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News & Notes Spring 2013

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News & Notes Spring 2013


The United States DOT announced the launch of a new video series about women in transportation this month during a White House forum on the same topic. The series focuses on showcasing women’s current roles in transportation today and the possibilities for future female roles in the industry. The DOT aims to encourage more women and girls to pursue careers in transportation through education, recruitment, retention and leadership development. The first video featured in the series was provided by UPS and was followed by a video documenting President and CEO of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation Beverley Swaim-Staley’s successful career. The United States DOT is also inviting the public to participate in the channel by providing their own videos to be posted.


Award Recipients gathered for the OCTA awards in February. Photo courtesy of OCTA website.

In February, the Orange County Transportation Authority honored the Freeway Service Patrol “Contractor and Operator of the Year” for 2012. Awards were presented at the Garden Grove Annex. Beth McCormick, the OCTA General Transit Manager, commended the patrol program for improving traffic flow and motorist safety and extends her congratulations to both award recipients. Expertow, a Stanton based contracting company was lauded for exemplary service and safety on the road. Victor Puerto, the “Operator of the Year” beneficiary, received honors from the California Highway Patrol for receiving consistently positive motorist feedback and for demonstrating exceptional inspection performance. In addition to this award, Puerto also recently won the “Freeway Service Patrol Truck Rodeao,” another achievement that speaks to success in his role. Both Expertow and Puerto have demonstrated proven dependability, hazard reduction, and outstanding courtesy toward motorists in need.

News of expansion for San Diego County’s Freeway Service Patrol was announced on January 24. The patrol will now offer weekend coverage, according to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). The Freeway Service Patrol program has patrolled freeways during weekday commutes, but will now also be available along Interstates 5, 15, 8 and 805 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The coverage was amended in hopes of further alleviating traffic buildup. Executive Director of SANDAG, Gary Gallegos, describes the Freeway Service Patrol as “an effective tool to improve traffic flow on our region’s most congested freeways” and cites the over 50,000 motorists this patrol assisted last year alone. Plans are also in place for the addition of new tow trucks starting in July, totaling twenty-five, along with providing new midday service on weekdays.


Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise’s (FTE) State Farm Road Ranger Safety Service Patrol began a new 5-year contract on February 15, 2013. Vendor Florida Turnpike Services won the contract advertised using the Request for Proposal (RFP) process. The result is a high-performing contract in line with the Turnpike’s existing budget. Patrol hours will remain the same, however the strong incident response theme of the Florida’s Turnpike Road Ranger program continues. Some improvements and adjustments over the previous contract include:

  • The twelve-zone coverage will now include five tow trucks (up from two) and two Incident Response vehicles (up from one). The remaining service vehicles are heavy-duty pickup trucks.
  • Vendor-proposed operation plan including vehicle maintenance and replacement cycle criteria.
  • FTE-specified floor wage rate with two operator levels to provide for advancement after one year.
  • Requirement for the direct transmission of digital incident photos to the Traffic Management Center (TMC) primarily for awareness and documentation to determine the need for emergency repairs of damage to FTE property.
  • Continued features include automated vehicle location (AVL) in all vehicles; a monthly fuel price adjustment; sponsorship; coverage during shift changes; and training and certification requirements.

In February 2013, The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District Four commemorated the first successful year of the Severe Incident Response Vehicle (SIRV) Program in Palm Beach County. The SIRV program has been a key component of the Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Program in District Four since its inception in Broward County in 2005. Due to its outstanding record of success, FDOT approved a new Severe Incident Response Vehicle (SIRV) contract in October 2011, expanding service to full-time along the 46-mile section of I-95 in Palm Beach County. The expansion follows a pilot project conducted by FDOT from July 6, 2010, to January 28, 2011.

The SIRV team is on duty in Palm Beach, Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on call 24/7 to respond to traffic incidents, including full highway closures, fatal crashes, overturned commercial trucks, and other events that may last longer than two hours. As part of the program’s expansion, four new SIRV vehicles were included in the new contract, two in Broward County and two in Palm Beach County. SIRV vehicles in both counties have a “new look,” with additional safety reflectors and lights. Each SIRV vehicle carries specialized equipment, including a roof-mounted arrow board for maintenance of traffic, spill pads and containment pools, standard and electronic flares, roadway repair supplies, emergency scene signs, high-intensity lighting, brooms and shovels, 100 traffic cones, spill absorbent, bottled water, and extra fuel.

During the first year, Palm Beach SIRV operators responded to 596 events and were directly responsible for reducing the duration of lane closures by 3,906 minutes (more than 65 hours). The amount of time saved for Road Rangers, fire rescue, wrecker companies, law enforcement, and other responder agencies totaled 6,448 minutes (more than 107 hours). Benefits are not only in terms of time and cost savings for partner agencies but also in quicker and safer incident clearance for the traveling public in Palm Beach County.

