The Point: Grant Byrd marks 20 years of helping motorists in need

 

Oh, no…What’s that thumping sound? Not a flat tire while on the freeway! And it’s raining. Really?!

Seemingly out of nowhere, Grant Byrd flies in to the rescue. Byrd, a Freeway Service Patrol tow truck operator for the Riverside County Transportation Commission, spots the small car on the side of Interstate 215 in Moreno Valley, pulls up, greets the motorist, changes her tire, and gets her back on her way within minutes.

Scenes like this occur all over Riverside County roadways, thanks to the Freeway Service Patrol or FSP. Byrd has seen virtually every type of roadside emergency during his 20 years of driving and managing the FSP Program for Pepe’s Towing, one of three contracted tow companies for the FSP Program in Riverside County.

“Five days a week, eight hours a day – I’ve seen it all,” said Byrd, 60, of Menifee. RCTC estimates that Byrd has conducted 23,000 roadside assists during his 20 years, more than any driver in the program. He and other FSP operators were recognized during an awards ceremony on March 13 for the Riverside County and San Bernardino County FSP programs. Drivers were honored for years of service and for top achievements.

RCTC and Caltrans fund the county’s FSP Program, and the California Highway Patrol supervises the program. Started in June 1993, FSP is approaching its 25th year of operation.

FSP drivers are assigned beats to patrol on Interstate 15, Interstate 215, State Route 60 and State Route 91, some of the heaviest traveled roadways in Riverside County. Byrd notes that the freeways are getting busier.

“There are a lot more cars and trucks out there every day, so we tow truck operators have to be even more careful.”

The operators continuously rove for stranded motorists and provide roadside aid for various mechanical/electrical breakdowns, flat tires (Byrd can place a spare tire on a compact car in about five minutes), battery service, vehicle fires, empty gas tanks, and even people who lock their keys out of their cars. Wait, what? Byrd explains that the lockouts usually occur when drivers get into fender-benders, exit their vehicles to exchange insurance information, and mistakenly lock their keys inside their cars.

So what’s the cost to stranded drivers? Zip, zilch, zero. The program is provided free of charge to motorists, and no tips are accepted.

Although he has never helped a celebrity, he has provided roadside aid to several elected officials. He also has trained 300 to 400 rookie FSP drivers throughout his career.

Before he got into the roadside service industry, Byrd was a welder and pipe-fitter, but FSP has been a rewarding second career for him. The best thing about the job? “Helping people who need it – who really need it – because they are having an emergency or can’t afford a paid service. It makes the job worthwhile.”

For more information about RCTC’s FSP Program, click here.

By the Numbers: Riverside County FSP

July 1, 2016–June 30,2017

  • 7,762 Mechanical/Electrical Problems
  • 6,101 Flat Tires
  • 3,936 Accidents
  • 2,577 Empty Gas Tanks
  • 2,479 Overheated Vehicles/Fires
  • 2,054 Roadway Hazard Removal
  • 19 Vehicle Lockouts
  • 13,029 Cases of Providing information to Motorists

Michelle McCamish, management analyst for our Commuter & Motorist Assistance Program, presents a 20-year service award to Grant Byrd.

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