“We also feel anxious but we are sure of being able to provide help”
Abrupt stop of car, traffic accident or any other non-usual situation is a common thing on the road. In such case, drivers stay alone on a regular road and has to solve it by oneself. But toll highways are different, here we have Traffic Safety Inspectors, or so-called “yellow angels” who provide their assistance to road users under emergency for free. They are professionally trained and get dedicated certification from UTS. Indeed only few people know the way this service is provided.
UTS M11 TSI Manager, Anna Fidlovskaya, shared her impressions on her management at male-dominated workplace. Why Traffic Safety Inspector can be suspended after his medical check and why bicyclers can be met on the highway in spring.
Assistance on the Highway
- Anna, tell us, how TSI service work is managed and how many employees are involved in this process?
- Toll Highway M11 “Moscow – Saint-Petersburg” is divided into sections assigned to our “yellow angels”. I am responsible for three of them: Section 0 (km 15 – km 58), Section 1 (km 58 – km 98) and Section 2 (km 98 – km 149), the last will be commissioned in the nearest future. 25 Traffic Safety Inspectors (TSI) or 5 TSI crews are assigned to these sections; 10 more employees work as Operators in the Traffic Management Center; and my deputies assists me on daily basis. Totally 37 employees are my subordinates and almost all of them are men.
TSI service works twenty-four hours seven days a week: three different TSI on eight-hour shifts per day. TSI makes at least 2 scheduled inspections during his shift – at the beginning and in the middle of it. Unplanned inspections depend on the situation. We have every route defined in detail: the routes for each crew have been worked out in such a way, that they could cover all junctions, exits and even overlap a little bit.
TSI constantly keep in touch with Traffic Management Center Operators. The latter are in charge to register and record all incidents, collect information and contact with emergency-rescue teams (police, EMERCOM, ambulance).
The average TSI response time is around 10 minutes. However it depends on traffic intensity, weather conditions, and number of incidents on the highway. Ife necessary, we can also involve Traffic Safety Inspectors from other sections.
- Will you describe a usual working day of your “yellow angels”?
- First, each inspector shall take a compulsory pre-trip medical examination: a special equipment shows his health indices which are automatically sent to the doctor. The latter takes decision on employee’s admittance or suspension. For instance, if an employee has a rising temperature, he will be substituted. When an inspector is admitted to work, the previous TSI shall hand over his shift. It is compulsory, because TSI gets information on all incidents occurred, fills in a trip ticket and makes report on the van.
Sometimes an incident is still in progress at shift change, in this case TSI shall accept the shift on the road. It is important to note that TSI will never leave drivers in trouble alone.
When the first step is over, Traffic Safety Inspector heads for inspection. If he notices a stopped vehicle, foreign objects on the road pavement etc. – he shall stop and help, bypass is unacceptable. That is why it is impossible to predict the time spent within inspection: it takes 1 hour minimum.
In the evening TSI signs a shift report, provides it to Operators who scan it and save in the data base. The last thing is to sign trip ticket and hand over a van to the next TSI.
- How do Traffic Safety Inspectors get informed on incidents?
- In fact, there are many information sources: Road police, road users, emergency-rescue teams, Toll employees which give information to Traffic Management Center Operator. They are in charge to provide this information to TSI and to follow each event. Some drivers constantly help us – they call on our short emergency phone numbers *2011 to Operators and inform on incidents. This is a kind of help they can provide to us.
Toll roads change Russian drivers’ mentality
- What is the attitude to Traffic Safety Inspectors in Russia?
- From the very beginning when M11 Highway “Moscow – Saint-Petersburg” was just commissioned, people avoided contacting with TSI, some even were scared. There were times when drivers stopped on the Highway and after TSI approached to this place in a nice van equipped with emergency stop signals and ID signs, they left in haste. That means that such drivers had no technical problems with vehicles. If drivers had problems, they were really surprised at help suggested. Now people, who often use toll roads, got used to TSI. They feel glad when inspectors come and help for free, especially ladies, who feel helpless on the road (laughing).
