When marking your vehicle or trailer with reflective tape, sheeting or panels, it is important to select the right color combination. Color, contrast and brightness are all important and can make the difference between being seen and not seen day or night. The color you select should “contrast” with the other colors it is up against. This makes it conspicuous which is the goal. The tape color should also be “bright” so it can be seen from as far away as possible. The tape “type” should also be as bright as possible. (example – type 1 bright, type 3 brighter, type 5 even brighter, and so on)
Studies show that bright fluorescent lime yellow is the brightest and most conspicuous color. This is true day and night. The image above is an example of how bright fluorescent lime is. Notice the nice contrast that you get with the red. (both colors are reflective)
Note – With that being said let me just mention that white is brighter but it does not stand out as a conspicuous color. It tends to blend in with white backgrounds, car headlights, street lights, the moon, etc..
Fluorescent Lime is a very unique color and is not common in what we see day to day or at night. Fluorescent Orange is also like this. Both of these colors get peoples attention because they are unusual and bright. Of these two colors the brightest would be the lime. The image above shows fluorescent lime and orange panels. Notice that you still have nice contrast and both colors are very bright at night.
As an offsetting color for fluorescent lime you would want to select a red, a fluorescent orange or a standard orange. By alternating these colors you would provide the highest contrast using the most conspicuous colors. This makes you visible and safe both day and night.
In summary, to be seen day and night use red and fluorescent lime reflective material or orange and fluorescent lime material. When placing the panels on a yellow or red vehicle you can change the lime to a white and then use orange or red as the offset.
Consider this. A high speed collision with a medium sized deer can easily total a passenger car. A collision with larger animals such as cattle can result in severe injuries or death to the passengers of the vehicle and are almost always fatal to the animal. In all accidents involving animals, property damage can be substantial. Accidents involving livestock can be avoided if the animals are visible to approaching cars.
Daytime accidents are less prevalent since most livestock are clearly visible in daylight and tend to move slowly. This changes drastically at night. Animals in roadways can be almost invisible, especially if they are dark in color. The solution is simpler and cheaper than you would think.
Most cattle or livestock are marked with a plastic id tag. These tags range from 2″ x 2″ to 2.5″ x 3″. A simple rectangle or square of high visibility reflective tape placed on the back of the id tag can be seen clearly for hundreds of feet way. (high visibility = prismatic grade) A separate tag with reflective tape on both sides can also be used on the opposite ear. A fluorescent lime yellow, fluorescent orange, standard yellow or white color is recommended since these are the most visible.
This type of livestock marking is especially important in “open range” states.
Bulk tape or custom shapes can be purchased at www.reflectiveshapes.com or www.colebrothers.com . The reflective shapes site sells only prismatic grade tape (Reflexite V98 Conformable Prismatic). If you go to colebrothers.com you would want to look for the V92, V82, V97, V98 or SOLAS Reflexite material. These can be seen from much farther away.
Reflective Tape for Horse and Livestock Trailers – Online Store
Horse and livestock trailers need to be seen day and night. Because of the cargo they carry any collision can be catastrophic. It is for this reason that they need to be equipped with bright reflective tape. Standard DOT tape like the type seen to the left is recommended for the lower parts of the trailer. For other parts of the trailer several types of reflective tape can be used. Marking the entire outline of the trailer makes it much more visible. Instead of a slim 2″ line of reflective dot tape they have an entire outline to see. This makes a huge difference especially at night.
DOT tape is prismatic and very bright. For the upper portions and back of the trailer you can use the same DOT tape or less expensive tapes. A prismatic tape like a Reflexite V92 would be the closest match. The image below shows our prismatic V92 tapes. They are similar to DOT tapes but in different colors.
If you are wanting a bright tape but want to save a little money then our high intensity type 3 tapes below are very effective. This type of tape is used for road barrels, traffic cones and barricade applications. It reflects at about 250 candelas for the white.
Our least expensive reflective tape is our Engineer Grade type 1. It is the most common reflective film. It is used for road signs, fire engines, ambulances, etc.. It is also conformable so if you have some uneven surfaces this tape will mold and conform better than other films. It is the same type of tape used on car tags. White is the brightest followed by yellow.
