Frequently Asked Questions
Since we introduced Traffic Officers on our network in February 2010 we have received a number of queries from customers asking about the roles and responsibilities of our Traffic Officers, about the vehicles used and the equipment that is carried in them.
- What are the roles and responsibilities of Traffic Officers?
- What powers under the Traffic Management Act 2004 do Traffic Officers have?
- What is the purpose of giving Traffic Officers these responsibilities?
- What is the role of the traffic police now that the Traffic Officers have taken over many of their duties?
- Do police attend the scene of an accident or do they wait until the Traffic Officers tell them to attend?
- Can Traffic Officers arrest people?
- What colour lights and livery do the Traffic Officer Vehicles have? What is the reasoning behind this?
- Why do Traffic Officer Vehicles look so similar to police vehicles and use the same high visibility markings as some police forces?
- Why do you see Traffic Officer Vehicles parked on overbridges or observation platforms?
- How many Traffic Officer Vehicles are in the fleet? (February 2010)
- How many incidents do Traffic Officers deal with on their patrol routes each week?
- What is the role of the South Wales Traffic Management Centre?
- How do Traffic Officers work with the Emergency Services at an incident on the motorway?
- What is a rolling road closure?
- What checks do Traffic Officers conduct on their patrol vehicles before going out on patrol?
- Why do you see Traffic Officers parked behind broken down vehicles on the hard shoulder?
- Why are Traffic Officer Vehicles parked at an angle towards the motorway carriageway and not parallel to it?
- Why do Traffic Officers put out lights and cones in the daylight behind their vehicle while parked on the hard shoulder?
- At what speed do Traffic Officers patrol the motorway and trunk roads?
Q) What are the roles and responsibilities of Traffic Officers?
Traffic Officers are responsible for:
- managing incidents, except where there is a loss of life, injury or potential criminal activity
- setting signs and signals and answering emergency roadside telephones
- arranging the removal of damaged or broken down/abandoned vehicles in partnership with the police
- removing debris and other obstructions from the carriageway
The role of a Traffic Officer involves:
- managing incidents that do not involve loss of life, injury or potential criminal activity
- supporting the police when they are managing incidents, particularly in managing traffic
- high visibility patrols to reassure the public
- dealing with accident damaged, broken down and abandoned vehicles
- providing rolling road closures to hold traffic back to allow removal of debris, installation of temporary traffic management and other purposes
- providing temporary road closures
- clearing debris, animals and found property from the network
- identification of defects and potential improvements to the network
- monitoring roadworks
- planning arrangements for forthcoming special events
- educating road users
Q) What powers under the Traffic Management Act 2004 do Traffic Officers have?
The Traffic Officers have powers to:
- Stop traffic and close roads, lanes and carriageways;
- Direct and divert traffic
- Place and operate traffic signs;
- Manage traffic and traffic surveys.
Failure to comply with a Traffic Officer's directions or sign is an offence and could lead to:
- A fine of up to £1,000
- Driving Licence endorsement; or
Assaulting, willfully obstructing or impersonating a Traffic Officer is an offence and could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 or Imprisonment.
Q) What is the purpose of giving Traffic Officers these responsibilities?
The Welsh Government has instigated this trial service to both improve journeys for drivers, to make roads safer and to allow police to focus on tackling crime. The benefits include:
- Reduced incident-related congestion
- Increased journey-time reliability
- Reduced secondary incidents - the incidents that happen at the scene of an existing incident or at road works
- Freeing up police time to focus on core activities, such as tackling crime and enforcing the law.
- Making the road networks safer
Q) What is the role of the traffic police now that the Traffic Officers have taken over many of their duties?
With the Traffic Officer Service taking on routine motorway tasks; police will be able to spend more of their time concentrating on their priority of enforcing the law and dealing with crime.
Q) Do police attend the scene of an accident or do they wait until the Traffic Officers tell them to attend?
The decision on who attends an incident depends on which resource is closer to the scene. Traffic Officer Vehicles have amber lights and are not allowed to exceed the speed limit. Each incident will be assessed and the most appropriate resources will be deployed to the scene. It is a matter for each police force how they deploy their resources
Q) Can Traffic Officers arrest people?
Traffic Officers do not have powers to arrest people, however it is an offence not to comply with their requests. Failure to comply with a Traffic Officer's directions or sign is an offence and could lead to:
- A fine of up to £1,000
- Driving Licence endorsement; or
Q) What colour lights and livery do the Traffic Officer Vehicles have? What is the reasoning behind this?
The vehicles have amber, white and rear-red flashing lights on their vehicles and are easily recognisable, as they have yellow and black livery on them.
It must be remembered that the Traffic Officer Service is not an emergency service.
Traffic Officers are not allowed to exceed the speed limit when responding to an incident however we would ask drivers to allow them to pass if they see them on the highway as it may be the case that they are going to the scene of an incident which may be holding up traffic.
Q) Why do Traffic Officer Vehicles look so similar to police vehicles and use the same high visibility markings as soon police forces?
Given the nature of their role and the environment that Traffic Officers work in, ensuring their safety of staff and that of the travelling public is important.