- Do you think, TSI service and its activity changes people’s attitude to safety on the roads in Russia? Does it cause any changes in their habits?
- Unfortunately, one road cannot change the mentality, but when people use our highway regularly, they see the level of service we render, provided assistance and safety and their attitude changes. They do not have to deal with their troubles alone somewhere on the road. A well-qualified, trained staff free support them. If, someone feels bad, there are injured in the result of traffic accidents our Traffic Safety Inspectors will provide first aid treatment. All of them completed a course of medical training.
At the same time, permanent highway users already know how to act, where to call in case of any incident. It means that people are gradually getting used to it, they become aware that they can help other people. Along with that, people start realizing responsibility for their actions.
- But I guess, not all people realize it. Did you have to explain behavioral safety rules on the highway to drivers to prevent accidents?
- I am afraid, not all people realize that a highway is a dangerous place. For example, highways of first category, which UTS highways refer to, are prohibited for bicyclers, but not all know about it. One more example is when pedestrians want to shorten the route and cross the highway in undesignated areas, it is strictly prohibited and really dangerous!
Our task is to make a man safe. Pursuant to regulations, TSI shall pick up a pedestrian, take one to a safe place and talk on safety rules.
It is more complicated with regards to bicyclers. In spring and summer we can observe sportsmen in full kit on the road. Unfortunately, they are not aware of their negative impact on traffic: a driver can be distracted and hurt or even hit a bicycler. High speed may bring terrible consequences.
At first, Traffic Safety Inspectors try to clarify the risks and if a person refuses to comply with safety rules, he/she shall be accompanied up to the end of section. Though TSI responsibility is to keep the person alive and safe,that does not mean that such violation remains unanswered. TSI shall report on such traffic offenders to Operator who will provide all the information to police.
“I realize that hardly can live without my work”
- What is people’s reaction when they get that you manage a rough, male-dominated TSI service? Is such responsibility intimidating?
- (Laughing). Before now, people were always surprised, they thought that I have to be on the road constantly as GIBDD (State Road Traffic Safety Inspection) officer, to which I always replied laughing: “exactly, the only thing I need is shoulder straps”. That happened due to misunderstanding what TSI work implies. Now, people are more well-informed.
My work is very interesting every day brings something new. At first, I hesitated and not sure that I could manage all this team. Now I realize that hardly can live without my work. I feel completely comfortable with it. When you understand that you help people, provide safety – all hesitations are gone! I am especially pleased to receive nice reviews on TSI work from our road users.
- But nothing can constantly go well at work. Do you experience any conflicts? How do you deal with them?
- What helps me is an individual approach to everybody. I love my department. From the very beginning, not all colleagues believed in my management skills. Some inspectors, who used to hold ranks, could not accept the fact that a delicate lady would lead them.
But individual approach to each employee, a climate of trust, personal commitment and discipline broke the ice. They know, their requests won’t remain unnoticed. That does not refer to financial issues, it may relate to improvement of workplace, and you know, TSI van is a working tool. That is why I always do my best to help my team.
- What is the most difficult in your work? What makes you keep going when in trouble?
- My work is full of different situations: those can be drastic accidents, in this case my team support is really helpful. I can go to the accident venue to manage TSI work or stay in the Traffic Management Center to help Operators. Some accidents result in injuries, it is always difficult even for professionals. We also feel anxious but at the same time, we are sure of being able to provide help that is why we have no time for worries.
In such cases, I try to be in the Traffic Management Center, control over the process and together with Operator inform all levels of authority required – it is also a kind of way to overcome hardships.
I have also to note that one of my concern is the safety of my team as their works on the road is dangerous. Unfortunately we faced some dramatic events during which colleagues were seriously injured and even two of them died.
I feel fully involved in all actions implemented by UTS to improve safety of our crew. We have started communication campaign and I hope to see new driver behavior with more attention to my team.