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The Week's Features
A lawsuit filed by a disabled woman over a van that was towed by the city has blown up into a class action suit.
Wrecks & Recovery editor Jim “Buck” Sorrenti, enroute from the hospital, comes upon a light duty recovery that entails going down to a swamp.
Minimally Embellished, Hockenberry’s white and cranberry striped unit is worth gobbling up for the holidays. Check it out.
This commercially targeted HD camera, a deterrent to insurance claims by outside parties, records on both adjustable built-in cameras and on an optional third camera.
Economic malaise caused by Covid-19 continues to grow for consumers whose cars are due for repossession.
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Cleveland, OH.
June 17-19, 2021
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Aug. 5-7, 2021
Las Vegas, NV.
Sept. 15-17, 2021
Baltimore, MD.
Nov. 11-14, 2021
American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in Towing November 25 - December 01, 2020

Outcry over Baltimore Towing Reforms

Some tow companies in Baltimore said that they felt blindsided by recent proposals by the city to reform the industry through the passage of an upcoming bill. These changes may include 11 new amendments.

Charles Parrish, who manages Vision Wrecker Service, said he and others in the towing industry were never informed about the proposals until minutes before a city council committee was slated to vote on the measures.

He said, “If you want to reform our industry, make public awareness.”

Other tow companies in the city of Baltimore expressing concern include Auto Barn, Frankford’s, Universal, Nell’s, Ted’s, Pollard’s and Mc-n-Mc Towing.

Norman McCarthy of Mc-n-Mc said, “You are going to chase the good people out of the industry and you are going to be stuck with a bunch of thieves.”

City councilman Ryan Dorsey, who drafted the legislation, defended the proposals, writing “This bill requires a study of new dispatch methods that I believe could open the door for smaller businesses to become prime contractors to the city.”

While towing operators believe reforms are necessary, they question why they never were allowed input.

Parrish stated, “While we don’t have a problem with more tow companies , we do have a problem with how they plan to execute the dispatching through an Uber style dispatcher.”

A final vote was taken and the bill will pass, pending the signing by the mayor.

https://foxbaltimore.com/


Click here to read more

Class Action Lawsuit Comes to Roost in Chicago

Earlier this week we featured a news story about the city of Chicago and how their practice of towing abandoned vehicles for failure to provide due process would potentially escalate into a class action lawsuit.

This situation has its roots in a lawsuit filed in 2019, when a disabled woman’s parked van was towed by the city. As recourse, the woman filed a suit, alleging that she was not notified by mail, calling the action “towing without telling.”

The suit alleges that the city never mailed an additional notice of impending vehicle disposal while the van was accumulating mounting storage fees. It was eventually sold to a tow company, which then sold it for scrap for which she received nothing.

According to state statutes, owner notification is a requirement, as is receiving the proceeds from the sale of dispossessed vehicles.

Now a federal court has approved class certification in a lawsuit against the city for predatory towing, potentially opening up tens of thousands of other claims by those who did not receive due process for their abandoned vehicles and to those who were not given any proceeds from their disposed vehicles.


Van that was towed by the city of Chicago potentially escalates into a class-action lawsuit.
Dash Cam Shows Kentucky Tow Boss Beat A Thief to Customer’s Car

Cannabis and the Tower

Departmen 94d12Brian J Riker

With some form of Cannabis or it’s derivative products being legal or at least decriminalized in all but 6 States and with three more states approving forms of Cannabis use on Election Day, it is time to revisit what marijuana use means for the towing industry.

All drivers of commercial motor vehicles that require a commercial driver license (CDL), including owner operators and casual drivers, must submit to US DOT regulated drug and alcohol testing. This testing includes pre-employment, random, post-accident and return to duty screenings. At least 50% of an employers qualified pool of CDL drivers (or consortium members) must be randomly tested for drugs and 10% for alcohol use each year.

Should a driver have a positive test result or refuse to submit to a test when required they will be placed out of service until they have completed the return to duty process which involves meeting with a substance abuse professional, developing a plan to stop using illegal substances and strict monitoring of their behaviors - including directly observed drug testing for a period of no less than twelve months afterwards. Keep in mind that a refusal to test can be as simple as not reporting to the test facility on time, not staying inside the facility once you have reported, being unable to produce an adequate urine sample or producing one that appears to be diluted or adulterated in any manner.

When a DOT drug test returns a positive result, the company’s Medical Review Officer (MRO) will contact the driver to see if there is a legitimate reason for the result such as a legal prescription from a Doctor. In many instances this will cancel the positive result and life will go on as usual. That is not the case with THC, even with a valid prescription for a medical professional in states where medical use is legal!

It is imperative to remember that under Federal rules Marijuana and other derivatives containing more than 0.3% THC are still classified as a Schedule 1 drug which makes possession and use illegal for anyone performing safety sensitive transportation functions such as driving of commercial motor vehicles. This includes CBD oils and prescription usage. It is especially important to consider that there are sporadic and vastly differing laboratory testing rules, if any, for many of these products so even over the counter available CBD oils may contain enough THC to cause a positive DOT drug test result.

The overall positive drug testing rate for the US trucking industry in 2019 was just at 1%, which is incredibly low; however it is unacceptable to the regulators. This is why the random testing rate was increased to 50% for 2020 because any time the overall positive rate is 1% or greater the random rate must increase. Recently, due to the increase in legal or decriminalized use of Cannabis products, marijuana has become the most popular drug to cause a positive test result to be reported. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2019, marijuana accounted for 70% of all positive drug test results.

