Welsh Government Traffic Officers are deployed in North Wales and South Wales on key strategic routes.
- We are there to help you if you break down or are involved in a collision or incident.
- We arrange the removal of damaged and abandoned vehicles and clear debris from the carriageway.
- We provide mobile and temporary road closures and support the police in their duties.
- We patrol the network in liveried vehicles marked as Traffic Officers with high visibility markings.
The Traffic Officers are trained to a high standard to deliver the service, including safety, dealing with customers, traffic management and the use of technology. Where incidents occur, our police colleagues still retain their role in investigating crime, but we are there to help with managing the traffic and re-opening routes as soon as it is safe to do so.
Traffic Officers are dispatched from the North Wales Traffic Management Centre in Conwy and South Wales Traffic Management Centre in Cardiff. Traffic Officers work with the control rooms to keep road users informed through electronic message signs and Traffic Wales information updates shared with local travel report providers.
Welsh Government Traffic Officers are deployed every day from 07:00 to 19:00 hrs.
In North Wales, the service covers:
- A55 from Holyhead to the Wales-England border at Broughton
- A494/A550 from Ewloe to the Deeside Industrial Park
- A483/A5 in Wrexham county between the Wales-England borders
In South Wales, the service covers:
- M4 from Prince of Wales Bridge Severn crossing toll plaza to junction 49
- A48M from St Mellons to Castleton M4 junction 29
- A4232 from Culverhouse Cross to M4 junction 33
- A470 from Coryton roundabout to Abercynon roundabout
- Southern Distributor Road (SDR) around Newport when the M4 is closed in that area.
The purpose of the Traffic Officer Service is to undertake general traffic and road management tasks. This allows the police greater time to concentrate on the protective services, such as tackling crime, investigating collisions and enforcing the law.
Traffic Officers deal with an average of 257 incidents each week on the routes patrolled.
Managed by North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent and South Wales Trunk Road Agent, Traffic Officers represent the public face of the Welsh Government on the highway, responding to incidents on the Welsh strategic road network with the aim of cutting incident response times and hence reducing the impact of congestion on the network. The Traffic Officer's primary role is to make the area safe before assessing any secondary response requirements and briefing the emergency services where necessary.
With the powers to stop traffic and close roads, lanes and carriageways, direct and divert traffic and pedestrians, place traffic signs and remove abandoned or broken down vehicles, Traffic Officers play an essential role in the safety of Welsh roads.
Traffic Officers in Wales are charged with promoting and building good working relationships with all key stakeholders to achieve common goals associated with reducing incident-related congestion.
The role of the Traffic Officer is to deal with routine incidents including non-injury Road Traffic Collisions on the network and to assist the emergency services by dealing with traffic management at more serious incidents.
The service endeavours to minimise disruption to road users by providing a safe and timely response to incidents in order to manage traffic, assess on-site requirements in terms of debris clearance and infrastructure damage/repairs, liaise with emergency services where necessary and relieve congestion as soon as possible.
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
- Identifying defects and potential improvements to the network
- Monitoring roadworks
- Planning arrangements for forthcoming special events
- Educating road users
Off-road in the Traffic Management Centres, authorised Control Room Operators are responsible for setting signs and signals and answering emergency roadside telephones.
The Welsh Government instigated the service to 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 strategic road network safer
The Traffic Management Act 2004 (England and Wales) enabled certain powers to be transferred to Traffic Officers. Those powers are to:
- Stop traffic and close roads, lanes and carriageways
- Direct and divert traffic and pedestrians
- Place and operate traffic signs
- Manage traffic at traffic surveys. These involve stopping vehicles and asking drivers about their journeys. The information from these surveys is used to develop and plan future investment in the transport system
- Removing or arranging the removal of abandoned or broken down vehicles which are causing an obstruction or are a safety hazard on the network
- Authorising exceptions and relaxations for other road users from the motorway regulations, such as the use of the hard shoulder
Traffic Officers do not have powers to arrest people. They do not have enforcement powers and their vehicles are not classed as emergency vehicles. However, 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 disqualification.
Assaulting, wilfully obstructing or impersonating a Traffic Officer is an offence and could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 or imprisonment.
Traffic Officers deal with a range of incidents, some of which involve injured persons. We may be first on the scene and need to make the incident safe before the arrival of the emergency services. Therefore, the need to be highly visible is crucial.
Traffic Officer vehicles are made easily recognisable by their yellow and black livery. In order to undertake their duties, Traffic Officers are permitted to use red and amber warning lights, authorised under a special order of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 44.
The Traffic Officer Service is not classed as an emergency service and 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 they may be going to the scene of an incident which may be holding up traffic.
Before going out on the road, at the start of every shift a POWDER check is carried out:
- Petrol - or diesel - does the vehicle have enough fuel?
- Oil - a quick check is always advisable
- Water - we check the coolant and washer fluid, and take drinking water 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? 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
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 and bring our vehicle safely to a stop at the correct distance.
You may notice Traffic Officer vehicles parked on observation platforms, similar to the police and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). 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. It also allows our patrols to be in the place where they can most likely have a positive effect in responding to incidents.
When there is a vehicle breakdown on the patrolled routes, Traffic Officers may stop to assist during their patrol, or they may be dispatched to attend the scene if we receive an emergency roadside telephone call.
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 simultaneous incidents elsewhere and whether the driver requires support, for example, because they are vulnerable, there are young children in the car or the vehicle is positioned on an unlit section of the highway.
If a vehicle has broken down on a strategic trunk road, clearway or motorway and Traffic Officers are unable to move it, they can ask the police to use their powers for vehicle recovery to move the vehicle to a safer location. We do this for the safety of drivers, other road users and to reduce congestion at the location of the break down.
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. Road users are required by law to comply with messages on Traffic Officer vehicle signs.
If Traffic Officers arrive first at the scene and find that the emergency services are required, we can provide them with fast, accurate information to help them respond appropriately. Traffic Officers provide a safe working environment on the highway for the emergency services to carry out their duties effectively.
The decision on whether Traffic Officers or the police attend 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. Each police force decides how they deploy their own resources.
At an incident, Traffic Officer vehicles may be parked at an angle towards the carriageway. The way in which Traffic Officer vehicles are positioned 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 conduct a risk assessment to determine the most appropriate fending option to adopt in order to deal with the incident.
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. This approach also helps to avoid our vehicles, staff and the members of the public we are assisting from being struck by errant vehicles. Approaching drivers should always comply with the directions given by Traffic Officers in these situations, as we are there to improve safety for road users.