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News & Notes Spring 2011

Each quarter Safe Highway Matters highlights recent developments and news items about Safety Service Patrols across the country. Submit your News & Notes to

News & Notes Winter 2011


With gas prices the highest they’ve been since 2008, it should come as no surprise that motorists are “running on empty.” Safety Service Patrols have started seeing and can expect to see more cars on the side of the road due to the increased cost of fuel. Safety Service Patrols have already started to note the increase in calls. Calls from motorists who have run out of gas on Florida’s Turnpike have doubled, going from 10 to 20 calls per day, and PennDOT has seen a 10-15% increase since February in calls for assistance for vehicles that have run out of gas. The Dallas County Sherriff’s Courtesy Patrol has also noted an increase in gas calls and has started tracking the license plates of stranded motorists in order to watch out for scammers. As of May 9th, the national average per gallon of regular was $3.93, with Hawaii showing the highest national gas prices of $4.55.  Industry experts anticipate the average cost per gallon of regular gas could surpass the record $4.11 set in July 2008. With the busy Memorial Day travel weekend approaching, Safety Service Patrol drivers can prepare for increased calls for assistance by motorists with empty fuel tanks.

April 10 – 16, 2011 marked National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.  The week honors the dedicated telecommunicators who answer the phone calls for police, fire, emergency medical services, and highway assistance. Dispatchers play an integral role in getting citizens help by communicating with responders. Dispatchers continue to adapt to new circumstances, implement new technologies, and save countless lives.  Their efforts sanction the speedy help to the frantic population.


United Kingdom: Over 90 individuals from across the United Kingdom came together on March 21, 2011 for the Transport Incident Management Training Day. The event was hosted by the NPIA Workforce Strategy Unit at NPIA Ryton and brought together police, health and safety, and occupational health practitioners to share information about managing and investigating major transport incidents. The training day was designed to promote communication between occupational health professionals and health and safety advisors working at major events. The event was part of the NPIA’s work to develop health and safety policies and practices across forces in England and Wales. The day was organized on behalf of the Association of Police Health and Safety Advisors (APHSA) and attracted delegates from a number of organizations including: the British Transport Police (BTP); ACPO UK Disaster Victim Identification (ACPO DVI); the National Association of Police Welfare Advisors (NAPWA); the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and representatives from other police forces across England and Wales.


At the Trasnpo2010, a biennial conference on intelligent transportation systems in Florida, Peter Vega, FDOT District Two ITS Engineer presented a brand new concept: the Smart Phone Application for Road Rangers (SPARR). At the time of presentation the app was in a demo state, but has since been put into use in District Two.

The app helps to reduce incident response time by continuously updating the SunGuide software used at the Traffic Management Center with the Road Ranger’s latitude and longitude while displaying the Road Ranger’s real time location on its operator map. This real time location data will allow operators to dispatch the Road Ranger with the best position and status to respond to an incident.

FDOT considered potential service providers, the type of phone operating system, possible distribution to other Districts and cost when creating the app. Vega says “The longest part of the development process involved getting the Department-specific reporting drop-down menus working properly. Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) was completed very early in the game.”


FDOT Road Ranger Smartphone App. Images courtesy of FDOT.

The hard work is paying off and the related findings are tremendous:

  • Traffic Management Operator phone and radio traffic has dropped by nearly 70%;
  • Dispatching Road Rangers now takes a matter of seconds;
  • Incident reports from Road Rangers take a matter of minutes; and
  • Monthly costs per phone only went up $30 per phone.

No annual license fees for the software and the ability to discontinue AVL service in the coming months have also made this change beneficial.

Road Ranger training to use the app only took about two weeks, but even the most non-technological of the bunch have come around and love it. “Why you ask?” prods Vega, “Because they no longer have to wait to jump into action since it is all handled electronically.”

In the coming months, four other districts will be considering using the Smartphone app. Vega’s goal is after a six month test to propose expanding the Smartphone app to FDOT Maintenance contractors, CEI staff and possibly law enforcement (FHP mainly).

Miami Dade Expressway Authority launched a Facebook page that houses comments from stranded motorists and information about contacting the Road Ranger patrol in the area. See the page and become a fan, here!


Due to the success of the popular Hawaii FSP project, the state’s governor has approved expanding the project this summer by adding three quad cab pickup trucks to the six active FSP tow truck fleet. The pickup trucks will be used to augment the three existing FSP beats. The newly created fourth FSP beat will add a 7.5 mile segment of H-1 on the east side. The new FSP beat will deploy three tow trucks.  The new segment has been shown to be one of the most congested freeways in the entire country. Hawaii DOT chose to employ the three pickup trucks due to the cost factor (pickups versus tow trucks) and since this type of vehicle has proven successful in other states, such as California.  The pickup trucks will be used for most motorist assists, including transportation of multiple occupants off the freeway. Transportation officials are finding the Hawaiians are doing more car pooling due to the higher fuel prices.


Courtesy of Illinois Tollway RFP.

On March 30, 2011, the Illinois Tollway released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for their H.E.L.P. program to be sponsored: “The intent of this solicitation is to generate suitable proposals from qualified firms or marketing agents for consideration regarding sponsorship of the H.E.L.P. program.” The Illinois Tollway offered a number of program elements, including logo’d patrol vehicles, informative highway signage, logo’d uniforms, branded comment cards and tollbooth posters, as part of the sponsorship opportunity. Responses by marketing agencies were due on April 22, 2011.



Courtesy of INDOT RFP.

On March 14, 2011, the Indiana Department of Transportation released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for sponsorship of the Hoosier Helper (Freeway Service Patrol) program. INDOT’s objective in releasing this RFP: “INDOT is interested in securing relationships with bidders who will participate in sponsorship or in an integrated program of sponsorship and marketing utilizing INDOT’s Hoosier Helper Freeway Service Patrol program. The sponsorship program will be implemented and managed so as to preserve, promote and enhance the core mission of the Hoosier Helper program.” The Indiana DOT offered bidders the option to provide sponsorship on a system-wide or regional basis or offered the opportunity to market the vehicles to multiple advertisers. Bidders also had the opportunity to submit their own model. Responses were due on May 16, 2011.


On May 18, 2011, New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) announced the launch of its Safety Service Patrol on Interstate 95 from the towns of Portsmouth to Seabrook. The NHDOT Safety Service Patrol is a three-month pilot project that will patrol during I-95 peak summer traffic. Stranded motorists can call 271-6TMC (271-6862) to receive assistance Monday-Friday during early morning and late afternoon commuting hours and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Sundays from 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. Additional coverage is being considered for holidays and special events. The estimated cost of the pilot project is $40,000. This new patrol will be in addition to the patrol currently operated by NHDOT on I-93 from the state line to Exit 5.

Back to Safe Highway Matters: Spring 2011

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