Florida Department of Transportation recognized the exceptional achievements of eleven transportation professionals at their ninth annual SMART SunGuide Awards on February 13. Five Road Ranger operators were recognized in the following categories: “Dedication to Motorist Assistance,” “Newcomer of The Year” and “Continued Excellence” with one recipient recognized in this category for Broward County, Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Awards were also presented for “Customer Service and Mentoring, Dedication to Motorist Safety,” “Commitment to Teamwork,” and “Dedication to Motorist Assistance” as well as other categories.


"On the Move" webisode features Illinois DOT Minutemen.

Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider highlighted the Emergency Traffic Patrol or “Minutemen” in the March edition of her YouTube webisode series “On the Move.” The video explains the role of the Minutemen in the reduction of 60% of all traffic congestion that roadway incidents cause. The webisode also touches on the history of the patrol, since it’s beginnings in 1960, as well the Minutemen’s unique safety features and of course, integral function in aiding motorists. The episode provides testimonials from the Minutemen and motorists as well as safety tips from transportation officials.


Discussions surrounding the contracting of Iowa’s Highway Helper program to a private vendor have been underway since late January. Scott Dockstader, District Engineer for the Department of Transportation has indicated that the DOT is currently considering utilizing an outside vendor for this program. A private contract would relieve DOT employee patrol operator labor and allow for the possibility of patrol expansion in fleet size and coverage area. Currently operating on the Des Moines freeway, the Highway Helper program assists motorists on Interstates 35, 85 and 235.


The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet participated in the Federal Highway Administration’s Traffic Incident Management course. The course designated and trained “incident managers” by region or state who, in turn, trained all personnel for better preparedness in emergency situations. Using case studies, seminars and practice scenarios, this training provided safety practices and standards for Kentucky transportation officials. Managers have learned safer and efficient roadway clearance tactics to improve driver safety and reduce traffic congestion. Utilizing this knowledge ultimately progresses Kentucky roadway safety for transportation personnel and motorists throughout the state.


In February, the Michigan Department of Transportation announced that their Freeway Courtesy Patrol would expand patrol coverage and services for motorists in need into Washtenaw County, along US 23, M-14 and I-94. Last year, on average the patrol assisted 130 motorists a day. The Freeway Courtesy Patrol has seen continual expansion from its beginnings as a one-van “courtesy” patrol with limited service hours. The service began under the direction of Detroit restaurant owners who were hopeful to provide more protection on the freeway for city visitors and restaurant guests. After some time, AAA in Michigan assumed management of the program, training and hiring drivers. MDOT eventually took control of the project, where it has grown, and continues to grow, exponentially. The Washtenaw extension is a demonstration of the program’s development and success in aiding Michigan drivers.


Photo from the NDOT Facebook page.

Nevada recently announced a request for feedback on their Facebook page from motorists who have been assisted by the Freeway Service Patrol The Nevada Department of Transportation created this forum to encourage motorists, patrol drivers and transportation officials to interact and commend the good service of patrol drivers throughout the state. The site has facilitated dialogue between motorists and the state as well as increased the visibility of their program and safety efforts.


This January, the State Highway Patrol issued a news release reminding motorists of the important “Move Over” law. Citing over 150 deaths of police officers who have been hit by vehicles while assisting motorists since 1999, the patrol hopes to instill the importance of obeying safety precautions on the road. Forty-three states throughout the county have now established and enforced this law. Motorists, however, are not always aware of the “Move Over” law, which, in North Carolina, requires drivers to slow and move into another lane on multi-lane highways, or slow significantly on two-lane highways when a stationary emergency vehicle with flashing lights is present. Although the law was implemented in the state in 2002, and despite the seriousness of this issue, a Mason Dixon Polling & Research national survey found that 71% of Americans are unaware the law exists. However, 86% of Americans would encourage this law be present in all states and 90% agree that roadside incidents are perilous for first responders like patrol operators. Since motorists overwhelmingly support these types of safety measures, North Carolina State Highway Patrol is hopeful that a reminder to be knowledgeable of laws will result in less road-side injury and keep important transportation personnel protected on the job.


In an effort to reduce roadway incidents, Ohio first responders such as fire departments, tow companies, emergency personnel and Ohio State Highway Patrol professionals participated in Traffic Incident Management (TIM) training instated by Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The training was provided to improve traffic incident safety and clearing efficiency. Ohio has also implemented additional safety features to alert motorists of an upcoming accident. Rather than traditional orange traffic signs, pink signs have been put in place to designate accident scenes. This change is part of Ohio’s effort to encourage motorists to do their part in improving roadway safety and slowing down when flashing lights or signs indicate problems ahead.

Back to Safe Highway Matters: Spring 2013 

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