Twelve Life-Saving Obligations
By Randall C. Resch
Towers are seemingly at war with distracted motorists; those who have no clue or inclination as to the dangers we face on a day-to-day basis. Yet we have an obligation to return home safely to our families, our companies and the communities we serve.
The towing and recovery industry demands that tow operators be knowledgeable and aware of hazards that are inherent to the job. Towers are responsible to know what standards of care exist, recognizing them and to do what it takes to apply them.
The following 12 training categories are life-saving "focus areas" every tow operator should attain. Training topics should include:
1. Traffic Incident Management Fundamentals and Terminology: TIM training offers free hands-on and web-based training on how to safely and properly execute roadside response specific to high-speed freeways.
2. Response and Approach: Employing vehicle code requirements for safe vehicle operations, lane placement, speed of travel, use of emergency lighting, legal use of shoulders, etc.
3. Vehicle Positioning: How tow trucks are parked or positioned is critical when towers are working outside of their vehicles.
4. Arrival Assessment: In an immediate sense, the tower is assessing the who, what, when, where, how and why considerations of any incident as it regards, "move it or work it."
5. On-Scene Safety: What considerations or best practices would make a tower's on-scene existence the safest for them, including paths of escape?
6. Command Responsibilities: Understanding the "big picture" of what's going on when working critical incidents and who is in-charge. Towers have on-scene responsibilities to identify an Incident Commander and react immediately and competently to the tasks at hand.
7. Traffic Management: The known study of dangers, lessons learned and cause and effect of traffic incidents; the study of clearing obstructions and restoring traffic to its original free-flowing state.
8. Special Circumstances: These are considerations by towers working outside the box. While some recovery techniques and methods may seem unorthodox to the norm, towers work with incident managers in order to get the job done.
9. Quick Clearance: The total goal of getting traffic moving again lessens the possibility of secondary impacts.
10. White-Line Safety: Especially for tow operators, it's a learned ability to consciously work away from traffic using tow truck controls and equipment items far from the white-line side.
11. Survival Tactics: A tow operator's learned ability to employ survival and on-scene operational tactics that allows them to work out of known danger areas.
12. Application of Techniques and Methods: The total and overall abilities to employ appropriate equipment, tow truck and recovery skill in meeting the quick-clearance objectives.
Working white-line danger zones is every tower's conscious decision. All the training in the world is negated by the reality that it's you who chooses to stand or work in harm's way. While there are times towers must move quickly through pinch zones or the white-line danger side, consciously and routinely standing there—especially at the traffic-side controls—is a recipe for disaster.
These categories are suggested as a basis of training for both on-highway responders and those serving the motoring public no matter where they travel.
I ask that you'll take a few minutes to self-evaluate and see if you have your mind right when it comes to understanding the dangers of the roadside. Never forget that this profession has the highest mortality rate that reaches far beyond other occupations.Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, and is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fa