Some in the road industry are confident that the pavement-marking shortage will last just a few weeks, while others are saying it could go well into the fall.
Regardless of the duration, state departments of transportation have some critical decisions to make right now.
Global shortages of several key raw materials used to produce the paint, thermoplastic and epoxy, along with production facility shutdowns, including a Dow Chemical plant in Texas, have increased the demand for the reflective material.
“The way the contracts are written, [DOTs] would not have any choice but to penalize them if the projects were not finished because the lack of lane striping,” Brian Turmail, executive director of public affairs for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), told Roads & Bridges.
Turmail said the AGC has written a letter to the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials asking for leniency. Most have enough paint to last the next four to six weeks, but beyond that supplies look to be extremely limited.
“We are hopeful that the states will appreciate the unique causes of the paint shortage and not penalize contractors who are otherwise performing on schedule,” said Turmail.
The Texas DOT is already making necessary adjustments, announcing that the state will forego all restriping jobs so there will be enough paint for new construction projects. Ohio has warned of pending delays, and Turmail believed others would follow in the coming days.
As for those projects on the verge of completion, Turmail said a number of different steps can be taken, including:
• Using temporary tape;
• Applying a thinner coat of tape;
• Painting more essential inside lines while forgoing the outside lines; and
• Installing signage.
However, contractors already locked into projects will have to absorb the price increase at a time when the industry is trying to pull out of The Great Recession.
“They are going to get squeezed for the higher cost,” said Turmail. “This isn’t the first time they are getting squeezed for a higher cost. It is just like what happened with steel prices two years ago, or diesel prices. You pick the commodity. It certainly is an unfortunate time.”