Friday, December 21, 2007

FL's Successful Rapid Incident Scene Clearance Likely to be Expanded

A round of applause is certainly due to the Florida towing companies involved in this!

Due to its success, Florida's Rapid Incident Scene Clearance program will be expanded next summer. In this excellent story by Chuck McGinness of the Palm Beach Post:
Towing companies that earn bonuses for clearing major wrecks on Florida's Turnpike in 90 minutes or less have achieved a 98 percent success rate since the program started four years ago.

Can that number be duplicated on more heavily traveled Interstate 95?

About 45 towing operators, Florida Highway Patrol troopers and state officials met Wednesday to discuss the problems that need to be solved before the state-sponsored quick clearance program is set up on I-95 and other interstate highways next summer.

"There's a strong push to move this program forward based on the success on the turnpike," said Bob Murphy, a traffic management consultant for the state.

Known as Rapid Incident Scene Clearance, the program is only used for major wrecks that can close the highway or block lanes for an extended period. The towing companies need to have advanced certification and high-powered equipment to move big rigs. They earn bonuses up to $3,500 for meeting the 90-minute target and pay penalties if they don't.

The key to making the program work is communication and training, said FHP Capt. Brad Pelton.

"If everyone knows what's going on, it makes it a lot easier," said Pelton, commander of the turnpike's West Palm Beach district. "You need to make sure everyone is talking."

Initially, troopers were hesitant to summon the quick-clear team because of concerns that they would be second-guessed, Pelton said. Now, it's almost second nature when they pull up to a crash, he said.

"The sooner they get there, the sooner the road gets cleaned up, the sooner the road gets opened up and everyone is happy," he said.

The Rapid Incident Scene Clearance program is an offshoot of the "open roads" policy that was adopted by the Department of Transportation and FHP in 2002. Cutting the time that the highway is shut down can save millions in lost time and productivity for motorists stuck in long backups. The value of the savings can range from $15 an hour for the average commuter to $70 an hour for commercial vehicles, transportation officials say.

It also decreases secondary crashes and reduces the number of law enforcement officers and tow truck operators injured or killed while working a crash. On the turnpike, the duration of serious crashes has been cut about 30 minutes.

Read the full story here.

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