Ever wondered what those black tubes across the road are for? Here’s why they exist


How often do you walk into a room that you’ve entered hundreds of times, only to notice one striking detail about it that, curiously, remained hidden to you until that very moment?

That happened to us this morning when we finally observed that the very same coffee house that we have been patronizing practically every morning for the past five years has one wall that is painted bright red, while the others are a cool, blue hue. We asked the barista about the “new paint job,” and were left completely embarrassed when she politely answered that the red wall had “always been there.”

Yep, maybe we should start ordering a double shot of espresso, instead of a single!

This morning’s occurrence was so troubling to us, we made an internal pact that we would do a better job of paying attention to our surroundings. We’re happy to report that, so far, our plan is going very well. SO well, in fact, we started noticing things about the road we drive on.

That’s right, we have begun taking note of the potholes, the out-of-state license plates, and even which lights take the longest to turn green. We have also noticed another thing which has apparently been hiding in plain sight for quite a while—a serpentine black tube that extends from one side of the road to the other, just off of the intersection that leads us home.

Could this be a long-forgotten hose? Some sort of temporary electrical wiring cover? Perhaps the world’s least effective speed bump?

Once we got home, we Googled the object right away and, as it turns out, we learned a whole lot about the once-mysterious device!

This long, black tube is actually called a “pneumatic road tube,” and it’s placed by government officials to track how many cars are driving down the road. Sometimes you’ll see a single one, and other times, you may see a double. In the case of the doubles, the cities or counties are simply trying to distinguish the number of axles any given vehicle is or isn’t carrying.

The pneumatic road tube works like this: every time a car drives over one, a puff of air is released, which is then totaled by a counting device that is linked to the tube.

From there, it is stored in a special software and is subsequently used for a jurisdiction’s statistics to determine, not just the number of vehicles that are driving on a particular road, but also their speeds, the gaps they leave between cars, and their classifications. Valuable stuff!

Did you know that your city is keeping tabs on you, right under your nose? Neither did we! To see how workers install these handy pneumatic black tubes and to learn how the use of them positively affects communities, be sure to watch the video below!

What are your thoughts on pneumatic road tubes? Have you noticed them in your town? Can you name any other “hidden in plain sight” everyday objects?