such as those in malls, are not exempt.

    Retroreflectivity is the reflective properties of a retroreflective material such as the sheeting used on traffic signs. While retroreflectivity standards haven’t changed from the last MUTCD version, i.e. the retroreflective sheeting used on signs should follow ASTM D4956-04 standards, what has changed are the standards with which one must use to maintain retroreflective levels. For the latest MUTCD, one or more of the following assessment methods should be used:

    1. Visual Nighttime Inspection – A trained sign inspector assesses sign reflectivity by conducting a nighttime inspection of your signs from a moving vehicle. Any sign that falls below the minimum retroreflective levels should be replaced.
    2. Measured Sign Retroreflectivity – This method uses a device called a reflectometer. Again, any sign that falls below the minimum levels should be replaced.
    3. Expected Sign Life – Upon installation, the installation date is recorded or labeled. This gives you the age of a sign. The age of the sign is then compared to the expected sign life which in turn is based on the common sign retroreflectivity degradation in a geographic area compared to the minimum levels. Signs older than the expected life should be replaced.
    4. Blanket Replacement – This is the simplest though probably not the most cost-effective way of maintaining retroreflective levels. With this method, you simply replace all the signs at a given area or corridor at specified intervals. The replacement intervals should be based on the expected sign life, compared to the minimum levels and for the shortest-life material used on the said signs.

    Guide Signs

    The wordings for guide signs such as destination and street signs must use upper/lowercase letters.

    High-Visibility Apparel

    All workers within public right of way are required to wear high-visibility apparel such as safety vests and headgear. This applies to workers working on all public roads. Exceptions are to be made for law enforcement officers and fire crews under specific conditions.

    School Zones

    School zone signs are now required to use the color fluorescent yellow-green. However, state law supersedes the MUTCD.

    Railroad Crossings

    For passive railroad crossings, i.e. a railroad crossing without lights or a gate, a STOP or YIELD sign is now required to be added, either below the crossbuck assembly or as a separate assembly beside the crossbuck.

    These are just some of the newer standards required by the MUTCD. It goes without saying that there are much more of the new standards. To view or download the latest version of the MUTCD, you could go to http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/kno_2009r1r2.htm. As always, stay safe on the road.

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