Performance Differences – Glass Bead Versus Prismatic Reflective Tape

Glass Bead Reflective Versus Prismatic Reflective – (Online Store –

Reflective tape reflects in one of two ways. Either through the use of microscopic glass beads or via man made prisms. Glass bead technology is the oldest and prismatic tapes are more recent.

Note – prismatic reflective tapes were invented by Reflexite Americas in the 60’s.

Glass bead tapes reflect light back less efficiently than prismatics. However, glass bead tape is much less expensive. For applications within a 300 foot range they are fine and sometimes preferable.

Prismatic tape has a tighter more efficient return of light. A brighter, tighter beam extends much further giving prismatic tapes an operating range beyond the thousand foot mark. For marine, highway or traffic applications where long distance conspicuity is important, prismatic is the way to go.

The diagram below shows the dispersant characteristics of each type of tape. Glass bead tape reflects light back sort of like a flood lamp. Up close this is fine. Prismatic tapes shine like a spot light. prism_glass1This is better when the viewer is far away.

What is the difference in brightness? Lets compare the color white/silver. White Glass bead tape reflects at about 75 candelas for the standard engineer grade type 1 tape (like your car tag) and 250 candelas for the high intensity type 3 tape. Prismatic tapes start at around 460 candelas and go up to 1000 candelas for SOLAS tape. As you can see there is a big difference in the two tapes. Each has its function and neither will ever become obsolete.

Metallized Micro Prismatic versus Non Metallized Micro Prismatic Reflective Sheeting – Definition

Metallized versus Non Metallized Micro Prismatic Reflective Tapes

These two types of construction refer to prismatic retro reflective tapes. A prismatic tape uses man made prisms or mirror to reflect light back to the source. (This is different from glass bead tape which uses glass spheres to reflect light.)

Metallized Prismatic Reflective Sheeting

This type of film is created by first creating an array of micro prisms then coating the top of these prisms with clear or colored polymer and metallizing the back of the prisms with a mirror type finish. This process completely protects the prisms so that the tape can be cut in any place without compromising the integrity of the prisms. You can cut letters, shapes, numbers, etc… without having to worry about the prisms becoming contaminated with the elements. This tape often has a pattern on the front which is normally used to make the tape more visible or vivid in the daytime. It is also much thinner than Non Metallized prismatic tapes and because of this can be wrapped around smaller diameter curves. (snow poles, bollards, etc..)

Non Metallized Prismatic Reflective Sheeting

This type of film is often referred to as an air backed prismatic. Non metallized films are made by first creating a prismatic array. This can be clear or colored.  This layer is then laminated onto another layer that provides a white background for the top prismatic layer.  These films are normally more vivid than metallized films since they use a white background versus a metallized mirror background. The downside is that the two laters can delaminate.  It is also thicker and less flexible. This this type of film is great for signs and other static applications but for vehicle graphics a metallized film is a must.

metallized micro prismatic reflective

Enclosed Lens versus Encapsulated Lens Reflective Tape / Sheeting – Definition

Enclosed Lens versus Encapsulated Lens – Retro Reflective Sheeting  (enclosed=engineer grade / encapsulated=high intensity)

Reflective Sheeting comes in several types, colors, brightnesses, etc.. Some of the terminology that describes the different types of reflective sheeting can be confusing. This article is going to define the terms enclosed lens and encapsulated lens reflective sheeting. These terms have to do with the construction of the reflective film. These 2 methods of construction also define the look and feel of the tape. In other words you can look at a reflective tape sample and tell which type of construction was used. (In a separate article I will be discussing metallized and non metallized prismatic sheeting.)

Enclosed Lens Retro Reflective Sheeting

This method of construction applies only to glass bead type reflective films. Enclosed lens is also known as engineer grade (type 1) or super engineer grade (type 2) reflective sheeting. The glass beads provide the reflectivity by bouncing light back to the source. Each glass bead is like a lens. In an enclosed lens film the glass beads are completely surrounded by the flexible polymer that makes up the film. Nothing is able to get to the beads except light. The polymer that surrounds the beads is often tinted which is what creates the different colors. The top part of the image below shows how this works. With this type film you can cut it anywhere you wish and not affect the integrity of the beads. This is why this type film is often used for graphics applications such as letters and numbers on vehicles. Enclosed lens films generally have no visible pattern. Just a smooth color like white, red, green, blue, black, yellow, brown, gold or orange.

