NORTH AMERICA TRAFFIC CELEBRATES THE FIRST 20 YEARS OF AUTOMATIC TRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
Port Colborne, ON – Sixteen years ago, Peter Vieveen was sitting in his pickup truck, at the side of the road, wondering whether to pull the plug on his fledgling business. He had no way of knowing that, in just a few more years, he would build North America Traffic Inc. (NAT) into the world leader in work-zone traffic control devices.
Formerly an Estimator for a construction firm near Toronto, Canada, Vieveen had launched the world’s first remote controlled Automatic Flagger Assistance Device (AFAD) from his garage workshop in 1994. Soon, 30 of the home-built units were working in the field. But Vieveen was quickly learning that, the more units he sold, the more problems they created for him. Parked in his pickup, Vieveen wrote a list of all the reliability and maintenance issues he was facing. He listed 15 specific problems. Of these, he realized, almost all were related to the generators that powered the AFAD’s gate arm and signal lights.
Turning the corner with solar
Solar arrays and LED lighting were relatively uncommon at the time, but Vieveen adapted his design to utilize the new technologies. With that, the new generation of portable traffic control systems was born.
“As a project estimator, my original interest was to save costs on road and bridge construction. It was obvious, too, that flagging is a serious hazard for the workers on such congested jobsites. It was the switch to solar power that made my idea for AFADs practical.”
With new solar technology, improved long-life batteries and LED lights, a host of problems was eliminated from the flagger design. The trailer-mounted AFADs typically operate on long duty cycles, with days and weeks of continuous use. In those first models, the generator and its related vibrations led to ongoing mechanical and engine repairs, electrical repairs, frequent refueling and, on many occasions, theft of the generator itself.
By solving those problems, Vieveen developed a family of traffic control systems that can operate unattended for months at a time in virtually any climate or working environment.
With a footprint just 6 ft. wide, the new PTL 2.4LD system allows a single operator to deliver two sets of traffic signals.
Like most new technology, Vieveen’s AFADs and Portable Traffic Signals needed some time to catch on. An Ohio contractor agreed to try out NAT’s first portable traffic signals in 2001, only if NAT committed to buy back the unit after a year. At the end of the year, though, the contractor elected to keep the first unit and ordered another. The AFAD received a boost in 2006 when the US Marine Corps purchased heavy-duty units for use at military checkpoints in Iraq, allowing troops to remain under cover while they operated the check points.
In 2004, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation undertook field trials of the portable signals, which led to NAT’s first Letter of Approval for use on all provincial highway projects. So began the painstaking process of winning DOT approvals state-by-state and province-by-province.
Finally, in 2009, America’s federal government released its Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) based largely on the AFAD specifications from NAT. Today, NAT portable flaggers and signals have approvals, or pending approval, from virtually every jurisdiction in the US and Canada and in many countries around the world.
NAT moved from Vieveen’s garage many years ago, but more recently opened a new manufacturing facility in Port Colborne, ON, near Niagara Falls. The new head office provides 20,000 sq. ft. of engineering and manufacturing space. After 20 years, design innovation remains the focus of Vieveen’s development team. Now with the experience of thousands of projects, NAT’s close connections with rental businesses and contractors provide constant inspiration for new features and custom applications. Signals and flaggers are now paired with various detection devices to automatically adjust operating cycles to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. User-friendly remote controls and repeater stations allow users to synchronize complex signaling needs on large, busy worksites.
“Our latest major development reduces the cost for owners even further,” Vieveen reports. “With the light duty portable traffic signal we introduced in 2013, a single operator with a service truck can tow one or two units and quickly set up a traffic control zone. One person can easily position the trailer and set up the lights. It’s ideal for emergency response, and the batteries will keep it running for 10 days, even under cloudy skies.”
To ensure that NAT maintains its innovation advantage, Vieveen recently announced a strategic move to ally with leading equipment marketers that will take on regional sales and service responsibilities. Factory resources will be dedicated to engineering, manufacturing and application support to NAT’s marketing partners. Cavalier Industries is the first such partner, now the exclusive representative of NAT products for rental businesses and equipment dealers in Canada. Similar arrangements are in development for targeted regions in America.
With the experience of its first 20 years, North America Traffic now looks ahead to the next 20 with a broad range of specialized products, a proven track record and a clear vision of its future.
About North America Traffic Inc.
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. In being able to think like a contractor, 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 3,000 projects across North America. Today, the company is the world leader in traffic control systems, with 8 different models of portable traffic signals, flashing beacons and flagging systems to meet all traffic control needs.
For more information please contact customer service:
Toll free: 1-877-352-4626 (USA and Canada)
North America Traffic Inc.
#7 Petersburg Circle
Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada, L3K 5V5