Promotes Uniformity Among Signs at EV Charging Stations
Spaces in front of EV charging stations are not parking spots, they are for electric vehicles while being refueled. Official signs that meet federal and state standards are the best way to communicate this message.
At the dawn of the automobile age, directional road signs were mostly an endeavor by private groups such as the AAA and other automobile clubs. Signs were used by these groups for promotion and branding as much as they were for directions and information. This led to a hodgepodge of directional signage along the roadways. In the 1920s, government began to develop signage standards. The familiar octagonal stop sign, for instance, grew out of those efforts.
Today, we are seeing a similar trend in signs placed at electric vehicle charging stations. Charging station operators often have distinct and different signs. Some seem designed with a priority for branding and style over clarity and uniformity. This leads to ambiguous messaging and more blocked charging stations.
Federal Standards for Parking Signs
Standards for size, shape, color, etc. for signs placed on roadways and parking lots are defined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). By law, all traffic control devices must conform to these standards.
The FHWA issued a Policy Statement on June 17, 2013 to address regulatory sign standards for electric vehicle charging and parking facilities. The document contains recommended signs with word legends to convey parking restrictions at EV charging stations. Howard County chose to use the R7-113 example provided by the FHWA to post at 31 utility-operated charging stations located at five county-owned sites. These “no parking except while charging” regulatory signs replaced green and white signs with “electric vehicle parking only” and a logo depicting a car with a plug.
Standard Signs Required in Public Lots
Maryland law requires the use of Uniform Traffic Control Devices on properties used by the public. This includes government facilities, shopping centers and office parks. The applicable statute is:
Code of Maryland, Article – Transportation
§25-106.1 Restrictions on placement of traffic control devices
A person may not install or maintain, in any area of private property used by the public, any sign, signal, marking, or other device intended to regulate, warn, or guide traffic unless it conforms with the State manual and specifications adopted pursuant to §25-104 of this subtitle. (1998, ch. 360.) link
Official Signs Required for Anti-ICEing Enforcement
Some communities have enacted laws to penalize drivers who block access to charging stations. Most of those ordinances require that the charging stations be clearly designated with signs that meet the MUTCD standards. The Howard County anti-ICEing ordinance that was passed in 2014 states that an official sign must be in place for the law to apply.
Even places that don’t have a specific law against blocking EV charging spots will probably be able to enforce parking at charging stations designated by a MUTCD-compliant sign under a failure to obey an official sign ordinance.
Momentum is gaining for using standardized signs at EV charging stations in Maryland. MUTCD-compliant signs are used by Montgomery County, Howard County, Maryland’s Electrify America sites and at MDTA facilities. This uniformity helps send the important message that EV charging stations are not parking spots.