"Often contractors simply see the fact that preformed thermoplastic costs more per square footage of material when compared to paint and they are ‘discouraged’ because they want the repeat business of painting again and again. They can become stagnant in their services because they are repeating the same work for same customers and not ever expanding their market or product offering," Hedrick says. "By using performed thermoplastic they will make money up front by providing a longer-lasting product, rather than making fewer dollars each year from repainting."
Enhancing interest in preformed thermoplastic is a recent Federal Highway Administration rule, effective Jan. 16, 2007, that clarifies the language "open to public travel" to include roads within shopping centers, parking lots, airports, sports arenas and other similar facilities. Under the new guidelines private roads open to public travel are subject to the same traffic control standards as public streets and highways.
"At the most recent National Pavement Expo shows, I had several contractors interested in preformed thermoplastic because of this guideline clarification," Hedrick says. "Contractors are looking for more durable materials based on guidelines from the MUTCD for private parking lots, especially at the entrances/exits that lead to public roads. This is typically directional arrows and word messages, stop bars, and handicap symbols."
Since 2001 the Federal Highway Administration has required detectable warnings on all new public sidewalk ramps. Warnings also are required under the ADA on private construction as well (due to upcoming changes in the ADAAG design standards, many states are not enforcing the private side mandate until that section of ADAAG has received final clarification).
Jon Julnes, president of Vanguard ADA, which markets detectable warnings that are constructed on site, says the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has specific requirements for detectable warnings, but the essence of them is the warnings need to extend two feet front to back and across the entire width of the sidewalk opening. Plus, where overlays are involved, if the overlay abuts a sidewalk ramp detectable warnings must be installed.
"Some people place them in the center of the ramp, leaving as much as 1 foot space on either side, but because a blind person could easily walk through that opening, those constructions are noncompliant," Julnes says. "Eventually all public sidewalk ramps must have detectable warnings on them."
He says that providing that information to a client is a value-added service contractors can offer.
"Many of them are aware ADA requirements exist but they don’t have the time or the inclination to find out exactly what they are," he says. "If you can also install the detectable warnings for them you become a problem solver."
Detectable warnings products vary widely. Vanguard’s, for example, is a liquid-applied epoxy-based system that the contractor manufactures on site. Contractors must license the product and process from Vanguard, which trains and ships product to them. Currently there are 11 licensed installers covering 38 states, but the company is looking for more.
|Looking for companies that produce detectable pavement warnings? View a list of detectable warning manufacturers.|
He says some products use raised nubs to provide skid resistance, but Vanguard uses glass beads that are integral to the product.
"So even if the product wears down it retains its skid resistance and also retains its retroreflectivity," Julnes says.
"It’s a great value-added service," Julnes says. "There is some debate about whether or not it’s going to be maintained for the private side, but it’s still in the building codes in a lot of states and a lot of state and local governments require it, so contractors can really help their customers comply, at the same time making the world a safer place for blind people, while generating additional revenue from each job they’re on."
He says by installing the product on smaller properties such as fast-food restaurants and convenience stores contractors can generate as much as 35% net after expenses, taxes, and overhead. Plus he says demand for detectable warnings is growing nationwide at a rate of 40% to 50% a year.
"And we see no reason why that won’t continue," he says.