Assessment of the Richmond District’s Towing and Recovery Incentive Program (TRIP) Pilot

Report No: 20-R11

Published in 2019

About the report:

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

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the TRIP pilot in terms of clearing commercial vehicle crashes from roadways in the Richmond District more quickly and efficiently than in the before pilot period.   The analysis 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 study involved understanding and refining performance measures, data needs and availability, 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 the top 61 incidents in the before period vs. TRIP incidents were analyzed, the average roadway clearance time (RCT) showed a statistically significant improvement of 62 minutes per TRIP activation and the average towing response time (TRT) improved by 7 minutes per TRIP activation.  When the top 39 incidents in the before period vs. the after period were analyzed, the average RCT improved by 50minutes per TRIP activation and the average TRT improved by 6 minutes per TRIP activation.  Based on these two filtering methods, 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 operational horizon.  When cargo spill incidents were analyzed, the RCT improved by 96 minutes when comparing before vs. TRIP only incidents and 110 minutes when comparing before vs. all after incidents; however, low sample sizes and high data variability prevented inferences with regard to statistical significance.   As evidenced by responses to interview questions, both the Virginia State Police and towing vendors viewed the program favorably.  The Virginia State Police witnessed more professional towing operations and more timely removal of high impact, heavy vehicle crashes.  The towing vendors thought that the culture of the towing community has changed in terms of the expedited response and clearance protocols for both TRIP and non-TRIP incidents. 

Based on the results, the study concluded that (1) the TRIP pilot showed promising results, (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 Virginia Department of Transportation (1) continue TRIP operations in the Richmond District and explore opportunities to expand the program to other districts in Virginia, and (2) conduct ongoing performance analyses of TRIP and begin collecting critical incident timestamps such as tower dispatch and tower response in all districts.

Disclaimer Statement: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.


Last updated: November 9, 2023

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