As part of a larger Service Patrol Pilot Demonstration effort, the Service Patrol Study Steering Committee proposed a separate element, the Instant Tow dispatch program (IT)—also known as an "expedited" rotational call-out tow truck program—to be evaluated for its potential to reduce incident response time. The goals of the IT test program were to decrease congestion and reduce potential safety risk on the highway by providing timely removal of blocking collisions or disabled vehicles.
In the original test operations from January through April 2002, the IT dispatch was not successfully implemented as designed because the protocol for the expedited dispatch process was not followed consistently. The project partners subsequently decided that additional effort should be made, and another round of data collection over a three-month period followed from September through November 2002. While efforts were made to ensure that the protocol for the expedited dispatch process was consistently followed, the use of expedited tows in the Tacoma study area was still limited in the coverage area during the hours of its operation. As a result of the limited number of data collected, no definitive conclusion about the program’s effectiveness can be established. However, the available information seems to indicate that the IT protocol allows tow vehicles to be notified more quickly than the standard rotational tow truck call-out protocol; hence it would help decrease overall incident time and resulting traveler delay.
This supplement summarizes the institutional and operation issues affecting the IT Dispatch pilot program, the evaluation results based on the operations from September through November 2002, and the evaluation’s recommendations.