TIM History

This page is dedicated to capturing the history of traffic incident management throughout the years. The information here has been compiled by a number of individuals over time, and credit to the author has been attempted where possible. If you have corrections or additions to the information shown here, please contact Eric Rensel. We can arrange to have hard copies scanned and returned to you or help upload information that is already in an electronic format.

Freeway Incident Management (FIM) Conference Review

 by C. Dudek and S. Tignor February 2009

and Modified by S. Tignor January 23, 2014

The FIM Specialties Conferences were originally sponsored by the Freeway Operations Committee and the Travelers Services Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). Later, the Law Enforcement Committee also helped with the conferences. These conferences were held for about 10 years, the first being on January 13, 1985, or the Sunday starting the week of TRB meetings.

The morning session had presentations on how to manage and respond to freeway incidents and the afternoon session was organized so the attendees could review and study cases of actual freeway incidents that had previously occurred. The morning session usually provided time for 4 to 6 speakers to present how their states or cities planned for responding to freeway incidents when they occurred. Significant meaningful work was done on this problem starting in the mid-1980s by some organizations, but many other organizations were struggling on determining what should be done. The FIM conference goal was to share information among organizations that would make the lost time to motorists shorter and roadways safer during periods of traffic disruptions. The Federal Highway Administration sponsored research on incident management and also developed a movie on the topic in cooperation with CALTRANS and Illinois DOT.

Dr. Connie Dudek and Dr. Samuel C. Tignor, previous TRB committee chairs, have been reviewing their files and records to discover references on how the FIM conferences were held. While this work is still in progress some descriptive material has been found on how the case studies were organized during the afternoon sessions. Below you will find records for the 1989 and 1990 afternoon sessions. We know at least 12 case studies were examined from 1984 to 1990, however, these records are probably unavailable at this time.

The first FIM workshop was initiated by Samuel C.  Tignor, chair of the Travelers Services Committee, by asking Joe McDermott, chair of the Freeway Operations Committee, to help sponsor the workshop on the Sunday prior to the beginning of the annual TRB meeting in Washington, D.C. Samuel Tignor was chair of the Travelers Services Committee from 1980 to 1985 and Joe McDermott was chair of the Freeway Operations Committee from 1978 to 1984. The first FIM workshop was on January 13, 1985. The meetings were well attended with typically 75 to 100 people attending at least for the first 6-8 years. Transportation Research Circulars were published, Number 298 and Number 326. They described the first and second Sunday FIM specialty conferences.

The “Traffic Management for Freeway Incidents” movie was developed by FHWA in January 1985 and it was used in the first Sunday specialty conference. FHWA photographed and produced the film. Samuel Tignor was the technical director and drafted the script. CALTRANS (Richard Murphy and Dave Roper) and Illinois DOT (Joe McDermott) provided the emergency equipment, staff and facilities for staging the shooting scenes some of which were indoors and many were outdoors. Providing the funds and coordination for all of this was a tremendous effort. It took about a year to plan, shoot and complete the production. One of the first showings of the movie was to a local section meeting of ITE in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia in the fall of 1985.

Should the FIM conferences be continued, it is recommended that new case studies be developed because new technology and procedures are available now which were not available the late 1980’s.


  1. “Traffic Management and Planning for Freeway Emergencies and Special Events,” Prepared by Samuel C. Tignor and Kay Colpitts, Transportation Research Circular 298, January 1986, Washington, DC. 20418, ISSN 0097-8515. Click Here to Read Circular 298
  2. “Management of Freeway Emergencies and Special Events,” Transportation Research Circular 326, December 1987, Washington, DC, 20418, ISSN 0097-8515. Click Here to Read Circular 326

Freeway Incident Management (FIM) Conference

January 22, 1989

By Samuel C. Tignor

Case studies are the fun part of the conference. Case studies have been an integral part of the FIM conference since the first conference in 1984.

Why do we use case studies?

  • They illustrate the problem is national – every area of the country is affected by freeway incidents. We have had case studies from California, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. This year they are from New York and Ohio.
  • They permit YOU to think about DIFFICULT incidents that have happened elsewhere.
  • They provide time to learn from others and share FIM problems.

We are not asking you to develop optimum solutions. The purpose is:

  • To help you see the advantage of having pre-developed FIM plans and organizations.
  • To discuss—in small groups—some of the concepts discussed earlier today.

Today’s case studies:

Case A is a rural incident in the state of New York. A bridge over the Schoharie Creek collapsed sending a truck and four cars into the creek 80-feet below.

    • Technical representative
    • Ms. Ellen Stewart
    • New York State Thruway Authority

Case B is an urban incident in Columbus, Ohio involving an overturned tractor-trailer which carried a full load of liquid hydrogen.

    • Technical Representative
    • Mr. Steven Jewell
    • Systems Engineer
    • City of Columbus, Ohio

 Case Study Procedures

Today’s Procedures:

  • Distribute case studies.
  • Divide conference attendees into small groups of about 7-10 people. Three (3) groups for Case A and three (3) groups for Case B.
  • The cards on the tables shows where specific groups will work.
  • 20 minutes has been reserved for all groups to meet separately to discuss their case problem and develop a solution.
  • Each group must select a spokesperson.

Each group shall:

  • Identify the clean-up activities needed.
  • Describe the time schedule that their solution requires.
  • Present their group solution — about 5 minutes per group.

The two technical representatives will describe how they solved the incident problem at the site. We will distribute a written description of what FIM actions were taken at the site. After each FIM conference the two sponsoring TRB committees decide if the FIM conference should be planned for the following year. So if you have an interesting FIM problem, let us know. We try to use different cases each year.