[AMA] I am a Traffic Controller (vehicles/roads etc) - Ask me anything

I've done traffic control for over 4 years now.

Pretty confident within the job, seen a lot of different sites/scopes of work etc.

Not the most experienced person out there, but have my own opinions and observations. If there's anyone else out there who is also experienced and would also like to chime in, please do.

Fire away …

PSA: I have NEVER met another traffic controller who earns over $100,000pa. Not even close…

closed Comments

  • +13

    Are you worried about being replaced by these new inventions called traffic lights? I feel they will devastate the industry.

    • Traffic lights can't see and make decisions. If you mean the portable ones - no. They are still usually operated manually on high speed roads during active roadworks. The purpose of them is to remove live human beings from the line of fire. I believe a direct hit at 60km is about 80% fatal. (I'll check the numbers and update if I'm wrong).

      • -10

        Pretty sure something is either 100% fatal or 0% fatal.

        What kind of maths qualifications do you need to be a lollypop operator?

        • +14

          Don't be silly. You know what I mean…

      • +1


        Traffic controllers get hit quite often, usually fatally. It just never makes big headlines. Do a search and you'd be surprised. Yet it is not classed as a high risk occupation.

  • What is your opinion on the intelligence level of the average Brisbane driver?

    • +2

      I have no words… But honestly, most are great, it's just that roadworks can be confusing.

  • What are your future carreer path in that role. Is it just to be a head supervisor. Whar are we talking about to become a TC. A night out at a night course and an open. book test. Have you chatted up your hot work colleague and received a positive response.

    • +5

      For me, it's never been a career path of any kind. I love nightshift and there's plenty available because no one ever wants to do it. I get left to work by myself most nights (never alone, but not micromanaged). We have hot work colleagues? We all look like giant glow sticks ..

  • +1

    How many times have you been abused/physically accosted.

    We had traffic controllers walk off jobs in some of the dodgier areas after having beer bottle thrown at them and meth heads accosting them.

    • +2

      Plenty of stories. One noticeable one was when we had Police with us because a local nutter had been threatening to shoot us. Things being thrown is not uncommon - I've never had it personally happen to me, but I've been on site while someone has been hit. Another noticeable one was when a guy was screaming down his radio that he was going to run me over as soon as things got moving. The Police were sent down. He went dead silent when he saw they were looking for a UHF aerial on passing vehicles. The amount of people who scream abuse and rev their cars is crazy. What they forget though, is that we all have radios and the entire site know exactly what's happening.

  • +1

    Have you ever hit a car with the bat?

    • +3

      Has a car ever hit my bat? Yes! Speeding too. Fighting with her boyfriend. Flying straight into a changed intersection where we had traffic filtering through by Police direction from a highway where normally they would have to stop. I'm talking large trucks and lots of them. She said she never even saw me. I managed to back off enough as I could see she wasn't going to stop, but while watching her I knew there was a gutter behind me that I didn't want to trip over. She stopped maybe 10-15metres up the road.

    • +10

      lot of people dont want office jobs or jobs with high pressure that you cant leave your work at work…
      I used to drive trucks with a bloke who used to be a senior person at ANSTO.. none of us could understand why he changed and took a 50% pay cut until he explained it.

    • +16

      I am otherwise skilled. Last year I earned almost 3 times what I earn now. But there's money and there's happiness. I like what I do.

      • +2

        That comment should be deleted into oblivion.
        I have a specialised trade and many crossover skills and it's amazing how many people turn the nose up and look down at me and the hi viz, thinking I'm some dumb ass.
        I work in a job now that I love and I just roll my eyes at poeple like that

        • +1

          It's an industry affliction. Especially if you're female. Chauvinism is alive and well - you can even see it in some of the comments on this post (please, if you have daughters, nieces, wives, consider how you'd feeling some random treated them the same way). It's amazing how many people work traffic that are highly skilled and exceptionally intelligent.

  • +2

    Why is it after you do a few grand in training courses you need 2-5yrs experience to get a start? its not rocket science…

    • Is this true? I heard that many traffic controllers r backpackers as mentioned below.

    • Only around $400 and you can get an immediate start almost anywhere. But there are some dodgy practices and power trippers out there. Some people don't last long…

      • Am interested. Pls advise how to get qualified as a traffic controller? Do I just complete the course at TAFE and rock up to see the worksite boss? Presumably I also need an ABN.

        • +1

          Just search Google for Traffic Control training in your local area. It is a course in a classroom, followed by 20hrs unpaid work on a job site.

  • 4 years; I guess you have you not worked with The Wiz then?

    • +1

      Wondered where my last bat went…

  • What channel and frequency is your radio. Asking for a friend

    • +4

      Every site is different, some have signs indicating the channel, some don’t.

      If your looking for people to annoy, jump on channel 40 and have a delightful chat with some truck drivers and ask questions like:
      Have you got a copy in the white truck? And watch chaos unfold.

    • Hahaha! It changes all the time. Depends on the site.

    • Irrelevant. They either use trunked radios or have CTCSS setup to cut out the idiots anyway. So, you would need to know the channel and then the CTCSS tone for them to actually hear you.