For ultimate visibility day and night for the rear of your horse trailer you can use our fluorescent lime yellow and red V98 material. We have it in shapes and also in rolls. It is prismatic and very bright and is also conformable. This is our top of the line film. The blue, white, red and fluorescent lime yellow are pictured below. Below that is a picture of our diagonals that can be used to form chevrons or basic diagonal striping down the side of the trailer. This is very effective at getting attention day and night. Fire departments use this type of tape on their vehicles.
Reflective Tape for Automatic Gates, Standard Gates and Fences – Online Store
Prismatic White Reflective Tape
Note – this article addresses ways to mark non MUTCD gates. These would be gates on private property that do not open up onto a DOT road. For MUTCD type gate marking information Click Here.
Gates and fences are easy targets for unsuspecting or inattentive motorists and therefore need to be clearly visible at night. Because they are in the flow of traffic and often unexpected, gates and fences should be equipped with bright reflective tape that can quickly and effectively get a drivers attention.
Fortunately, there are several types and colors of reflective tape that can solve visibility problems related to gates and fences. The picture below shows a gate in the daytime with no tape installed. (upper left) The center top shows the gate with orange engineer grade reflective tape installed and then to the right is the same gate at night under car headlights. The bottom of the picture shows a black gate with black reflective material installed. It is invisible in the daytime but appears white or goldish at night in car headlights. (note-black is the least reflective tape and is best used in very dark areas like alleys where there is no competitive lighting)
As you can see from the pictures above one way of increasing the visibility of a gate or a fence is simply to outline it in bright reflective tape. This can be done with any number of colors and intensities of tape. Engineer grade is the least expensive and prismatic is the brightest and also the most expensive.
While there are many choices for color and type when it comes to reflective tape one thing is for certain. The brighter the tape day and night the better. With this in mind one suggestion is the use of fluorescent yellow and red like what you see on fire trucks. The picture to the left shows rolls of these two colors and you can see why they would be highly conspicuous day and night. You can either alternate them or cut diagonals and create chevron patterns like you see on the backs of fire trucks.
The two tapes below are also excellent choices because of their alternating design.
Reflective Tape for Dumpsters and Roll Off Trash & Garbage Containers – Online Store
Dumpsters are often placed in dark areas and can be a hazard for motorists. Likewise, roll off trash containers can also be a hazard in that they are often placed on streets or in areas that are normally clear of obstructions. In other words, people do not expect them to be there and do not know to look out for them. Bright reflective tape can increase the visibility of a dumpster or roll off trash container and prevent accidents. A bright colored tape will insure that visibility is increased both day and night. The picture below shows a dumpster with white reflective tape installed. Daytime visibility is increased only a little but as you can see, night time visibility is greatly increased.
The picture below shows a roll off container with three types of reflective tape installed. One is an alternating pattern DOT tape one is a solid color red, and the third is a bright yellow tape. By outlining the entire container a driver is able to determine what the object actually is from farther away. If you only use one strip of tape or just a few small pieces then a person will know that something is ahead but will have to get much closer to make out what the object is.
Many counties will have ordinances that require containers or dumpsters to be marked with reflective tape. They will have requirements like “Dumpster will have reflective tape on corners.” or “In addition, dumpster shall have reflective tape on the ends”.
Here is another quote from an ordinance in Clinton City, UT.
(1) Nighttime markings, dumpsters to remain in the street after sunset shall:
Be marked with reflective tape, at least six (6) square inches in size, located between 36 and 48 inches above the bottom of the dumpster on each corner of the dumpster; or,
Have approved traffic barricades located at each street side corner.
Here is an excerpt from the City of Williamsport Dumpster application: “Applicant is responsible for placement of safety cones OR reflective tape on and around the dumpster.”
Cities and counties consider making dumpsters and containers visible a priority. An unmarked container or dumpster can create a tremendous legal liability for the owner. The small amount that you spend on reflective tape is definitely money well spent.
Red and fluorescent yellow alternating reflective tapes are very effective at getting peoples attention. This is why this color combination is used for chevrons on fire trucks. The picture below shows a Reflexite V97 and V92 combination. This would be one of the brightest tapes that you could use. The next most visible would be DOT tape which is the same tape you see on tractor trailer rigs.
If you want to spend less money but still maximize visibility you can use a high intensity type 3 reflective tape for your dumpster or roll off trash container. The picture below shows the various colors. Alternating colors is effective but single color strips are also fine. Covering all the corners is a very good idea.
