Innovative Ideas Save Lives
Lite & Barricade, Inc. is in the driver’s seat when it comes to roadway and construction safety
Brainstorming is a well-known creative way of generating ideas to solve problems. And, sometimes, these ideas can lead to revolutionary results.
One day, President Shane Howell and a few of his Lite & Barricade, Inc. employees were kicking around ideas about how to make road and highway work zones safer. The topic was in the company’s sweet spot because the folks at Lite & Barricade have been traffic control product specialists for more than 50 years.
Together, the group visualized a new safety device they would later call the Solar Advanced Warning System (SAWS). Instead of installing a hazard sign that flashes on and off continually, they would set up a new device that would illuminate only when a truck or work vehicle was approaching or exiting the roadway.
Lite & Barricade developed the product, which uses a traffic radar sensor to detect oncoming traffic and warn the traveling public of approaching dangers. The American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) named SAWS as its first place ATSSA Innovation Award winner at the association’s 49th Annual Convention & Traffic Expo in 2019.
“We began this project with the goal of saving lives and helping make the public and construction workers more aware of potential risks,” he says. “Safer roads equal saved lives.”
Wide Range of Traffic Control Products
Lite & Barricade, which sells hundreds of traffic control products, is based in Dallas, Texas, and has satellite operations in Fort Worth, Waco and Brownwood, Texas. The Dallas, Fort Worth and Waco locations have sophisticated art sign shops that can print on a variety of materials. The company manufactures street signs, project signs, decals, banners and a host of other products customers need.
All Lite & Barricade locations feature showrooms for walk-in traffic and offer hundreds of products, including personal protective gear, such as safety vests, pants, hard hats and other protective equipment.
The company stocks numerous ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) barricades and products to provide accessible, detectable and safe guidance around various construction projects such as sidewalk closures, crosswalks and other areas frequently traveled by pedestrians. Overall products range from barricades and delineators to metal sheeting and message boards.
“We offer just about every product,” says Billy Don Howell, Shane’s father, who serves as CEO of the company. “And we can handle anything in permanent and temporary traffic control.”
In Lite & Barricade’s maintenance facility, workers maintain the vehicle fleet and repair and service message and arrow boards, in addition to performing other mechanical tasks. The company is a Certified Scorpion Distributor and Service and Repair Center, a prestigious certification offered through TrafFix Devices, Inc., which permits the company to be a one-stop shop for all its customers’ Truck-Mounted Attenuator (TMA) needs.
Special Event Traffic Control Takes Planning
Special event traffic and crowd control work involves site evaluation; planning; equipment set up, maintenance and tear down; and 24-hour emergency services. The work also requires Lite & Barricade crews to coordinate with local enforcement personnel.
“It can take up to 30 of our folks to staff traffic control operations for all events held at the football stadium in Arlington, Texas,” Billy says. “We also handle special events like various marathons and bike races throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Central Texas.”
The company also offers perimeter security for commercial developments by offering temporary products, such as fencing, water barricades, illumination and security cameras.
With a considerable background in traffic control products and operations, Billy founded Dallas Lite & Barricade in 1969. At that time, the company shared space at a meat locker facility with another company. Billy recalls that in the early days of the industry there were hardly any flashing barricades used to alert motorists and pedestrians to hazards.
“Before flashing lights, smudge pots powered by diesel fuel were often used to light up barricades. And, later, transistors began generating power for flashing barricades,” he says.
Billy and Shane are equal Owners, and Shane has been directing day-to-day operations since 1996. The company name was rebranded to Lite & Barricade in 2019 with the addition of the Waco and Brownwood locations. The father-son team is proud of the fact that the company is built on a commitment to safety, quality, service and integrity and is “the longest standing, family-owned barricade house in the great state of Texas.”
The Dallas headquarters recently moved to a new 18-acre campus, which includes an equipment maintenance facility and an operations building/warehouse. Soon, staff will locate in the headquarters building that will feature a large classroom to be used for employee training, safety meetings and monthly customer “lunch and learns” on offered products and services.
Glare Screen Deters Pedestrian Traffic
On the heels of the SAWS innovation, Lite & Barricade was involved in another first. The company was hired to install Plasticade’s Pedestrian Deterrent Glare Screen for the Dallas District of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
This was one of the first instances where a glare screen was used to deter unsafe pedestrian crossings. Normally, the vertical blade and rail glare screen system attaches to the median barrier wall to protect construction workers and drivers on the other side of the highway from headlight glares coming from opposing traffic.
Over a three-year period, TxDOT observed seven deaths of pedestrians who attempted to cross the I-30 highway in Dallas to reach a shopping center. Even though there was a bridge within a quarter mile of either side where the fatalities occurred, people continued to try to cross eight lanes of interstate highway traffic. Before building a pedestrian bridge, TxDOT decided first to pursue a stopgap measure.
A TxDOT engineer remembered a glare screen product displayed at an ATSSA Expo and decided to use it to deter pedestrian traffic. In a pilot project, the blades were spaced a little over 7 inches apart, which made the screen look more like a solid wall. The results were significant—TxDOT reported that the glare screens proved to be a low-cost solution with a high success rate. It said deaths dropped from seven to just one.
Lite & Barricade installed Plasticade’s Modular Glare Screen on four highways in the Dallas District. TxDOT estimated 5 miles of glare screen installation would take 12 to 14 months to complete. Yet, Lite & Barricade was able to complete the bulk of installation work in just under 100 working nights.
Open Communication Encourages Innovative Thinking
Shane also uses the term innovative in describing his leadership team at Lite & Barricade, one that has 150 combined years of experience in the traffic control products industry.
“Companywide, we pride ourselves on being proactive. We learn from each other’s knowledge and expertise,” he says. “We involve a wide variety of our employees in brainstorming, and we value each other’s opinions as we talk about solutions. We also communicate with our product manufacturers regularly to challenge them to come up with new products."
“Our main goal is to solve problems for our customers by striving to make their lives easier and safer,” he adds.
While the company’s traffic safety work involves mainly highways and special events, it frequently performs safety work for private development, municipalities, utility companies and airports.
Shane says the company’s geographical focus will remain in North and Central Texas.
“Within this area, we generally target any organization that needs traffic control products or additional safety measures for their work areas or special events,” he says. “Our plan is to continue slow, steady growth for our business. We don’t want to overpromise and underperform.”
Adaptable, Family Culture
Today, Lite & Barricade employs 165 people. Shane hires people wisely and looks for certain traits in an ideal employee.
“Our people need to be able to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the traffic control product industry. It’s important for us to hire the right people—people who appreciate that we operate in a family environment,” he says. “We take care of each other because this helps foster a good working environment for our employees.”
Shane is quick to praise his employees’ loyalty, and he’s also proud and pleased to have had such solid support from clients for more than five decades.
“We truly appreciate our clients’ support of our traffic control products and services,” he adds. “And we look forward to continuing to provide these services in the years ahead.”