The Point: Roving Tow Drivers Help Stranded Motorists and Keep Roadways Moving

There is no doubt about it: Riverside County’s Freeway Service Patrol drivers are superheroes. Flat tire? No problem. Dead battery? Easy. Overheated engine? Check. Need a tow? It’s handled. And not only is the service fast, it’s free.

Getting motorists back on the road and out of harm’s way is all in a day’s work for the FSP drivers who roam Riverside County’s busiest highways. June 28 marks the 25th anniversary of FSP operations, which now cover 101 miles across the western portion of the county, including Interstates 15 and 215, State Routes 60 and 91, and the 91 Express Lanes.

RCTC, which administers the program in partnership with the California Highway Patrol, estimates that drivers have performed more than 852,000 “assists” during the past 25 years. Three contracted towing companies – Pepe’s Towing, Airport Mobil Towing and Steve’s Towing – provide 35 drivers who operate 21 roving tow trucks along 10 “beats” or service areas in Riverside County.

Service started June 28, 1993 with eight trucks on State Routes 60 and 91. During the early years, drivers performed about 16,000 assists per year. With the growth of the program, assists now number a whopping 40,000 each year.

And did we mention it’s free? FSP drivers also are not allowed to accept tips from motorists.

After each “assist,” motorists are asked to complete a satisfaction survey. So many motorists have compared their FSP drivers to superheroes that “Captain FSP” was created as the new FSP mascot.

“He appeared like an angel or a superhero, out of thin air, at precisely the perfect moment,” said one motorist. Another noted, “The driver is my hero of the year…such a great professional…he made me and my kid feel like everything was going to be okay, despite the situation.”

This spring, RCTC recognized five FSP drivers for excellent service. Awarded were:

  • Rudy Gonzales, Top Driver (Pepe’s Towing)
  • David Camberos, Driver of Excellence (Pepe’s Towing)
  • Nicholas Farias, Rookie of the Year (Airport Mobil Towing)
  • George Ballesteros, Public Choice (Steve’s Towing)
  • Edwardo Quintero, Most Assists (Pepe’s Towing)

Program funding is provided by Caltrans, with additional funding provided by RCTC and the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee for special weekend service. The CHP provides program oversight.

In early 2019, RCTC plans to expand service in southwestern Riverside County, using new funding from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, more commonly known as the “gas tax.” $1.6 million in gas tax funding will allow FSP coverage to extend 12.4 miles on Interstate 215 in Perris, Menifee, Wildomar and Murrieta, from Ethanac Road to Murrieta Hot Springs Road; and 27 miles on Interstate 15 from Indian Truck Trail to Temecula Parkway/79-South in Wildomar, Murrieta and Temecula.

For more information about the program, including a service area map and hours of operation, click here.

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