Pushing the innovation boom

ARRB has issued the first full certificate under its Transport Infrastructure Product Evaluation Scheme (TIPES) to a portable boom gate traffic control device, paving the way for more innovative products to come through the evaluation process.When Australian company Traffic & Access Solutions saw the number of near misses taking place at road worksites, it decided that there must be a better way of protecting traffic controllers from the dangers of working so close to live traffic.

“About five years ago, the directors of the business were looking into traffic control devices due to the number of near misses on the M5 in New South Wales,” says Traffic & Access Solutions General Manager Steve Gilming.

Looking for a new safety measure or innovation to introduce to the market, Traffic & Access Solutions conducted a global search for the best solution to the ongoing problem they saw on road worksites.

The company’s worldwide search was a dead-end, but the firm ultimately decided to create its own traffic control device for the purpose of protecting traffic controllers from the danger zone.

“We worked with a company for over 12 months to develop the original PORTABOOM, which was then taken to Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and approved for use on New South Wales roads,” says Mr. Gilming.

The Australian designed and built PORTABOOM traffic control device acts as a physical barrier, one that is portable and easily deployable to a range of worksites. It is not only a major incident prevention measure for workzones, but it also takes the traffic controller out of the path of live traffic and harm’s way.

“There’s nothing else like it. We have obtained the Australian and New Zealand patents and have an international patent pending approval,” he adds.

Nearly three years since entering the New South Wales market, Mr. Gilming says PORTABOOM has been used on nearly 2500 different worksites around the state.

With the effectiveness of the product evident through examples around the state, RMS recommended Traffic & Access Solutions talk to independent road research body ARRB about its TIPES program and getting the PORTABOOM approved for use nationally.

“At that stage the directors weren’t really familiar with the TIPES program. Looking closely at it, they decided that because it was one accreditation that covered all Australian state road agencies, it was the perfect fit for the product,” says Mr. Gilming.

Launched in 2014, administered by ARRB and originally developed by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, TIPES aims to provide independent, fit-for-purpose assessment of innovative road construction products.

Using TIPES would allow innovative products in the road and civil construction industries to gain market acceptance through a single, comprehensive evaluation process.

The scheme is open to anything from non-traditional stabilisers, ultra-thin surfacing products, line-marking, drainage systems and even intelligent transport systems.

TIPES alleviates uncertainty, ensures consistency, shares learnings and offers potential savings for road agencies, local government and private developments when deciding to invest in a new technology or product.

All seven state and territory road bodies have endorsed TIPES, which aims to create more harmonisation within the Australian road industry.

The TIPES assessment process involves three steps following the successful acceptance of an application: an initial laboratory assessment, a field performance trial and registration of technical opinion, which are overseen by an appointed expert panel.

The proponent submits an application detailing their product, specifically what its intended use is, what it claims to do and quality assurance documentation and data on past performance.

The expert panel questions what the product does and if it ticks all the boxes. The idea is to rigorously test the product and eventually trial it in a live environment for its intended use.

Traffic & Access Solutions submitted its application in August 2015. The evaluation process began just a few months after.

Just under 12 months later and having successfully passed all three evaluation stages, PORTABOOM is the first product to get the tick of approval and receive full certification under TIPES, which it was awarded this past August.

For Mr. Gilming and Traffic & Access Solutions, achieving TIPES certification for the PORTABOOM is a big win.

“We’re a state-based company. Without this certification the progress and exposure of the product to the market would be a lot slower,” he says. “It’s just opened up a whole lot of possibilities for us, mot only in traffic management, but also for access control, event management and keeping our school kids safe at school crossings.

“I can start talking to head offices of traffic control companies that are based in Victoria, Queensland and other regions around Australia.

“The first thing they usually ask is ‘has this been approved by the road agency?’” Now, he says, they can refer any queries such as this back to the fact it has achieved TIPES accreditation, which is supported by all Australian state road authorities.

“The feedback on PORTABOOM has been amazing,” he adds. “We just had it used at the Gold Coast 600 supercars to control both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and the response there has been great too.

“I’ve got to give credit to the TIPES team, as they were very constructive with their feedback. The feedback from RMS has also been crucial to what the product is today.”

TIPES Program Manager Anthony Bettridge asserts that the portable traffic control device is a great example of the types of products that can benefit most from TIPES accreditation.

“This is a product that was used by the company within a certain area. They wanted to grow its use so they approached their road agency, who requested to have it tested,” he says. “They went through the TIPES process and it gave that particular road agency, and the company itself, the confidence to take it further,”

Another notable product to go through the TIPES process is Polyroad’s synthetic insoluble binder Polyroad PR21L. The product was awarded a provisional certificate in December 2015 and is currently going through the final testing stages of the TIPES process.

Several more innovative products are currently going through TIPES evaluation process.

Mr. Bettridge says that because the PR21L is a road stabiliser, it needs to undergo lengthier trials, compared to the physical PORTABOOM, which can be deployed on a roadwork site and its benefits seen immediately.

“If the product comes through TIPES successfully, the idea is that the company can use the accreditation to talk to the market – it is its ‘street cred’,” he says. “With that credibility, they can now grow the product into different states and territories.”

He says the scheme is well suited for companies advertising their product to contractors, and gives road agencies the confidence that contractors are using tested products on their network.

PORTABOOM went through the TIPES process in just under a year, and Mr. Bettridge says they believe they can reduce the timeframes even more, particularly for physical products.

“TIPES has been around for a couple of years and it takes a while to get things up and running and to learn from experiences, such as PORTABOOM,” he says.

Mr. Bettridge understands that in these early stages TIPES can be seen as expensive and time consuming, as each product requires tailored testing and evaluation to ensure it measures up to the claims. It is this rigour that differentiates TIPES and provides the level of confidence in the scheme.

He says the experience with PORTABOOM and PR12L has helped TIPES gain more momentum in the marketplace.

“One major plus is that we have the support of the state road agencies to keep TIPES growing,” he says. “There was a round table meeting recently where TIPES was on the agenda. All road agencies continue to support it and agree that through its growth, real benefits will be realised within their agencies and to the wider transport infrastructure sector.

“Working with road agencies on improving TIPES and building our experience, we are aiming to grow the momentum in 2017.”

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