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Freeway Service Patrol

    Freeway Service Patrol Tow Truck

    The Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) is a joint program provided by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the local transportation agency. The FSP program is a free service of privately owned tow trucks that patrol designated routes on congested urban California freeways. Typically, FSP operates Monday through Friday during peak commute hours, and all day in pre-designated freeway construction zones. In heavily congested freeway corridors it is becoming more commonplace for FSP to operate during the midday and on weekends/holidays in addition to the weekday peak period service.

    The goal of the FSP is to maximize the effectiveness of the freeway transportation system. The FSP is a congestion management tool which strategically addresses commute traffic pattern problems. Deployment of the FSP trucks is driven by congestion patterns in major metropolitan areas. It is necessary for the FSP program to respond immediately to changing or increasing needs for impediment mitigation.

    Freeway Service Patrol Service Truck The goal is accomplished by the expeditious removal of disabled/stranded vehicles from the freeway. Removing obstructions on the freeways as rapidly as possible has a positive impact on traffic volumes by eliminating problems which contribute to non-recurrent congestion. Each year, the FSP program assists approximately 650,000 motorists on California's highway system.

    Rapid removal of freeway obstructions also reduces fuel consumption and minimizes automobile emissions by reducing the time vehicles spend idling in stopped traffic. Currently, over 350 tow trucks operated by CHP-trained, certified and supervised drivers, patrol in excess of 1,750 miles of the most congested freeways in California.

    If you get stuck on the freeway because your automobile stops running, FSP can help.
    For example, FSP will:
    • Offer you a gallon of gas, if you run out.
    • "Jump start" your car if the battery is dead.
    • Refill your radiator and tape hoses.
    • Even change a flat tire.

    Note: The FSP program...

    • Cannot tow your vehicle to a private repair service or residence.
    • Does not recommend tow service companies, repair or body shops.
    • Does not tow motorcycles.
    • Does not assist vehicles which have been involved in accidents, unless directed by CHP.
    • Does report any accident to the CHP.

    If FSP cannot get your car going, it will be towed free of charge to a location approved by the CHP. The FSP will also contact additional assistance for you. The CHP will notify an auto club or towing service.

    The FSP serves the following areas:

    • Valley Division - Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, El Dorado and San Joaquin counties
    • Golden Gate Division - Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma counties
    • Central Division - Fresno county
    • Southern Division - Los Angeles county
    • Border Division - San Diego and Orange counties
    • Coastal Division - Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara counties
    • Inland Division - Riverside and San Bernardino counties


    Freeway Service Patrol Drivers

    Q: What is the FSP program?
    The CHP, Caltrans, and local transportation agencies joined forces to provide emergency roadside services during commute periods. The goal of the program is to remove impediments to traffic to expedite the flow of traffic.

    Q: Where is the FSP program deployed?
    Currently there are 14 FSP programs throughout the state (Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, San Joaquin, Bay Area, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Riverside, and San Bernardino).

    Q: How large is the FSP program?
    Over 350 tow trucks operated by CHP trained, certified and supervised drivers patrol in excess of 1,750 miles of freeways in the state. The combined statewide operation directly assists more than 650,000 stranded motorists per year.

    Q: How much does the FSP program cost?
    The FSP provides service to motorists at no cost. All costs of operating the FSP program are provided through state and local public funding allocations. State funding is apportioned to each FSP program through a funding formula based upon population, miles of freeway in the region and a measurement of congestion. The local transportation agencies match the state funding allocation with a minimum of 25 percent of local funds.

    Q: What other benefits are derived from the FSP program?
    During recent years, the responsibilities of CHP officers increased significantly and are continuing to expand. In those metropolitan regions of the state where FSP is deployed, FSP tow truck drivers are a cost-effective complement to many of the motorist services that are provided by the CHP beat officer. Due to the structure of FSP beats, the FSP tow truck driver is frequently the first to arrive on the scene of freeway incidents. As such, the FSP tow truck driver provides valuable "real time" information about the incident to the CHP Communications Center.

    The FSP tow truck driver implements preliminary measures to stabilize and protect the scene to ensure safety and minimize the risk of secondary collisions. The responding CHP officer receives up-to-date information about the incident prior to arriving at the scene, e.g., injuries, traffic conditions, required rescue services and equipment, etc. Supplied with updated information, the officer prepares his/her incident plan and coordinates the response of the additional services. The critical time required to mitigate the freeway incident is substantially reduced and the normal traffic flow is expeditiously restored.

    In the Management Information System Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2009/10, Caltrans reported the average benefit/cost ratio was 8.3:1 among the 13 programs evaluated. (The El Dorado FSP program was not included in the evaluation because the program started in 2010.) This ratio does not factor in the benefits associated with air quality improvement or collision reduction.