Emergency Transportation Operations
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Traffic Incident Management


Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer

The recommendations contained in the Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer allow that they may be tailored towards the needs of the area in which the Traffic Incident Management program will be implemented.


We know how important Traffic Incident Management (TIM) is to the safety and reliability of our roadways and want to provide the tools you need to educate the public. The TIM Toolkit was developed to help TIM programs across the country promote their message clearly and cost-effectively. With your help, we can teach the general public about the value of TIM and how we can work together towards the goal of safe, free-flowing, reliable roadways for everyone.

Toolkit Related Links

Respondersafety.com: Protecting emergency responders at roadway incidents through collaboration, advocacy, networking and training.

Slow Down/Move Over PSA: Produced by the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association and its affiliate Emergency Responder Services Institute (ERSI), this 30-second PSA features emergency responders asking motorists to slow down and move over when they see flashing lights. Video can be tailored for local needs. Contact Steve Austin (steveaustin@earthlink.net) or Jack Sullivan (respondersafety@gmail.com) for more information.

Move Over initiative Toolkit: Additional resources for your awareness campaign are available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and their Move Over initiative toolkit at http://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/

About Traffic Incident Management (TIM)

TIM consists of a planned and coordinated multi-disciplinary process to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents so that traffic flow may be restored as safely and quickly as possible. Effective TIM reduces the duration and impacts of traffic incidents and improves the safety of motorists, crash victims and emergency responders.

The TIM Program of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is part of a larger all-hazards program called Emergency Transportation Operations (ETO).

Both the ETO and TIM Programs are housed in the FHWA's Office of Transportation Operations under the Associate Administrator for Operations.

Traffic Incident Management Partners

Traffic Incident Management is a planned and coordinated program process to detect, respond to, and remove traffic incidents and restore traffic capacity as safely and quickly as possible. This coordinated process involves a number of public and private sector partners, including:

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement agencies include State Police and Highway Patrols, County Police and County Sheriffs, Township and Municipal Police and other agencies which have officers sworn to enforce laws. On the scene of a traffic incident the duties of these officials include:

  • Securing the incident scene
  • Providing emergency medical aid until help arrives
  • Safeguarding personal property
  • Conducting accident investigations
  • Serving as incident commander
  • Supervising scene clearance
  • Assisting disabled motorists
  • Directing traffic

Jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies varies widely from state to state and even within a state. Typically, State Police and Highway Patrols have jurisdiction on State highways and county and municipal police have jurisdiction off the State highway system. State Police and Highway Patrols have statewide coverage and many lack sufficient resources to adequately respond to incidents on State highways in urban areas. In many locations, State law enforcement agencies receive assistance from county and local agencies and in some cases local law enforcement has jurisdiction even on State highways.

Law enforcement agencies are first responders at traffic incident scenes, providing 24-hour emergency response and operating under a paramilitary command structure. At most traffic incidents, law enforcement officers act alone and trained to make unilateral command decisions.

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Fire and Rescue

Fire and rescue services are provided by county and municipal fire departments, and by surrounding fire departments through mutual aid agreements. Typical roles and responsibilities at traffic incidents assumed by fire and departments include:

  • Protecting the incident scene
  • Suppressing fires
  • Providing emergency medical care
  • Serving as incident commander
  • Providing initial HAZMAT response and containment
  • Rescuing crash victims from contaminated environments
  • Rescuing crash victims from wrecked vehicles
  • Arranging transportation for the injured
  • Assisting in incident clearance
  • Providing traffic control until law enforcement or DOT arrival

In most jurisdictions, the fire department is the primary emergency response agency for hazardous materials spills. Like law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue departments also operate as first responders under a well-defined command structure providing 24-hour emergency response. Unlike law enforcement, who operate individually for most duties, fire departments operate under a highly organized team structure with the close supervision of a commanding officer. Fire departments and emergency medical service providers (EMS) also act at the direction of one decision maker, and may not respond individually to requests from other response agencies unless their command officer directs them to do so.

In most large urban areas, full time professional personnel staff fire and rescue departments. In many suburban and in most rural areas, volunteers primarily provide fire and rescue services.

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Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

The primary responsibilities of EMS are the triage, treatment, and transport of crash victims. In many areas, fire and rescue companies provide emergency medical services. In some areas, other agencies or private companies provide these services to local jurisdictions under contract. Typical roles and responsibilities assumed by EMS at traffic incidents include:

  • Providing advanced emergency medical care
  • Determining of destination and transportation requirements for the injured
  • Coordinating evacuation with fire, police and ambulance or airlift
  • Serving as incident commander for medical emergencies
  • Determining approximate cause of injuries for the trauma center
  • Removing medical waste from incident scene

Emergency medical services have evolved as primary care givers to individuals needing medical care in emergencies. As with police, emergency medical personnel have a defined set of priorities. They focus on providing patient care, crash victim rescue, and ensuring the safety of their personnel.

