Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Chapter 4. Full-Function Service Patrol Concept

4.1 Background, Objectives, and Scope of an FFSP

Tennessee Department of Transportation Highway Incident Response Unit with toolsSection 2.1 provided the background on existing service patrols while Section 3.1 discussed justification for changes to an FFSP. FHWA is anticipating that this Handbook for an FFSP will provide a model for uniform service across the U.S. and provide additional benefits in reducing congestion.

An FFSP program is an essential component of a regional TIM program and serves to reduce congestion and enhance highway safety. FFSP services should aim to reduce the impact of traffic incidents by minimizing the duration of incidents, restoring highways to their full capacity, and applying proper emergency TTC to enhance safety of other TIM responders and motorists involved in incidents. An FFSP supports traffic incident response and provides motorist assistance free of charge. Essential FFSP objectives are defined in priority order:

  1. Traffic incident clearance
  2. Traffic control and scene management
  3. Incident detection and verification
  4. Motorist assistance and debris removal
  5. Traveler information.

A trained FFSP operator uses fully equipped vehicles capable of clearing an automobile or light truck to a safe location without having to wait for a wrecker. When vehicle crashes or stalls occur because of a weather event, the clearance functionality is especially beneficial because private towing company and automobile club response times can take several hours. The cleared vehicle presents a significantly reduced hazard at the safe location, allowing a towing wrecker to pick up the vehicle without further incident. By quickly removing the hazard from the highway, the FFSP minimizes potential disruptions to other motorists and reduces the risk of secondary incidents.

The FFSP operator is also sufficiently trained to provide emergency TTC at incident scenes. This function enhances the safety of responders at the incident scene and protects motorists passing through the scene. The traffic control function can also include setting up, maintaining, and removing emergency detour or alternate routes.

By patrolling the service area, the FFSP can help detect and verify traffic incidents quickly and initiate a clearance response to motorists requiring assistance.

The FFSP assists disabled motorists by providing gas or water, changing tires, performing minor vehicle repairs, or by towing and/or pushing vehicles off the roadway. The FFSP also assists motorists by providing directions, tagging abandoned vehicles, removing debris from the roadway, providing rides to individuals stranded on the highway, and assisting in spill clean-up.

With direct two-way communications, FFSP operators can provide updates on traffic and roadway conditions to TMC operators as input into traveler information systems such as 511 and/or DMS.

4.2 Operational Policies and Constraints

Funding and other political, administrative, and institutional constraints are issues that agencies must overcome and address before implementing an FFSP program. Specific examples include:

  • Program administration
  • The role and legal limits that an agency, such as a department of transportation, has in responding to freeway incidents
  • Various roles and responsibilities of stakeholder agencies
  • Opposition from stakeholder agencies
    • Commercial concerns from private enterprise (towing companies, mobile tire repair centers)
  • Performance objectives and policies
    • Quick incident clearance policies
    • Open roads policies
  • Operational policies and associated program costs
    • Size of the program
    • Hours of operation
    • Service area/number of miles covered
    • Number of trucks and operators needed
    • Fuel costs
    • Types of trucks and equipment
    • Types of communications equipment
    • Operator qualifications, training, and certifications
    • Dispatcher qualifications, training, and certifications
  • Political concerns
    • Legislative approval
    • Union concerns
    • An agency’s traditional road-building needs versus operational performance.

4.2.1 Funding

Officials at existing programs routinely acknowledge identifying funding sources as the biggest challenge in implementing an FFSP. On freeways and other non-toll highways, service patrol programs typically have been funded through a State’s transportation funding, from the general fund of tax- and transportation-related fee revenue (e.g., fuel tax, vehicle registration fees), and, when applicable, with some Federal funding split. On tollways and turnpikes, funds for service patrols are generated from the tolls collected on the facility it serves. In most cases, funding and spending for service patrol programs competes with other transportation spending within the agency sponsoring the service patrol. Typical transportation budgets may include major capital improvements, rehabilitations, operations, maintenance, transit, and other initiatives. When tax or toll revenues stagnate or decline, agencies are forced to reduce spending and cut programs. As a result, service patrol programs are constrained not only by Federal and State budgets but also by tax and toll revenue collections. Traditional funding mechanisms for an FFSP can include:
  • State legislative appropriations
  • State operations and maintenance funds
  • State traffic and safety funds
  • State general revenue funds
  • State highway trust funds
  • Public safety funds
  • Toll revenues
  • MPO funds
  • Federal surface transportation funds
  • CMAQ funds
  • National Highway System (NHS) funds.

4.2.2 Public Private Partnership

As public agency dollars are stretched and budgets are cut, PPPs can provide an alternative to funding mutually beneficial programs. Because FFSP programs are free of charge to motorists and they do not compete with established towing businesses, it is not feasible to establish a fee-based system for services FFSP provides. Rather, private companies that benefit from exposure to motorists, fewer crashes, and open highways will benefit from sponsoring an FFSP. Private sponsorship of a program can expand service hours, frequency of coverage, coverage area, and/or services provided. An example of this benefit is State Farm Insurance Company’s 2-year sponsorship of the Road Ranger program on the Florida Turnpike. This PPP promotes highway safety through State Farm Insurance Company and provides free 24 hour roadside assistance along Florida’s Turnpike. In 2004 State Farm pledged $850,000 to the Road Rangers program to support motorist assistance. Other private funding source examples include pharmacies, motor clubs, and wireless telephone carriers. An agency should check State and local rules and laws to determine whether private advertising or PPP programs are allowed to partially or fully fund an FFSP and if not, explore options to allow such assistance.

