Highway Emergency Response Operators

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The Highway Emergency Response Operators program is a freeway service patrol operated in metro Atlanta, USA by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). It is a part of GDOT's Office of Traffic Operations. Both the program and the individual vehicles are typically referred to by the bacronym HERO. The program began in Atlanta in 1994 and has since been expanded in association with GDOT's Navigator Intelligent Transportation System program.

The HERO unit's primary purpose is to minimize traffic congestion by clearing wrecked or disabled vehicles from the roadway lanes and providing traffic control at incident scenes. As a secondary service, HERO's function as a service patrol; assisting stranded motorists who may have a flat tire or are out of fuel. In addition to their normal duties in metro Atlanta, HEROs have been deployed in the past to assist with traffic control at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia and along Interstates 75 and 16 during hurricane evacuations.

HERO truck operators are GDOT employees, distinguishing the program from freeway service patrols in other states, such as California, which are operated under contract by private tow truck companies. The HERO day is split into four shifts - Alpha (morning), Bravo (afternoon), Charlie (weekend) and Delta (overnight). The program operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Typically, HEROs work between 55,000 and 60,000 incidents per year.

Motorists needing HERO assistance may dial 511 (and press 1) to reach a HERO dispatcher. 511 is also the number for general traffic information throughout the state of Georgia.


  • To minimize major disruption of freeway traffic flow at incident locations.
  • To focus on the factors that cause disruption in the flow of traffic and remove those factors.
  • To relieve congestion and maintain a consistent flow of traffic at incident locations
  • To reduce response time to traffic-related incidents


  • Patrol the Atlanta-area freeways 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Initiate measures to reduce traffic congestion and delays
  • Provide support to law enforcement, first-response and other emergency agencies
  • Assist in clearing stalled vehicles from the travel lanes
  • Help stranded motorists with minor mechanical problems including:
    • Change flat tires
    • Jump start weak batteries
    • Provide fuel or water
    • Provide transportation to safer areas
    • Provide courtesy use of a telephone


As part of Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's Fast Forward Congestion Relief program, the HERO program was recently expanded. Before the expansion (in 2005), there were 48 HERO drivers; as of May 2009 there were nearly 90 positions in the program. This expansion also added several new routes to the HERO coverage area to include the southern section of Atlanta, Macon, and Savannah. As of 2012, GDOT's fleet of HERO trucks was 113 covering over 300 miles of roads.

Towing and Recovery Incentive Program (TRIP)[edit]

The HERO units also oversee the TRIP program which now requires an accident to be cleared enough to have traffic significantly improved in 90 minutes from the time that the towing company arrives on scene and is given notice to proceed. (must be on scene in 30 (peak) to 45 (non-peak) minutes or less)[1] Most towing companies pass this requirement because of assistance from GDOT in getting to the scene. Towing companies in the TRIP program must meet a minimum set of standards and pass inspections by GDOT. The approved equipment is issued a TRIP certification sticker.


External links[edit]

"Georgia DOT Office of Traffic Operations Highway Emergency Response Operators (HERO) Official Web Site". Georgia Dept. of Transportation. Retrieved 2007-07-28. [dead link]