Negotiating the right rules for traffic signage

It was 15 years ago that the European Commission agreed to do something to remove trade barriers in Europe. But while European Directives did emerge, they were effectively unenforceable guidelines. Then the New Approach Directives were introduced. The purpose of these Directives was to provide a framework for approving and CE marking products. CE marked products would then be accepted by all the member states in the European Economic Area without the need for further testing or certification.

One of these directives was the Construction Products Directive (CPD), which covers materials and products for use in the construction industry. The CPD works in a slightly different way to other directives as it always uses European Standards or ENs to implement the CE marking process. A product cannot be CE marked against the CPD unless a European Standard or an ETA (European Technical Approval) document has been harmonised to the directive.

Over 10 years ago work was started on a European Standard for Fixed Vertical Road Traffic Signs called EN12899-1. This standard was published in May 2000 and is in the process of being harmonised to the CPD.

When this process is completed it will be necessary for all manufacturers of traffic signs, traffic sign posts and retroreflective material for use on road traffic signs to conform to the essential requirements of the construction products directive for the attestation level set for this product.

As the attestation level for fixed vertical road traffic signs has been set at level 1 the process for conformity is quite extensive.

What that means in real terms is that road sign manufacturers must have their products assessed by a third party to the performance requirements of the standard EN12899-1.

They must also implement a Factory Production Control system in accordance with EN12899-4

A notified body such as BSI, SGS or LRQA appointed by the Department for Trade and Industry to implement CE marking will assess this Factory Production Control system on an ongoing basis.

What does this mean for sign manufacturers?

LASMA (the Local Authority Sign Manufacturers Association) has been in discussion with the various notified bodies over the past year to try and resolve what could and will prove to be an expensive addition in costs at the same time as local authorities are being asked to reduce costs.

As part of the discussions with the notified bodies one of the main issues raised was defining the terminology of ‘placing the sign on the market’.

The definitions of ‘placing on the market’ and ‘making available on the market’ in Article 1 of the Construction Product Regulations (CPR) derive from horizontal EU legislation (including Regulation 765/2008) which relates to the marketing of products more generally, and the issue of what these definitions cover.

There is an argument that where there is a tendering process, then the product could be classed as being placed on the market, but that the case is less strong if there is no tendering process. Ultimately it is for the LAs to take their own advice and study the Regulation for themselves: the responsibility to CE mark rests with the manufacturer (or in some cases the importer or distributor) of a product, and thus it will be for the local authorities (if they are the ones manufacturing these products) to make the decision on whether or not they need to  CE mark.

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