TrafFix Recycled Rubber Products Engineered For Safety

California manufacturer making highways safer with high quality sustainable traffic safety products

Every manufacturer has a secret ingredient—typically a quality, ability or practice—their own secret sauce that distinguishes their product.

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For San Clemente-based TrafFix Devices, Inc., commitment to saving lives on the highway and in construction work zones is the secret sauce that makes the difference.

It’s a founding principle of the 35-year-old manufacturer of traffic control devices and crash attenuation products and is engineered into every product the company makes.

“The common thread running through all aspects of our business is that we design, manufacture, and support products which save lives on the world’s highways,” says TrafFix Devices founder Jack Kulp.

Highway work is dangerous.  According to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Work Zone Facts and Statistics, work zone accidents account for more than 800 fatalities per year, killing construction workers, drivers and passengers.

Also, many highway workers do their job outside a barricade entirely – such as landscape work, litter detail, sweeping, or clean up, and are also at risk.

Highway guardrails are a very manual, labor intensive area for maintenance, putting a person cutting or mowing weeds at risk, Paul Noring, President of Main Street Materials, Inc., a California road maintenance company, said.

TrafFix Recycled Rubber SignIn fact, it  was seeing a customer cutting weeds along the highway, that led TrafFix Devices to develop a rubberized Weed Mat® eliminating the need for a maintenance worker to mow or cut weeds under and around highway guardrails or cable barriers.

“Keeping people from being exposed to traffic is the main purpose of our weed mat”, TrafFix Executive Vice President Bob Wielenga said.
It’s also in-step with a general effort underway by U.S. federal and state transportation agencies to create safer highway work zones and significantly reduce road worker exposure to traffic by 2025, TrafFix Vice President, Marketing, Jim Marshall said.

And, in California, the CTP 2050 (California Transportation Plan) aims to reduce transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2050.

Originally made with vulcanized rubber, TrafFix now makes its weed mat and a full line of traffic safety products using recycled tire crumb rubber.

“Crumb rubber is less costly and reduces manufacturing time allowing us to deliver sustainable safety solutions that save our customers hundreds of dollars on up-front costs when purchasing traffic control products,” Wielenga said.

The company credits its introduction to crumb rubber to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) Tire Incentive Program (TIP) which provides grants to eligible California business that use California crumb rubber in eligible products and/or a product that substitutes crumb rubber for virgin rubber, plastic, or other raw materials. The program’s goal is to increase demand for crumb rubber and promote higher value products.

Working with Denise Kennedy, President DK Enterprises through the CalRecycle Feedstock Conversion Technical Assistance grant, TrafFix developed a formulation for using 100 percent recycled tire crumb rubber in compression molded products that meets all the ASTM Standards and Testing for crumb rubber.

TrafFix applied for its first TIP grant in 2017 and has received TIP grant awards in subsequent CalRecycle grant rounds since then, diverting a total 1,740,868 tires for use in high value recycled rubber products and preventing them from entering the California waste stream.

Coast Rubber Products, a division of TrafFix Devices, manufactures the finished recycled rubber products at its manufacturing facility in Adelanto, California using crumb rubber derived from California scrap tires.

Coast Rubber specializes in rubber compression molding to manufacture TrafFix recycled rubber products including the Weed Mat®, Alert Rumble Strip®, Work Mate Fatigue Mat® and a full line of rubber bases composed of 100 percent crumb rubber feedstock in a range of sizes from 10 mesh – 30 mesh and a urethane binder.

The company’s Engineering and Technology Team designs and engineers molds for the Weed Mat and all TrafFix recycled rubber products in house and is developing several new molds for introduction later this year.  TrafFix has also added new equipment and introduced new material handling systems at the Adelanto plant to streamline its compression molding operation, Wielenga said.

The Weed Mat is a low maintenance environmental alternative to pesticides, that can save workers from having to go out to the guardrail and spray or weed on a monthly basis, Wielenga said.  Each 48″ × 45½” recycles 10-12 tires, he said.

