During the 2020 Summer Operations season, Allegheny County had the opportunity to use an Automated Flagging Assist Device (AFAD) utilizing their rental contract. The units have a solar battery and only need plugged in occasionally. They also can be towed in tandem or singularly to the jobsite.
"The set up process does take a little getting used to and requires the crew to act as a team during set up, but once in place its simple from there," said Curtis Peters, the assistant county maintenance manager in charge of Allegheny County's drainage crew.
Both units for the device are controlled by one flagger using a small handheld remote control. The operator of the AFAD stands somewhere in the middle of the jobsite, but off the road and out of harm's way.
"From my perspective, the biggest benefit of utilizing this device is increased safety. It allows the removal of two flaggers from a dangerous job and replaces them with just one crew member that can be in a safer location. On top of that, these devices come with an intrusion alarm, so if a vehicle from the opposite direction crosses into the work zone the alarm will sound to alert the crew," Peters added.
Another benefit of only needing one flagger is adding a crew member to the workforce that was previously flagging traffic all day long. The operator of the device also gets the benefit of having the ability to move around (within reason) as opposed to the traditional flagger station where not much movement is possible.
Last season, the device was primarily used by Allegheny County's drainage crew, but a general maintenance crew in the county's Findlay Section also had the opportunity to use it. The county estimates the device gave them an approximate cost avoidance of $2,100 per week because they did not have to utilize their flagger contract to supplement their operations. This amounted to about $44,000 in total cost avoidance for the 2020 season, which is on the conservative end. The county plans to continue the use of the device for the 2021 summer season.