Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer
A traffic incident is “any non-recurrent event, such as a vehicle crash, vehicle breakdown, or other special event, that causes a reduction in highway capacity and/or an increase in demand” . Traffic incidents are a significant cause of congestion delays that motorists encounter every day on roadways and according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), these incidents (ranging from a flat tire to an overturned hazardous material truck) account for about 25% of all non-recurring congestion .
Non-recurring incidents dramatically reduce the available capacity and reliability of the entire transportation system and when an incident occurs, congestion quickly builds up and chances of a secondary incident increase. The sooner incidents are detected, the sooner personnel can respond to the incident and clear it from the roadway, thereby allowing traffic lanes to re-open.
Figure 1. Photo. Traffic Incident Management (TIM). 
Traffic incident management (TIM) “consists of a planned and coordinated multidisciplinary 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 goals are to:
While individual efforts may be made by various agencies, the overall objective of TIM is to bring these efforts together to formalize a partnership among all agencies. TIM achieves this by coordinating the resources of a number of different entities who represent incident responders as well as private agencies that have a vested interest in TIM, with the mutual goal of reducing the impacts of incidents on congestion, while protecting the safety of on-scene responders and the traveling public.
One of the most important responsibilities of both State and local transportation and public safety agencies is to ensure the safe and quick clearance of traffic incidents. Traffic incidents pose a significant threat to life safety and influence travel time, economic productivity, and transportation system performance. Effective TIM procedures and advance planning are essential to achieve quick incident clearance without compromising safety for motorists or responders.
Policies and operating procedures for TIM programs not only vary from State to State, but vary regionally within each State and among rural, suburban, and urban areas. Many of the nation’s TIM programs lack a robust, full-scale, comprehensive approach that includes all aspects of incident management with long-term vision and objectives.
For these reasons, an inventory and review of current practices was conducted to analyze the existing capabilities of both the institutional and technical aspects of the national TIM program led by FHWA, as well as those managed by local and/or State governments. This analysis of existing TIM gaps highlighted the need for a primer that outlines a common national structure for TIM programs.
In order to investigate how TIM practitioners currently perceive the need for conducting gap analysis on their respective TIM programs, a TIM gap analysis webinar was conducted in October 2014. More than 50 attendees from various TIM stakeholder groups responded to a series of poll questions. The webinar attendees responded to questions about their self-assessment as well as gap analysis activities, as summarized in Figure 2. It can be seen from the results that although many TIM stakeholders (69%) conduct self-assessments, only 30% have undertaken a gap analysis. These results confirm the need for a TIM gap analysis primer to help guide TIM practitioners in conducting the gap analysis process that will in turn, help to develop a sound traffic incident management program.
Figure 2. Chart. TIM Stakeholders’ Responses about Self-Assessment and Gap Analysis
Based on what was learned during the webinar discussion, it is appropriate to highlight the difference between the “gap analysis” and the “self-assessment” concepts. Although both are used to evaluate the current state of performance and help identify areas of improvement, the gap analysis concept is a more analytical technique which identifies the specific steps needed to reach the desired state of practice. Self-assessment is defined as “a continuing process through which managers at all levels evaluate the effectiveness of their performance in all areas of responsibility, and determine what improvements are required” , whereas gap analysis is defined as “a technique that businesses use to determine what steps need to be taken in order to achieve a future state”. It can also be said that gap analysis helps programs to reflect on who they are and ask who they want to be in the future .
This document provides guidance to federal, State and local TIM programs and their involved partners on the components needed to develop and sustain a successful full-fledged TIM program. The objectives of this primer are to:
A key objective for this document is to address the actual challenges that different TIM stakeholders with varied levels of responsibility face in their current TIM practices on a day to day basis.
The information contained within this document is geared towards multidisciplinary TIM stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. This includes but is not limited to personnel from transportation agencies, law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services (EMS), public safety communications, emergency management, towing and recovery, hazardous materials (HazMat), utilities, contractors, and traffic information media.
The target audience for this document includes staff responsible for incident response coordination along with executive decision makers who develop and promote incident management policies, plans, and programs. For technical staff, this primer is useful in detailing the step-by-step procedures used for incident management and an effective TIM response. For executive decision makers, this guidance document is useful for conveying the most practical and effective TIM programs and policies, and the steps and resources needed to implement these programs/policies.
The content of this primer is divided into six chapters as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduction
Provides an overview of this document including the motivation behind its development and the topic areas discussed.
Chapter 2: TIM Gap Analysis Summary
Summarizes the results of the TIM Gap Analysis conducted and describes the elements needed to develop a successful TIM program.
Chapter 3: Components of Successful TIM Program
Outlines the various components necessary to achieve a mature TIM program that is both effective and sustainable.
Chapter 4: Roles and Responsibilities of TIM Stakeholders
Identifies the roles and responsibilities of each TIM stakeholder and the level of involvement needed by each agency in individual TIM components.
Chapter 5: TIM Program within Transportation Operations Program
Provides an overview of the major organizational areas within a typical State DOT that need to play a role in supporting a comprehensive TIM program. It also identifies key transportation operations staff and their functional roles that are needed to implement and support the program. A case study of the success of the New York State (NYS) TIM program is discussed in Section 5.4 of this document.
Chapter 6: Conclusions and Recommendations
Provides a summary of the important findings in this document, including a summary of the implementation of a successful TIM program.
To better understand the complexity of TIM it is best to analyze the eight stages of the TIM process as depicted in Figure 3:
Figure 3. Chart. Timeline of Stages in the TIM Process 
The following are descriptions of each TIM stage as well as the TIM methods used during each stage.
The impact of an incident typically occurs on the local network but can also extend to the regional network.
It should be noted that Figure 3 is obtained from the Freeway Management and Operations Handbook  which was published in 2003. Subsequent evolution in TIM community experience on this subject have resulted in revised thinking regarding the TIM elements and their relative timing, especially with regard to the development of TIM performance measures (PM).
A more recent understanding of the traffic incident elements and timeline was developed by the USDOT ITS Joint Program Office (ITS JPO)  and is depicted below in Figure 4, with the key incident times summarized in Table 1.
Figure 4. Chart. Timeline of Traffic Incident Elements 
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration