Why Traffic Control Technicians Are Essential to Work Zone Traffic Management



Road construction workers are at constant risk of serious injuries or death. Road work is often done in congested, high-traffic areas. These workers may have to contend with exposure to traffic during periods of poor visibility, low lighting, and inclement weather. In addition, they routinely work close to construction vehicles and equipment moving within and around work zones.

Western USA Highway, Road and Street Construction Hispanic Workers Setting Barriers and Directing TrafficThe first job many people think of when you mention traffic control is that of the flagger. The flagger – with a high visibility retroreflective safety vest, hard hat, and stop/slow paddle – is the first person that drivers encounter in two-lane roadway work zones. The flagger’s job is to get the attention of drivers and safely control the flow of traffic throughout these work zones.

The traffic control technician is one level above that, explains Tim Luttrell, P.E., an Independent Consultant and Master Instructor for the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). Traffic control technicians install and remove traffic control devices like cones, drums, barricades, trailer-mounted portable changeable message signs, and arrow boards and monitor their performance.

Technicians may also be responsible for flagging duties in a work zone, he says and may be seeking a larger role in the future – one with supervisory responsibilities.

ATSSA’s core purpose is to advance road safety, represent the roadway safety infrastructure industry with effective legislative advocacy and traffic control safety training, and help shift the focus of transportation toward saving lives and reducing injuries.

Importance of training

Because of the importance of their work, traffic control technicians need to be properly trained to keep themselves, motorists, and other road workers safe, says Luttrell. A technician may also be interested in furthering their career by moving up to the role of supervisor – a role that requires additional training and experience for certification.

He notes that while every traffic control technician is required to be trained, the specifics of the training are often not well defined in the requirements.

Luttrell will be discussing basic concepts and techniques for installation, removal, and maintenance of temporary traffic control devices in work zones, how to monitor their performance, and how to recognize deficiencies in a work zone during his Traffic Control Technician education session at the upcoming The Utility Expo 2023.

“Setting up, maintaining or removing a lane closure is an especially critical time that carries with it considerable worker protection needs,” he points out. “A traffic control technician may have some exposure while doing this, especially on the setup side because driver expectations may be different than what the temporary setup in place is. This can often be dangerous because motorists are trying to get adjusted to what is happening in the area temporarily.”

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About the speaker

Tim Luttrell - ATSSATim Luttrell is a civil engineer with a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Tennessee. He has been working in transportation engineering for a private engineering firm for some 25 years. He began teaching in the early 2000s for the National Highway Institute and has served as an ATSSA Independent Consultant and Master Instructor since 2006.

In addition to his work at ATSSA developing and teaching courses on work zone safety and temporary traffic control, he also works on projects that focus on transportation impact assessment and performs work zone safety field audits. 

Luttrell says he is looking forward to his first time presenting at The Utility Expo – the largest and fastest growing trade show in the utility industry – and is “really excited to see what the session attendees are facing in their day-to-day jobs and how I can help them by providing information and knowledge.”


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2023 Education Sessions


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