(Reprinted from the ARES e-Newsletter at http://www.arrl.org/ares-el?issue=2011-10-20)
The National Traffic System (NTS) is a structure that allows for rapid movement of message traffic from origin to destination and training amateur operators to handle written traffic and participate in directed nets. These two objectives are the underlying foundations of the NTS. It’s a system that operates daily, even continuously with advanced digital links.
The NTS consists of operators who usually participate for one or two periods a week, and some who are active daily. The National Traffic System is an organized effort to handle traffic in accordance with a plan that is easily understood, and employs modern methods of network traffic handling.
NTS is not intended as a deterrent or competition for the many independently-organized traffic networks. When necessitated by overload or lack of outlet for traffic, the facilities of such networks can function as alternate traffic routings where this is indicated in the best interest of efficient message relay and/or delivery.
One of the most important features of NTS is the system concept. No NTS net is an independent entity that can conduct its activities without concern for or consideration of other NTS nets. Each net performs its function and only its function in the overall organization. If nets fail to perform their functions or perform functions intended for other nets, the overall system may be adversely affected. Nets may sometimes find it necessary to adopt temporary measures to ensure the movement of traffic, however. – ARRL Public Service Communications Manual
The best way to get to know the National Traffic System is to hook up with a local NTS traffic net in your area where messages (Radiograms) are entered and others are accepted for delivery by mail or phone. Local clubs, repeater groups, and ARES operators are all good sources for local info on NTS activity. — K1CE