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

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Traffic Incident Management?

A. Traffic Incident Management (TIM) is a planned and coordinated program to detect, respond to, and remove traffic incidents and restore traffic capacity as safety and quickly as possible. Incidents are any non-recurring event causing a reduction of roadway capacity and typically include crashes, vehicle fires, disabled vehicles, roadway debris, spilled cargo, or hazardous materials.

TIM has been practiced as early as the 1960s as demonstrated by the Chicago Freeway Service Patrol, a program that equipped, marked, and patrolled vehicles to assist motorists on designated freeway sections to reduce traffic congestion and improve highway safety. Today, TIM programs save responder and motorist lives and improve the reliability of travel through Statewide and regional TIM Committees, data and performance driven investment in tools and technologies, responder training, public education and outreach, policies, procedures, and laws.

Q. Who is involved in Traffic Incident Management?

A. Traffic Incident Management is a planned and coordinated program process to detect, respond to, and remove traffic incidents and restore traffic capacity as safety and quickly as possible. This coordinated process involves a number of public and private sector partners. For more information about these partners, please visit TIM Stakeholders.

Q. What is FHWA doing to promote and enhance coordination for Traffic Incident Management?

A. FHWA focuses on promoting and enhancing coordination through a number of initiatives including:

Q. What are the differences between Traffic Incident Management, Incident Command and Emergency Management?

A. These three terms are often confused and sometime used interchangeably. They mean distinctively different things to different people.
Traffic Incident Management is that set of actions and procedures taken by multiple agencies and private sector partners acting cooperatively in a coordinated manner to prepare for and quickly and safely detect, respond to and remove traffic incidents and then to effectively address their lingering effects on traffic flow and safety.
Incident Command (ICS) is the command and control structure for the effective management of personnel and equipment resources during an incident. Through ICS, agencies working at an incident scene are able to achieve:
  • Common terminology
  • Modular organization
  • Integrated communications
  • Unified command structure
  • Consolidated action plan
  • Manageable span-of-control
  • Predesignated incident facilities
  • Comprehensive resource management
Emergency Management is a general term that describes public safety agencies as well as the set of practices and procedures used in response to an emergency incident. There are also Emergency Management agencies at the state and local level that are tasked with the planning and preparation for major natural and man-made emergencies.

Q. How can effective Traffic Incident Management strategies and procedures help in a major emergency?

A. Major emergencies happen infrequently, but in order to ensure efficient and effective response, much mutual planning, preparation and training are required of the responding parties. Traffic incidents happen frequently and differ from major emergencies primarily in scale. The responding partners are the same, especially far larger traffic incidents. Safe and effective coordinated multi-agency actions taken to quickly clear traffic incidents depend upon a high degree of institutional and technical coordination and cooperation among a large number of agencies and private sector responding parties. The better prepared public safety, transportation and private sector partners are to effectively responding to and resolving traffic incidents the better prepared they will also be to handling major emergencies when they occur.