How the Georgia Towing and Recovery Incentive Program saves taxpayers money

What do the 1996 Olympics have to do with improving Atlanta traffic?

Were you in Atlanta during the ’96 Olympics? If you were, you probably remember sitting in traffic for hours. Jeff Poquette of South Side Wreckers told us, “After Atlanta had the Olympics back in 1996, the state of Georgia realized the negative impact of sitting in traffic. They recognized the cost of consumers sitting in traffic. They did the math and it was shocking. So, they developed the TRIP program and set the standards extremely high for tow trucks and wreckers responding to commercial big truck accidents.”

What is the purpose of the TRIP program?

The official TRIP website tells us that the main purpose is to ensure quick and safe clearance of commercial vehicle crashes by improving towing procedures. This program does two things.

  • It improves Traffic Incident Management (TIM) in the area
  • It builds a mutually beneficial relationship with the towing community by making it more financially profitable to meet quick clearance goals.

How does the TRIP program work?

 The Georgia Towing and Recovery Incentive Program pays recovery companies a monetary incentive bonus for clearing commercial vehicle wrecks quickly. This helps to reduce the impact of major traffic incidents in Metro Atlanta.

Who qualifies for the TRIP program?

Not all tow truck and wrecker companies qualify. Here are some of the requirements:

  • They must be a heavy-duty recovery company.
  • They must have access to modern, powerful 35 and 50-ton recovery wreckers with full sets of tools.
  • They must be able to use a support truck with all the equipment necessary. They must have the ability for full traffic control and fluid spill mitigation.
  • The company must have access to other specialized heavy equipment like loaders, bobcats, and tractor-trailers.
  • They’ve got to have fully trained operators with national or industry certification in advanced heavy towing and recovery, MUTCD traffic control, and Hazardous Material awareness.
  • All recovery trucks need to respond to the scene of the accident within 45 minutes.
  • All lanes need to be cleared within 90 minutes.
  • The company must have 24/7 equipment availability.

TRIP is an example of a high-spec towing contract. That means that the state is willing to set higher contract fees and pay an incentive bonus to get the job done quickly and safely. These requirements would be impossible to meet if this was a low-spec towing program that only paid $100 a tow. Jeff told us, “When the state sets a fair rate, it allows the towing companies to operate profitably and so everyone wins.”

The TRIP program means that the state recognizes the benefit of paying more money for a better recovery service.

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What proof do we have that consumers save money when the state pays more money to wreckers?

Are you a business owner? How much is your time worth? Now multiply that by the many thousands of cars sitting in traffic due to an accident on Atlanta highways. That’s a lot of money at stake. The Task Force looks at the following things when assessing the long-term benefits of this program:

  • Reduction in response times.
  • Improvement in roadway clearing times.
  • Reduction in travel-lane blockage.
  • Reduction in incident clearing times.
  • Money saved from reduced congestion.

Back in 2011, an independent performance report showed a 10.96 to 1 benefit with respect to the cost of the TRIP program. This study showed the benefit of TRIP program as $9,154,431 of avoided delay, wasted fuel, and excess emissions. The average savings per incident were estimated at $456,396. This proves that high-spec towing contracts do work.

Where does the TRIP Program cover?

The Program covers I-285, all interstates inside the perimeter (including GA-400), all interchange ramps, and the following boundaries outside the perimeter:

  • I-85 Northside to Exit 115
  • State Route 20 I-985 Northside to Exit 12
  • Flowery Branch SR 316 to State Route 120
  • I-75 Northside to Exit 271
  • Chastain Road I-20 Westside to Exit 49
  • Fulton Industrial I-20 Eastside to Exit 68 Wesley Chapel
  • GA 400 North to Exit 14, GA 20
  • What about non-commercial wrecks and car trouble?

Jeff prefaced this by telling us, “We have come a long way. Ten years ago, a truck would lie on its side blocking two or three lanes. The authorities would sit and wait for the trucks to get their own wrecker service. They would also let traffic sit for hours. Now they see the importance of taking care of Georgia, tax-paying citizens and putting their needs ahead of the commercial vehicles that need a tow.”

Unfortunately, the TRIP program is only for commercial traffic accidents and not for ordinary car problems. That means that even though high-spec contracts have been proven to work, low-spec towing contract winners may continue to take up to five hours to show up and rescue your car on the side of the road.

Why hasn’t this been addressed yet?

Well, it’s kind of complicated, actually. “Every municipality in Georgia handles it differently,” Jeff said. “Sometimes the county handles the towing contracts. Other times it’s the city, the sheriff, the police department, the commissioner, or the city council. There is no uniformity. That means each municipality has to be educated and won over regarding the benefits of using high-spec towing programs like TRIP. This is a long uphill battle. In the meanwhile, TRAG (The Towing and Recovery Association of Georgia) is lobbying for higher standards for all towing and recovery work.”

We asked Jeff what his hope is for the industry. “I want to see our industry earn the respect of being one that is always improving, trying our best, and moving forward,” Jeff said. “I would like to see better dialog between insurance companies, municipalities, and the towers.” TRIP has taken the first step to improve relations. Jeff said it’s the industry’s hope that this will continue.

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