Here’s a hazard that many regular highway users are familiar with – road debris. Running into debris such as tyre carcasses, metal pieces or fallen cargo from lorries is a thought that many truly dread.

If you see the debris from afar, there’s a chance to safely avoid it, but it’s not always that we have the luxury of distance. Sometimes, debris may appear “out of nowhere” and motorists are left with a quick decision to make – swerve away or take the hit. Both comes with its own risks. Been there? You’re not alone.

Also at risk are the highway maintenance workers who clear the debris. These frontline workers have to physically remove the item while running into a multi-lane expressway with high speed traffic, without a shield from vehicles zooming past. There’s now a solution that ensures safe highway maintenance, clear roads for motorists, and protection for the frontline workers.

Safety Vehicles by Edgenta Infrastructure Services on the PLUS North South Expressway is a new measure to achieve all of the above, during planned or unplanned works, such as debris collection. The introduction of Safety Vehicles has been endorsed by the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) as part of traffic management to minimise risk for all parties.

Safety Vehicles will be deployed whenever there is any activity on the highway where the frontline workers need protection while carrying out tasks such as lane closure and obstacle collection.

The Safety Vehicles, which are trucks with warning lights and arrows, will get into formation to block the lanes from traffic to enable work to be done safely. The duration varies, but traffic can be stopped for around 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of work needed. Safety Vehicles will be on standby 24 hours a day, as and when needed.

The Safety Vehicles will form a “barrier” for the workers to perform their task safely, and the distance from the line to the point where the work is being carried out is approximately 100 metres. This distance provides the workers time to react should there be any breach of vehicles through the Safety Vehicles formation.

As for the safe distance between traffic and the Safety Vehicles, it should be 50 metres for a moving formation, or five metres for a stationary line. The Safety Vehicles will gradually reduce traffic speed from 80 km/h to 60 km/h (or 40 km/h and 20 km/h, if needed), or to a complete stop, if required.

So, if you encounter a fleet of one-tonne lorries or pick-up trucks with safety features forming a line on the highway, keep calm, be patient and co-operate with the Safety Vehicles and their instructions. The highway maintenance workers have a job to do, and ultimately, it’s for everyone’s safety. Be alert and drive safe.