- How Does Retro Reflective Tape Work ?
- What is the Difference Between Glass Bead and Prismatic Reflective Tape?
- Flexible High Intensity Reflective Tape – SOLAS Alternative
- How to Install Reflective Tape – Troubleshooting, Removing
- Reflectivity Specifications on the Different Types of Reflective Sheeting
- Retro Reflective Tape / Sheeting Brightness or Reflectivity Comparison Chart
- What is DOT C2 Reflective Tape ? – Specifications Certification Definition
- Reflective Tape For Snow Poles and Snowy Winter Conditions
- Reflective Tape for Automatic and Manual Gates and Fences
- Chevron Striping NFPA 1901 – Reflective Diamond Plate Solutions – Article 2
- Making Diamond Treadplate Reflective Using Dots, Circles, Squares or Panels – Article 1
- Free Sample Pack – Reflective Accident Scene Dots & Shapes for Diamond Plate
- Custom Die Cut Reflective Shapes or Overlays (CAD Cut)
- NFPA 1901 Chevron Reflective Striping Requirements for Emergency Vehicles
- FRA 224 Railcar Reflective Marking Regulations Requirements
- Federal DOT FMCSA NHTSA Reflective Tape Requirements – Trucks Tractor Trailers
- FHWA Regulations for Reflective Tape at Railroad Crossings (crossbucks)
- FMVSS 131 & FMVSS 217 School Bus Reflective Tape Marking Requirements Regulations
- US Coast Guard Retro Reflective Regulations for SOLAS Tape USCG 46 CFR, section 164.018
- MUTCD Minimum Reflectivity Standards for Retro Reflective Sheeting / Signs
- MUTCD Regulations for Traffic Cones – Reflective Collar Requirements
- Reflective Tape for Gate Arms and Railroad Crossings – MUTCD
- Gate Striping Requirements (Reflective Tape) – Army Corp of Engineers
The NFPA 1901 recommendation deals with the marking of fire apparatus and emergency vehicles. The recommendation covers the application of reflective tape to the rear of the vehicle in the form of chevron striping, the side of the vehicle and the front. Many insurance companies are requiring that stations comply with the NFPA 1901 and most departments are using this as a guideline and are retrofitting older rigs. New trucks normally come standard with the reflective tape pre-installed. For retro-fits Reflective Chevron Striping products can be purchased online.
A Type 1 (engineer grade) is the minimum acceptable type of reflective sheeting that can be used. Other acceptable materials are a Type 3 High Intensity, a V92/V97 Prismatic Tape, a V82 Type 5 tape and a Crystal Grade Type 8 material. The required colors are red and yellow for the back. There is no color designation for the sides and front. The requirements for the different areas of the vehicle are as follows.
REFLECTIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR DOORS
14.1.6 Any door of the apparatus designed to allow persons to enter or exit the apparatus shall have at least 96 square inches (62,000 mm2) of retro-reflective material applied to the inside of the door. (this is too call attention to the door when it is opened)
REFLECTIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE SIDE AND FRONT OF THE VEHICLE
184.108.40.206* Retro-reflective stripe or stripes shall be applied to at least 50% of the cab and body length on each side of the vehicle, excluding the pump panel areas, and at least 25% of the width of the front of the fire apparatus.
220.127.116.11.1 The stripe or combination of stripes shall be a minimum of 4 inches (100 mm) in total width. (2 – two inch stripes, a 3″ and a 1″, etc.. would meet the criteria)
18.104.22.168.2 The 4 inch (100 mm) wide stripe or combination of stripes shall be allowed to be interrupted by objects (example- receptacles, cracks between slats in roll up doors) provided the full stripe is viewed as conspicuous when approaching the fire apparatus.
22.214.171.124.3 A Reflective graphic design shall be allowed to replace all or part of the required striping material if the design or combination thereof covers at least the same perimeter length(s) required by 126.96.36.199.
REFLECTIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE REAR OF THE VEHICLE
188.8.131.52 At least 50% or half of the rear-facing vertical surfaces, visible from the rear of the fire apparatus, “not including” any pump panel areas not covered by a door, shall be outfitted with retro-reflective striping in a chevron pattern sloping downward and away from the center-line of the vehicle at 45 degree angles. (see picture above)
184.108.40.206.1 Each stripe used in the chevron design shall be a single color alternating between yellow and red.
220.127.116.11.2 Each stripe shall be 6 inches (150 mm) wide.
18.104.22.168 All of the retro-reflective materials required by sections 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 shall conform to the requirements of ASTM D 4956, Standard Specification for Retro-reflective Sheeting for Traffic Control, Section 6.1.1 for Type I Sheeting. (engineer grade which is similar to what is on a car tag. The sheeting can be brighter. ie, Type 3,5,8,v92,v82)
188.8.131.52.1 All retro-reflective sheeting and materials used to satisfy the requirements of 184.108.40.206 that are colors not listed in ASTM D 4956, Section 6.1.1, shall have a minimum coefficient of retroreflection of 10 candelas with an observation angle of 0.2 degrees and entrance angle of −4 degrees.
220.127.116.11.3 Any printed or processed retroreflective film construction used to meet the requirements of 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 shall conform to the standards required of an integral colored film as specified in ASTM D 4956, Section 6.1.1.
Although the NFPA 1901 is not a federal law, most departments conform to it for legal and safety reasons. In the event of an accident, most departments feel that it is best to have taken all precautions available. Our main safety products store can be found at www.colebrothers.com .
The FRA 224 regulations for rail car (freight car) markings was updated in 2005 and covers all rail cars and locomotives. The requirements are fairly straight forward. The purpose of the rule is to require the application and use of retro-reflective tape on the sides of freight rolling stock, (includes both freight cars and locomotives) to enhance the visibility of trains and freight cars during times of limited visibility. It is recommended that the tape bear the FRA 224 mark. Also, yellow or white can be used. Yellow seems to be the most common color used.
It is required that the tape be applied to all new freight cars. For existing cars the tape must be applied after repainting or within 9 months of a single car airbrake test. On railroad freight cars (other than flat cars and tank cars), the reflective sheeting shall be applied in either a vertical or horizontal pattern along the length of the car sides, with the bottom edge of the sheeting as close as is practical to 42″ above the top of a rail. The reflective sheeting shall not be applied below the side sill.
The retro reflective material is to be installed as follows. At least one 4″ x 36″ strip or two 4″ x 18″ strips (one above the other) shall be applied as close to each end of the rail car as practical. In between these two vertical end strips, reflective tape shall be applied a minimum of one 4″ x 18″ strip every 12 feet.
NOTE – tape is required in the above configuration on BOTH sides of the rail cars.
To see pricing and more information on Rail Car tape CLICK HERE.
You see reflective tape every day and every night. But have you ever stopped to think how it works?
Reflective tape (also known as retro-reflective tape) works by reflecting light back to the light source only. In other words, the tape only lights up for the person with the light source or in line with it.
For example, lets say two people were walking down a street with one person on each side of the street. If person “A” has a flashlight and shines it down the street at some reflective tape on a trailer the tape will light up for them. However, the person on the other side of the street will probably not see the tape light up. If both shined a light down the street they would both see the tape. This happens because the tape contains either glass beads or prisms that collect light, focus it and bounce it back to the source.
How does it do this? Imagine that you are in a round room and you are in the center of the room. If you throw a ball towards the wall it is always going to come back to you. Reflective tape works in a similar manner. The diagram below shows how the glass beads or prisms do this.
As you can see from the diagrams above, the tapes refract or bend light in such a way that it always goes out the way it came in. That brings up another amazing capability of the reflective tape. In the first diagram one person had a light an the other did not. If both had lights, both would see the tape light up. What is amazing about this is that the tape does not have to be horizontal to the viewer for it to reflect light back. It can also shine multiple beams back in multiple directions. Flat against the light is best but even at sharp angles you will get a good return of light.
