Road Service to the Rescue in San Bernadino

The slam of rushing air breaking against the side of your small compact is just one of the many unwanted thrills of being stalled in a freeway emergency lane. As semi after semi rumbles by, the sight of a tow truck’s emergency lights in your rear view mirror is welcome relief. Road service has just been stepped up a notch in San Bernadino with the Freeway Service Patrol, a road service program that improves motorist safety and keeps traffic flowing.

“The Freeway Service Patrol began in January 2006 and this month expanded to the 10 and the 215 freeways.

The free service is designed to get stranded vehicles moving or off the road as quickly as possible to reduce congestion.

“We have such an immediate reduction in flow when you have something as simple as someone broken down on the shoulder,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Dennis Welch, who supervises the service in San Bernardino County.

The roughly 15 tow trucks each work a “beat,” or a designated section of freeway, from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. and then from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with extended Friday hours of 1 to 7 p.m.
The service was used temporarily during construction of the truck-climbing lane in Yucaipa a few years ago, but it’s just now become a permanent feature on all major freeways in the county.

New radios and new computers with global positioning systems allow dispatchers to track the exact location of the trucks.

Sanbag contracts with regular tow companies, but the trucks and drivers must meet rigorous standards.

“It’s very regimented, the way they dress, the way the trucks are outfitted,” Welch said. “We try to be a cut above.”

The drivers of the 15 trucks each go through two days of training, partly to ensure they know their jobs, and also to make sure they interact well with the public.

Each truck carries five gallons of gasoline, five gallons of diesel and five gallons of water.

The idea is to either get people moving within 10 or 15 minutes, or get them towed to a safe spot off the freeway. If towed to another location, they are always taken to a well-lighted area with phone access and someplace to wait indoors.

From January 2006 through February 2007, the drivers have contacted nearly 27,000 motorists. That includes 4,380 people with flat tires, 2,291 who were out of gas, and 1,554 whose vehicles overheated.”