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Transportation agencies are typically responsible for the overall planning and implementation of traffic incident management programs. Typically, these agencies are also involved in the development, implementation, and operation of traffic operations centers (TOC), as well as the management of service patrols. Typical operational responsibilities assumed by transportation agencies and their service patrols include:

  • Assist in incident detection and verification
  • Initiate traffic management strategies on incident impacted facilities
  • Protect the incident scene
  • Initiate emergency medical assistance until help arrives
  • Provide traffic control
  • Assist motorist with disabled vehicles
  • Provide motorist information
  • Provide sand for absorbing small fuel and anti-freeze spills
  • Provide special equipment clearing incident scenes
  • Determine incident clearance and roadway repair needs
  • Establish and operate alternate routes
  • Coordinate clearance and repair resources
  • Serve as incident commander for clearance and repair functions
  • Repair transportation infrastructure

Transportation agencies are secondary responders. That is, they are typically called to the incident scene by first responders, usually law enforcement. Transportation agencies are rarely connected directly to public safety emergency communications and dispatch systems.

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Public Safety Communications

Public safety communications services are the 911 call takers and dispatchers. In larger urban areas, call taking and dispatching duties may be separated. Call takers route emergency calls to appropriate dispatch. In some areas, all public safety emergency calls (police, fire and rescue, and emergency medical) are handled in one joint center with call takers sending calls to appropriate agency dispatch depending on the nature of the call. In smaller urban areas and in many rural areas, call-takers may also dispatch public safety response. Most larger urban areas have E911 capabilities so that call takers can obtain the location of landline 911 calls. Many rural areas do not yet have E911. Most calls on highway emergencies come from cellular telephones that are currently not able to provide location information for 911 calls.

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Emergency Management

State and local governments have agencies whose duties are to plan for and coordinate multi-agency response to large-scale emergencies such as natural and man-made disasters. They have specific responsibilities under both federal and state law. Even very large highway incidents rarely activate emergency response plans unless they necessitate evacuation due to a spill or presence of hazardous materials. Emergency management agencies maintain lists of the location of many public and private sector resources that might be needed in a major emergency. These lists and contacts for activating resources are valuable tools in planning multi-agency response to major highway incidents.

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Towing and Recovery

Towing and recovery service providers are responsible for the safe and efficient removal of wrecked or disabled vehicles, and debris from the incident scene. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Recover and remove vehicles from incident scene
  • Protect victims' property and vehicles
  • Remove debris from the roadway
  • Provide other services, such as traffic control, as directed or under contract

Towing and recovery companies are secondary responders operating under a towing arrangement usually maintained by a law enforcement agency. Towing and recovery arrangements generally fall under one of two major types – rotation or contract. In rotation towing, a police department will maintain a list of pre-qualified companies and will rotate the call of those companies. In many locations, rotation lists are classified by specific company capabilities so that a company with only automobile towing equipment doesn't get called to a truck incident. Rotation lists may also be maintained by location zones so that companies closer to the incident scene will get called. In contract towing, companies are contracted to provide specific services on call. The contracts are often awarded through a bidding process and qualification requirements to bid may be more rigid than requirements for placement on a rotation list. Contracts may also be awarded on a zone basis to help enable response by the closest qualified company.

Towing and recovery companies that respond to highway incidents are indispensable components of all incident management programs. Even programs that include service patrols with relocation capability depend heavily on towing and recovery service providers. Challenges facing this industry are unique because they are not public agencies. As such, they must remain profitable to retain a skilled work force, purchase and maintain expensive and complex equipment, and to stay in business.

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Hazardous Materials Contractors

Hazardous materials contractors operate in a number of regions in the United States. They are hired by emergency or transportation authorities to clean up and dispose of toxic or hazardous materials. Most common (and small quantity) engine fluid spills (oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, anti-freeze, etc.) can be contained and cleaned up without calling hazardous materials contractors.

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Traffic Information Media

Traffic information service providers are primarily private sector companies that gather and disseminate traffic condition information. These private providers are the primary source of information for commercial radio traffic information broadcasts, the most common source of traffic information for motorists. These companies also package specific information on a route or time of day basis to paying clients who subscribe for the information. In recent years, many Internet sites have been created to provide road condition and traffic information. A mixture of public sector agencies and private information service providers maintains these sites.