Another thing to remember about reflectivity is that your eyes have to be in line with the light for you to see the tape reflect. Next time you are out driving at night and are behind a tractor trailer truck notice how you can see the reflective tape light up when you are far back. As you get close at a stop light you will notice that the tape no longer lights up. This is because the angle from the light to the tape and then to your eyes has become too great. In other words, it makes a big difference where the light is in relation to your eyes. If you were holding the light close to your head then the reflectivity would not change as you moved closer. In our article on the difference between glass bead tape and prismatic tape we will cover the geometry of reflective tape in more detail. We have a complete line of products at our main store website www.colebrothers.com .
Introduction – Trucks exceeding 10,000 pounds and over 80 inches wide must mark their trailers with 2″ wide DOT C2 reflective tape that alternates white and red. (white looks silvery in the daytime). A 6/6 (6″ red and 6″ white) or a 7/11 (7″ white and 11″ red) pattern can be used. 50% of each side must be covered. (even distribution) In the rear, two strips must be used in the lower rear and an inverted L using solid white must mark the top corners of the trailer. Trucks must be marked in a similar fashion. See pictures at the bottom of this page.
(This is a summary of the regulation. For an exact copy of the law you can refer to the actual FMCSA document)
The FMCSA has set up regulations requiring the use of conspicuity (reflective tape) materials on trailers and the rear of truck tractors. The rules are in place to help reduce the incidence of motorists crashing into the rear or sides of tractor trailers at nighttime and under other conditions of reduced visibility. Also to reduce the incidence of motorists rear ending truck tractors (under operation without trailers) under the same types of conditions.
On December 10, 1992, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA published a final rule requiring that trailers manufactured on or after December 1, 1993, which have an overall width of 80 inches or more and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds, (with the exception of pole trailers and trailers designed exclusively for living or office use) be equipped on the sides and rear with a means for making them more visible on the road. The NHTSA ruling allows trailer manufacturers to install either red and white retro reflective tape or sheeting or reflex reflectors. This tape is commonly referred to as DOT C2 reflective tape and is thus marked for easy identification
Locations for Conspicuity Treatment
The following is a description of where the conspicuity treatments need to be located on trailers. Images of conspicuity treatments on some common types of trailers are provided at the bottom of this page.
Sides of the Trailer
The 2″ DOT C2 retro reflective sheeting need to be applied to both sides of the trailer or semitrailer. Each strip of retro reflective sheeting must be positioned as horizontally as practicable, beginning and ending as close to the front and rear as practicable. The conspicuity treatment is not required to be continuous. However, the sum of the length of all of the segments must be at least half of the length of the trailer and the spaces between the segments of the strip must be distributed as evenly as practicable. The centerline for each strip of retroreflective sheeting (or reflex reflector) must be between 375 mm (15 inches) and 1,525 mm (60 inches) above the road surface when measured with the trailer empty or unladen, or as close as practicable to this area. If necessary to clear rivet heads or other similar obstructions, 50 mm (2 inches) wide retro reflective sheeting may be separated into two 25 mm (1 inch) wide strips of the same length and color, separated by a space of not more than 25 mm (1 inch).
Lower rear area of the Trailer
The rear of each trailer and semitrailer must be equipped with retro reflective sheeting (or reflex reflectors). Each strip of retro reflective sheeting (or reflex reflector) must be positioned as horizontally as practicable, extending across the full width of the trailer, beginning and ending as close to the extreme edges as practicable. The centerline for each of the strips of retro reflective sheeting (or each reflex reflector) must be between 375 mm (15 inches) and 1,525 mm (60 inches) above the road surface when measured with the trailer empty or unladen, or as close as practicable to this area.
Upper rear area of the Trailer
Two pairs of white strips of retro reflective sheeting (or reflex reflectors), each pair consisting of strips 300 mm (12 inches) long, must be positioned horizontally and vertically on the right and left upper corners of the rear of the body of each trailer and semitrailer, as close as practicable to the top of the trailer and as far apart as practicable. If the perimeter of the body, as viewed from the rear, is not square or rectangular, the conspicuity treatments may be applied along the perimeter, as close as practicable to the uppermost and outermost areas of the rear of the body on the left and right sides.