Enclosed Lens versus Encapsulated Lens Reflective Tape / Sheeting

Encapsulated Lens Retro Reflective Sheeting

Encapsulated lens reflective sheeting also refers to glass bead type films. Specifically a type 3 high intensity film. In this type of construction the glass beads are encapsulated in cells. As long as the cell is intact, water and the elements cannot get to the actual bead. However, when the film is cut the cells on the edge are exposed and water intrusion can occur if the cell is not sealed using a clear coat. (only the cells on the edge would be affected) In other words, the beads are only protected within the cell. Because the beads are not completely surrounded by a polymer, they reflect more brightly. The top of the cell they are in is either clear or tinted to create a colored film. The bottom of the image above shows this type of construction. If you look at an encapsulated film you will be able to see the cells as either a honeycomb pattern or diamond pattern. If you look very close you will see the small beads. (If you see prisms within the cell then you are looking at a non metallized prismatic film which we will discuss in a different article.)

Reflectivity Specifications on the Different Types of Reflective Sheeting

There are several types of reflective sheeting.  Engineer grade is the most common and is known as a type 1 film.  Super engineer grade is a type 2.  High intensity is the brightest glass bead film and is a type 3.  The first prismatic film is a type 5.  The brightest film is a type 8 and is often called crystal or diamond grade.  We have charts on each of the films below.  Exact intensities will vary by manufacturer but the charts below are a good guide.  Also, please note that the Type 3 High Intensity chart also defines observation and entrance angles.

Type 1 Engineer Grade Reflectivity Chart

Type 2 Super Engineer Grade Reflectivity Chart

Type 3 High Intensity Reflectivity Chart

Type 4 High Intensity Prismatic (HIP)

High Intensity Prismatic Reflectivity

Type 5 V82 Prismatic Tape (thin tape)

Type 5 Reflective Tape Specs

V98 Oralite Conformable Prismatic (slightly thicker than V92/V82)

orate v98 reflectivity specifications

Type 8 Crystal / Diamond Grade Reflectivity Chart (thick stiff tape)

How to Install Reflective Tape – Troubleshooting, Removing

Installing reflective tape is a very simple process.

It is basically a peel, stick and press process.  However, some preparation must be done beforehand to insure a long lasting application. Adhesive performance depends almost entirely on surface preparation.

Before beginning an installation there are a few factors to consider.

  • First, it is up to the installer to determine whether the surface that the tape will be applied to is able to accept adhesive type tapes.  For example, some plastics are non stick and difficult to apply to.  Also, rough surfaces are difficult to apply to because the tape does not touch the entire surface.
  • Second, newly painted surfaces should fully cure before tape is applied.  Otherwise the gases from the curing paint will deteriorate the adhesive and cause the application to fail.
  • Third, do not apply tape in freezing weather or allow the tape to freeze.  This will damage the adhesive.  Once installed, the tape needs to cure for at least 48 hours before it is subjected to sub zero temperatures.
  • Fourth, when installing “Flexible Engineer Grade Tape” keep in mind that it is temperature sensitive during installation.  (after installation the temperature does not affect it) When the tape is cold it is stiff.  When it is hot it is very flexible.  The recommended temperature for applying is 59 – 77 degrees.  (see special instructions for this tape at the bottom of this page)

Instructions for Applying Reflective Tapes

The surface should be clean and dry and it should be dry outside.  Do not apply in the rain or moist environments. A sunny day is optimal. Air temperature should be between 32 and 100 degrees. Also, it helps to apply a small piece first as practice.


The surface that the tape will be placed on needs to be clean, dry and free of any contaminants such as dirt, grease, oil, etc.. Hand washing the application area with soap and water will accomplish this.

Also, to insure that the area is clean, a cloth soaked in isopropol alcohol can be used to wipe the surface down. Before the alcohol dries wipe it down again with a separate rag. This will also help dry the surface and will insure that the adhesive on the tape is able to penetrate the surface and form a good bond.