  • How many hours is a shift on a single day, also is there any breaks? I’ve seen traffic controllers at Covid testing sites standing all day in the heat getting sun fatigue and I don’t see them sitting, always standing.

    • +1

      The legal requirement (at least in QLD under TCASAP) that TC's have a 15 min break every 2 hours (or at least 15 minutes doing duties other than traffic control). I'd be interested to know though if that is enforced in practice as often means you need 3 traffic controllers rather than 2 to cover the shifts.

      • +3

        Hallelujah! Someone that understands a 15 minute break is "actually" a break from duties, not a sit-down sandwich. Contractors are notorious for trying to pay as little as possible for staff. Short staffing is extremely common. A 12hr shift with no break is not unheard of. A shift can be anywhere (in my experience) from 4 - 14 hours. It's good practice to stand (in my opinion).

  • +1

    Are you a hot Irish backpacker?

    Is there an Irish mafia that controls access to all the traffic controller jobs?

    • +2

      Not hot, not Irish. Sorry, not sorry.

  • +2

    Tell me - are there traffic controller parties?

    There are some really hot traffic controllerettes.

    • Ah… You're one of those guys that gets stared at by the rest of crew for heckling the young ladies… (Traffic, asphalt, labours etc ALL have a radio and we talk about you….)

  • How long are pedestrians meant to wait before you let them cross the road…it seems like too long on most days?

    • +1

      Pedestrians wait?… The amount of people I've sprinted after to stop them crossing a freshly spray sealed road is ridiculous… But seriously, we need to know that you won't be getting cleaned up by any machinery or traffic that is moving on site. That's usually the reason for the holdup.

  • +7

    Is your sign stuck on 'stop' and that's why you haven't started to answer anyone's questions?

    • +4

      Sorry, was on break.

  • Hiring?

  • I'm not. But they always are…

    • Do you follow traffic control plans to the tee? if not why not and whats the paper trail in your defence?

      • +3

        We are supposed to. I'm not interested in running the show, so I never have. I just put them where I'm told to for the most part (unless I disagree for safety reasons, in which case there's a discussion). I believe you can rearrange things on the TMP to some degree, but not add or remove anything. Also have to be higher up the food chain than I am to do this. There should be a paper trail. I know one company I worked for did sign audits (check they're up, check they haven't been moved etc) every 2 hours. Also with photos that show exact GPS location/placement. It hits the fan in a huge way if anything goes wrong. Plenty of paperwork to keep themselves covered.

  • +1

    When you caused an accident, whose fault it is, or are they suppose to post on OzB to ask first?

    • We don't cause accidents. Please explain…

  • Who determines the location of the speed changes?

    • +2

      Someone higher up the food chain. There are a set of rules and measurements that must be followed, determined by "experts" and some commonsense. IE: putting a 40 speed sign directly after a 100 speed sign is stupid and unsafe. I believe the speed must be posted at 20kph intervals lower than the previous sign. 100-80-60-40. General rule of thumb, if there's a 40, there are humans working somewhere. Also remember, the signs don't put themselves out. If you see signs and no workers, it's possibly because we're still putting them out and can't be in two places at once. A highway takes 3 circuits to set up - slow and fast lanes, then final circuit will be cones. Can easily take over an hour just to get set-up.

      • +2

        Pretty much on the money with speed changes, actual maximum drop is 30km/h, so 90km/h can drop to 60km/h and 70 to km/h, but most roads are even so 20km/h jumps are much more common.

        Work zone speeds are typically 60km/h where you can have a minimum 1.2m separation between workers and the nearest traffic lane, otherwise should be lowered to 40km/h. 80km/h needs at least 3m, or a road safety barrier system.

        60 Ahead can also be used as a buffer speed zone, so you can go from 100-60 Ahead-60, rather than use 80km/h as the buffer speed, though the spacing of signs doesn't change too much.

        Queensland at least functionally has three levels involved with traffic control, traffic management designers (TMD) who design traffic guidance schemes (TGS), traffic management implementers (TMI) who place the signs out on site in accordance with the TGS, and traffic controllers who are the only ones actually able to directly control traffic on the road. TC's can also have TMI to allow them to also assist in the set-out process, or they can have Working in Proximity to Traffic Awareness Part 1 (or 2) quals which allows them to implement under supervision of a TMI or implement low-impact short-term works.

  • The news seems to be full of Instagram hotties flipping signs for $3,000+ per week.

    A: are there really that many Instagram hotties flipping signs and
    B: are they really on $3k+/week?

    Also, I did a stint for a few months on a school crossing. Not as exciting as working on different sites or in busy areas, but jeezus, there are some arsehole drivers out there. Even in my short stint, 2 hours a day was more than enough for me. 4 years, you would have seen so much more.

    • +2

      The money is usually pretty crappy. A decent innings for a week would bring in maybe $800 after tax in a city environment doing 8hr days. But that's as a casual. If it rains, no work/no pay. If you annoy someone in the office or someone you work with, same. Most companies over employ, then struggle to give decent hours when things go quiet. Then there's the final kicker of 1hr notice. That's all they have to give you to put you off for a shift. This means that if you work over an hour away, which is common in large cities, you will already be up, dressed and in the vehicle on your way to work before you get a text telling you it's been cancelled.