Rear of Truck
On August 8, 1996, the NHTSA published a final rule requiring that truck tractors manufactured on or after July 1, 1997, be equipped with red-and-white retroreflective material similar to that required on the rear of the trailers they tow to increase nighttime conspicuity. Manufacturers may choose either retroreflective sheeting or reflex reflectors. In the case of truck tractors delivered with a temporary mudflap arrangement rather than permanent equipment, the requirement for retroreflective material near the top of the mudflap may be satisfied with material carried by the temporary mudflap brackets that are transferable to the permanent mudflap system. Retroreflective material is also required near the top of the cab in a pattern similar to that used on trailers.
There are two types of reflective tape, glass bead and prismatic. Glass bead tapes were the first reflective tapes and then in the 1960′s prismatic tape was invented by Reflexite. It is interesting that prismatic tapes have not replaced glass bead tapes. Even after 50 years. This is because both have characteristics that make them desirable in certain situations.
Glass Bead Reflective Tapes
Glass bead tapes use microscopic glass spheres to bend and reflect light back to the light source. Because of the imperfections and curved surfaces in glass beads, tapes made with beads are less reflective than tapes made with prisms. Glass bead tapes are about 30% efficient. This is a disadvantage. However, there are three advantages that glass bead tape has over most prismatic tapes. First, glass bead reflective tapes are much more affordable. This is because they are simpler to manufacture. Second, most glass bead tapes are CAD cuttable meaning that you can cut letters, number and designs out of the tape and create reflective signs or graphics. Third, glass bead tapes reflect light back at wider angles. In other words, glass bead tapes are sort of like flood lamps whereas prismatic tapes are more light spot lights. The diagram below shows this.
As you will notice from the diagram above, the glass bead tape disperses light more than prismatic tape. That is why it is not as bright at farther distances. However, at close distances the wider angle of dispersion can be an advantage. Let say for example that a fireman is wearing a high intensity glass bead tape on his equipment. When someone shines a light towards him the tape will light up for the person with the light and, if you are fairly close, it will light up for you as well. Also, as the beam nears the fireman, his tape lights up quickly. Again, this is because of the dispersion of the light. Many people prefer the high intensity glass bead tape for close up applications. For long distance applications the prismatic is always better. This is because the glass bead tapes completely disappear at a distance of a few hundred yards whereas a prismatic tape is still visible for over a thousand yards or more.
There are two basic types of glass bead reflective tapes. The first is a standard engineer grade or type 1 tape. White engineer grade tape reflects at about 75 candlepower. This is the most popular tape and is found on car tags, stop signs, speed limit signs, emergency vehicle striping and graphics, etc.. The second type is high intensity or type 3 tape. This tape has higher index beads and encapsulates them in a honeycomb pattern. White high intensity tape reflects at about 250 candlepower. You will find this type of tape on traffic cones and road barrels.
Prismatic Reflective Tape
Prismatic is more efficient and returns about 80% of the light sent to it. Therefore it is brighter than glass bead tapes. Prismatic tape reflects light via man made prisms. Since the mirrors are flat and not curved they are more efficient. The light sent from the tape is more focused and can therefore travel farther still be seen. For long distance applications like DOT regulated trucks or coast guard search and rescue a prismatic tape is a must. There are several grades of prismatic tape starting with a type 4 and going up to a type 8. Because they are all so bright, to the human eye there is very little noticeable difference in the various prismatic types. It is when you get far away from the tape that you notice a difference. The farther away you need to see the tape the higher the type needs to be. The brightest tape that I know of is SOLAS coast guard approved tape. It is used for offshore applications and is vital for search and rescue operations where the victim may be a thousand or so yards away.
Many prismatic tapes are too thick to CAD cut. The exception are Reflexite tapes. Reflexite invented prismatic tape make the tape in a thin single layer. This has two advantages. Number one, the tape will not delaminate like the thicker tapes. Number two, it can be CAD cut with a vinyl cutter/plotter. This is a huge advantage. Prismatic graphics show up several times farther than standard glass bead graphics. The advantages of this are obvioius.
Some different types of prismatic tapes are DOT C2 Tape, FRA Railcar Tape, SOLAS coast guard tape, School Bus Tape, Chevron Reflective Striping, and Sign Sheeting.