An agency developing major transportation-based PPP programs such as high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes or new tollway facilities often develop specific contract terms for the financing, management, operations, level-of-service, and maintenance of the facility for a period of time. Contract terms within these major PPP programs should also include requirements for the developer or concessionaire to provide an FFSP program on the facility. The result is that the FFSP cost is enveloped in the overall program financing. This method will benefit the public by providing the service and benefit the private company by keeping facility traffic moving, potentially increasing toll collection revenues from motorists using the facility because of reliable trip times.

4.2.3 Educating Decision-Makers and Stakeholders

Benefit and cost evaluations of service patrols have consistently shown positive returns on the investment. However, some decision-makers often view these programs as a value-added service to the basic mission of a transportation or public works agency. As a result, funding for FFSPs can be constrained by the support of decision-makers within the agency and by the operational mission of the agency. Agencies attempting to implement an FFSP program should be prepared to explain to decision-makers the benefits of quick clearance and how FFSP programs can reduce congestion and improve safety.

4.2.4 Institutional Coordination

An important aspect in the success of an FFSP program is the involvement of and the relationship between the TIM and traffic operations stakeholders. Agencies should develop a multi-agency coalition and institutional framework to support, protect, and fund the program. The coalition should include stakeholders such as:
  • State and local law enforcement
  • Fire services
  • EMS personnel
  • Departments of Transportation
  • MPO or Association of Governments
  • Local highway/maintenance departments
  • TMCs
  • Media personnel
  • Towing and recovery companies.

Because FFSP programs can provide positive impacts beyond their jurisdictional boundaries, stakeholder agencies outside the service area or operational responsibility should also be included. For example, safety and efficiency improvements from an FFSP on a freeway can positively impact an arterial network. Establishing the coalition and identifying the stakeholders should begin in the early stages of planning an FFSP program so that each of the stakeholder’s unique needs can be addressed. The performance of the FFSP and partnership of the stakeholder agencies can bolster decision-making support for the program and in turn influence decision-makers and protect program funding. In many cases, these agencies can formalize their coalition by creating an MOU, interagency agreements, endorsement letters, partnering agreements, or joint operations policy statements.

Multi-agency partnerships can also provide an opportunity for agencies to pool funding across jurisdictions to provide an FFSP. While one agency may not be able to afford a stand-alone unit, cost sharing and oversight responsibilities may provide enough resources for an FFSP across the jurisdictions.

4.2.5 Operational Policies and Program Cost

The operational policies of a TIM program or an FFSP program can affect the overall budget. In basic terms, an overall program performance goal for traffic incident clearance can drive the frequency of coverage desired, the number of hours covered, the total service area, and the extent of the services provided. These factors affect the overall cost of the program and needed funding.

The following constraints and operational policies affect FFSP programs:
  • Program funding
    • Sponsoring agencies’ budgets and programs (Federal, State, local)
    • Tax, toll, or fee collections
    • PPPs
  • Support from agency decision-makers

  • Performance goals for quick incident clearance and associated program costs
    • Service area and number of miles covered
    • Number of vehicles and operators
    • Number of backup vehicles maintained
    • Hours of operation
    • Frequency of coverage
    • Fuel costs
    • Types of service provided
    • Type of vehicle and equipment
    • Operator qualifications, training, and certifications.

4.2.6 Program Administration and Operational Roles

FFSP programs can be agency operated or privately contracted. When an agency operates the program, the agency employs the service patrol operations, and the vehicle and equipment is either leased or procured. Some advantages of an agency-operated FFSP include:

  • Having direct control of operations and staff performance to support policies such as open roads and quick clearance
  • Changing operational policies to be executed without contract modifications
  • Developing and maintaining staff skills within agency (whereas in a contracted service, a change in contractor may cause the program to lose experience and training developed over time)
  • Providing a mechanism to promote department of transportation customer service
  • Avoiding a contract review and approval process through multiple departments and divisions of an agency.
A second alternative for implementing an FFSP is for an agency to hire a contractor to provide patrol services. Agencies typically use their established bidding or request for proposal (RFP) process to select a private contractor or towing company to provide the patrol vehicles, equipment, drivers, and service. The contract must clearly define the operational characteristics of the program. Typically, the contract is written for bid by vehicle/service hour. Some advantages of a contracted FFSP include:
  • An agency is not required to procure vehicles, hire personnel, procure special insurance, or have any special resources to operate the service
  • The contractor handles the vehicle fleet and equipment maintenance
  • Potential cost savings for training can be realized if the contractor has previous service patrol related experience.

Contracts for FFSPs should include fuel cost clauses to protect both the vendor and agency from rising fuel costs.

4.2.7 Towing Company Constraints

An agency’s operational policy for an FFSP, whether provided in-house or by private contractor, needs to prevent conflict with established private towing industry businesses. Operational policies need to emphasis that the objective of the FFSP is to clear vehicles from the highway to a safe location and not to a service station. Furthermore, FFSP programs strictly prohibit operators from recommending a secondary tow provider. The motorist should choose an operator or decide from an enforcement agency’s established rotating lists. This approach will prevent potential civil lawsuits and liability issues. An agency can prevent misconceptions of the FFSP program by working to establish a relationship with the local towing industry.

4.3 Description of Full-Function Service Patrols

The following subsections describe the major elements, services, and capabilities of an FFSP.

4.3.1 Hours of Operation

Consistent with the National Unified Goal (NUG) for TIM, developed through the National Traffic Incident Management Coalition (NTIMC), the FFSP should be operated 24 hours, 7-days-a-week within the defined service area. The majority of existing service patrols operate peak periods of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on weekdays, or during special events. These programs typically have focused on the highest congestion periods and the times with the highest crash rates. However, this focus can leave large portions of the traveling public unserved during nonpeak hours and can sometimes be confusing for motorists expecting service during a disablement. The 24 hours, 7-days-a-week availability of FFSP resources will ensure that traffic incident responders can promptly and effectively manage emergency incidents occurring on roadways regardless of time of day or day of week.

