Emergency Transportation Operations
photos of traffic merging onto congested highway, congestion in snowstorm, variable message sign, cargo, variable speed limit sign in a work zone, and a freeway at night
Office of Operations 21st Century Operations using 21st Century Technologies

Towing and Recovery

Towing and recovery operations clear the roadway of disabled or damaged vehicles and their cargos, restoring the roadway to it full capacity. Timely dispatch of appropriate towing and recovery assets to an incident scene can be facilitated through a contact list of towing and recovery companies who have been pre-approved regarding equipment and capabilities.

Towing and recovery services are usually contacted through law enforcement agencies that have rotational agreements or contracts with towing and recovery companies. Most towing companies can adequately handle passenger sized vehicles and vans. Larger trucks, especially those that have overturned require the expertise of recovery specialists. Rotational and other types of contracts for towing and recovery services must assure that the correct equipment is brought to the scene and that the specialists are qualified for the task at hand. It is important to let the towing and recovery professionals know as much as possible about the nature of the vehicles involved so they can bring the correct equipment.

In many areas, the towing and recovery companies are working with law enforcement and fire-rescue agencies in mutual education activities so that vehicle and cargo removal proceeds swiftly and safely. The Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA) has developed a three level National Driver Certification Program to establish a higher level of professionalism in their industry. An increasing number of law enforcement agencies that contract with towers are now requiring TRAA certification as a qualification for participation in a contractual relationship.

TRAA has also prepared a Traffic Incident Management Handbook (TIMTOW) for the towing industry. The purpose of the document is to facilitate the understanding of traffic incident management programs within the industry and to describe how the industry members can involve themselves in local problems. As a follow-up activity, TRAA is revising its three level National Driver Certification Program to incorporate materials from TIMTOW.

For questions related to TIMTOW please contact Paul Jodoin, FHWA Office of Transportation Operations.