In summary, both glass bead and prismatic tapes have their purpose and will continue to keep people safe and visible for years to come.
Flexible high intensity reflective tape is a glass bead product that utilizes a polyester topcoat to allow the tape to stretch and conform to flexible surfaces. Some examples of these surfaces would be a traffic cone, a road barrel or a kayak. Also, rain suits and zodiacs.
The flexible high intensity tape is a type 3 or otherwise know as an ASTM 4956 -03 tape. It uses high index beads that are encapsulated in a honey comb pattern. This renders the tape about 3 times more reflective than standard engineer grade or type 1.
The best feature of the flexible high intensity type 3 tape is its ability to stretch. If a traffic cone or road barrel is hit by a car the tape will rebound with the object it is on. Thence its other name “reboundable reflective tape”. There are a variety of application where this ability to stretch comes is desirable. Curves surfaces such as a helmet can be striped with this material since it will stretch and lay down. Other stiff tapes will not work on complex curves.
We call this a SOLAS alternative because there are some manufacturers who use this type of tape as SOLAS tape. It is very bright for a glass bead tape and will flex in marine applications. It would be just like a SOLAS glass bead tape but without the SOLAS logo on it.
We have more information on this tape as well as an online store at www.colebrothers.com .
By January 17, 2011 a two inch strip of white retro-reflective material must be placed on the back of each crossbuck blade for the full length of the blade at all grade crossings where crossbuck signs have been installed, except where crossbuck signs have been installed back to back. In addition, a two inch strip of white retro-reflective material must be placed on both the front and the back of the crossbuck post at all passive grade crossings where crossbuck signs have been installed for the full length of the post from the crossbuck sign or number of tracks plaque to within two feet of the ground., except for the back side of the post on one way streets and the front side of the post where a Yield or STOP sign is placed on the same post as the crossbuck sign.
FMVSS 131 & FMVSS 217
School Bus Reflective Tape Regulations:
Virtually every state has regulations regarding the marking of school buses. The main goal of these regulations is to clearly mark with reflective tape the emergency exits of the bus. This way, if a bus is in an accident, emergency workers can easily identify the exits.
Although each state differs the general regulation is as follows.
Each opening for a required emergency exit shall be outlined around its outside perimeter with a retroreflective tape with a minimum width of 2.5 centimeters and either red, white, or yellow in color, that when tested under the conditions specified in S6.1 of Standard No. 131 (49 CFR 571.131), meets the criteria specified.
- 1″ strip used to mark side emergency exit windows
- 1″ strip used to mark back emergency exit windows
These are minimum tape width requirements.
Here is an excerpt from the Connecticut regulations.
Any school bus may have reflectorized tape, otherwise known as retroreflective
sheeting, applied to the sides and rear, if such tape complies with and is
installed in accordance with the following requirements:
1. Approved reflective tape or sheeting shall reflect a yellow color with a reflectivity
meeting the requirements of 49 CFR 571.131 Table 1 and shall have a daytime
color of National School Bus Yellow. Approved reflective tape shall be no less
than three quarters (3/4) inch nor more than two (2) inches in width.
2. The rear of the bus body may have the perimeter outlined with strips of approved
reflective tape. The perimeter shall be considered as strips applied horizontally above
the rear windows and above the rear bumper, extending from the rear emergency
exit perimeter marking (if present), outward to the left and right rear corners of the
bus; and vertical strips applied at the corners connecting the horizontal strips.
3. All emergency exits should be marked and outlined with reflective tape as
prescribed per FMVSS 217.
4. The sides of the bus body may be marked with approved reflective tape
extending horizontally the length of the bus body and located vertically between the floor-line and the belt-line.
(Adopted effective May 2, 2007)
More information as well as pricing can be found at www.colebrothers.com .
Installing reflective tape is a very simple process. It is basically a peel, stick and press process. However, some preparation must be done beforehand to insure a long lasting application. Adhesive performance depends almost entirely on surface preparation.
Before beginning an installation there are a few factors to consider.