Engineer grade tapes are the most affordable reflective tapes. They come in a variety of colors and are about the brightness of a car tag. For close up applications they provide plenty of reflectivity. This type of tape would be fine for areas where cars are approaching the container at a slow speed. A parking lot would be a good example of this. For applications where the container needs to be seen beyond 500 feet a high intensity or prismatic tape is recommended.
Reflective Tapes for Work Zones or Temporary Traffic Control Zones – (online store)
This article focuses on the reflective tapes and sheeting used for various applications within work zones or temporary traffic control zones.
A “Work Zone” is defined as an area of a traffic-way where construction, maintenance, or utility work activities are identified by warning signs, signals, indicators, and transport devices that mark the beginning and end of the work zone. A work zone extends from the first warning sign, signal, or flashing lights to the END ROAD WORK sign or the last traffic control device applicable to that work activity. Work zones can also include roadway sections where there is ongoing, moving, work activity such as lane line painting.
The latest MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) outlines the requirements for marking work zones. The guidelines are detailed and provide specific instructions and diagrams as to how to set up a compliant work zone area. The goal of the new guidelines is to minimize traffic accidents and fatalities in and around work zone areas. Components of a work zone include the following:
Signs to designate the beginning and end of the work zone.
Orange and White Road Barrels.
Flashing Arrow or Message Signs
Tubular Markers and Delineators (Channelizing Devices)
Temporary Lane Separators
Arrow signs to designate lane shifting.
Temporary Traffic Control Signals
Type I, II and III Barricades
Temporary Pavement Markers
Temporary Pavement Marking Tape
Traffic Control Barriers (movable barriers)
Screens (to block visibility into the work zone)
Floodlights and Warning Lights
Temporary Raised Islands
Detectable Edging for Pedestrians
In addition to the devices above, work zones or traffic control zones also contain workers and work vehicles.
We carry several types of reflective tape that can be used to mark traffic control devices as well as work vehicles. These are
Flexible High Intensity Barrel Tape
Reflective Traffic Cone Collars
Pre-Striped Slanted Reflective Tape
DOT Truck Tape
Temporary Pavement Marking Tape.
Raised Pavement Markers
Flexible High Intensity Tape for Barrels and Delineators (4″& 6″)- flexible high intensity tape is a specially made product that is able to withstand an impact and bounce back to its original shape. (ASTM D4956 Type III) This makes it ideal for applications like road barrels or delineators. This material is available for barrels in 4″ and 6″ widths and in white, yellow or orange. Keeping fresh tape on the barrels will insure that they remain compliant with regulations. The MUTCD manual as well as your State DOT can give you more insight as to how to mark your particular barrels properly. Because this material is very bright and very conformable it is great for a variety of other applications where intensity and flexibility are crucial.
Reflective Traffic Cone Collars are cut from the same material that we mentioned above (flexible high intensity – D4956 Type 3). Traffic Cones undergo even more punishment than barrels in work zones which is why a reboundable tape needs to be used. Traffic cone collars are cut with a curve in them so that when you wrap them around a cone they come out straight. To apply the collars you simply position the strip on the cone with the backing on it, tape one end with masking tape to create a hinge, begin peeling the backing off starting at the hinge and wrap the collar around the cone. The hinge insures a straight application.
Pre-Striped Reflective Barricade Tape (engineer and high intensity grades) – reflective barricade tape is used to call attention to a work zone area and to designate which way traffic should go to get around the area. Orange and White striped tape is used for work zones while red and white designates dead end roads are areas where roads or bridges are washed out. Engineer grade is sufficient for certain areas whereas high intensity is required for others. Your inspector can let you know which intensity tape you need to use. A tape that slants downward to the right directs traffic to the right. A tape that slants downward to the left directs traffic to the left. For certain barricades you would use a one slant on one side and the opposite on the other. A type one barricade like you see used over manholes is an example of this.
Reflective Tape for Work Trucks – trucks that work within work zones need to be clearly marked so that they can be seen day and night. Red and White DOT reflective tape is required on tractor trailer type trucks. This regulation is applicable to all tractor trailers or semi trucks whether they are used in work zones or just on the road.
