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Freeway Service Patrol - Frequently Asked Questions

    Q:  What is the FSP program?

    A:  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?

    A:  Currently there are nine FSP programs throughout the state (Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange County, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, Tracy, and Santa Cruz).

    Q:  How large is the FSP program?

    A:  Over 300 tow trucks operated by CHP trained, certified and supervised drivers patrol in excess of 1,400 miles of freeways in the state. The combined statewide operation directly assists more than 600,000 stranded motorists per year.

    Q:  How much does the FSP program cost?

    A:  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. This year Caltrans allocated $20 million for the statewide FSP program.

    The local transportation agencies match the state funding allocation with a minimum of 25% of local funds. The larger programs (Los Angeles and SF Bay Area) contribute much more than their minimum share amount. Total funding for the FSP program (through local match and state funds) totals more than $40 million.

    Q:  What other benefits are derived from the FSP program?

    A:  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 responder to 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.

    Most freeway incidents require some follow-up investigation by the officer. Follow-up can be very time consuming and takes the officer off his or her freeway beat. Prior to FSP, the officer's beat was usually covered by the adjacent beat officer. In regions deploying FSP, the FSP tow truck drivers continue to patrol the freeway to assist stranded motorists and thus provide a higher level of coverage.

    Following a study completed by the University of California, Berkeley, Caltrans recently calculated benefit/cost ratios for all the beats in the ten FSP programs. The average benefit/cost ratio was 8.3:1 among the ten programs. Of note, Los Angeles and Sacramento were tied with the highest ratio of 15:1. These ratios do not factor in the benefits associated with air quality improvement or collision reduction.