If 24 hours, 7-days-a-week service cannot be achieved because of resource limitations or other constraints, an agency should assess the service hours carefully in relation to crashes, severe crashes, and recurring congestion periods and deploy the service across the most crucial hours. The agency should also identify what additional funding resources would be required to provide 24 hours, 7-days-a-week service and determine whether those additional resources are obtainable. Another option is for agencies to develop an on-call system to provide services during major incidents that occur outside normal operating hours.

4.3.2 Service Area

From a macro perspective and consistent with the Congestion Initiative, FFSPs should be provided in each of the top 40 urban areas of the U.S. From a State, regional, or local perspective, the FFSP service area should be clearly defined and communicated to stakeholders and the public. Determining the service area is based on traffic volumes, recurring congestion areas, number of traffic incidents, calls for service, and crash frequency. The service area should focus on high traffic volume corridors that experience a high number of traffic incidents that increase the magnitude of congestion. Another factor in determining the service patrol service area is the absence of freeway shoulders where hazards are exacerbated when crashes or stalled vehicles occur. An example of this situation is a bridge or tunnel with limited shoulders.

4.3.3 Frequency of Coverage

The frequency of coverage is a function of the total miles patrolled in the service area and the number of FFSP vehicles traveling the area at a given time. Existing programs have a patrol frequency over each segment that ranges from every 10 minutes to 1 hour. The frequency of patrols provided should support adopted performance goals. A common TIM performance measure is incident clearance. For example, several states have 90-minute incident clearance goals. Alternatively, performance goals can be categorized by incident severity. In Utah, for example, minor fender-benders have a 30-minute clearance goal while injury crashes are 60 minutes. An FFSP program should continually patrol the service area at a frequency that supports the performance goal and can realistically detect and clear an incident within the clearance goal.

4.3.4 Guidelines for Developing Vehicle Requirements

Since one of the primary objectives of an FFSP is quickly clearing vehicles, the service patrol vehicle should be capable of, or designed for, towing vehicles. These vehicles should be flat bed models; be specially designed and equipped with a tow sling, tow bar, tow plate or wheel lift apparatus, attached to the rear of the vehicle; or have a crane or hoist that is attached to the bed or frame of the vehicle. The vehicle should meet State vehicle code requirements for light-duty tow trucks to perform accident recovery work and have all necessary permits to operate the service. The gross vehicle weight rating should be at least 10,000 pounds and have a manufacturer rating of one ton or more. The FFSP vehicle capabilities are identified so that an automobile or light truck that presents a hazard on the roadway may be moved carefully and quickly to a safe location. This service does not provide a tow to a garage or repair station. Quickly removing the vehicle from the incident area will restore the roadway to its full capacity and reduce the risk of secondary crashes. Motorists can choose a private towing company to move their vehicles from the safe location to a service station for repair.

Requirements for FFSP vehicles should be developed depending on the needs of the particular region. Guidelines and considerations for developing these requirements include:
  • Storage facilities for FFSP vehicles and equipment
  • Four-speed transmission or equivalent
  • Power-assisted service brake system
  • Parking brake system
  • Dual rear wheels and tires
  • Crane specification – boom capacity of at least 4 tons
  • Car carrier specification (if used) – bed assembly of at least 3/16-inch steel plate and at least 15 feet in length and 7 feet in width
  • Push bumper
  • Identification markings
  • Amber warning lights and lamps; no red lights should be visible
  • Work lamps
  • Portable tail, stop and signal lamps
  • Reflectors
  • Splash guards
  • Attachment chains.

4.3.5 Guidelines for Developing Equipment Requirements

To assist motorists with minor vehicle disablements and to provide emergency TTC at incident scenes, FFSP vehicles should be equipped with an assortment of tools and supplies to support key functions.

The following is a recommended list of equipment and supplies to carry on the FFSP vehicle:

  • Communications
    • Two-way radio
    • CB radio
    • Law enforcement radio
    • Public address system
    • Cellular telephone
  • Mechanical
    • Air compressor
    • Car jack
    • Power-operated winch
  • Tools
    • Booster cables
    • Tire gauges
    • Wrench sets
    • Socket sets
    • Hammers
    • Screwdrivers
    • Pliers
    • Wire cutters
    • Pry bars
    • Brooms
    • Shovels
    • Flashlights
    • Electrical multimeters/wiring testers
  • Fluids
    • Gasoline
    • Oil
    • Transmission fluid
    • Starter fluid
    • Water
    • Anti-freeze
  • Supplies
    • Electrical tape
    • Duct tape
    • Wire
    • Absorbent material
    • Hand cleaner
    • Paper towels
  • Safety
    • First-aid kit
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Gloves
    • Safety goggles
    • HAZMAT guide book
  • Traffic Control
    • Vehicle-mounted variable message or arrow sign
    • Cones
    • Flares
    • Traffic control signs

Another piece of important equipment for an FFSP is identifiable uniforms for operators. A uniform will establish confidence from other TIM responders, law enforcement, and the public that the operator is an authorized official or representative of the agency. Operators should also be equipped with an official, openly displayed credential to show to motorists who are hesitant or fearful to accept the services of an FFSP.