Many of the trucks and equipment used in work zones do not fall under the federal regulation requiring DOT tape. However, due to the fact that they either move slow or are stopped around fast moving traffic, it is often more important to have them marked clearly so that they can be clearly seen day and night. A common pattern for fire apparatus is the chevron pattern pictured above. This pattern consists of alternating yellow and red striping that slants outward and downward at 45 degree angles. Since work zone vehicles do not fall under the same regulations that fire apparatus do they are often able to use different color combinations. The most popular material is our Reflexite V98 tape. It is prismatic and very bright and is also conformable which makes it a perfect choice for work vehicles.
Temporary pavement marking tape is also used extensively in work zones to mark temporary traffic lanes. Lanes are required to be marked at all times so when a lane is temporarily diverted a new lane must be created. When work is complete, permanent lines can be put down. We carry a foil based tape that is designed to create temporary lines on pavement. It is easy to install and simple to remove. To install the tape you lay it on a clean, dry surface and press it in with a rubber tire to conform it to the surface. To remove the tape you can peel by hand or heat the tape with a torch. (the heat vaporizes the adhesive and removes the tape) The tape most often used for temporary stripes is our Wet Reflective or Premium Grade. It is much more reflective and continues to reflect well even in wet conditions.
Raised Pavement Markers are reflective markers that are used on road ways to mark lanes and notify drivers when they drift over a line. At night, car headlights cause them to light up. When lanes are temporarily moved, new markers should be put down. For work zones the marker color will most likely be white or yellow and in some cases white/red or yellow/red. A butyl pad can be used for temporary applications.
Reflective Striping Tape for Utility or Work Vehicles / Trucks – Online Store
Work vehicles or Utility Trucks are vehicles that make frequent stops as they service or create infrastructure. An example would be a power company truck, AT&T van, snow removal trucks, cable company trucks, etc… These vehicles are often stopped on the side of the road and if not seen can create a significant hazard. In Europe, standards have been significantly increased in recent years and that trend is slowly making its way to the United States. Some states such as Pennsylvania are already implementing requirements for state owned utility vehicles. The truck pictured above is an example of a Pennsylvania snow removal vehicles with chevron striping applied to the back.
For the vast majority of the country, utility truck marking is voluntary. Because of this, there are several ways to mark the vehicles. A common way is to use the same chevron pattern used by fire departments. (NFPA 1901) That method is pictured on the truck above and via the panels to the left. This method is very effective with the only downside being that utility trucks marked like fire apparatus can be easily mistaken for the latter. Some organizations have simply altered the color combination to differentiate their vehicles. For example, many ambulances will use a blue and fluorescent lime for chevrons. Also, AT&T uses fluorescent orange and lime for their vehicles. By doing this the vehicles are easily differentiated from fire trucks and can be easily identified as a particular type of utility vehicle.
The panels above and below could also be created using individual rolls cut on site or via custom cut reflective shapes.
It is not always necessary to use the chevron pattern. Utility companies such as AT&T are beginning to mark their trucks with a basic alternating pattern of fluorescent orange and lime reflective st. Studies in Canada and Europe have shown this combination to be very effective in improving visibility day and night. Reflexite V98 conformable prismatic tape works very well for this application. It is available in several widths. Color choices are white, blue, red and fluorescent lime. Fluorescent Orange is being added very soon.
Our three most popular colors for work zone conspicuity treatments are fluorescent orange, fluorescent lime and red. They are pictured below.
The panel pictured above and below is very popular and can be done in different colors. We can do 4″ and 6″ widths and any length. Colors combinations are white with red, white with orange, fluorescent lime with red and fluorescent lime with orange.
The panel on the left is one of our 6 foot long by 16 inch tall reflective chevron panels. (It is shown vertical) These are self adhesive panels created using Reflexite V98 material. The material is prismatic and exceeds all requirements for reflective tape on work trucks as well as fire apparatus. We carry a variety of chevron panels in different sizes at www.chevronpanels.com. This includes the orange and fluorescent lime panels pictured above.
It is very important that fire hydrants be clearly visible day and night. Reflective tape is widely used to accomplish this purpose. The most common way to accomplish day and night visibility is to paint the fire hydrant a bright color like yellow or red and then use a band of reflective tape for night time visibility. For close up reflectivity a standard reflective tape is fine. For applications where the tape needs to be seen at a distance (500 feet or more) a brighter tape will need to be used. A one inch or two inch reflective strip is normally all that is necessary.
The picture below shows a high intensity yellow on a red hydrant. Yellow is the second brightest color after white.
