The Metro Freeway Service Patrol is celebrating its 25th birthday Wednesday, though many Los Angeles drivers have probably never heard of it.
L.A. County drivers bedeviled by blowouts, empty gas tanks or breakdowns often only learn about the patrol's fleet of white trucks just in the knick of time. The trucks patrol L.A.'s freeways looking for distressed commuters and help clear the roads by jumping batteries, filling tanks, or towing vehicles out of harm's way.
Paul Gonzales, Metro spokesman, said that in the past 25 years the Freeway Service Patrol has assisted more than seven million drivers on L.A. County freeways.
In honor of its anniversary, we offer a rundown of what the Freeway Service Patrol is and how it can help you:
What is the Freeway Service Patrol?
Metro's Freeway Service Patrol is funded by state and local tax money to help with freeway congestion by getting stopped cars running or out of traffic lanes as soon as possible. The service is a partnership between Metro, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol and, according to its website, assists 25,000 motorists per month.
The service even has a Yelp page with five-stars and more than 800 reviews from people who have been rescued by it swooping in at their time of need.
Gonzales said that each year 300,000 calls are made to the Freeway Service Patrol for assistance and during peak hours 149 tow trucks are cruising the freeway looking for people in need.
"A lot of people call them the 'Angels of the Freeway,' " Gonzales told KPCC. "These people are doing this very dangerous and very necessary work. Every minute you’re on the freeway with a broken-down vehicle puts you as a driver in danger, and it slows down all of the traffic around you."
What services does the Freeway Service Patrol provide?
- Changing flat tires using your car's spare
- Jumping-starting dead car batteries
- Re-filling radiators and doing temporary repairs on leaking hoses
- Providing up to a gallon of fuel for cars that are out of gas
- Towing cars off the freeway to a safe location designated by CHP
Where and when can the Freeway Service Patrol rescue me?
Check out the map above to see which freeways have the Freeway Service Patrol.
The regular hours are 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
Expresslanes Service is available on the 110 and 10 freeways from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Big-rig service is available on the 710 and 91 freeways from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Service is limited on most holidays and unavailable Dec. 25 to Dec. 31, Thanksgiving and the day after, New Year's Day and Veterans Day.
How do I get help?
If you're in need of non-emergency vehicle service on the freeway, dial 511 on your cell phone or on a freeway call box and say "motorist aid." A Freeway Service Patrol truck will arrive when available, although the website — and many of the Yelp reviews — note that since the service's drivers are constantly patrolling the freeway, they may find you before you even call. Gonzales said that the average wait time after a call is seven minutes.
Services are free of charge, and its drivers are not allowed to accept tips.
“A lot of them have had many hugs over their careers, helping people on the freeway," Gonzales said. "And a hearty congratulations and a thanks is always very much appreciated."