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Should You Use Plastic Road Plates When Working On Public Pavements?

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Construction and civil engineering projects are rarely simple tasks, and they become even more complicated if you have members of the public wandering through your job site day and night. As you can imagine, this situation makes construction and repair work on pedestrian pavements pretty challenging, and any contractor who works on public walkways should have road plates ready to deploy at a moment's notice.

For many years, road plates were uniformly made from sheet steel, no matter their intended purpose, but now an increasing number of contractors choose plastic road plates. These robust road plates are well suited to pedestrian walkway use, but they do have disadvantages in some areas. Keep the following pros and cons in mind while you decide whether plastic road plates are the best choice for your project:

What are the advantages of using plastic road plates on pavements?


First and foremost, plastic road plates are significantly cheaper than their steel counterparts, especially in larger sizes. Plastic plates are therefore the weapon of choice for most large-scale pavement reconstruction and engineering projects.


As you can imagine, plastic road plates are significantly lighter than steel plates of equivalent size. In many cases, larger plastic road plates can be folded up when not in use. These qualities make plastic road plates much easier and cheaper to transport than steel plates. Many contractors choose plastic plates so that they can carry a supply of road plates in their work vehicles at all times, without compromising on cargo space and fuel efficiency.

Easy to deploy

Fitting a small steel road plate over a hole or gap in the pavement is a job that requires several men; fitting larger steel plates requires the use of small cranes or other lifting equipment. By contrast, all but the largest plastic road plates can be fitted by two or three men in a matter of minutes, without using specialised tools. This makes plastic road plates particularly useful when working on pedestrian pavements, minimising downtime before the public can safely pass through your project site.

High traction

The top surface of a plastic road plate is textured and grooved to provide maximum traction, making them much safer for pedestrians to use. Some steel plates designed for pedestrian use have textured coatings to increase traction, but they will still be more slippery and treacherous than plastic plates in wet weather.

What are the disadvantages of using plastic road plates on pavements?

Limited strength

It stands to reason that road plates made of plastic have less load-bearing strength than steel plates. When they are used on pedestrian walkways this is generally a non-issue, since people weigh significantly less than vehicles. However, if you need plates for an inner-city project where thousands of people will cross your plates every day, you may be required to use steel plates for the added margin of safety.

Do not lay flush with pavements

Because steel is stronger than plastic, steel road plates can afford to be much thinner than plastic plates. When deployed, a steel plate will lay almost flush with the pavement surface, but plastic plates often raise the level of the walking surface by several inches. This can make plastic plates difficult to navigate for elderly and/or disabled people, and you should make sure to provide ramps and other accessibility amenities where necessary.