Their job is vital to traffic safety. They are traffic signal technicians who repair safety equipment at intersections—and TEEX has trained more than 1,000 of them.
TEEX has the only hands-on traffic control systems troubleshooting class in the state, and possibly the nation, says Les Phelps with the Electronics Training Program of the Technology and Economic Development Division. The training is offered to Texas cities and counties at no charge through funding from the Texas Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There were no traffic signal technician training schools in Texas before TEEX began the training program 14 years ago, Phelps says. Signal technicians generally had little, if any, formal electronics training and were taught their trade through on-the-job training. There were no common practices or best practices used by each transportation district or community. TEEX established the program at the request of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which is responsible for signals on all major interstate roads as well as the signals in cities of less than 50,000 population.
But the TEEX training is not limited to TxDOT employees. “It’s important to get the training out to the larger cities,” Phelps says. “Houston, for example, has about 40 traffic signal technicians who repair and maintain 2,500 traffic signals as well as flashing lights and school zone signal lights.”
One way TEEX has been able to take the training on the road is by adding wheels to eight traffic signal controller cabinets and loading them on a truck, he adds. The class is offered across the state to traffic signal technicians in cities such as Houston, Corpus Christi, Abilene, Austin and Dallas-Forth Worth, as well as at the permanent classroom in San Antonio on South Presa Street. The class has also attracted students from surrounding states and from as far away as Alaska and the Grand Cayman Islands.
Since its inception, the signal training has helped technicians develop common troubleshooting methods, adopt best troubleshooting and maintenance practices, learn electrical safety, and increase the safety for the general public by being better informed about traffic signal preventative maintenance and rapid repair of defective signals.
In addition to the class in Traffic Control Systems Troubleshooting and Maintenance, Phelps and Chuck Mitchell offer classes in Basic Electronics, Microprocessors and Digital Electronics for Traffic. Participants receive CEU credit and the classes also prepare them for certification through the International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA).
“The traffic systems used today have pluggable components, but the technicians have to work on the signal while it is energized, so we emphasize safety,” Phelps says. “The technology has changed a lot over the years, and we have to keep the students abreast of the new equipment and techniques.”
Phelps and Mitchell recently developed a new TEEX course, which covers the design, installation and maintenance of detector systems, such as video cameras, radar and infrared sensors. The class is designed for traffic engineers and will be offered for the first time at the meeting of the Texas Institute of Transportation Engineers in June.