Peel the backing off the the material as you apply it. Do not peel off more than you can work with at one time and do not let it stick to itself.  Also, avoid touching the adhesive side of the tape since the oils on your hands can contaminate the adhesive and reduce its effectiveness.

Lay the material down using your fingers to press it onto the surface. Try to avoid laying the tape down and then pulling it up and laying it down again since this tends to degrade the adhesive.  TIP- We have a picture below of a hinge application method that can help keep the tape straight during application.

Using a squeegee or similar object, press the tape onto the surface. Gently at first and then with more pressure. This will force the adhesive into the pores of the surface. If neccessary, wrap the squeegee in cloth to keep from scratching the material. If a squeegee is not available use a cloth to press the tape firmly to the surface. When you come to a seam, cut the material with a razor blade. Go over rivets and then after application cut around the rivets with a razor blade or exacto so that the material lays flat all the way around the rivet.  NOTE – Our flexible engineer grade will conform over the rivets in most cases.

Our Flexible Engineer Grade and Flexible High Intensity tapes WILL go around corners and fold around the edges of doors, however, our other reflective tapes are stiffer and WILL NOT stretch and are not designed to wrap around sharp corners or be folded over 90 degree edges. If you go around a sharp corner cut the tape and begin a new piece around the corner. The edges of the tape should be kept about 1/4″ from the edge of the surface that you are working on. If you bend the stiff tapes around a sharp corner they will stick at first but will eventually come up. The material is designed to be applied to generally flat surfaces.  As stated before, for complex curves use our Flexible Engineer Grade or Flexible High Intensity Grade Tapes.

Special Instructions for Flexible Engineer Grade tape – Application Temperature – 59 – 77 degrees fahrenheit. In this range the tape performs like standard adhesive vinyl.  When the temperature is above this range the flexible engineer grade material becomes very soft and pliable. When the temperature is below this range the material becomes stiffer. (The material is designed this way so that if necessary it can be heated with a hair dryer during application to make it conform to complex curves, rivets, etc..) The material can be installed in temperatures above and below the recommended range, however, it is easier to install in the recommended temperature range.

If installing outside in hot or cold temperatures it helps to keep the tape inside an air conditioned or heated vehicle until you are ready to install it. In the summer, installing in the shade is helpful and in the winter, installing in direct sun is preferable. Also, we have posted some pictures of how a masking tape hinge can be used to position the tape and apply it. In warmer weather this method will help in the installation of the flexible engineer grade tapes.

Service Temperature – Once installed the tape can handle temperatures from -22 to +176 degrees fahrenheit.

Removing Reflective Tape

Some reflective tapes are easier to remove than others.  However, the process for removing them is the same.  First, heat the tape with a hair dryer or heat gun.  If you use a heat gun be careful not to use so much heat that you damage the substrate.  As you heat, try to gently peel the tape off.  Some tapes will come off whole and some will come off in pieces.  You can use a razor blade if you wish but just be careful not to dig into the substrate.  If you use a razor blade I recommend you lubricate the area with WD40.  Once the tape is removed coat the area with an adhesive remover like Goo Gone or Goof Off.  Wipe or scrape off all residue.  Then clean with soap and water or any other cleaner.

NFPA 1901 Chevron Reflective Striping Requirements for Emergency Vehicles

The NFPA 1901 recommendation deals with the marking of fire apparatus and emergency vehicles.  The recommendation covers the application of reflective tape to the rear of the vehicle in the form of chevron striping, the side of the vehicle and the front.  Many insurance companies are requiring that stations comply with the NFPA 1901 and most departments are using this as a guideline and are retrofitting older rigs.  New trucks normally come standard with the reflective tape pre-installed.  For retro-fits Reflective Chevron Striping products can be purchased online.

A Type 1 (engineer grade) is the minimum acceptable type of reflective sheeting that can be used.  Other acceptable materials are a Type 3 High Intensity, a V92/V97 Prismatic Tape, a V82 Type 5 tape and a Crystal Grade Type 8 material.  The required colors are red and yellow for the back.  There is no color designation for the sides and front.

oralite reflective lime red chevron strips

The requirements for the different areas of the vehicle are as follows.


