Highways England and its industry experts are set to conduct a trial of automated cone-laying vehicles for construction work on its network of motorways and major A roads.

The project is aimed at preventing workers from having to lift an average of ten tonnes of equipment each shift.

Cones are required to safeguard road users and workers during maintenance and construction on busy routes.

There are currently two automated cone laying vehicles under development and the testing is expected to be carried out next month at a centre in Lutterworth, Leicestershire.

The automated cone-laying machine is expected to be fully functional by the end of the year.

Highways England group leader Martin Bolt said: “Safety is always the priority for Highways England and we are constantly looking for ways to ensure everyone who works and travels on our road network is protected.

“By taking out the human element in the laborious task of putting out cones, we will be taking out an element of potential risk. As well as taking away this physical labour, these automated machines could also save valuable person-hours and allow us to redeploy the workforce to other traffic management duties.”

Experts from Highways England, Kier, HW Martin Traffic Management and two competitors Highway Care and King Highway Products are working in collaboration to eradicate the associated risks.

The average 1m-high cone carries a weight of approximately 10kg. A 4km closure requires putting down, and later removing, around 260 to 300 cones.

This implies that two workers will be required to handle between five to six tonnes of cones each shift.

With additional equipment such as frames, signs, lamps and sand bags, they will have to lift between eight and ten tonnes a shift.

On average, one kilometre of manual cone laying takes 15 minutes to deploy and remove, leading to an exposure time to live traffic of around two hours per shift.

If the tests are successful, the vehicles will be taken to the marketplace by the two firms.