4.3.6 FFSP Operator Visibility Requirements and Apparel

The FHWA has established a rule in Title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) titled, “Part 634 Worker Visibility.” The rule requires that all workers within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway wear high-visibility safety apparel when they are exposed either to traffic (vehicles using the highway for purposes of travel) or to construction equipment within the work area. The rule defines workers as people on foot whose duties place them within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway. This worker definition encompasses all first responders, including FFSP operators. Part 634 also defines high-visibility safety apparel as personal protective safety clothing that is intended to provide conspicuity during daytime and nighttime usage, and that meets the Performance Class 2 or 3 requirements of ANSI/ISEA 107-2004. ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 is the American National Standard for Highway Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear. This standard provides uniform guidelines for the design and use of high-visibility safety apparel such as safety vests, rainwear, outerwear, trousers, and headwear to improve worker visibility during the day, in low-light conditions, and at night. ANSI/ISEA 207-2006 is the American National Standard for High-Visibility Public Safety vests. This standard establishes design and use criteria for vests to make public safety workers highly visible to motorists.

4.3.7 Procedural Development Guidelines

Each agency has unique procedures and techniques that will require clarification in operating an FFSP. An agency should develop procedural and operational guidelines to clarify and document those preferences and establish a baseline performance expectation so that all operators provide a uniform and consistent service. The guideline will also provide stakeholder agencies with a clear illustration of the FFSP-provided services and how interactions between the agencies and the FFSP will occur. For a privately contracted service, the operational guidelines should be used as part of the contract documents. Guidelines should cover the following FFSP topics:
  • Mission, objectives, roles, priorities, and functions of the program

  • Contract provisions
    • Termination criteria
  • Operational procedures
    • Duties job description, conduct
    • Response priorities
    • Routes, vehicle positioning, staging, leaving a scene
    • Dispatching
    • Communications
    • Safety
    • Emergency TTC
    • Dealing with motorists
    • Dealing with motor clubs and towing companies
    • Relationships with the TMC and stakeholders
  • Safety and response procedures

  • Disabled vehicles
    • Abandoned vehicles
    • Relocating vehicles
    • Traffic crashes
    • HAZMAT
    • Vehicle fires
    • Debris removal
    • Weather
    • Construction
  • Applicable laws, administrative policies, agreements
    • Open roads policy
    • Move it law
    • Liability
    • ICS
    • Emergency operations plans
    • Evacuation
    • Interagency cooperation, commitments, and relationships
  • FFSP policies
    • Facility
    • Shift change
    • Phones
    • Parking
    • Ride-along
    • Record keeping.

4.3.8 Initial Operator Qualifications

One of the biggest challenges that FFSP programs face is driver rotation and turnover. Large driver turnover rates will increase costs to the program as it increases the amount of time devoted to driver training and reduces the time drivers are operating a vehicle on the program’s service routes. FFSP programs can reduce driver turnover and overall program cost by paying competitive wages and hiring qualified and skilled drivers. In many cases, skills will need to be developed through training programs; however, drivers may already have some important skills if they have previous background in towing, automobile repair, emergency medical services, or highway maintenance. Hiring individuals with existing skills in automobile repair or EMS may be cost probative since these candidates may command salaries outside the FFSP program’s budget.

Initially, drivers should have the following minimum qualifications:
  • 18 years of age
  • High school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED)
  • Clean criminal background
  • Applicable Commercial Driver License (CDL)
  • Clean driving record
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to lift 50 pounds.

4.3.9 Operator Certifications and Training

After the initial hiring, an FFSP program should require and provide training for patrol operators before they begin service. Training should involve a combination of classroom style and on-the-job training to demonstrate and describe the typical functions, responses, and services that the operator will be providing. As a guideline, the program should provide annual refresher training to emphasize new policies, procedures, or performance concerns. Common training elements include:

  • TIM program overview, goals, and objectives
  • FFSP operating guidelines
  • Vehicle and equipment use and maintenance
  • Safety policies
  • Radio and communication procedures
  • Defensive driving
  • Ride-along with multiple shifts
    • 50 to 200 hours
  • First aid
  • CPR
  • Public relations/customer service
  • Maintenance of traffic/emergency TTC
  • Vehicle recovery procedures
  • Work site protection
  • Extinguishing vehicles fires
  • Minor vehicle repair
  • ICS consistent with NIMS
  • Disaster preparedness/evacuations
  • HAZMAT response including the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Depending on the operational policies and the overall goals of the FFSP program, the following formal certifications may further develop highly skilled and trained operators. These certifications typically require ongoing refresher courses and tests, and can be used to train drivers externally rather than relying on internally developed training materials:
  • International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA), Work Zone Traffic Control Safety
  • American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), Traffic Control Technician
  • Red Cross, First Aid
  • Red Cross, CPR
  • Department of Homeland Security, Highway Watch
  • Wreckmaster, Towing and Recovery Operations Specialist
  • National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, National Certified Automotive Technician
  • State certified, Emergency Medical Technician
  • State certified, Fire Fighter
  • State certified, Animal Control Officer
  • Federal Emergency Management Association, National Incident Management System ICS-100
  • Federal Emergency Management Association, National Incident Management System ICS-200

4.3.10 Costs

As previously mentioned, the size of the program and operational policies will drive the overall cost and annual budget. Existing service patrol programs using private contractors range in cost per service hour from $35 to $98, depending on the area and service vehicle used. Individual factors that influence the overall program cost include:
  • Operator wages
    • Qualifications
  • Operator benefits
  • Operator training and certifications
  • Vehicle procurement
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Fuel
  • Equipment procurement
  • Equipment maintenance and replenishment
  • Administrative cost.

