TxDOT's HERO program helps drivers who run out of gas, need roadside assistance

As gas prices continue to soar in Central Texas, there's also an increase in people running out of gas on area highways.

"They think they can make it to the next stop and they don’t," said Sam Valenzuela, Lead HERO Truck Operator with TxDOT.

That's where the HERO roadside assistance program comes in. 

"We’ve seen a few more gas calls than usual," said Valenzuela.

In April, Austin-area HEROs responded to 156 gas calls. Last month, that jumped to 240, a 35% increase.

They patrol major highways looking for drivers who've run out of gas, have flat tires, engine troubles or other issues that leave them stranded. Valenzuela says he finds most people on the side of the highway.

"More people do run out of gas during rush hour, that’s for sure, because people are stuck in traffic, and they’re already on E, and they just stall out," said Valenzuela.

Often Valenzuela finds abandoned vehicles, which he says is often the case with people who run out of gas, sometimes because they're not aware calling a HERO is on option. 

"The majority of people we stop on have no idea who we are," said Valenzuela.

He offered some advice if your tank is getting dangerously low while on the highway.

"If you’re about to run out of gas, get to the right shoulder as soon as you can," said Valenzuela. "Don’t be shy. We will gladly come out. We love what we do."

Valenzuela says most people are beyond grateful to get a little assistance.

"I’ve had a few people cry, hug me, just super happy that we’re here to help them," he said.

HERO trucks operate from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. 

If you need one, or see someone who does, call (512) 974-HERO. For more information, click here.

As always, if you see a HERO truck on the side of the highway, TxDOT urges you to slow down or move over. It's the law.