14.1.6 Any door of the apparatus designed to allow persons to enter or exit the apparatus shall have at least 96 square inches (62,000 mm2) of retro-reflective material applied to the inside of the door. (this is too call attention to the door when it is opened)

REFLECTIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE SIDE AND FRONT OF THE VEHICLE* Retro-reflective stripe or stripes shall be applied to at least 50%  of the cab and body length on each side of the vehicle, excluding the pump panel areas, and at least 25% of the width of the front of the fire apparatus. The stripe or combination of stripes shall be a minimum of 4 inches (100 mm) in total width. (2 – two inch stripes, a 3″ and a 1″, etc.. would meet the criteria) The 4 inch (100 mm) wide stripe or combination of stripes shall be allowed to be interrupted by objects (example- receptacles, cracks between slats in roll up doors) provided the full stripe is viewed as conspicuous when approaching the fire apparatus. A Reflective graphic design shall be allowed to replace all or part of the required striping material if the design or combination thereof covers at least the same perimeter length(s) required by


Click to see our Reflective Pre-Made Chevron Panels At least 50% or half  of the rear-facing vertical surfaces, visible from the rear of the fire apparatus, “not including” any pump panel areas not covered by a door, shall be outfitted with retro-reflective striping in a chevron pattern sloping downward and away from the center-line of the vehicle at 45 degree angles. (see picture above) Each stripe used in the chevron design shall be a single color alternating between yellow and red. Each stripe shall be 6 inches (150 mm) wide. All of the retro-reflective materials required by sections and shall conform to the requirements of ASTM D 4956, Standard Specification for Retro-reflective Sheeting for Traffic Control, Section 6.1.1 for Type I Sheeting. (engineer grade which is similar to what is on a car tag.  The sheeting can be brighter.  ie, Type 3,5,8,v92,v82) All retro-reflective sheeting and materials used to satisfy the requirements of that are colors not listed in ASTM D 4956, Section 6.1.1, shall have a minimum coefficient of retroreflection of 10 candelas with an observation angle of 0.2 degrees and entrance angle of −4 degrees. Any printed or processed retroreflective film construction used to meet the requirements of and shall conform to the standards required of an integral colored film as specified in ASTM D 4956, Section 6.1.1.


Although the NFPA 1901 is not a federal law, most departments conform to it for legal and safety reasons.  In the event of an accident, most departments feel that it is best to have taken all precautions available. Our main safety products store can be found at .


How to Reduce Rear End Collisions – Fleets and Utility Vehicles

Reducing Rear End Collisions for Commercial and Utility Vehicle Fleets.  (click here to see our reflective rear panel products)

In the US alone there are approximately 137,500 accidents that involve commercial vehicles. To bring this into perspective, every 16 minutes, one person is injured or killed in an accident involving a commercial vehicle.

Rear End Collision Utility TruckApproximately 50% of these accidents occur in daytime and about 50% occur at night.

About 1/3 of these accidents involve rear end collisions. These rear end collisions are what our product addresses. The reason for stressing this particular type of collision is that other types of collisions can be reduced through driver training. However, reducing rear end collisions is a different matter.

Rear end collisions occur when a driver does not see a slower or stopped vehicle in front of them in time to stop. Vehicles that make frequent stops in or around moving traffic are especially susceptible to this type of accident. Since most of these vehicles are commercial, the liability associated with collisions can be substantial.

Increasing vehicle conspicuity or visibility is the key to reducing these types of accidents. Increased visibility equates to more reaction time which in turn leads to a substantial reduction in collisions.

The use of bright, high visibility, reflective tape either in a chevron pattern or in an alternating pattern has been shown to reduce accidents by up to 41%.  The effectiveness of this method has been proven in the fire apparatus and emergency vehicle market.

(click here for a more detailed three part article on reducing rear end collisions)

What is DOT C2 Reflective Tape ? – Specifications Certification Definition

DOT Truck (Tractor Trailer) marking requirements were set up by the FMCSA to help improve visibility in low light conditions and reduce the probability of fatal motor vehicle crashes into the sides or back of stopped or parked trucks and tractor trailers at night or in poor visibility conditions.

