A truck-mounted, self-propelled, long-line striper can mark miles and miles of state and interstate highway every day. These complex machines have a variety of elements that must all work together to make smooth, straight, crisp, and clean lines. Some features of these machines may never change — speeds will remain the same, for example, because support crews can lay down cones to protect wet stripes only so fast. And while some trucks can carry up to 2,000 gallons of paint, there will always be a need for trucks that carry only a few hundred gallons of paint. But other characteristics of long-line stripers are developing with the introduction of new technologies and market demands.
"Many of the current trends in striping equipment design are attempts at trying to incorporate new technology into the decades-old practice of striping highways. We're always looking for ways to reduce labor and increase productivity while still maintaining safety," says Jim Spielman, marketing director, truck-mounted stripers, MRL Equipment Co.
Data acquisition systems
One of the latest major advancements in truck-mounted striper technology is the data acquisition systems, or paint and bead monitoring systems. These systems have been around for about 10 years, but have only recently taken hold in the striper world with the increase in government agencies mandating that material usage be closely observed in order to properly achieve retroreflectivity directives set by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Data acquisition systems give the operator a real-time readout of what he's putting down, as far as gallons of paint being applied per mile and glass beads per gallon of paint. The information is presented as a graph on a computer screen or a series of lights on a display, with green meaning you're on target and red meaning you have to adjust your system to reach your application goals.
"This system gives you an on-the-fly readout of what you're applying as you apply it," says Rob Krommendyk, product line manager for truck-mounted paint stripers at EZ-Liner Industries. "In the past, they've had to guess at it or count the number of glass bead bags it takes to refill the tank and calculate their usage that way."
Data acquisition systems can help contractors and government agencies alike save money and create a quality stripe for the end customer. They help eliminate the problems of paint being spread too thinly, which can take away from retroreflectivity and line life, and paint being laid on too thickly, which is expensive and could negatively affect retroreflectivity if the paint is so thick that the glass beads sink into it too much.
"We're seeing more and more specifications from government agencies to monitor material usage to ensure that applicators are in compliance with application specifications," Spielman says. "Data acquisition systems are expensive, and we're seeing resistance from contractors to install them unless they're mandated by the government agencies. However, we feel that it's such a strong tool for a striping truck operator to get a handle on their own costs and efficiencies of operating the unit that we think it's important to have these systems installed on every truck, even if it's not mandated by the government agencies."
"I haven't seen any studies on it," says John Loehrke, M-B Companies, Inc., "but I would imagine you probably pay for a system like that relatively quickly on the paint savings. If you're putting down as little as 10% or 15% more paint, you'd pay for that system easily within a year."
Loehrke also says these databases can be hooked into a GPS (global positioning system) or pavement temperature sensors, so these machines can capture an entire striping event in a datafile, which can be stored on a disk or personal computer for later review.