4.3.11 Communications and Dispatching

FFSP communications and dispatching should be closely integrated with TMC operations. This is best accomplished with two-way radios, but cellular telephones can also be used as a communication tool. Although an FFSP is routinely patrolling the highway system, it is not reasonable to expect that the patrol vehicle will detect all incidents. Some incidents will be detected by law enforcement, TMC operators, or by other motorists reporting an incident to a 911 operator. As a result, the FFSP operator will typically rely on a dispatcher to report incident locations and details to aid in quicker response. In turn, the FFSP dispatcher will need close and convenient communications with the TMC operators and with public safety and 911 operators. Depending on the anticipated workloads of the TMC and public safety operators, these individuals could also serve as the FFSP dispatcher.

Consistent with NIMS/ICS protocol, using common plain language is preferred when communicating between the operator and dispatcher and between operators. Communications should be limited to incident-related details and focus on the who, what, and where of the incident. When the FFSP operator has direct linkage to the TMC, incident situations and impacts such as lane closures can be disseminated quickly onto DMS to provide real-time traveler information and safety messages to motorists approaching the incident.

The close coordination required between the FFSP operator and law-enforcement agency personnel requires two-way communications with law enforcement. This requirement can be fulfilled by having the FFSP operator carry a law enforcement radio. The radio may be preprogrammed with only car-to-car channels to allow the FFSP to listen to information relayed about highway incidents but eliminate law enforcement concerns about private communication. More importantly, it will allow the FFSP operator to have on-scene communications with law enforcement personnel to coordinate emergency TTC with on-scene law enforcement officers to coordinate traffic flows and emergency TTC. The law enforcement officer may require a shift in the emergency TTC or may want to indicate that the scene is clear and the roadway should be opened to traffic. When the incident scene is large, personnel may be spread out over an extended area, and the emergency TTC may be set for an extended period of time. Consequently, communications may not be as efficient for both parties without two-way radios.

To further aid in communication, the FFSP cellular telephone should be preprogrammed with important telephone numbers of potential responding agencies, emergency management personnel, local transportation personnel, on-call supervisors, and managers.

4.3.12 Automatic Vehicle Location

As an option, the FFSP vehicles may be equipped with an AVL system to help inform dispatchers of the FFSP vehicle location, status, and speed. This information can help dispatchers identify the closest and most appropriate FFSP vehicle to respond to an incident location.

4.3.13 Record Keeping

FFSP activity should be well-documented to help identify total assist records, driver performance, quality control, and incident reviews. The information used to establish performance measures will help support funding and provide key information to decision-makers.

Each FFSP operator should have log sheets and document information related to each assist and incident. The following information should be recorded on an activity/log sheet:
  • Dispatch time
  • Arrival time
  • Departure time
  • Incident type or nature
  • Location (mile marker, cross street, or landmark)
  • Vehicle identification number
  • License plate number and state
  • Vehicle make
  • Vehicle model
  • Vehicle year
  • Vehicle color
  • Services rendered.

Another alternative is for operators to use laptop computers similar to a law enforcement mobile data terminal to record logs and transmit the activity to a central database. These systems can be set up to transmit the data in real-time and catalog entries without manual data entry.

FFSP managers should place activity logs into a database to document and record overall program statistics. This information can be used to create annual reports, determine trends in activity, determine activity in specific service areas, and provide valuable information about the performance of the overall program.

Another FFSP program record-keeping activity involves reviewing and logging comment cards received from assisted motorists. This information can be used to support funding, gauge public support for the service, and assess driver performance. The comment cards require no return postage and request basic information: the name and contact information of the assisted motorist; the services provided to the motorist; the day, time, and location of the assist; the general performance of the FFSP operator; and room for general comments.

4.3.14 Emergency Temporary Traffic Control

The vast majority of traffic control operations that FFSPs provide are in emergency or short-term situations in response to traffic incidents. MUTCD Chapters 6G and 6I address controlling traffic for TTC zone activities and incident management areas. Because major incident durations may exceed more than 1 hour and FFSP operations may extend into nighttime hours, the MUTCD requires using retroreflective and illuminated devices.

The MUTCD Chapter 6I states that, “The primary functions of TTC at a traffic incident management area are to move road users reasonably safely and expeditiously past or around the traffic incident, to reduce the likelihood of secondary traffic crashes, and to preclude unnecessary use of the surrounding local road system.” FFSP operators should be trained in safe practices for accomplishing TTC. At incident scenes, FFSP operators should also:
  • Be aware of their own visibility to oncoming traffic
  • Move traffic incidents as far off the traveled roadway as possible
  • Provide appropriate warning to oncoming traffic
  • Estimate the magnitude and duration of the traffic incident
  • Estimate the expected vehicle queue length
  • Set up appropriate TTC.

As guidance, the MUTCD states that warning and guide signs used for TTC incident management situations may have a black legend and border with a fluorescent pink background. As a basic guideline, the FFSP should carry a truck-mounted arrow board, retroreflective cones, flares, and retroreflective signs to set up short-term emergency shoulder or lane closures.

In emergency situations, the FFSP should use “on-hand” TTC devices for the initial response, and the TTC devices should not create an additional hazard. Typical applications of TTC are found in the MUTCD’s Chapter 6H and represent a variety of conditions used for temporary work zones and maintenance operations. It is not reasonable to expect the FFSP to be able to store and carry the types and numbers of TTC devices (such as barriers, barrels, flashers, signs, and arrow panels). These devices may be required for a longer-term situation on a high-volume, high-speed facility to set up appropriate advance warnings, tapers, or closures within the traveled way to provide an appropriate TIM responder work space. Many of the TTC applications for shoulder, lane, etc., closures in Chapter 6H can be emulated for long-term major incidents, but are not reasonable for shorter-term emergency situations because the set up time of the TTC will take longer than the clearance time of the incident. Because of the number and types of devices required for intermediate- or long-term closures, an FFSP should consider contacting department of transportation maintenance or other traffic control support personnel to set up TTC that is more appropriate for major incidents that generate longer vehicle queues. FFSP should seek additional TTC assistance for traffic incidents that have durations estimated as greater than 2 hours.