On December 10, 1992, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA published a final ruling that required trailers manufactured on or after December 1, 1993 having an overall width of 80 inches or more and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds, be equipped on the sides and rear with a means for making them more visible on the road. The NHTSA ruling allows trailer manufacturers to install either red and white retro reflective tape or sheeting or reflex reflectors. This tape is commonly referred to as DOT C2 reflective tape and is thus marked for easy identification (Exemption – pole trailers and trailers designed exclusively for living or office use)

While the term “DOT C2” reflective tape is used quite often in regards to marking tractor trailer rigs 80 inches wide or wider and over 10,000 lbs GVWR, what the term “DOT C2” means is seldom discussed. Most people know that the letters DOT mean “Department of Transportation.  Also, some people know that the term C2, C3 or C4 refers to the width of the tape. (2″,3″ or 4”)  Most people do not know what it takes for a reflective tape to be certified as “DOT C2, C3, or C4”.  This article is meant to help you understand what these requirements are so that you can be sure that you are using the correct product on your vehicle.  In the event of an accident, having the proper markings is especially important.  We recommend Oralite (formerly Reflexite) DOT tapes.  They invented prismatic reflective tape and their products are respected and recognized around the world.  The downsides to using a cheap substitute are simply not worth it.

In order to be certified as DOT C2, C3 or C4 tape, certain requirements have to be met. These requirements involve the construction of the tape, the color, the width, the spacing of the alternating colors, the performance,  and the reflectivity. If a tape has been certified to meet these standards then the manufacturer is allowed to put DOT C2 certification on it. The specifics of the requirements are as follows. (Source – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 393.11)

Construction – The requirements for the basic construction of the film are very straight forward.  This is how virtually all reflective tapes are constructed.  The regulation is as follows:

S5.7.1.1  Construction. Retroreflective sheeting shall consist of a smooth, flat, transparent exterior film with retroreflective elements embedded or suspended beneath the film so as to form a non-exposed retroreflective optical system.

Color – DOT tape must be made with white and red alternating colors.  The white color on prismatic tapes often looks silver but reflects white at night. The exact wording of the regulation is as follows:

(a) Retro-reflective sheeting shall be applied in a pattern of alternating white and red color segments to the sides and rear of each trailer, and to the rear of each truck tractor, and in white to the upper rear corners of each trailer and truck tractor, in the locations specified in S5.7.1.4, and Figures 30–1 through 30–4, or Figure 31, as appropriate.  (see this article for placement details)

Spacing -The red and white (silver) segments are required to be a minimum of 12 inches plus or minus 6 inches.   That would be between 6″ and 18″  There is an exception where the tape must be trimmed to avoid obstructions when installed.  Also, neither the red or white colors can exceed two thirds (2/3) of the total.

There are two types of DOT tape available.  A 7″ white / 11″ red and a 6″ white / 6″ red.  If you run the numbers you will see that both meet the spacing requirement.  On 7/11 tape the 7″ white would represent 39% of the aggregate and the 11″ red would represent 61%.  The 6/6 would be 50% each.  To the best of my knowledge all 50 states allow you to use either the 7/11 or 6/6 type DOT tape.  The regulation is quoted below:

(b) Except for a segment that is trimmed to clear obstructions, or lengthened to provide red sheeting near red lamps, each white or red segment shall have a length of 300 mm ±150 mm.

(c) Neither white nor red sheeting shall represent more than two thirds of the aggregate of any continuous strip marking the width of a trailer, or any continuous or broken strip marking its length.

Width – DOT certified tape can be 2″ wide, 3″ wide or 4″ wide. The most popular and cost efficient size is 2 inches but for larger trucks many users prefer the 3 and 4 inch widths in either the 6/6 or 7/11. The more visible the truck the better. Also, in the event of an accident it is important to be able to show due diligence when it comes to vehicle conspicuity.  The specific regulation is as follows:

(d) Retroreflective sheeting shall have a width of not less than 50 mm (Grade DOT-C2), 75 mm (Grade DOT-C3), or 100 mm (Grade DOT-C4).

