Types of Traffic Cones and When to Use Them

Types of Traffic Cones and When to Use Them

Orange traffic cones are a familiar sight on highways and city streets across the country. While it’s impossible to know the exact number, by some estimates there are roughly 140 million traffic cones in use worldwide.

They divide lanes in construction zones, provide direction around short-duration road maintenance and utility work, and warn drivers of unseen hazards such as potholes and raised manhole covers. They are also seen in parking lots, on athletic fields, and even indoors in areas where extra caution is needed.

Traffic cones are designed to be highly visible and easily movable. They come in various sizes and many different colors, with orange, yellow, and red being the most popular choices due to their brightness. Some versions can be topped with signs or connected with bars or chains.

With so many colors and sizes, it is important to know the types of traffic cones and their approved uses. Below are some guidelines to help you choose the right cones for your traffic control needs. 

FHWA Standards for Traffic Cone Usage

When it comes to using traffic cones on streets and highways, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sets minimum standards for maximum safety and effectiveness. Traffic cones mark what are officially known as Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) Zones, or areas of a public roadway where user conditions have been changed.

To be considered an approved device for channeling or guiding traffic, cones must meet requirements for height, color and luminance set out in the FHWA’s Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). It’s important to keep in mind that individual states may have additional requirements that can include more specific sizes or weights, or modifications for certain climates or weather conditions.

The following are some of the general national standards for using traffic cones in TTC Zones:

  • All traffic cones should be predominantly orange and made of a material that can be struck without causing damage to impacting vehicles.
  • For daytime and low-speed roadways, cones must be at least 18 inches in height.
  • Cones intended for use in high-speed areas or at night must be at least 28 inches tall.
  • For nighttime use, cones must be retroreflectorized or equipped with lighting devices for maximum visibility. Cones measuring 28 to 36 inches must have two white reflector bands that measure 6 and 4 inches wide. Non-reflective spaces in between cannot exceed three inches.
  • All cones must be stable enough to withstand environmental and traffic conditions, and may be doubled up to increase their weight. Any ballast used to add stability should be kept to the minimum amount needed.

Traffic Safety Direct’s Traffic Cones are MUTCD Compliant

Traffic Safety Direct’s traffic cones are ideal for traffic and pedestrian safety and hazard marking. For example, our MUTCD-compliant 28-inch reflective traffic cones offer high visibility, even in low lighting conditions, thanks to their bright coloring and retroreflectivity. Each cone comes with 4-inch and 6-inch 3M Scotchlite Reflective stripes to increase driver and pedestrian visibility in low-light or nighttime conditions. A non-reflective version is also available.

These high-quality traffic cones feature a 14-inch base and are stackable for easy storage. Made from recycled material, they are flexible and durable enough to withstand extreme weather and vehicle impact. Colors include orange, lime, blue and white, and custom stenciling is also available.

We also carry traffic cones in a wide variety of heights and colors, including 12 and 18-inch reflective and non-reflective cones.

Traffic Safety Direct’s traffic cones and accessories, including storage holders, cone bars, plastic chains and custom signs, are in stock and ready to ship. Call or email us today!

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