Highway Care’s automated cone-laying solution aims to revolutionise our roads 

Highway Care’s automated cone-laying solution aims to revolutionise our roads 

There are an estimated two million cones in use on the UK’s road networks, with each one typically weighing 8.5kg – 10kg. Traditionally, they are laid manually to mark out the work area for road maintenance and improvement projects, with operatives working from a moving vehicle. Each cone-laying operation can involve longitudinal runs as long as 4km, with up to 300 cones laid for a typical 4km stretch of road closure. 

The manual handling and repetitive strain from the extended reach and unergonomic rotational twisting of the body involved in manual deployment can cause long-term musculoskeletal damage, and the process puts operatives in close proximity to adjacent live lanes of traffic. But a pioneering new machine is revolutionising road cone laying, preventing the risk of injury and reducing the disruption caused by roadworks.   

The Falcon Automated Cone Lane Machine (ACLM) was developed and supplied by traffic management safety specialist, Highway Care, in partnership with SENN Engineering in Switzerland. It was identified by Balfour Beatty, which carries out traffic management on the M25 through Connect Plus and Connect Plus Services, as an effective solution to the industry-wide safety risk of manual cone deployment.  

Following a rigorous design, research and testing process, and formal approval from National Highways, the ACLM entered service on the M25 network in May 2022 – a UK and industry first. Entirely controlled from the vehicle’s cab, the ACLM can drop or collect cones in less than 10 seconds, ensuring efficient cone-laying operations and removing the need for any operatives at the rear of the vehicle.  

Its deployment on the M25 road network is predicted to prevent manual handling of up to 4,200 tonnes per year, avoiding risks to human health and reducing the disruption caused by roadworks through increased efficiency.  

The Falcon ACLM can be deployed for any National Highways or local authority road maintenance or improvement project. Highway Care’s Business Development Director, Ben Duncker, said: “I am proud to see the FALCON ACLM become operational on UK roads for the first time, and not only that but on the busiest, most strategic road in Europe; the M25. I am looking forward to the day when these are adopted as best practices to lay traffic management, as the benefits, I am confident, will prove to be phenomenal.” 

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