Reflectivity & Performance – This is one of the most important aspects of this tape.  A bright tape can be seen from longer distances.  For highway applications this is very important.  To meet the DOT C2,3,4 requirements a tape must meet all the requirements for ASTM D4956-90 Type V Sheeting EXCEPT for the reflectivity.  These requirements would include things like adhesion, colorfastness, flexibility, shrinkage,  weathering, etc… Reflectivity requirements are basically equal to Type III or High Intensity Glass Bead tape.  To be safe, a Prismatic DOT tape is recommended.  This will assure that the reflectivity far exceeds the minimum requirements.  The exact wording of the regulation and a reflectivity chart are included below:

S5.7.1.2 Performance requirements. Retroreflective sheeting shall meet the requirements of ASTM D 4956–90, Standard Specification for Retroreflective Sheeting for Traffic Control, for Type V Sheeting, except for the photometric requirements, and shall meet the minimum photometric performance requirements specified in Figure 29.

(e) The coefficients for retroreflection of each segment of red or white sheeting shall be not less than the minimum values specified in Figure 29 of this standard for grades DOT-C2, DOT-C3, and DOT-C4.

Figure 29—Minimum Photometric Performance of Retroflective Sheeting in Candela/Lux/Square Meter

Entrance angle Observation angle Grade
0.2 Degree 0.5 Degree
White Red White Red
-4 degree 250 60 65 15 DOT–C2
30 degree 250 60 65 15 DOT–C2
45 degree 60 15 15 4 DOT–C2
-4 degree 165 40 43 10 DOT–C3
30 degree 165 40 43 10 DOT–C3
45 degree 40 10 10 3 DOT–C3
-4 degree 125 30 33 8 DOT–C4
30 degree 125 30 33 8 DOT–C4
45 degree 30 8 8 2 DOT–C4

DOT Certification Logo – The DOT-C2 designation is to appear on the tape at least every 12 inches.  The characters should be at least 3 mm tall and stamped in indelible ink or an equivalent.  The exact wording is below:

S5.7.1.5 Certification. The letters DOT-C2, DOT-C3, or DOT-C4, as appropriate, constituting a certification that the retroreflective sheeting conforms to the requirements of S5.7.1.2, shall appear at least once on the exposed surface of each white or red segment of retroreflective sheeting, and at least once every 300 mm on retroreflective sheeting that is white only. The characters shall be not less than 3 mm high, and shall be permanently stamped, etched, molded, or printed in indelible ink.

FRA 224 Railcar Reflective Marking Regulations Requirements

Note – this is a synopsis of the FRA 224 regulation. For specific requirements on markings for rail cars, the full regulation should be referenced. There is much more information in the full text than is in this article. Full regulation link.

The FRA 224 regulations for rail car (freight car) markings was updated in 2005 and covers all rail cars and locomotives.  The requirements are fairly straight forward.   The purpose of the rule is to require the application and use of retro-reflective tape on the sides of freight rolling stock, (includes both freight cars and locomotives) to enhance the visibility of trains and freight cars during times of limited visibility. It is recommended that the tape bear the FRA 224 mark.  Also, yellow or white can be used.  Yellow seems to be the most common color used.

It is required that the tape be applied to all new freight cars.  For existing cars the tape must be applied after repainting or within 9 months of a single car airbrake test. On railroad freight cars (other than flat cars and tank cars), the reflective sheeting shall be applied in either a vertical or horizontal pattern along the length of the car sides, with the bottom edge of the sheeting as close as is practical to 42″ above the top of a rail. The reflective sheeting shall not be applied below the side sill.

The retro reflective material is to be installed as follows. At least one 4″ x 36″ strip or two 4″ x 18″ strips (one above the other) shall be applied as close to each end of the rail car as practical. In between these two vertical end strips, reflective tape shall be applied a minimum of one 4″ x 18″ strip every 12 feet.

NOTE – tape is required in the above configuration on BOTH sides of the rail cars.

To see pricing and more information on Rail Car tape CLICK HERE.

