Imagine a world where certain images, seen every day, controlled your decisions and your actions. Their sole purpose of being seen and unseen being paramount to your life, work and future… |
It sounds like something from a science fiction novel, but for every single road-going individual it is an everyday occurrence. We are, of course, not discussing some nefarious form of mind control from Big Brother, but simple road signs. At their best, they are clear, simple, and require no more than a glance, to help you make, sometimes critical, decisions.
The Roadside Gallery
It cannot be denied that, especially during long-haul jobs, truck drivers have a fair bit of time to think on their hands. Consequently, here is a fascinating story that could entertain you for hours! Have you ever considered the origins of all of those thousands upon thousands road signs that you pass every single day? They are something we take for granted and yet without them our jobs would certainly be a lot harder and take a lot longer.
A Fascinating History
We owe our directional dependence to a design duo who spearheaded the overhaul of transportation sign design back in the 1960s. As Britain’s infrastructure began to grow, the mish-mash of road signs of varying colours and designs became not only ineffective but also somewhat dangerous. Most people, including truck drivers, usually remained within close proximity to their home towns, reducing the need for instruction on how to go further afield. However, in response to a major push from the government to build newer, high-speed motorways and networks of roadways, the Worboys Report was published, outlining recommended changes for every single road sign in the country.
Thus, in came the dynamic design duo, Kinneir and Calvert!
Art to Be Seen and Not Seen
Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert were set with the challenge of creating a standard design for all transportation notifications across the land. This was not a simple task as it led to questions such as: lowercase or uppercase letters, font style, colour, shape, graphic pictograms, visibility, and size?
However, very few styles and designs have endured across the ages in the same way Kinneir and Calvert’s have done. Truck drivers, cab drivers, everyday drivers, cyclists and even pedestrians, now all rely on these standardised signs for direction, warnings and information. Children, from an early age, learn to recognise the bold red outline of a white background with a black central image, and then we are even tested on it during our very first driving tests. Not only do we rely on knowing the symbols and their meanings, we also rely on everyone else around us to know them.
Appreciated Mind Control
So the next time you find yourself impossibly lost and then give a sigh of relief as an approaching road sign explains your whereabouts, or you are sitting in back-to-back traffic on the M-1, give a thought to the road signs that you see along your journey. Some still even give us a chuckle, like those impossible cross-over tyre-marks depicting a skidding car, or the ‘man at work’ trying to unfurl his umbrella!
For truck drivers they can become almost a second language. Without them we’d be lost!
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Haulage Exchange provides services for matching truck drivers with available haulage jobs. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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