By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory and legal issues, ARTBA 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Dec. 14 released its first comprehensive update in 11 years to the manual that governs the standards for traffic control devices such as safety signs and pavement markings. The revised Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) also should foster innovation and prepare the nation’s transportation system for the arrival of new technologies, including automated vehicles.  

The proposed update aims to “promote uniformity and incorporate technology advances in the traffic control device application, and ultimately improve and promote the safe and efficient utilization of roads that are open to public travel,” FHWA said.

A key aspect of the MUTCD revisions is a discussion of the manual’s ban on patented and proprietary products. FHWA wants the manual to “support both uniformity and cost-effectiveness of traffic control devices, and enable their manufacture without infringement on protections enjoyed by patent holder.”

In 2019, in response to an ARTBA petition, FHWA repealed a similar prohibition that applied to general construction. In a Nov. 25 letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, ARTBA noted that FHWA’s repeal of the patented and proprietary products ban made a “clear case” for doing the same with the MUTCD’s similar provision. It “will carry significant benefits for the nation in safety, economic growth, congestion relief and other areas,” ARTBA wrote.

ARTBA’s Safety Forum is working on comments to the proposed revisions to the MUTCD. Please contact ARTBA Senior Vice President of Safety & Education Brad Sant to join this effort. Comments are due March 15, 2021.