A new vehicle to replace overhead signs, including on motorway gantries, could reduce the duration of roadworks and save up to £4m a year, according to Highways England.
But the company is still examining the best way for its contractors to purchase them.
The Maintenance Assistance Vehicle in action
The Maintenance Assistance Vehicle (MAV) is based on aircraft catering vehicles, which load refreshments into planes using a hydraulic scissor lift.
The government-owned company said trials showed that road workers will also be able to shut fewer lanes by using the vehicle, which provides a safer environment for workers while they work inside it - and a sturdy platform while they work outside it.
Jeremy Bird, head of health and safety for Highways England, said: 'Technology has an important role in improving road worker and road user safety and this concept provides an opportunity to not only do this but at the same time reduce disruption on our roads by completing gantry maintenance in less time, and reducing the number of lanes closed to carry out such a task.’
Highways England said that if the vehicle was widely used it could save up to £4m a year.
Traditionally, signs are taken down and installed using a flat-bed truck, crane and cherry picker, taking up to 40 minutes. The MAV can do this in around 20 to 25 minutes by using a small jib crane which is part of the vehicle.
Once the platform is raised, the jib crane attaches to the sign on the gantry and lifts it off. Workers then detach the sign, place it onto a trolley on the platform, and wheel it into the main compartment of the vehicle. This procedure is reversed when installing a new electronic sign.
The hydraulic scissor lift enables the signs, for example on smart motorway gantries, to be serviced at heights of up to 8.5 metres and in wind speeds of up to 47mph.
CCTV cameras help the driver to park the vehicle in the right place below the gantry and monitor workers at the back.
Highways England is also considering whether the vehicle could be used to improve safety for other work on the strategic road network.
The news comes as more ‘superspan’ gantries - crossing both the eastbound and westbound carriageways - are due to be installed for the M60 and M62 Manchester smart motorway project from Thursday 2 June.
Contractors for Highways England are installing three giant gantries during June, which will carry messages and variable speed limit signs.
The next two will be erected across the M62, between junction 19 at Heywood and junction 20 at Rochdale, at night on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 June.
Overnight closures will take place along the M62 in both directions between junction 19 and junction 20 from 10pm until 6am on both nights. The closures could be postponed if strong winds are forecast.
The gantries are up to 59 metres wide, weigh up to 78 tonnes and have to be installed using a 500 tonne crane.