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Rapid traffic response teams keep Auckland motorways moving

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Caleb Hogg is only 14 but he’s already narrowing down his career options. He wants to work in a frontline service and reckons a role as one of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s rapid traffic response operators could be just the ticket.

Caleb joined our frontline team for a day of work experience after writing to Waka Kotahi to express interest in going on a ride along.

“It’s what I had hoped for and kind of expected. It was awesome,” says Caleb just a little wide-eyed after his big day out. 

Caleb got to see up close the diverse and, at times, challenging work of Waka Kotahi’s first responders. 

“I’m looking at this a possible future career. It was really interesting getting to see all of the different challenges the responders face each day and how they assist police,” Caleb says. 

Caleb Hogg (left) and his Dad Kevin join rapid response operator Matt McCondach (centre) on patrol on Auckland’s motorway network

A team of four drive the Traffic Response Unit vehicles on the Auckland urban motorway system. The Traffic Incident Managers (TIMs) manage traffic, move damaged or broken down vehicles, pick up debris and clean up after incidents on the state highway network.

It’s a busy role. The TIMs respond on average to more than 550 incidents a month in 2020, ranging from a motorist having a heart attack to car fires, crashes and animals and debris on the road.

 “They’re not an emergency service. The vehicles don’t have blue flashing lights like police. But they have a very important role in making an incident site safe for all road users and then working to get the traffic moving again,” says Waka Kotahi Auckland System Manager Andrea Williamson.

When there is an incident, the TIMs provides eyes on the ground for the Auckland Transport Operations Centre (ATOC) which monitors and manages Auckland’s motorways. They manage traffic safety and movement, freeing up other incident responders like Police and Fire and Emergency New Zealand to focus on their core tasks.  

“Their role may not be well understood by motorists, but they would do well to let the TIM vehicle get past when there’s a holdup so they can get to the problem and get traffic moving again.”

The TIMs work closely with ATOC, responding swiftly to incidents and vehicles in need of help.

“Vehicles are not permitted to stop on the motorway, so if you are suddenly brought to a halt for any reason, don’t be surprised if a TIM vehicle turns up. It might seem like they just appear out of nowhere, but they’re actually part of a big operation dedicated to monitoring Auckland’s motorways, keeping them safe and the traffic moving.” 

The Traffic Response Unit is part of the Auckland System Management (ASM), an alliance between Waka Kotahi, HEB Construction and Fulton Hogan to operate and maintain Auckland’s motorway network. While the ASM is responsible for more than 450 kilometres of motorway from the Bombay Hills in the south to the Johnstone Hills Tunnels in the north, the TIMs mostly work along the busy Northern, Southern and Northwestern motorways and the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

There’s at least one TIM vehicle on the road from 5:00AM to 8:00PM weekdays and one on call over weekends. The vehicles are equipped with a variety of gear for first aid, vehicle assistance and incident management.  They can deal with many of the common causes of traffic snarl-ups, such as moving breakdowns off the road, mopping up spills, changing tyres and even providing a small refill for motorists caught short of the next petrol station.

“As the number of vehicles increase on Auckland’s motorways, it only takes a minor incident where a vehicle blocks a lane for traffic to quickly back up and cause major delays. One incident can have a major knock-on impact across the network, so the sooner the TIM gets there and works out how to get traffic moving again, the better it is for everyone.”

Satisfied customers are full of praise for the TIMs and often email us to show their appreciation.

“My left front tyre hit a big nail and went flat. Cars were whizzing past and none thought to help. While I was calling for help, one of your traffic response cars pulled up. A wonderful man helped change my tyre and ensured I was able to get back into the traffic flow safely.”

“I just wanted to pass along my sincerest thanks for the TIM who came to my rescue this morning. He was such a calming and friendly presence, especially because by that time I was very stressed.” 

“I would like to say a massive thank you to the TIM, who found me on the motorway, broken down at night time, with no lights working, overheated engine, and a burst pipe. The TIM driver pulled up in his truck, which felt like nothing short of a miracle.”

Andrea Williamson says it’s all in a day’s work for the Traffic Response Unit and the TIMs.

“The TIMs play an invaluable role in the motorway management team, helping motorists in need, keeping the network safe and the traffic flowing.”

Traffic incident managers ready to respond to Auckland motorway incidents and get the traffic moving again

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