Top 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Pneumatic Tube Counters

Field worker in orange safety vest laying down a pneumatic tube for data collection. Two orange traffic cones are in the background

I fondly remember being “stuck” at a fraternity party during the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 when Minneapolis was hit with 28 inches of snow on October 31st.  Now that I’m in the business of traffic counting, October 31st also looms in my mind as a deadline of sorts.  We push to get our tube counts done before then to avoid the impending snowplows.

To help you get your tube counts done efficiently, here are 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Pneumatic Tube Counters:

Tube Counter Setup

  1. Setting out tubes that have holes in them. You should have a testing protocol to make sure you’re only working with good tubes.
  2. Setting out a counter whose clock is inaccurate. Clocks drift.  Make sure the clock in the counter is properly set.
  3. Installing in the wrong location. Have good maps and verify the location.
  4. Not bringing enough gear. Have extra gear in case you need to troubleshoot a setup in the field or find a bad tube that can’t be used.
  5. Setting bad counters. You should have a regular testing protocol to make sure the counter, including all air switches, are in working order.
  6. Not writing down which is the A tube vs the B tube. Again, good paperwork is a must to know the counter is placed in the correct location and noting the tube setup ensures you can identify the correct direction of traffic.
  7. Over stretching your tubes. Enough stretch to get the tube straight is good.  Over stretching the tube turns it into a rubber band that will snap.
  8. Not sufficiently taping down the tube on the road to eliminate bouncing when a vehicle crosses. Tape or strap the tube to the road.  Excessive bouncing adds noise to the air pulse data and leads to decreased accuracy.
  9. Not checking with the city to avoid street cleaning days. Street sweepers (and snow plows) rip up tubes. Try to work with the city to keep your tubes intact.
  10. Not buying your gear from Get the right gear from industry insiders.

For more information on road tube setups, watch our video on YOUTUBE.