Drivers in metro Atlanta have come to rely on HERO units, Highway Emergency Response Operators.
Now Georgia’s Department of Transportation has launched a similar program for the rest of the state’s major highways.
CHAMP, the Coordinated Highway Assistance and Maintenance Program (CHAMP) is similar to HERO. However, HERO, with its signature bright orange trucks are primarily in metro Atlanta. That program's focus is emergency response and traffic control.
CHAMP drivers are in white pick-up trucks and don’t have emergency response training, but serve as a HERO unit for more rural areas. CHAMP drivers can call 911 and help with a gallon of gas, or divert traffic with message boards.
Katie Strickland, a spokesperson with GDOT’s office in Gainesville, said the main focus will be maintenance.
"They can push you out of the way; they can push you to the side. They can also fill you up with gas so that you can get to the gas station,” Strickland said. “So it's just going to increase safety, and it's also going to protect our assets as far as infrastructure in Georgia: our lane miles, our drainage, our culverts, our bridges."
With CHAMP helping motorists with things like flat tires and moving abandoned vehicles out of the way, Strickland said maintenance crews will be able to focus on keeping up the roads.
“For our more rural areas, they can clear a drain, pick up animals and dispose of them,” Strickland said. “They can actually be an extension of our maintenance.”
The North Georgia route extends 64 miles from the edge of Gwinnett County to the South Carolina state line. CHAMP units will cover all the interstates by the end of April.
The $10 million program is funded through the Transportation Funding Act of 2015.
Like HERO drivers, CHAMP drivers do not to accept tips or payment from the public.