4.3.15 Suggested Emergency Traffic Control Procedures Vehicle Placement

When the FFSP first arrives at a scene, the vehicle should be positioned to protect the incident scene and prevent additional crashes. Using warning lights and, if available, a dynamic message or arrow sign, will help establish better visibility of the FFSP vehicle. After assessing the scene, establishing the appropriate response, and arranging for appropriate emergency services if needed, the FFSP should implement the on-hand traffic control devices. In cases where no injuries have occurred and the vehicle can be moved, at the direction of law enforcement, the FFSP should mark the vehicle(s) final resting positions for future traffic crash investigation and relocate the vehicle to the shoulder or another safe area.

Minnesota Department of Transportation arrow truck diverting trafficWhen the FFSP is a secondary responder, similar procedures are followed, but the FFSP operator should report to the Incident Commander (IC) and assess the situation to determine the appropriate TTC procedures.

In most situations such as a shoulder assist or when a lane is blocked, the FFSP should position the vehicle about two or three car lengths behind the site and at a location that provides adequate visibility and warning to approaching vehicles. The FFSP should take extra care not to block emergency vehicles from maneuvering in, around, or away from the incident scene. As part of an FFSP program, basic diagrams should be developed to illustrate the preferred placement of the vehicle to be consistent with procedures and preferences of TIM responder and law enforcement agencies. Emergency Lights, Arrow Boards, Cones, and Signs

MUTCD Section 6I.05 supports using emergency vehicle lighting as an essential action for the safety of TIM responders and persons involved in the traffic incident. However, emergency lighting should only be considered as a warning because it does not provide positive and effective traffic control. Furthermore, emergency lights at night can often confuse and distract motorists. If effective positive traffic control is established with appropriate traffic control devices, the use of emergency lights can be reduced. When appropriate, forward-facing emergency lights should be turned off once on scene. Despite the guidance provided by the MUTCD, a vehicle with emergency lights is commonly considered a traffic control device; however, a more effective and positive traffic control procedure is to use a truck-mounted dynamic message or arrow sign. A dynamic message or arrow sign aids in communicating the direction road users need to take to maneuver around the incident scene more safely and expeditiously. Using on-hand cones and signs can provide additional advance warning, tapers, and positive traffic control in advance of the FFSP vehicle and around the incident scene. Typically, an arrow will indicate a positive direction away from a blocked lane while a straight line or caution mode would indicate a shoulder closure.

When a lane is closed, vehicles in the blocked lane will need to merge with adjacent lanes, causing disruption. Cones placed several hundred feet upstream of the FFSP vehicle and incident scene can help move this traffic disruption away from the immediate scene and away from TIM responders, the FFSP, and persons involved in the incident. Traffic cones placed in a taper alignment also help to provide positive TTC to motorists to maneuver around the scene safely and expeditiously. In combination with traffic cones, placing warning signs will also help emphasize the closure, provide positive guidance to motorists, and secure the incident scene. Correctly placing cones and TTC devices is critical in providing motorists sufficient visibility and warning to react without creating a danger to other traffic, to TIM responders at the scene, and to the scene itself.

After the appropriate TTC devices have been placed, the FFSP should determine the value of providing additional positive manual traffic control at the scene by flagging traffic around the scene. The FFSP should be trained and qualified to provide flagging operations.

In addition to the incident scene itself, the FFSP operators should pay attention to the back of the queue. If possible, more TTC or FFSP vehicles can be positioned in advance of the back of the queue to provide advanced warning to approaching vehicles. This action helps prevent secondary crashes. Typical Emergency Traffic Control Plans

An FFSP operator should be trained and capable of quickly and safely setting up the emergency TTC for traffic incident scenes likely to be encountered. An FFSP should develop typical diagrams to illustrate the preferred placement of vehicles, cones, signs, arrow boards, and flagging operations in relation to the incident scene. The following list of typical incident situations should be used as a guide to develop local procedures for TTC:
  • Disabled vehicle on shoulder/shoulder assist
  • Single lane closure (right or left lane)
  • Center lane blocked
  • Two lanes blocked
  • All lanes blocked
  • All lanes blocked with detour.
To quickly set up these typical closures, the FFSP should be equipped with the following:
  • Truck-mounted dynamic message or arrow sign
  • Minimum of 16 retroreflective traffic cones
  • Flares
  • Flags for flagging operations
  • Retroreflective traffic vests.
  • If space is available on the FFSP vehicle, it would assist in providing positive traffic control by having several traffic incident management area signs as illustrated in the MUTCD, Figure 6I-1.

4.3.16 National Incident Management System / Incident Command System

The FFSP should follow the NIMS and use the ICS for activities associated with traffic incidents. The National Fire Service IMS Consortium published the Model Procedures Guide for Highway Incidents, which offers an initial design document in which an FFSP agency can work with other regional organizations to develop and build on joint operating procedures. The procedures should apply to routine incidents and large, complicated, and unexpected major disasters. The FHWA has also published the Simplified Guide to the Incident Command System for Transportation Professionals. This guide introduces ICS to those who must provide specific expertise, aid or material during highway incidents but who may be unfamiliar with ICS organization and operations. FFSP operators, supervisors, managers, and administrators should be trained in using NIMS, the organizational structure, and the unified approach concept at the core of the command and management system. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) NIMS provides a template for governments to work together to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents.