In 2000, the federal Communications Commission approved 511 as a national traffic information telephone number. Activity is underway in some locations to provide traffic information through a 511 number. For more information on 511, please go to the FHWA Operations Real Time Traveler Information Web site.

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Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2)

The Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) delivered two products to improve traffic incident on-scene management. The first product is a multi-disciplinary training course that promotes a shared understanding of the requirements for quick clearance and safeguards responders and motorists. The second product is a 2-day Train-the-Trainer course that facilitates widespread use of the multi-disciplinary training. Governors, transportation leaders, police, and firefighters across the country can save money, time, and lives by championing full-scale deployment of these innovative training courses focused on traffic incident management (TIM). Refer to the SHRP2 one-page flyer or the SHRP2 Web site for more information about this program.


Evaluation Results Summary: National Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Responder Training Program

The National Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Responder Training program includes a Train-the-Trainer (TtT) course that provides participants (i.e., trainers) the knowledge and materials necessary for them to conduct TIM training for TIM responders in their area, typically through use of the four-hour version of the training. To assess participant learning and to capture the impacts of the training on operations, FHWA developed a suite of surveys that cover reaction, learning, behavior and results. The surveys were administered using either hard copies during training sessions or through an online tool. The Evaluation Results Summary of the survey results captured between January 2016 and August 2017.

Traffic Incident Management Training Post-Course Assessment Tool Final Evaluation Report

The Traffic Incident Management Training Post-Course Assessment Tool Final Evaluation Report provides State and local agencies, decision-makers, and other users an overview of the student learning and impact of the multidisciplinary, multiagency training curriculum on operations. The Final Evaluation Report provides a description of the course participants and their perceptions of the training's effectiveness.

Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer

The recommendations contained in the Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer allow that they may be tailored towards the needs of the area in which the Traffic Incident Management program will be implemented.

Making the Connection: Advancing Traffic Incident Management in Transportation Planning

The intent of Making the Connection: Advancing Traffic Incident Management in Transportation Planning primer is to inform and guide traffic incident management (TIM) professionals and transportation planners to initiate and develop collaborative relationships and advance TIM programs through the metropolitan planning process.

2012 Senior Executive Transportation & Public Safety Summit Report

The 2012 Senior Executive Transportation & Public Safety Summit Report summarizes the proceedings, findings, and recommendations from a two-day Senior Executive Summit on Transportation and Public Safety, held June 26 and 27, 2012 at the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) in Washington, D.C.

Analysis, Modeling, and Simulation for Traffic Incident Management Applications

Traffic incidents are a major source of congestion. Implementing traffic incident management (TIM) strategies has proven to be a highly cost effective way of reducing non-recurrent congestion. This publication provides the current state of practice of various analytical methodologies and related TIM applications. It, also, identifies some research activities to improve analysis of incident impacts and TIM strategies.

  • Report (HTML, PDF 2.9MB) (Publication Number: FHWA-HOP-12-045)

Traffic Incident Management Cost Management and Cost Recovery Primer

This publication provides mid-level managers at transportation and other stakeholder agencies with the resources they need to explain the benefits of traffic incident management (TIM) and TIM cost management and cost recovery to executive leadership. It also provides the same mid-level managers with information that will help them implement TIM cost management and cost recovery techniques. This document focuses on "recoverable costs" related to TIM, as there are costs associated with TIM that cannot accurately be measured or replaced; however, costs related to responder and motorist injury, disability, fatality, and the related medical and societal costs are not addressed here as those issues are addressed in a variety of ways in the existing literature.

  • Report (HTML, PDF 3.4MB) (Publication Number FHWA-HOP-12-044)
  • Presentations
    • Executive-Level Briefing (HTML, PDF 733KB)
    • Mid-Level Briefing (HTML, PDF 1.1MB)

Best Practices in Traffic Incident Management

Traffic incident management (TIM) is a planned and coordinated program to detect and remove incidents and restore traffic capacity as safely and quickly as possible. Over time, various tools and strategies have been developed and implemented in an effort to improve overall TIM efforts. This report describes task-specific and cross-cutting issues or challenges commonly encountered by TIM responders in the performance of their duties, and novel and/or effective strategies for overcoming these issues and challenges (i.e., best practices).

  • Report (HTML, PDF 1.3MB) (Publication Number: FHWA-HOP-10-050)
  • Executive Summary (HTML, PDF 384KB) (Publication Number: FHWA-HOP-10-050x)

Field Operations Guide for Safety/Service Patrols

This guide was produced by the Federal Highway Administration and was developed for use by Safety/Service Patrol operators and supervisors. It is expected that Safety/Service Patrol personnel will carry the guide in their vehicle to use as a quick reference while performing patrol tasks. They should refer to this guide on a regular basis as a refresher on steps and tasks associated with managing incidents - particularly for those situations not encountered every day. This guide is not designed to stand alone, but in conjunction with training and exercises that will indoctrinate the Safety/Service patrol operators into these good practices as well as Agency formal Standard Operating Guidelines or Procedures.

