IRU responds to 10,000-plus incidents in first year

February 18, 2021

By Kim Larson, ADOT Internal Communications

Responding to more than 10,000 incidents in its first year, ADOT’s Incident Response Unit clearly is a turn in the right direction for traffic mitigation.

The IRU was formed in 2019 with dedicated staff on the roadways in proximity to respond quickly to any traffic incident in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Traffic volume in the Valley is around 1.7 million vehicles per month and based on the data, the team responds to an average of 866 calls each month.

How do they cover so much ground, with the potential for multiple incidents happening at any given time? The 14-member unit consists of two shifts that allow them to cover more ground, longer.

“With this new unit, we’re on the road 16 hours every weekday.” said Abraham Asermely, IRU supervisor. He went on to explain a typical day. “The early shift starts with morning rush hour, concentrated in central Phoenix. They will then start fan out to other areas, responding to incidents but also working on maintenance issues.”

The Department of Public Safety is an essential partner in incident management. An officer is always on shift in ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center and DPS captains meet with IRU staff quarterly.

“Since the inception of the IRU unit, we have relied heavily on them and oftentimes they are the closest asset we have to mitigate traffic hazards such as debris and blocking disabled vehicles,” said DPS Captain Jacob Pruet. “We work hand in hand to provide the utmost safety to the motoring public within Maricopa County … keeping the freeways clear by providing a fast response to any incident on the highway.”

One unusual thing about the IRU’s first year was the pandemic. As the number of cars on the road decreased, the number of calls decreased accordingly.

“While we definitely saw more incidents before COVID-19 hit, we’ve seen a marked increase for the time each incident takes to clear, so the workload has remained steady,” IRU Program Manager Mark Brown explained.

The operational shift in itself was the impetus for continuous improvement as the team found ways to increase efficiencies and customer service delivery, and developed standard work.

What does the IRU team want drivers to be aware of? Know the laws, so you’re prepared if you’re involved in an accident or you encounter vehicles on the shoulder. Learn more about the Move Over law and Quick Clearance. View a video and hear from Director John Halikowski on the IRU in the ADOT Blog.

* Photo -- Supervisor Ray Kavaliunas said that the DMS-equipped trucks will eventually make up half of their vehicles. Each vehicle has the capability to quickly display one of 96 pre-programmed messages.

* This article originally appeared in the December, 2020 issue of The Inside Lane.