Under ICS, the IC is responsible for managing all incident operations. The first arriving unit assumes command and identifies an IC until a higher ranking officer arrives on scene and assumes command. As such, if an FFSP is the first arriving unit, it should assume command. Upon arrival, the law enforcement or other TIM responder will typically assume command. The transfer of command is announced and the former IC is reassigned to other responsibilities. Typical responsibilities assigned to the FFSP will be traffic control duties in support of the incident operations. When the FFSP responds to an incident as a secondary responder (e.g., not the first arriving unit), the FFSP should follow standard procedures in arriving at the scene and then report to the IC.

The organizational structure of ICS is modular in nature and can expand as the complexity of the incident escalates. In more complex cases, sections and branches may be implemented within the command organization structure, and the FFSP may find itself reporting to a Section Chief or Branch Director rather than directly to the IC. An FFSP operator should be prepared to be a group leader assigned to a specific functional assignment. In most cases, the assignment will be traffic control in and around the incident scene or on emergency alternate routes for diverted traffic. In complex or longer duration incidents, the FFSP operator should be prepared to elevate the situation to a supervisor or manager and be prepared to request, organize, and assemble additional traffic control resources.

4.3.17 Program Performance Monitoring

Measuring program performance is a critical step in monitoring its progress and overall success. It is also critical to measure the program so agencies can communicate the benefits and successes of the program to decision-makers, policy-makers, sponsoring agencies, and the public.

FFSP programs should gather and record data about the number and type of services that each service patrol operator delivers. In this manner, statistical analysis can be used to develop trends and comparisons about service areas, service hours, types of services rendered, times of the year, etc. When tracked properly and linked with a dispatch center such as a TMC, statistics should also be kept about response times, incident durations, incident clearance times, lane blockages, and incident severity. This data will help identify the program performance relative to its impact on quick clearance and congestion. Lastly, the condition of the FFSP vehicles should also be monitored by monthly inspections and data collected about vehicle miles, maintenance needs, fuel efficiency, and equipment used.

The agency can use the compiled program data to evaluate its performance and identify performance gaps. This data can also be used to quantify the benefit relative to its cost in bolstering support for its continued or expanded funding.

A basic, but important, way to monitor and track program performance is by using comment cards/survey forms. At the end of each service call, an FFSP should provide the assisted motorist with a self-addressed, stamped feedback/ survey card. The FFSP should maintain a record of the returned cards to gauge and track customer satisfaction with the program. Motorists’ comments and suggestions can be used as supporting documentation concerning the benefits of the FFSP program and can also be used to evaluate individual drivers. Negative comments about FFSP drivers should be investigated and, if found to be valid, result in performance reviews, warnings, suspensions, and dismissals if continued negative reviews are received. The survey responses should also be used to award drivers for superior performance. In addition to citizen feedback, driver performance should also be tracked based on monthly inspections, crash history, and number of service calls performed.

4.4 Modes of Operation

4.4.1 Disaster Preparedness

Section 4.1 discussed the standard day-to-day operational FFSP objectives. While current programs have different procedures and policies in place for responding to natural disasters, an FFSP should be a key component of a region’s overall emergency response plan relative to traffic control assistance within the framework of the NIMS/ICS. For example, a disaster happens and an evacuation route is implemented so keeping the route cleared of incidents becomes even more critical than during the FFSP’s standard operating hours.

In the case of a disaster, natural or otherwise, the FFSP should maintain its overall operational objectives and perform its normal services to keep highway traffic moving. As part of a region’s overall plan, the FFSP should be prepared to:
  • Perform its normal services along an evacuation route
    • May require expanding the FFSP program service area
  • Assist motorists with fuel, water, and minor repairs along an evacuation route
  • Add vehicles to facilitate traffic control
  • Assist highway patrols and public safety
  • Implement alternate route or emergency detour plans
  • Assist with contra flow traffic operations
  • Block roadway entrance and exit ramps
  • Assist with equipment support and equipment routing
  • Manually operate traffic signals.

4.4.2 Planned Special Events

Similarly, FFSP programs can facilitate traffic control and clear incidents for planned special events. This approach may require the program to expand its service area and service hours to provide assistance during the event.

4.5 User Involvement, Interaction, Roles, and Responsibilities

FFSPs have contact and interact with many users on the highway system. During normal operations or major unexpected incidents, an FFSP will interact with TIM responders from law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, departments of transportation, towing and recovery companies, the media, public information officials, travelers, and road users. Section 2.3 detailed these interactions. In an ideal situation, an FFSP is a major component of an ongoing, sustained TIM program. In this context, FFSPs should be regular participants in incident debriefs and after-action reviews. Also, a TIM program can serve as the foundation for building relationships between stakeholder agencies involved in highway incident response and interactions with an FFSP. Other key FFSP interactions are its communication with a regional TMC and its integration within defined procedural guidelines of a regional TIM program. The following list explains the general roles and responsibilities of FFSP users. Note that some roles and responsibilities can be combined into one overall position.
  • FFSP Operator (Driver) – Serves as the frontline contact to deliver the services, activities, and functions of an FFSP. Operates the vehicle, patrols the highways, coordinates with other on-scene TIM responders, and provides service and assistance to motorists.

  • FFSP Dispatcher – Communicates incident information to the FFSP operators. Some of this information is likely to be relayed from other sources such as law enforcement personnel, other motorists, or the TMC operator.

  • TMC Operator – Monitors and operates the traffic management system. Incident information requiring an FFSP response is relayed to the FFSP dispatcher. Similarly, the FFSP relays information to the TMC Operator who collects traveler information and coordinates traffic management actions.

  • FFSP Supervisor – Administers and develops operator schedules to deliver the services across the prescribed service area and service hours. Supervises and monitors daily operations. Provides quality control checks, provides operator performance reviews, and is prepared to call-in additional operators for major incidents. Maintains employee files, training records, and activity logs.

