Life is literally a highway
21 Jan 2019 | The Star Online

While his job requires patrolling a sector of the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) on a loop basis, nothing is routine for highway patrol officer Sjn Mohd Nizam Salleh as no two work days are the same.

“It is a different scenario every day. But our principle duty is to ensure safety on the highway and provide assistance to users in need of help,” said the 52-year-old.

Sjn Mohd Nizam is one of 36 highway patrol officers who travel along the 40km-long LDP on motorcycles or in tow trucks to assist with breakdowns, accidents and traffic management.

“Equally important is that we have the heart and spirit to want to help people,” he said.

All officers under Lingkaran Trans Kota Sdn Bhd (Litrak), the concessionaire for LDP, are also auxiliary policemen who completed a two-month training at the Police Training Centre (Pulapol).

“We patrol the highway on a looping schedule and in shifts,” said Sjn Mohd Nizam.

“One loop covers about 6km to 7km for a motorcycle, and double that distance for a tow truck.

“The morning and afternoon shifts will each have eight motorcycles and three tow trucks patrolling the entire LDP. Only tow trucks are used for night patrols, for better visibility,” he said, adding that each shift lasts eight hours.

Sjn Mohd Nizam said the officers communicate through the walkie-talkie, and can call their colleagues for backup if necessary.

The patrollers are also supported by Litrak’s maintenance and engineering teams.

“We receive information through three sources – ourselves through spotted events, CCTVs monitored by the traffic control and surveillance centre, and public information conveyed via hotline or toll operators,” said Sjn Mohd Nizam.

“Common breakdowns include a flat tyre, engine or mechanical failures, and vehicles overheating or running out of fuel, as well as accidents.

“We will assess the situation then decide how best to clear the breakdown, whether to help on site or tow the vehicle to a safer place.”

According to Litrak, breakdowns and accidents are among key contributing factors to congestion.

Between December 2017 and November last year, Litrak recorded an average of 480 breakdowns and 66 accidents per month.

The highway patrollers have witnessed their share of accidents, ranging from mild incidents such as stalled vehicles to horrific ones involving bodies or scattered body parts.

“As Muslims, there are certain practices that we follow when handling extreme situations such as bloody accidents,” said Sjn Mohd Nizam, who experienced gore and death when serving with the Malaysian army in Bosnia.

Kons Ramli Payatin, 37, said he sought guidance from seniors such as Sjn Mohd Nizam during his first few years of work.

“One important thing we do is to shower at the office, before going home to our families,” said Kons Ramli.

“The senior patrolmen often share their experience with us, such as ways to take care of our own safety and how to control a traffic situation.”

A grateful highway user posted on Facebook on her experience with Kons Ramli, after he helped the her remove her car that had run onto a kerb.

Last month, Sjn Mohd Nizam was presented the Inspector-General of Police Excellence Award in recognition of his work, particularly for two cases.

“Both cases happened at the toll plazas and involved male drivers who were acting unreasonably and aggressively, in a way that posed a risk to public safety,” he said.

“I used my auxiliary police training to catch and handcuff the drivers, before handing them over to the police for further action.”

Sjn Mohd Nizam, who has been with Litrak for 22 years, said the award was unexpected since he was merely carrying out his duties.