October 6


Top 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Pneumatic Tube Counters

By Mike Spack

October 6, 2015

Pico Count, PicoCount, pneumatic, pneumatic tube counters, road tube setup, Roadtube, tube counters

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 CountingCars.com. Get the right gear from industry insiders.

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

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  • Hi Mike,

    Good info. on setting out tube counters. I enjoy reading the posts I’m getting from your site.
    What if I wanted to buy my own tube counter and deploy it out on my street, do you know if cities allow this? The reason I am considering this – the Sheriff doesn’t believe (stated in a meeting) there is a speeding situation on my street even though there is some limited tub data available and a history of speeding over the years. I can hear cars traveling at very high rates of speed. I was thinking if I had time-stamped data for a couple of months I could prove that there are flagrant speeders and possibly identify those by direction and time-stamp. As an alternative, maybe you have info. on a traffic “counter” that can be placed by the side of the road on my property that has a low cost.


  • Permits are required to place devices in the public right of way. Permits should be obtained from the local municipality to avoid removal of equipment.

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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