In addition, the Weed Mat is UV stabilized, flexible, easily conforms to contours of uneven ground, and readily installs under existing cable barriers and guardrails without special equipment, expensive site preparation, or soil removal. Weed Mat’s heavy duty construction controls weeds, helps reduce soil erosion and helps contain heavy metal contaminated roadside soil.

Highway contractor and weed mat user Paul Noring said the weed mats may also help create a wild fire “barrier” which prevents the fire from transferring from one side of the road to the other and protects wood guardrail posts from burning.

“While we can’t say the Weed Mat stopped fires, we’ve seen wild fire areas where the mats were in use as long as ten years ago. Those mats survived and are still in use today,” Noring said.
Another TrafFix recycled rubber product alerts the distracted driver to temporary work zones, flagger operations and highway checkpoints.

FHWA statistics show that in work zone accidents, more drivers are injured or killed than construction workers.   The TrafFix Alert Rumble Strip® alerts distracted drivers using sight, sound, and sensation awareness to notify them of changing conditions ahead, Jim Marshall said.

Made with industrial grade recycled tire crumb rubber, TrafFix rumble strips are durable and can withstand extreme heat and cold while the strips’ rubber construction provides grip that adheres to the road in all weather conditions.

Pliable rubber and jigsaw connectors on each end of the rumble strip allow for in-line or staggered connection and easy one-person assembly on the shoulder of the road minimizing worker exposure to oncoming traffic.

Always attentive to worker safety, TrafFix designed the rumble strips with built in carry handles and stacking lugs for quick, easy loading and unloading in work zone areas.

Safety is behind a recent initiative launched by Target Corporation to protect pedestrians and patrons in store parking lots and around store property.  The COVID pandemic changed the way people shop and the way goods and services are delivered.  Online shopping, pick-up and take-out orders have created the need for more curbside and designated pick-up areas in and around parking lots, making safety the top priority in the way vehicles and foot-traffic are managed.

Earlier this year, Target chose TrafFix Devices Step-N-Lock®, “State Law Stop For Pedestrians” vertical panel barricade for use in its parking lot safety program. The two component signs feature durable blow molded polyethylene panels with 28 lb. recycled rubber bases and meet MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) standards.  All approximate 1900 Target department stores are using these in their parking lots for pedestrian safety, Marshall said.

TrafFix recycled rubber base has two molded-in easy-grip carrying handles and a vulcanized rubber center section that provides reinforcement from wear and tear due to vehicle roll overs. Four raised anti-rotational foot pads minimize movement from wind, or turbulence from passing vehicles.

TrafFix says it’s seeing more demand than ever for the bases, as well as for sign stands, barricades, delineators…essentially, all traffic safety products across the board, as more companies, organizations, cities and counties adopt safety programs and practices.

“Today, one hundred percent of our production capacity at Coast Rubber Products is being used to satisfy our own customer demands for recycled rubber bases, weed mats, and sign stands” Marshall said.

TrafFix has also seen a significant uptick in demand for its recycled rubber bases from rental companies that supply traffic safety control products. Rental company customers choose the recycled rubber bases because they are long-lasting, easy to handle and can withstand any kind of weather conditions, Marshall said.

“They don’t break apart even after repeated vehicle roll overs,” he said.

Poised for continued growth this year, Wielenga said the past year has brought new attention to TrafFix recycled rubber safety products.

While he attributes part of this growth to new levels of safety brought about by the pandemic, he said other factors including supply chain and trade issues around the world, tariffs and an influx of cheap, imported rubber bases, played a significant role in driving customers to look for U.S. made high quality sustainable products.

By staying on the cutting edge of innovation and keeping its core value of manufacturing all its products in the U.S., TrafFix has continued to bring new and improved products to market, Wielenga said.

DK Enterprises’ Denise Kennedy agrees.  “Over the last four years, TrafFix has become one of our rockstar companies, changing their use of crumb rubber to all California tire rubber and becoming one of the largest users of crumb rubber particle sizes in the production of high quality, sustainable recycled rubber products,” she said.

© Scrap Tire News, July 2021