Maintaining Safety and Efficiency during Directional Drilling Projects

Case History: Speer Brother Inc. Waterline Improvement Projects, Erie County, Ohio

Ohio contractor, Speer Brother Inc., was awarded a series of four Waterline Improvement Projects for Erie County, Ohio. Speer Brother has completed several separate projects installing a total of 200 miles of HDPE Waterlines— an amount of pipeline so large that it equals the distance between New York City and Washington, DC.

Completing this type of work often comes into conflict with traffic on busy roads. Controlling traffic safely and cost-effectively was a major priority during construction. For example, Speer Brother spent four weeks installing the waterline on State Route 4, a major highway, just south of Sandusky, Ohio before moving to another zone.

“SR 4 is a high speed road and is far too dangerous for human flaggers to control traffic,” said Dave Speer, president of Speer Brother Inc.

Speer Brother needed a traffic management solution that could easily move as they moved.

Portable Traffic Signals

Speer Brother purchased two sets of portable traffic signals from Ontario, Canada-based manufacturer, North America Traffic. Portable traffic signals resemble traditional traffic lights and replace human flaggers during any construction project that requires traffic control. Utilizing the portable traffic signals, which run on solar and battery power, was one factor that helped Speer Brother come in as the low bidder on several projects.

“They not only saved us money, but most importantly made the work-zone much safer,” said Speer.

When using the portable traffic signals, workers stand safely off the roadway and use a radio remote control to stop all traffic whenever they need to use the open lane. The devices take minutes to set up in the morning and take down at night. When fully erected, the upper signal head sits 17 feet above the roadway and the lower head sits eight feet above the roadway.

Speer also noticed a difference in drivers’ reaction to the signals. He found that drivers treated them the same as traditional traffic lights and obeyed the signals accordingly.

After seven years of use on many different projects around the state of Ohio, Dave Speer plans to continue using North America Traffic’s portable traffic signals on future projects.

Figure 1

Cost comparison: Portable Traffic Signals vs Human Flaggers

Portable Traffic Signal cost per month cost estimate

2002 Purchase Price 1 set: $35,000

(Amortized) Average Annual Cost: $5,000

Annual Maintenance Cost: $500.00

Total Cost for 1 set of signals per year: $5,500

Contractor works 8 months per year:

$5,500/8 months = $687.50 per month


Cost for 1 set of Portable Traffic Signals for one month= $687.50

Human Flagger cost per month estimate

Hourly Wage for one flagger $32 per hour

Hourly Crew Rate for 2 flaggers $64 per hour

Total Cost per Day: $512 (8 hrs)

Days worked per month is 18.95:

18.95 x $512 = $9,702.40 per month

Cost for 2 flaggers for one month=$9,702.40

Cost savings per month using PTLs over flaggers = $9,014.90

About North America Traffic

North America Traffic was launched as R.C. Flagman in 1993 when Peter Vieveen built the world’s first Remote Controlled Flagman™ out of his garage. At the time, Mr. Vieveen was a senior estimator in the construction industry with over 25 years of construction experience. He understood the importance of reducing costs while increasing safety. North America Traffic now operates a full production facility, and its products have been used on over 2,500 projects across North America. Today, it is the world leader in traffic control systems, with 8 different models of portable traffic signals and flagging systems to meet all traffic control needs. For more information, visit

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