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Headlights on . . .

A sharing network of what best practices and lessons we have learned is one of the most informational ways to receive safety practices. I can recall my time in Maryland SHA and calling colleagues ... to soundboard ideas.

Headlights on… Joseph (Joey) Sagal

Current Company: Federal Highway Administration

Department: Office of Technical Services – Resource Center

Position/Title: Traffic Incident and Event Management Specialist (TI&EM)

What is your primary role and what goals do you have in your new position?

We (Traffic & Event Management Team) provide guidance, and support as well as technical assistance, training, development and workshops for Local, State, Tribal and Federal Partners around the nation with goals to improve efficiency and safety for response to incidents that occur on our highways through best practices, new technology, and the SHRP2 Traffic Incident Management Training program.

You have recently moved from your position as the Deputy Director for Operations at Maryland State Highway Administration’s Office of CHART & ITS Development to your current position as a Transportation Specialist for the FHWA. What are some of the differences working for a state DOT versus US DOT?

One major difference is the ability to see and be aware of all the great efforts and best practices States are achieving as well as the challenges and opportunities that have been identified to improve TIM efforts around the nation. We have some very mature programs and institutionalized practices that have been established and being able to connect folks and coordinate efforts is rewarding.

What information would you want to share with our readers about the availability of TIM workshops for SSP managers? 

Many States and their multi-disciplinary partners which include several of you have already held or participated in FHWA TIM workshops for mid-level managers, SHRP2 Traffic Incident Management Train the Trainer courses, or there may be the opportunity to have one in your State or region moving forward, I encourage you to communicate with your local FHWA Division representative as well as us here at the TI&EM team for these opportunities.

What suggestions do you have to educate SSP managers and operators as to best safety practices?

FHWA has created several materials very relevant to SSP managers and operators, such as the 2009 Field Operations Guide and Visor Cards for Safety Service Patrols – developed from best practices. Several other informational TIM publications are available on the FHWA Emergency Transportation Operations (ETO) website in the tool kit.

The other low hanging fruit is each other! A sharing network of what best practices and lessons we have learned is one of the most informational ways to receive safety practices. I can recall my time in Maryland SHA and calling colleagues in Georgia or Florida for example to soundboard ideas. This is one of the main reasons we identified how informational this new SSP learning network can be.

One of your projects is to create a federal-led network for Safety Service Patrols. ( is pleased to also be involved in this initiative.) Can you explain for our readers the goal of this project and how it came to be?

The FHWA TI&EM Team identified the need, after speaking to many SSP leaders to get SSP program managers and decision makers together regularly to share best practices and efforts as well as challenges in every State that has, or may be implementing, an SSP program. Of course, coordinating and sharing with neighboring States occurs among these partners routinely, but this gives the opportunity to find out what your SSP colleagues are doing in another time zone or across the country for example. FHWA leadership supported the idea for Mrs. Kimberly Vásconez (TI&EM Team Leader) and I to work with to get this initiative up and running.

What has been the SSP industry response to this initiative?

Feedback from the SSP industry has been highly positive, and individuals have been very eager to share, present, and voice ideas and challenges they may be facing. Some were not certain what entirely the goal was with this effort, and I am certain time and the growing synergy of the effort will help clarify the goals of the initiative.

The first meeting of nationwide SSP managers was held on June 26th. What subject matters will be covered in future meetings?

There are many topics that can be discussed, and revisited with this effort that are very important to SSP members, I imagine we will be visiting popular topics of interest, such as training, performance measures, and vehicle and equipment standards.

What are some of the resources that state departments of transportation and toll road authorities might use to facilitate the safe and effective operations of Safety Service Patrols across the country?

The FHWA Office of Operations has researched and worked with many States and subject matter experts in the past several years to create publications related to Emergency Traffic Operations, TIM and SSP’s. This also includes FHWA SHRP2 TIM Training sessions as well, these training opportunities give the SSP’s an opportunity to train in a multi disciplinary environment and share what functions they provide.

Information on these electronic publications and SHRP2 TIM training can be found at or by contacting any FHWA TI&EM team member for assistance.

Your initiative focuses largely on raising interagency awareness of SSP’s and connecting SSP’s nationwide, but in our feature article, we discuss opportunities for raising the public’s awareness about SSP’s. What your view on the importance of public recognition and understanding of SSP’s and the services they provide?

Public awareness and recognition of SSP’s is very important to traveling motorists, traveling on high speed limited access highways and experiencing a vehicle emergency can be very frightening for most people, knowing there is a service that can respond if called, or come upon while patrolling, should help make that experience less stressful. Getting assistance with a minor repair, or getting a lift off of the highway, decreases your chances of getting struck by another vehicle during those emergencies. SSP programs that aid first responders in providing temporary traffic control and quick clearance of crashes and incident scenes also decrease the potential for secondary collisions. Making sure other public safety responders are well informed and educated on the capabilities of the SSP is critical, so they know how they can be utilized when needed.

In your view, what are some of the ways states might increase public awareness and appreciation for their patrols?

Branding and markings on dedicated vehicles and staff that can help show what their role is, and what function they provide in SSP vehicles. Some States have been able to accomplish this task internally, others have benefited from public/private partner sponsorships, which increased the conspicuity of SSP vehicles, roadway signage for delineating what routes are patrolled, handouts, incorporating into driver education programs, and social media opportunities to share, or follow appreciation.

What is one rule of thumb you think all SSP managers and drivers could benefit from following?

Keep “situational awareness” a priority at all times. Know your surroundings, take the extra care and effort to provide an increased margin of safety at all times you can do so. Don’t turn your back to traffic EVER, and ensure your distractions on scenes with technology tools, such as radios, phones, and computers, are not taking away from your situational awareness.

What is one them you want to reinforce in’s forum?

Share your program’s best practices and lessons learned, as well as training, among each other in order to be prepared and informed, to be the safest and most efficient, and to continuously be providing an invaluable service to the traveling public.

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