IRT truck patrols two counties, plus, here

The in basket:  At this year’s Puyallup Fair, I stopped and talked with Richard, who has what seems like an interesting and dangerous job keeping traffic moving on Highway 405 east of Seattle, driving an incident response truck

He had his truck with him at the state Department of Transportation display, a mammoth 10-cylinder pickup capable of pushing large vehicles out of the way of traffic when they are disabled.

In the bed of the pickup he had an assortment of detritus that he had hauled off the highways while on the job. He had put some of it to use, prying and such, he told me.

As common as they are in King and Pierce counties, Richard said there are no incident response trucks assigned to Kitsap County, though one might be sent here for a major accident or blockage.

I was surprised by that, as I was sure I had seen one on a highway around here at what clearly was an ordinary problem. And, sure enough, there it was Tuesday afternoon running interference along with a state trooper, protecting some poor devil changing a flat tire on the narrow shoulder of Highway 3 southbound heading into Gorst.

The out basket: Richard was wrong, it turns out. Doug Adamson of the Olympic Regions public affairs office sent me the following when I asked about it:

“One Incident Response Team (IRT) member is headquartered at the Port Orchard Maintenance office full-time. (That’s on Spring Creek Road just off Mullenix Road.)

“He patrols Pierce County north of the Tacoma Narrows, and all of Mason and Kitsap counties.  We also have several WSDOT maintenance staff who are trained to do Incident Response duties, and they can respond to an incident as needed.

“The Washington State Patrol requests IRT assistance for incidents in which a roadway is fully blocked or in other situations where traffic flow is impeded.  When not responding to an incident, IRT staff patrol their service areas, helping drivers whose vehicles have become disabled.”

An IRT vehicle, it said,:

  • Can pump and haul away 100 gallons of diesel fuel from a crashed semi-truck.
  • Can serve as a mobile communications center.
  • Carries numerous traffic control devices that divert vehicles away from incidents and collisions. The one I saw Tuesday had a large screen mounted on the back warning oncoming drivers with a yellow display.
  • Carries miscellaneous road-service supplies, including small amounts of gasoline to help drivers who have run out of gas, tools to help change flat tires, and jumper cables to jumpstart a dead battery.


Jerry Lowery has the assignment in Port Orchard and others in that office take the truck out when Jerry isn’t there. The job entails a split shift to cover morning and afternoon rush hours.

Doug also referred me to a Web site with more information ( that includes this: “Four to 10 minutes of traffic congestion (depending on traffic volume) can result from every minute a lane remains blocked, so incidents must be detected and cleared as fast as possible to minimize the impact on congestion, especially during peak periods.”




4 thoughts on “IRT truck patrols two counties, plus, here

  1. I think those IRT guys do a bang-up job when it comes to helping those vehicles that are disabled, when they are available. Wish there was more out there. It really makes me cringe when I see a disabled vehicle on the side of the road and the driver is just walking next to their vehicle without a care in the world. I know there are instances out there where a driver is trying to change a tire and they get hit by a car that either is not paying attention to whats ahead of them or just does not have the common courtesy to get over and give the disabled vehicle a little room. Dont understand why drivers dont like to get over to give room and its not just disabled cars, its also work trucks with caution lights on them while they are working or even those WSDOT vehicles who are blocking traffic for the workers ahead who are on the side of the road. You would figure it would be a state law to give way to vehicles on the side of the road. I personally always get over no matter what cause I dont want a driver coming around their vehicle and step right in front of me and me hitting them (worse case scenerio). I also wish that all WSP cars would get in behind them to let other drivers know there is a problem. Some WSP do stop and turn on their lights but I see the cop cars sometimes just keep driving. I know in California if your vehicle breks down you have to call it in so that a IRT vehicle can assist you. Had my vehicle break down last year in Sacramento and was told by CHP to stay in me truck till IRT showed up. Again I praise those IRT guys who can give a helping hand when its needed and available.

  2. I can’t tell from the above two comments, but one or both may be unaware that there IS a move-over law in Washington state making it an infraction to pass an emergency vehicle stopped on the shoulder with its emergency lights flashing without moving to the inside lane on a multi-lane highway or slowing down on a two-lane highway or if moving over can’t be done safely.
    The law includes tow trucks and state highway vehicles as well as police or fire vehicles.
    Road Warrior

  3. Travis

    I am aware of the law that states a vehicle should move over for vehicles with emergency and warning flashers or beacons on. But as someone who has been working on the HWY 16/ HWY 3 project and has been driving vehicles with warning beacons on top and always flashing any time I was out of my vehicle, very few drivers ever got over or even slowed down for that fact. As a matter of fact there would actually be drivers that would get over into the right lane whenever a vehicle or semi would actually get over and then hit the gas as they passed. Very scary sometimes. But to add as on as I stated above, anytime I see a vehicle on the side of the road whether they are disabled or just pulled over to actually answer their phone, I get over. No matter what. Like I said I do not ever want an accident on my mind of me hitting someone who came around their vehicle as I was passing them, whether right or wrong. I could not deal with that, so I always get over and give the vehicle some room.

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