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The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Assessment of the Richmond District’s Towing and Recovery Incentive Program (TRIP) Pilot
Lance E. Dougald and Ramkumar Venkatanarayana, Ph.D., P.E.
Lance E. Dougald
Lance E. Dougald
Ramkumar Venkatanarayana
Year: 2019
VTRC No.: 20-R11

On December 15, 2017, the Virginia Department ofTransportation’s Richmond District began a towing and recovery incentiveprogram (TRIP) pilot where tow companies receive a monetary bonus for clearingcommercial vehicle crashes within 90 minutes. TRIP’s key objective is the facilitation of quick and safe clearance ofcommercial vehicle crashes through improved towing standards, procedures, andtraining.


Thepurpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the TRIP pilot interms of clearing commercial vehicle crashes from roadways in the RichmondDistrict more quickly and efficiently than in the before pilot period.   Theanalysis period was 3 years before the pilot (December 15, 2014, to December14, 2017) and 1 year after the pilot was initiated (December 15, 2017,to December 14, 2018).  The scope of the studyinvolved understanding and refining performance measures, data needs andavailability, and analysis methodologies. The following tasks were performed to achieve the study objectives: (1)determine evaluation metrics and identify datasets and data sources, (2)collect and filter incident data, (3) compute and analyze evaluation metrics,and (4) perform a qualitative assessment. 


The results showed that when thetop 61 incidents in the before period vs. TRIP incidents were analyzed, theaverage roadway clearance time (RCT) showed a statistically significantimprovement of 62 minutes per TRIP activation and the average towing responsetime (TRT) improved by 7 minutes per TRIP activation.  When the top 39 incidents in the beforeperiod vs. the after period were analyzed, the average RCT improved by 50minutes per TRIP activation and the average TRT improved by 6 minutes per TRIPactivation.  Based on these two filteringmethods, the benefits of TRIP were found to outweigh the costs by a factor of9.2 (top 61 approach) to 12.0 (top 39 approach) over a 10-year operationalhorizon.  When cargo spill incidents wereanalyzed, the RCT improved by 96 minutes when comparing before vs. TRIP onlyincidents and 110 minutes when comparing before vs. all after incidents;however, low sample sizes and high data variability prevented inferences withregard to statistical significance.   As evidenced by responses to interviewquestions, both the Virginia State Police and towing vendors viewed the programfavorably.  The Virginia State Policewitnessed more professional towing operations and more timely removal of highimpact, heavy vehicle crashes.  Thetowing vendors thought that the culture of the towing community has changed interms of the expedited response and clearance protocols for both TRIP andnon-TRIP incidents. 


Basedon the results, the study concluded that (1) the TRIP pilot showed promisingresults, (2) the TRIP program was viewed as a success by primary stakeholders,and (3) the TRIP development and operational management were successes.  The study recommended that the VirginiaDepartment of Transportation (1) continue TRIP operations in the RichmondDistrict and explore opportunities to expand the program to other districts in Virginia,and (2) conduct ongoing performance analyses of TRIP and begin collectingcritical incident timestamps such as tower dispatch and tower response in alldistricts.