- First, it is up to the installer to determine whether the surface that the tape will be applied to is able to accept adhesive type tapes. For example, some plastics are non stick and difficult to apply to. Also, rough surfaces are difficult to apply to because the tape does not touch the entire surface.
- Second, newly painted surfaces should fully cure before tape is applied. Otherwise the gases from the curing paint will deteriorate the adhesive and cause the application to fail.
- Third, do not apply tape in freezing weather or allow the tape to freeze. This will damage the adhesive. Once installed, the tape needs to cure for at least 48 hours before it is subjected to sub zero temperatures.
- Fourth, when installing “Flexible Engineer Grade Tape” keep in mind that it is temperature sensitive during installation. (after installation the temperature does not affect it) When the tape is cold it is stiff. When it is hot it is very flexible. The recommended temperature for applying is 59 – 77 degrees. (see special instructions for this tape at the bottom of this page)
Instructions for Applying Reflective Tapes
The surface should be clean and dry and it should be dry outside. Do not apply in the rain or moist environments. A sunny day is optimal. Air temperature should be between 32 and 100 degrees. Also, it helps to apply a small piece first as practice.
The surface that the tape will be placed on needs to be clean, dry and free of any contaminants such as dirt, grease, oil, etc.. Hand washing the application area with soap and water will accomplish this.
Also, to insure that the area is clean, a cloth soaked in isopropol alcohol can be used to wipe the surface down. Before the alcohol dries wipe it down again with a separate rag. This will also help dry the surface and will insure that the adhesive on the tape is able to penetrate the surface and form a good bond.
APPLYING THE MATERIAL
Peel the backing off the the material as you apply it. Do not peel off more than you can work with at one time and do not let it stick to itself. Also, avoid touching the adhesive side of the tape since the oils on your hands can contaminate the adhesive and reduce its effectiveness.
Lay the material down using your fingers to press it onto the surface. Try to avoid laying the tape down and then pulling it up and laying it down again since this tends to degrade the adhesive. TIP- We have a picture below of a hinge application method that can help keep the tape straight during application.
Using a squeegee or similar object, press the tape onto the surface. Gently at first and then with more pressure. This will force the adhesive into the pores of the surface. If neccessary, wrap the squeegee in cloth to keep from scratching the material. If a squeegee is not available use a cloth to press the tape firmly to the surface. When you come to a seam, cut the material with a razor blade. Go over rivets and then after application cut around the rivets with a razor blade or exacto so that the material lays flat all the way around the rivet. NOTE – Our flexible engineer grade will conform over the rivets in most cases.
Our Flexible Engineer Grade and Flexible High Intensity tapes WILL go around corners and fold around the edges of doors, however, our other reflective tapes are stiffer and WILL NOT stretch and are not designed to wrap around sharp corners or be folded over 90 degree edges. If you go around a sharp corner cut the tape and begin a new piece around the corner. The edges of the tape should be kept about 1/4″ from the edge of the surface that you are working on. If you bend the stiff tapes around a sharp corner they will stick at first but will eventually come up. The material is designed to be applied to generally flat surfaces. As stated before, for complex curves use our Flexible Engineer Grade or Flexible High Intensity Grade Tapes.
Special Instructions for Flexible Engineer Grade tape – Application Temperature – 59 – 77 degrees fahrenheit. In this range the tape performs like standard adhesive vinyl. When the temperature is above this range the flexible engineer grade material becomes very soft and pliable. When the temperature is below this range the material becomes stiffer. (The material is designed this way so that if necessary it can be heated with a hair dryer during application to make it conform to complex curves, rivets, etc..) The material can be installed in temperatures above and below the recommended range, however, it is easier to install in the recommended temperature range.
If installing outside in hot or cold temperatures it helps to keep the tape inside an air conditioned or heated vehicle until you are ready to install it. In the summer, installing in the shade is helpful and in the winter, installing in direct sun is preferable. Also, we have posted some pictures of how a masking tape hinge can be used to position the tape and apply it. In warmer weather this method will help in the installation of the flexible engineer grade tapes.
Service Temperature – Once installed the tape can handle temperatures from -22 to +176 degrees fahrenheit.