MONTREAL - Orange cones are often an omen of trouble for drivers, especially with crumbling highways and bridges throughout southern Quebec.

But for one man, orange cones are a blessing.

Robert Laforce is the president of Trafic-Innovation, and 12 years ago he developed the now-ubiquitous tall cylinders used at construction sites across the province.

At the time Quebec was using metal signs to warn drivers of construction, but the signs were dangerous.

"When it was hit, it was damaging cars and some people were very injured with that," said Laforce.

That gave him the idea to create something safer, stronger, and much more reusable: the plastic barrel-shaped cones.

His product can be pummelled by cars dozens of times, and are much less likely to dent a fender or shatter a windshield.

They can be hit "for up to 10 to 20 times [it] depends on how much damage it is to it. This is why there's lots of them and we don't have a big, big order every year," said Laforce.

Each of his company's 140,000 cones has a life expectancy of five years, and while orders are still coming in business has slowed down, prompting him to look into other developments.

Trafic-Innovation has now developed skinny, flexible road markers that are built to take a beating, as well as mobile safety barriers, and electronic traffic analysis machines.

"We start a company with just traffic cones and those things and now we are in to the more sophisticated things," said Laforce.

Laforce's products are currently used only in Quebec, but he hopes to branch out to other provinces next year, and figures that heavy investment in research and development is what he needs to stay on the road to success.