  • Are you the guy that waves the ping pong bats or have I got my traffic controllers mixed up?

    • No pingpong bats in Australia. Must be thinking of America.

  • what do you think of the interaction between engineers and rest of the hands on work crew (controllers, asphalt, labourer, foreman etc.) ?
    Do you talk to engineers often?
    Are there ego issues?

  • +1

    In my experience, they're absolutely awesome to work with. Everyone usually gets on really well, no matter what they do.

  • Why do you guys leave the sines out over the weekend when there is nobody working?

    • +2

      Signs are usually left up if road conditions have changed (no white lines, change in asphalt surface, bollards placed on edge of road due to works beside the road) etc you will be surprised how many people can't think for themselves and look ahead.

      If a accident occurred over the weekend on that section your stuffed. There even legal requirements in some areas to have the signs inspected every 2 hours. As some people like to tamper with signs and some truck drivers like to drive real close to the signs to blow them over.

      Having said that if there are no traffic controllers on site that part of the sign must be replaced even if there are no traffic controllers on site for 5 minutes.

      • Down in Melbourne signs are left up all the time especially weekends,40k no workers around. Thanks for your reply.

  • +1

    I've never met any one on $100,000 most are on $25 to $35 a hour it's not a job I would do as my main role.

    I've had people come into the worksite at 100 klms an hour go past thestop bat. People new to motorhomes and not understanding their width and cleaning up the signs, people on phones, doing make-up or balancing a bowl of cereal in their lap.

    Some people think it's a easy job on a quiet road yes but you can still have all the correct signs up and people don't see them or think they are advisory only.

    Police etc must also stop for a traffic controller if their lights are not going. As a traffic controller you must do everything to get emergency services as quickly and safely as possible through the worksite.

  • +1

    What do you do if you desperately need to use the toilet?
    Ever had any close calls or heard any stories where there is no easy access to toilet?

    • +2

      Not just stories - but almost a daily occurrence. You're never usually near to easily accessible toilets. If there are enough people, sometimes there'll be a portaloo provided. Most guys will just use the bushes. In the city, you cross your fingers and hope you find a loo in time. In the country, you "pop a squat". There are also things called SheWees that the ladies can use (Google it). On that note, there is NEVER a smoko room. So if you see a TC sitting maybe eating or smoking or talking, they're not slacking off, they're probably on break.

      • What about number 2?

        • Personal opinion - I assume others are the same - I make sure I go BEFORE I start work. The amount of servos that won't share the loo key because of filthy drunks is amazing.

  • +1

    Have you ever taken the rego of a car that flagrantly and dangerously disobeyed your directive or a reduced speed sign and then passed it on to the coppers? If so, are you aware of any action being taken against the driver? Or does your word carry no legal weight?

    • Regos are always being forwarded on. We never hear about the outcome. I know some of the portable lights now have front and rear cameras. I know our work utes also used to have front and rear cameras. The bump trucks have front and rear cameras. Some TC's also wear body cams. I believe there'd be plenty of evidence if requested. I know the bump truck footage is used during inquests if there's a fatality. I assume any other footage would also be used.

  • -3

    So what are you? A traffic light? Paint white lines? Spin a lollypop? Have you embellished your job title to make it sound more professional than it really is?

  • Hey OP! Can I ask why you personally prefer night shift? How much better is the pay overnight compared with day work?

    • +1

      The pay on a nightshift is usually better no matter what job you do. For me that's a bonus, as I'd prefer to do it anyway. Nightshift is less "busy". Less interruptions. As far as traffic control goes, I also find it easier, possibly because you can see the headlights well before you can hear the vehicle. Unless it's stolen, because they tend to drive without headlights. But that's a whole other story.

  • +5

    Well done for offering the AMA, some of the pathetic comments to your post are hilariously unfunny…
    Don't let a few people who think they're better than you, affect your positive attitude.
    Well done mate.

    • +2

      Meatheads are meatheads. We laugh at them too. Life's too short, I have better things to do.

  • +2

    Thanks OP! I was intrigued by your Sheewee comment. I’d never heard of this before but I promptly bought one. Thanks for the tip and the very interesting AMA. All the best.

    • Thank you! I know the SW has helped a few of us girls out. In this industry and in others. Side note: I learned about them from a friend who used to ice climb in Canada. She said the last thing you need on the side of an icy mountain is to have to bare your cheeks. 😂

  • Have you ever got angry at a driver and purposely tried to hit their car with your lollipop?

    We had the best lollipop man at our primary school in inner city Melbourne during the 1980s. He was an older Maltese guy who would try his best to chase and smash cars with his lollipop sign if they drove through when he was preparing to signal or already signalling. I saw him do it about three times and it was great.

  • Oh, hell no!… Not interested in paying damages for someone else's stupidity. We stop people for a reason. If they want to risk damaging their car, then that's their problem. We call on the UHF to say there's a "runner" which lets everyone know to get out of the way and to stop any traffic (work gear or public vehicles) that may be moving within the site, until they are out of the way.

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