Aussie company engineers ‘safe’ automated cone truck

​Arrowes, a manufacturer of roading safety solutions, has launched its biggest innovation yet – the Automated Cone Truck (ACT) which will set entirely new safety and efficiency benchmarks for working in live traffic.

Developed over the last three years at the company’s manufacturing facility at Brendale, Brisbane, the ACT is an exciting new vehicle that uses proprietary mechatronics to automatically deploy and retrieve cones from work sites with a single operator, removing two people from being exposed to the risks of live traffic and potentially saving lives.

“Back in 2018, we set a goal to remove all traffic controllers from the line of fire and by June 2020 we had achieved this. We introduced a range of new initiatives including the Arrowes eSTOP, a very portable traffic light system that enabled our traffic workers to perform their job from a safe distance, therefore eliminating the hazards of exposing them to live traffic,” says Damien Houlahan, national manager, traffic management Fulton Hogan NZ.

“We are always seeking new innovations to put people in safer positions while they are undertaking road works, to illuminate the risks associated with putting them in live unpredictable traffic. Traditionally, many core tasks have been carried out on foot and it is here that we have a massive opportunity to improve safety and save lives.

“Establishing a new worksite is very risky, as there are no controls in place to manage the traffic. I welcome the launch of Arrowes’ new automated cone truck as it will undoubtedly improve the safety of road workers responsible for cone deployment.

“I have been in traffic management over the last 13 years and have witnessed many failed attempts to automate the setting and collection of cones. The Arrowes team have pulled off a ground-breaking innovation with the ACT – a true game-changer.”

With a capacity of 400 cones, the ACT can retrieve cones from both sides of the vehicle, while driving forward or reversing and is equipped to close over 9km of highway without stopping – this is over twice the capacity of most conventional cone trucks. Cones can be deployed and set at one every five seconds and they can also be placed at any set spacing. For example, when deployed with 12m cone spacing, the ACT can place cones at 8km/hr or at 24m spacing at 16km/h.

The ACT not only improves safety, but also improves productivity. One kilometre of lane closure only takes the ACT seven minutes, much faster than a worker on foot. The control software provides a simple, easy-to-use interface, reducing training requirements and limiting driver fatigue. Cone spacing can be set manually, or the user can configure an Automatic Deployment Profile with the required spacings and distances for easy integration with a worksite Traffic Guidance Scheme.

Neil Scales, director General Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland commented: “Road safety is very important to me and my department and as chair of Austroads, we have recently launched our guide to road workers’ safety.

“When road workers put cones out on the road and more importantly collect them at the end of the works, it is vital they are safe. I commend Arrowes’ new automated cone truck – this new innovation goes a long way to improving the safety of workers responsible for deploying cones across the Australia. It is a priority that we keep up everybody’s attention and focus on road safety. Any innovation that can help protect workers and everyone else on our roads, is welcomed by my department.”

Colin Caudell, roading safety champion commented: “No one should have to go through what I did on that devastating day. My wife felt unsafe doing the job, but no one listened. I believe much more still needs to be done to protect the safety of road workers. Each year, according to Safe Work Australia and the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, an average 11 people die each year as a result of being struck by a vehicle or truck and 750 people are injured at road works each year in Queensland.

“The problem is that people don’t respect traffic controllers. The vast majority (94%) of motorists speed on the approach and through road works and access work zones illegally. In fact, the last three traffic controllers that were killed in Queensland, were hit by vehicles speeding through road works.

“To address this problem, we need to have traffic controllers out of harm’s way. There is no need for workers to be placed in danger and the industry needs to address technology to make roading safer. I am proud of what Arrowes has achieved to bring about change in the safety of traffic controllers in this country.”

It was Colin’s drive and determination to change the way traffic controlling is done, that inspired Arrowes to be the first to create the eSTOP, which has been recently recognised by AAPA members for the QLD safety initiative award. Tests conducted by a tier one company show a reduction of near misses by 93% – this innovative product has already saved lives, delivering tangible results from day one.

“Over the last three years, as part of our five-year technology road map, we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in R&D,” says Ken Ea, executive director of Arrowes.

“We have also recruited young talent from UQ and QUT who have worked tirelessly to deliver our latest game-changing innovation to improve efficiency and safety. The ACT is set to become the new norm for safe and efficient cone deployment and retrieval and is our most significant innovation to date.

“Our focus and DNA is centred on pioneering and investing in technologies that can improve safety for the roading community. We have relentlessly questioned and explored numerous concepts to create new solutions that deliver tangible results from day one. Our focus and DNA is all about pioneering and investing in technologies that can improve roading safety.

“As far as we are aware, we are the only Australasian roading equipment manufacturer investing in R&D. We do this because we understand the risks associated with working in live traffic and know there must be better ways of keeping our people safe. Our roading safety journey really stepped up in 2014, when we learnt about Colin Caudell’s tragic loss of his wife, who was killed while directing traffic at road works on the Bruce Highway, at Marlborough, Queensland. Mrs Caudell was holding a stop/slow sign to south-bound traffic when she was hit by a B-double.

“The Road Safety Innovation Hub was created in response to Colin’s lobbying for the improvement of safety to protect road workers. This was our first insight into how real the risk to life and a pivot point in our company’s journey.

“We don’t believe that high risk should be acceptable in the road construction industry, so we continuously strive to find new and better solutions to make roadwork sites a safer place to work. Unfortunately, road construction and maintenance workers are still among the most likely to be involved in a workplace incident. This not only includes the immediate danger of being hit by a fatigued or careless driver, but also the long-term impact of repetitive, strenuous tasks.

“The financial and emotional toll an incident can have on families, friends and colleagues can’t be understated. In addition to the personal impact, road accidents translate directly to increased costs and delays in infrastructure projects.”

Arrowes has collaborated with industry thought-leaders, interstate clients and safety experts from the private and government sectors, transforming this experience and knowledge into high quality locally made products and solutions which also help to significantly reduce environmental impact and make projects more efficient.