The global shortage of roadway marking paint means not only widespread project delays but public safety hazards—a situation that will not improve soon, a new report advises.
Manufacturers are painting a grim picture of severe raw-materials supplies that will take months to normalize and skyrocketing prices that won’t go away. The shortage includes supplies of methyl methacrylate (MMA) and titanium dioxide (TiO2), key components in acrylic-based highway paint, the leading pavement marking material.
That is the outlook detailed in Report on Raw Materials Shortages in the U.S. Pavement Markings Industry, by the American Traffic Safety Services Association, which recently surveyed manufacturers of paint, epoxy and thermoplastic roadway markings.
The bottom line: The industry is facing “a critical shortage of raw materials” that has left “virtually every pavement marking manufacturer … running below capacity,” according to ATSSA. Production is running about 50% of capacity on average, and less in some cases. Major manufacturers are rationing supplies.
• 78% of manufacturers report difficulty in obtaining resins/binders to produce pavement marking materials.
• 56% report difficulty in obtaining titanium dioxide. Those who had supplies said they had paid “historically high” costs or had stockpiled the product.
• Some of those who had obtained titanium dioxide had as little as two weeks’ supply remaining.
• Every manufacturer surveyed reports slower delivery times: Paint deliveries are averaging 60 days, with some taking up to 90 days.
• Nearly every supplier said it was not accepting any new customers.
The result has been delays in road projects worldwide. That’s not only frustrating for transportation departments and contractors; it is also hazardous to the public that must use roads with faded or missing markings, ATSSA says.
The organization reports “significant concern that as inventories are drawn down, there could be an adverse effect on safety, particularly for resurfacing projects which require new centerline, edge line and lane markings.”
To cope with the shortage without compromising safety, ATSSA is offering several recommendations:
• Citing anecdotal evidence that state DOTs are getting preferential treatment from suppliers, ATSSA suggests that states with supplies of striping material for maintenance lend it to contractors on resurfacing projects. The contractor would “repay” the same product within a specified time.
• Temporary markers or flexible delineators/channelizers could be used as an alternative to markings in work zones and some other situations where permitted.
• Centerlines could be striped and rumble strips used for edge delineation where permitted. When supplies stabilize, “the rumble strips could be converted to rumble stripes. Several states have reported significant safety benefits from rumble stripes.”
• Inlay tape could be substituted on new asphalt.
• Temporary markers could be used for center lines. Pre-formed thermoplastic may be a suitable substitute for some paint or thermoplastic markings.
• Skip lines could be shortened temporarily, then completed when supplies resume, “if engineering judgment indicates a necessity to do so….”
ATSSA is seeking more suggestions for strategies to weather the shortage. For more information, contact James Baron at James.Baron@ATSSA.com.
Supplies are not expected to normalize until at least October and possibly not until spring 2011, manufacturers say. Rationing will continue indefinitely. Finally, they warn, prices will continue to soar “even if supplies [are] normalized or increased.”