This week, WJXT Channel 4 reporter Heather Leigh rode along with FDOT’s Road Rangers, trucks that patrol the interstates prepared to assist motorists in distress, to give viewers a firsthand look at the services they provide on our roadways.
Road Ranger Andy Henry was at the wheel with Leigh riding shotgun. Road Ranger Supervisor Cody Parham was in the back seat.
It wasn’t long before Henry spotted a vehicle pulled off on the shoulder of the road with its hood up. The driver said it was a major engine problem and a tow truck was on its way.
Next, the Rangers and Heather came upon a disabled truck from Ohio hitched to a large trailer. Henry started setting his cones out on the roadway so traffic would avoid the area. The message bar on the truck flashed and warned drivers to switch lanes. Unfortunately, most drivers ignored it.
The truck had a flat tire, so Henry escorted them off the ramp to a safe location where their tire could be repaired.
The Rangers assisted a few more stranded motorists before Henry started back north on I-95 towards FDOT’s Jacksonville Urban Office.
Then traffic came to standstill.
Up ahead, Henry could see a sea of taillights. A radio call to the Traffic Management Center confirmed the location of the incident. A moment later a sheriff’s patrol car came rushing up behind the truck, parting traffic with a succession of loud blasts on his horn. Henry fell in behind the patrol car and made it to the crash site in minutes as the traffic allowed both vehicles to squeeze by.
At the incident site, a tractor trailer had smashed into a small sedan near the Acosta Bridge and pushed the passenger car for some distance. The driver’s door panel was crushed but the occupant was not injured. Thanks to Henry’s quick work, the incident was cleared in a matter of minutes and rush hour traffic on I-95 resumed its frenzied pace.
When Heather’s report airs next month, Channel 4’s viewers will get to witness the Road Rangers in action. In the meantime, if you or your loved ones need roadside assistance, here’s information that may help:
- The First Coast Road Rangers run eight trucks from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays along designated stretches of I-95, I-295, I-10, and J. Turner Butler Blvd.
- They are tasked with assisting stranded motorists, removing debris from the road, and moving disabled vehicles from travel lanes for the driver’s safety and to ensure the continued safe flow of traffic.
- Road Rangers assist about 20,000 motorists every year. Of that number, 65 percent of the calls are for disabled vehicles, 12 percent for debris removal and 11 percent are crash-related assists like the one on I-95.
- If you are stranded, call *FHP (347) to get help heading your way.
Henry, a former law enforcement officer, says he loves the work.
“It’s a good feeling to know you helped someone get through a tough situation,” he said.
Statewide, the Road Ranger program has been around since 2000 and has assisted more than 4.3 million Florida drivers.
The Road Rangers are part of Jacksonville’s incident management system, which includes a link to and traffic monitoring from the Regional Traffic Management Center.
In the Jacksonville area, the program is funded by FDOT, the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization and the law firm of Hardesty, Tyde, Green & Ashton.