Fire hydrants often lack a smooth area to apply tape to. It is for this reason that we recommend three types of “Flexible” reflective tape that are able to mold to uneven surfaces. These films will actually stretch a little which is what allows them to perform well on uneven surfaces.
The second is our flexible high intensity tape. It is a type 3 tape and is about 3 times brighter than engineer grade. It can be purchased at www.colebrothers.com
The third is our conformable prismatic tape or V98 by Reflexite. It is about 2 times as bright as high intensity. This product can be purchased at www.colebrothers.com in Fluorescent Lime Yellow, Red, White, and Blue.
The picture above shows red reflective tape. The picture below shows blue.
1/2″ (One Half Inch) wide reflective tape is available in a flexible engineer grade which is an ASTM D4956 Type 1 material. This is the only type of reflective material that is available the 1/2″ width. Our other tapes are all 1″ and over. This tape is used to mark fire trucks and emergency vehicles, signs, safety helmets, tools, bollards, motorcycles, boats, cars, trucks and bicycles and more. The picture below shows the different colors that are available.
The narrow rolls are affordable and will work in applications that are too tight for wider tapes. Also, because of the narrow width the 1/2″ reflective tapes are able to bend to form curves when necessary.
White reflective tape is the most common of all retro reflective tapes and is available in all of the different intensities. This material is available in 1″, 2″, 3″, 4″, 6″, 8″, 12″ and 24″ widths. White is the brightest of all the colors which is the main reason for it’s popularity. The brighter the tape the farther away it can be seen. It reflects a white color similar to a cars headlights. In daylight when the tapes are not reflecting they tend to have either a pearl white or silver appearance. The white solas, for example, is the brightest of all the reflective tapes and is a greyish color in the daylight. This is due to the glass beads or prisms in the tapes. They act as little mirrors and although they reflect a bright white, they tend to look off white or silvery in standard daylight conditions.
As you can see from the image above, there are a variety of choices for white (silver) reflective tape.
On the left is our SOLAS tape. It is the brightest and is rated at around 1000 candelas.
Next is the V82 or Type 5 Reflexite Tape which is rated at 700 plus candelas.
The Reflexite V92 tapes are designed for vehicle graphics and are rated at 460 plus candelas.
Our V98 white looks almost exactly like the V92 but is conformable and repositionable. We have another picture of the V98 White below.
High Intensity Nikkalite tapes reflect using high index encapsulated glass beads and reflect at 250 candelas.
The Engineer Grade Type 1 rolls of white (far right) reflect at 75 candelas.
(Please not that we now have a Type 4 High Intensity Prismatic. There is a picture of this product at the bottom of this page)
The picture above is of our white high intensity prismatic type 4 film. It has the honeycomb pattern like the type 3. It is similar to our high intensity type 3 but uses prisms instead of glass beads for reflectivity. It reflects at about 500 candelas. It is a vivid film and has a glossy finish.
The SOLAS, V82, V92 and High Intensity are flexible but not stretchable. The V98, Flexible High Intensity and the Engineer Grade that we carry are flexible and stretchable meaning they will conform a little on complex curves or over rivets and weld marks. In some situations the type of that that does not stretch is best and in others the stretchable tape is best. The image below shows our flexible high intensity and our flexible engineer grade tapes. The flexible high intensity is available in white, orange and yellow. It looks like our standard high intensity but is not the same tape. The standard does not stretch and the flexible does. (Note – heating with a hair dryer during installation increases the stretchability of the tapes. Also, the optimum temperature for applying the flexible engineer grade tape is from 59 – 77 degrees. At temperatures above this the tape becomes very stretchy. After installation the tape can handle temperatures from -22 to +176 degrees Fahrenheit.)
The image above is a test that we did comparing 4 classes of white reflective tape. The tape on the far left is engineer grade, then high intensity then type 5 V82 and finally on the far right SOLAS. The main thing to notice is that at greater distances the glass bead (type 1 & 3) tapes fade out. Close up they are fine. At longer distances the type 5 and SOLAS continue to be visible. The same can be said of the the V92. As a general rule you can use the Type 1 and 3 tapes for applications where the tape needs to be clearly seen within a 300 foot distance. For applications where the tape needs to be seen at distances beyond that then the prismatics are a great choice.
The image below shows all of our white/silver tapes including our newest High Intensity Prismatic Type 4.
Here are the sites that you can go to if you wish to purchase one of our white retro reflective tapes.