Traffic Officers deal with a range of incidents, some of which involve incidents where persons have been injured, and we may be first on the scene and need to make the incident safe before the arrival of the required emergency services and therefore need to be highly visible is crucial.
Q) Why do you see Traffic Officer Vehicles parked on overbridges or observation platforms?
Traffic Officer vehicles are able to use observation platforms, as are the police and VOSA. Using this part of the highways infrastructure or other strategic locations such as overbridges enables our teams to give a physical presence which enhances public reassurance.
More importantly, it allows our patrols to be in the place where they can most likely have a positive effect on dealing with incidents.
Q) How many Traffic Officer Vehicles are in the fleet? (February 2010)
The current Traffic Officer Vehicle fleet consists of 3 vehicles. Three different models of vehicles are being trialed. These are:
- Land Rover Discovery
- Volkswagen Transporter
- Mitsubishi L200
Q) How many incidents do Traffic Officers deal with each week?
Traffic Officers deal with an average of 125 incidents each week on the routes patrolled..
Q) What is the role of the South Wales Traffic Management Centre?
The SWTMC off the M4 at Junction 32, Coryton, operates 24 hours every day of the year, collecting information on road and traffic conditions across Welsh motorway and trunk roads.
It provides a central information point for the motorway and trunk road network, collecting real time information from road sensors and CCTV cameras as well as reports from the Traffic Officers, police forces, local highway authorities, contractors, and weather centres.
This real time information is then made available to drivers who have a choice of how they access it.
Drivers can log onto the Traffic Wales website or call the 24-hour automated telephone service on 0845 602 602 0. Information is also available through traffic bulletins on radio and TV.
Information about travel conditions is also be provided through electronic roadside message signs located at key locations on the motorway and trunk road network, giving drivers the opportunity to change route if there is a problem ahead.
Q) How do Traffic Officers work with the Emergency Services at an incident on the motorway?
Traffic Officers carry out a range of duties, from arranging removal of damaged and abandoned vehicles to stopping and directing traffic.
They also provide a safe working environment on the motorway for the fire and rescue service, police and ambulance service to carry out their duties effectively.
If Traffic Officers arrive first at the scene or the emergency services have received a call from a mobile phone we are able to provide fast, accurate information to them, including marker post details.
Q) What is a rolling road closure?
A rolling road closure is when we use the Traffic Officer vehicles to gradually slow down the following motorists and then stop them temporarily to allow enough time for maintenance work to be carried out, or for debris or an incident to be cleared in safety.
Q) What checks do traffic officers conduct on their patrol vehicles before going out on patrol?
Before going out on road, at the start of every shift a POWDER Check is carried out. This includes the following:
Petrol - or diesel in our case - does the vehicle have enough fuel?
Oil - A quick check is always advisable.
Water - We check the coolant and washer fluid, and some drinking water for is a good idea too.
Damage - a quick visual check of the bodywork to make sure everything's okay.
Electricity - are all lights and electrical controls working as they should be? Particularly important for Traffic Officer vehicles, with our added lights and matrix signs.
Rubber - We check the tyres - they're the vehicle's only contact with the road and are crucial for driving, and stopping, safely.
Q) Why do you see Traffic Officers parked behind broken down vehicles on the hard shoulder?
Newly trained Traffic Officers are limited to working on the hard shoulder until they have successfully completed a period of assessment. During this time, they will focus on providing support and assistance to motorists who have had to stop on the hard shoulder.
On completion of the initial stages of their assessment they will move on to undertake tasks in the live carriageway such as the application of rolling road closures, clearing incidents which cause congestion and the removal of dangerous debris which may cause accidents.
It is not necessary for us to attend and remain at the scene of every broken down vehicle. It depends on the resources available, priorities of competing jobs and whether the driver requires support because, for example, they are vulnerable, there are young children in the car or the vehicle is positioned on an unlit section of motorway.
Q) Why are Traffic Officer Vehicles parked at an angle towards the motorway carriageway and not parallel to it?
The way in which Traffic Officer Vehicles are positioned on the hard shoulder when attending incidents is known as vehicle orientation or 'fending' and there are generally three options that can be adopted. These are:
- Fend in - this is when the front of the vehicle is positioned towards the verge
- Fend off - when the front of vehicle is positioned towards the carriageway
- In line - when the vehicle positioned parallel to the carriageway.
When attending an incident, Traffic Officers are instructed to conduct a risk assessment to determine the most appropriate fending option to adopt in order to deal with the incident.
Q) Why do Traffic Officers put out lights and cones in the daylight behind their vehicle while parked on the hard shoulder?
Traffic Officers will put out cones and lights, if needed, to improve the visibility of our vehicles and to provide a safe working area and clear information to approaching drivers. It is also to avoid our vehicles being struck by errant vehicles encroaching on the hard shoulder and to ensure the safety of the public and our staff.
Q) At what speed to Traffic Officers patrol the motorway and trunk roads?
Traffic Officers patrol at the speed of traffic in lane one, and on quieter motorways at not more than 60mph. Traffic Officers are not allowed to break the national speed limit. In maintaining this practice it provides a balance between not holding up traffic whilst being able to spot a broken down vehicle on the hard shoulder and bring our vehicle safely to a stop at the correct distance behind that vehicle which is approximately 25 metres behind a broken down vehicle.