  • Guide (HTML, PDF 1.5MB) (Publication Number: FHWA-HOP-10-014)

2010 Traffic Incident Management Handbook

The 2010 version of the Traffic Incident Management Handbook (TIM) (the Handbook or TIM Handbook) includes the latest advances in TIM programs and practices across the country, and offers practitioners insights into the latest innovations in TIM tools and technologies. The 2010 TIM Handbook also features a parallel Web-based version that can be conveniently bookmarked, browsed, or keyword-searched for quick reference. This version supersedes the Freeway Incident Management Handbook published by FHWA in 1991 and the Traffic Incident Management Handbook published in 2000.

  • Handbook (HTML, PDF 1.5MB) (Publication Number: FHWA-HOP-10-013)

Emergency Vehicle Visibility and Conspicuity Report

The United States Fire Administration (USFA), in partnership with the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA), announces the release of the Emergency Vehicle Visibility and Conspicuity Study. The study report highlights the results of a U.S. Department of Justice - National Institute of Justice (NIJ) supported project intended to enhance emergency vehicle and roadway operations safety for firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other emergency responders.

This partnership with the International Fire Service Training Association, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, produced a study on emergency vehicle visibility and conspicuity, and expanded fire service efforts in these areas, to enhance emergency vehicle and roadway operations safety for firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other emergency responders.

This report discusses best practices in emergency vehicle visibility and conspicuity, including cutting edge international efforts. It covers retroreflective striping and chevrons, high-visibility paint, built-in passive light, and other reflectors for law enforcement patrol vehicles, fire apparatus, ambulances and other EMS vehicles, and motorcycles. This report may be viewed and downloaded from the USFA Web site: http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/fa_323.pdf (PDF, 2.18MB).

For an additional listing of Traffic Incident Management publications, please visit the Office Of Operations' Publications Web page.

Additional Publications

A complete list of Emergency Transportation Operations' publications can be found at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/eto_tim_pse/publications/index.htm.

Regulation and Policy

Other Resources

  • Business Case for Traffic Incident Management: The purpose of this document is to support TIM agencies and partner agencies in the development of a strong business case for their TIM programs, as well as to introduce strategies that link investments with program results and, ultimately, with the strategic outcomes of the broader organization. Contact Paul Jodoin (Paul.Jodoin@dot.gov)
  • Slow Down/Move Over PSA: Produced by the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association and its affiliate Emergency Responder Services Institute (ERSI), this 30-second PSA features emergency responders asking motorists to slow down and move over when they see flashing lights. Video can be tailored for local needs. Contact Steve Austin (steveaustin@earthlink.net) or Jack Sullivan (respondersafety@gmail.com) for more information.
  • Determining the Relative Impact of PSAs and Brochures Upon General Public Drivers Interfacing with Emergency Service Vehicles – Supported by the U.S. Fire Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice, the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association (CVVFA) announces the release of the report and training program, "Determining the Relative Impact of PSA's and Brochures Upon General Public Drivers Interfacing with Emergency Service Vehicles (PDF 1MB)." These products offer an interesting look into how drivers perceive roadway emergency responders after they have been exposed to the Slow Down, Move Over PSA, which will be included in FHWA's TIM Public Outreach Toolkit and may be seen at: YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LroL2xlVH1U&feature=plcp. See the full story at Respondersafety.com.
  • The Maryland legislature tackled the challenges of struck-by deaths of traffic incident responders. Many do not realize that the number of tow truck drivers who die in the line of duty about equals that of law enforcement officers who also respond to roadway incidents and surpasses fire or EMS deaths over the past several years. In this article journalist Frederick Kunckle of The Washington Post on March 6 reported that the Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill that would provide towers the same protections as law enforcement and fire who operate on the side of the road. Towers will benefit from safe, quick clearance legislation frequently known as Move Over laws that require motorists to move over one lane and slow down when they pass a tow truck aiding a disabled vehicle in the roadway or on the berm. The Maryland House version of the bill passed unanimously on March 6, with a similar bill awaiting action by the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. For more, go to this link: The dangerous life of a tow truck driver.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact:

Paul Jodoin
Transportation Specialist
Emergency Transportation Operations Team
Office of Operations, Federal Highway Administration
Department of Transportation

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Office of Operations