  • FFSP Fleet Maintenance Manager – Administers and maintains the service patrol fleet of vehicles. Can provide vehicle and equipment inspections.

  • FFSP Trainer – Coordinates the implementation of operator orientation and training. Ensures that each operator complies with the training and certification requirements.

  • FFSP Hiring Manager – Interviews candidates and ensures potential candidates meet minimum qualifications. Ensures that agency hiring procedures are followed. Ensures that necessary background checks are performed concerning driver and criminal records.

  • FFSP Manager – Supervises overall day-to-day operations and oversight of an FFSP. Manages the FFSP vision, direction, goals, functional description, policy, procedural guidelines, and performance. Key participant in the overall integration of an FFSP into a comprehensive TIM program. Establishes and maintains partnership agreements with stakeholder agencies about operational guidelines. If the FFSP is contracted to a private operator, this position is likely to remain staffed by the funding agency to oversee contractual obligations and overall program performance.

  • Law Enforcement and Emergency Services – Works closely with law enforcement and emergency services to assist them in making the incident scene safe and provides positive TTC to move motorists expeditiously around the incident. Responds and assumes command of the scene when property damage and injuries have occurred. FFSPs should be prepared to implement emergency TTC activities as part of the overall scene management, but also provide the IC updates about the status of activities and suggestions for keeping traffic moving.

  • Towing and Recovery – Required in cases where the FFSP is not able to remove vehicles from the traveled way to a safe area. Most regions have a rotating list of pre-qualified towing companies for specific service areas. Transportation or law enforcement agencies maintain these lists, and the FFSP should contact these agencies to dispatch the towing agency when appropriate.

  • All FFSP operators and personnel shall display professional and courteous conduct at all times. The FFSP should not accept gratuities or fees for services rendered to motorists. FFSPs should have procedures to handle FFSP cell phone use by motorists and guidance for transporting motorists.

4.6 Support Environment

A department of transportation, a law enforcement agency, or a privately contracted service with a private corporation can operate an FFSP. Regardless of the administrative mechanism for operating the FFSP, a support environment will need to be created and maintained to ensure continued overall success.
  • Funding – Identifying the funding sources and programming money to meet anticipated capital and operations costs is fundamental to starting, sustaining, or enhancing a program. Section 4.2 provides guidelines for funding sources and overcoming this constraint.

  • Oversight – FFSP oversight responsibility can vary depending on the agency leading the program and the unique organizational structure of that agency. Nonetheless, FFSP Manager oversight will be required for an in-house or contracted service. As part of the oversight support environment, a clear set of goals, performance measures, procedural guidelines, training requirements, and operator qualifications should be established to ensure sustainability and consistency of the FFSP. Section 4.3.7 contains suggested procedural guidelines and performance measures.

  • Facilities, Equipment, and Maintenance – An agency operating an FFSP should anticipate ongoing operational costs related to the maintenance and replacement of vehicles and equipment. Section 4.3.4 addresses the vehicle and equipment guidelines.

  • Communications – Another fundamental support system for an FFSP is the communications link between the FFSP operator/driver and dispatcher, TMC operator, law enforcement personnel, or other TIM responder agency. Section 4.3.11 details the two-way radios, cellular telephones, and computer-aided-dispatch system for FFSP communications.

  • Partnerships – An FFSP will have many interactions with other stakeholder agencies when responding to highway incidents. These agencies are instrumental in keeping highway traffic moving and incident-free to fight congestion. An FFSP will be more successful when it has the collaborative support of law enforcement and TIM responder agencies. This support environment can be formalized with a partnering agreement, MOU, or even a mutual aid agreement. Section 2.4.7 discusses these interactions.

  • Contracting Mechanism – When a private company provides services on behalf of an agency sponsoring the program, the sponsoring agency will need to solicit and procure services through a binding contract. When developing a specific contract, the focus should be on the type of services required, goals of the program, procedural guidelines, service area, service hours, operator and company qualifications, experience, training, interaction with stakeholder agencies, and equipment maintenance and replacement.

  • Outreach – A basic form of outreach is to provide assisted motorists with a comment card or brochure. This method provides direct contacts with more information on the service and obtains feedback from those the FFSP directly affects. With much variation between programs in the U.S. and to a lesser extent within a region, motorists may be easily confused by the types of services to expect, when services are provided, and on the congestion relief benefit gained from the program. An FFSP should develop and implement an outreach and public information campaign to make the public aware of the program. The more aware the public is about the program service and its benefits, the more likely the public is to voice support and influence decision-makers to identify funding sources for an FFSP.

4.7 Incremental Priorities

As discussed in Section 4.2, overcoming the constraints would largely be attributed to having more funding available to the FFSP program. Assuming the existing program already provides the basic services, additional funding will be used on the following priorities to evolve incrementally into an FFSP over time:
  • Expand service area, increase mileage, add routes
    • Incorporate all freeway or turnpike miles
    • Increase support to major arterials
  • Expand service hours in existing operational service areas
    • Increase the total service hours of operation
    • Add shoulders of peak periods
    • Implement a night or weekend shift
    • Operate 24 hours, 7-days-a-week
  • Additional operator capabilities and pay levels
    • Improve operator qualifications, training, certifications, and pay levels (see Sections 4.3.7 and 4.3.8)
    • Provide advancement opportunities for personnel
    • Improved skill and education levels
    • Increase number of positions for additional operators and mechanics
  • Update fleet and equipment
    • Improve fleet equipment
    • Improve radio communication
  • Increase patrol frequency
    • Increase service for an existing patrol area to reduce time for incident detection and clearance
  • Other priorities
    • Establish outreach and marketing programs
    • Establish regional TIM teams to support local programs.

July 9, 2008
Publication #FHWA-HOP-08-031