Federal DOT FMCSA NHTSA Reflective Tape Requirements – Trucks Tractor Trailers

Introduction – Trucks exceeding 10,000 pounds and over 80 inches wide must mark their trailers with 2″ wide DOT C2 reflective tape that alternates white and red. (white looks silvery in the daytime). A 6/6 (6″ red and 6″ white) or a 7/11 (7″ white and 11″ red) pattern can be used.  50% of each side must be covered. (even distribution) In the rear, two strips must be used in the lower rear and an inverted L using solid white must mark the top corners of the trailer.  Trucks must be marked in a similar fashion.  See pictures at the bottom of this page.

(This is a summary of the regulation. For an exact copy of the law you can refer to the actual FMCSA document)
The FMCSA has set up regulations requiring the use of conspicuity (reflective tape) materials on trailers and the rear of truck tractors. The rules are in place to help reduce the incidence of motorists crashing into the rear or sides of tractor trailers at nighttime and under other conditions of reduced visibility. Also to reduce the incidence of motorists rear ending truck tractors (under operation without trailers) under the same types of conditions.

On December 10, 1992, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA published a final rule requiring that trailers manufactured on or after December 1, 1993, which have an overall width of  80 inches or more and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds, (with the exception of pole trailers and trailers designed exclusively for living or office use) be equipped on the sides and rear with a means for making them more visible on the road. The NHTSA ruling allows trailer manufacturers to install either red and white retro reflective tape or sheeting or reflex reflectors.  This tape is commonly referred to as DOT C2 reflective tape and is thus marked for easy identification

Locations for Conspicuity Treatment
The following is a description of where the conspicuity treatments need to be located on trailers. Images of conspicuity treatments on some common types of trailers are provided at the bottom of this page.

Sides of the Trailer
The 2″ DOT C2 retro reflective sheeting need to be applied to both sides of the trailer or semitrailer. Each strip of retro reflective sheeting must be positioned as horizontally as practicable, beginning and ending as close to the front and rear as practicable. The conspicuity treatment is not required to be continuous. However, the sum of the length of all of the segments must be at least half of the length of the trailer and the spaces between the segments of the strip must be distributed as evenly as practicable. The centerline for each strip of retroreflective sheeting (or reflex reflector) must be between 375 mm (15 inches) and 1,525 mm (60 inches) above the road surface when measured with the trailer empty or unladen, or as close as practicable to this area. If necessary to clear rivet heads or other similar obstructions, 50 mm (2 inches) wide retro reflective sheeting may be separated into two 25 mm (1 inch) wide strips of the same length and color, separated by a space of not more than 25 mm (1 inch).

Lower rear area of the Trailer
The rear of each trailer and semitrailer must be equipped with retro reflective sheeting (or reflex reflectors). Each strip of retro reflective sheeting (or reflex reflector) must be positioned as horizontally as practicable, extending across the full width of the trailer, beginning and ending as close to the extreme edges as practicable. The centerline for each of the strips of retro reflective sheeting (or each reflex reflector) must be between 375 mm (15 inches) and 1,525 mm (60 inches) above the road surface when measured with the trailer empty or unladen, or as close as practicable to this area.

Upper rear area of the Trailer
Two pairs of white strips of retro reflective sheeting (or reflex reflectors), each pair consisting of strips 300 mm (12 inches) long, must be positioned horizontally and vertically on the right and left upper corners of the rear of the body of each trailer and semitrailer, as close as practicable to the top of the trailer and as far apart as practicable. If the perimeter of the body, as viewed from the rear, is not square or rectangular, the conspicuity treatments may be applied along the perimeter, as close as practicable to the uppermost and outermost areas of the rear of the body on the left and right sides.

Rear of Truck
On August 8, 1996, the NHTSA published a final rule requiring that truck tractors manufactured on or after July 1, 1997, be equipped with red-and-white retroreflective material similar to that required on the rear of the trailers they tow to increase nighttime conspicuity. Manufacturers may choose either retroreflective sheeting or reflex reflectors. In the case of truck tractors delivered with a temporary mudflap arrangement rather than permanent equipment, the requirement for retroreflective material near the top of the mudflap may be satisfied with material carried by the temporary mudflap brackets that are transferable to the permanent mudflap system. Retroreflective material is also required near the top of the cab in a pattern similar to that used on trailers.