ODOT Incident Management staffing concerns local tow truck drivers

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:21 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A spokesperson for the Oregon Dept. of Transportation in the Metro Area says because of staffing, Traffic Incident Management truck drivers are only available Mondays through Fridays 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekends.

These incident response personnel are a common sight with their flashing lights along interstates and highways in and around Portland if there has been an accident, stalled vehicle, or other situation involving traffic hazards.

On Sunday, a Portland tow truck driver was badly hurt in a hit-and-run crash just before 7:00 a.m. on I-84, when no ODOT incident response staff would have been available to help.

James Jerome manages Northwestern Towing in Portland. His friend and coworker, Arthur Walker, is currently recovering from being hit by another tow truck in a hit-and-run accident on I-84 in Southeast Portland this past weekend while he was helping a stranded driver. Jerome says he feels the outcome would have been different had there been ODOT traffic incident staff available at that hour.

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“I 100 percent think things would’ve been different, and I’m not blaming ODOT,” says Jerome. “I know that since COVID the whole economy has changed, and I know that finding employees and getting shifts covered is impossible for some outfits.”

A spokesperson for ODOT in the Metro Area says incident management drivers mainly cover interstate highways mostly in the City of Portland, and the department hopes to increase staffing levels as funding allows. But for James Jerome and fellow tow truck drivers, they say the job comes with a greater risk without ODOT’s help on the highways.

“We not only have to safely load a vehicle, make sure our customer is in the tow truck away from harm’s way,” he said. “We have to watch traffic, watch the vehicle and watch ourselves.”