Now, the surprising part for most drivers. Even though the drug testing regulations only apply to drivers required to have a CDL that does not mean the FMCSA turns a blind eye to drug or alcohol use by drivers of non-CDL trucks. It is still a violation of Federal regulations to use illegal substances even when testing is not required. Further, should a CDL driver have a positive test result reported, they will be immediately prohibited for operating any commercial motor vehicle, including non-CDL trucks. This means that you can’t do any commercial driving at all until you have completed the return to duty process.

Bottom line, with the implementation of the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Testing Clearinghouse regulations I wrote about two weeks ago, the push for hair testing in place of urine testing for CDL drivers and the social acceptance of marijuana use in the United States, a tower needs to be more careful than ever to keep themselves employable. Even if you have an understanding employer, or are self-employed, the insurance companies are not looking favorably upon positive drug testing results which could make you uninsurable for doing something that may not even be illegal in your state.

By Don Lomax
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Managing Editor: Steve Calitri
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Dennie Ortiz x213, Ellen Rosengart x203, Peggy Calabrese x202
Content Management: Henri Calitri
Site Progr., Graphics & Video: Ryan Oser
Wrecks + Recovery Editor: Jim "Buck" Sorrenti
Operations Editor: Randall C. Resch
Tow Business Editor: Brian J. Riker
Tow Illustrated Editor: George L. Nitti
November 25 - December 01, 2020
Expect more Texas State Troopers to be on patrol during the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Texas Troopers Vigilant during Thanksgiving Holiday

As part of a nationwide operation, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers will increase patrols during Thanksgiving weekend. The Operation CARE (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effect) initiative will increase patrols Wednesday through Sunday.

“As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, we want to remind every Texan of their duty to drive defensively and help keep our roadways safe,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said. “The holidays may look different this year, but it is still up to each of us to obey traffic laws and make safety our top priority behind the wheel.”

Through this initiative, the agency said troopers will be on the lookout for drivers violating the law, such as but not limited to: speeding, driving while intoxicated, failure to wear a seatbelt, driving without insurance and failure to comply with the state’s Move Over, Slow Down law. 

Source: https://www.themonitor.com/
On the Hook with John Borowski - 6
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November 25 - December 01, 2020

City of Chicago Hit with Class [b]Action Suit for Wrongful Towing

The city of Chicago is accused of wrongly towing abandoned vehicles and is now being taken to court in a class action suit.

The suit was initiated by a disabled woman, Andrea Santiago, who has multiple sclerosis. She claims that her van with a custom hydraulic lift was towed by the city to the auto pound, then sold and crushed, even destroying the expensive wheelchair.

“They can’t justify what they did. My mom needed that vehicle,” said Santiago’s daughter, Lisandra Velez.

A federal judge has allowed Santiago’s lawsuit against the city to become a class action lawsuit for failing to provide proper notification by mail to vehicle owners – warning their vehicles were about to be sold or scrapped.

Attorney Jacie Zolna, who represents Santiago and succeeded in getting the class action status, said, “Towing without telling, that is literally taking peoples’ cars without giving them any notification by mail. That practice applies to what the city calls abandoned tows.”

The city defends its actions, maintaining that the case concerns unregistered vehicles and expired license plates that sit on the street for more than 7 days and that they provide warning through notice stickers on the car and two notice letters in the mail.

https://chicago.cbslocal.com/

College Students Target Tow [b]Company for Unfair Practices

Riverside Towing, which patrols the college campus of LSU (Lousiana State University), is being targeted by students and parents for their towing practices, as testimonies are being gathered through a twitter account.

Abigail Holden, one of the five founders of the Turn BR Towing Twitter account, said that she believes Riverside intentionally targets college students because they often aren't aware of the laws and don't question what they're being charged. 

"They're targeting college kids, and it's pretty obvious," Holden said. "Half the time people don't even realize what they're being charged for." 

A variety of issues have arisen over Riverside’s practices, including fees, their cash-only policy, Sunday charges, discriminatory fees for out-of-state vehicles and more.

If a car's title is not registered under the student's name, which is often the case, they need a written statement from the owner of the car confirming the individual present is authorized to retrieve the vehicle.

Some students maintain this practice has caused difficulties due to its inconvenience.

Riverside has not commented on these accusations by students and parents.

Source: https://www.lsureveille.com/

Auto Repossessions on the Rise

As the economic situation in America becomes more dire due to the effects of Covid-19, auto repossessions are expected to rise. Without more stimulus - jobless benefits, financial programs and consumer protections are all set to expire, causing evictions, foreclosures and auto repossessions.

“We’ve certainly seen an uptick in defaults and delinquencies,” said John Van Alst of the National Consumer Law Center. “I think that’s going to translate into a really large increase in repossessions.”

According to the credit reporting agency TransUnion, the number of auto loan accounts that are 30 days past due moved to 3.1% in August, compared to 3.0% in July.

“I’m almost certain the number of repossessions are going to increase,” said Les McCook, executive director for the American Recovery Association.

Source: https://www.poynter.org/

Tower Recounts Massive Pile-Up

A 29 car pile-up in Monticello, Minnesota on Thursday, 11/12, along I-94 caused by a snow storm, poor visibility and icy road conditions was like none other that tower James Trantina had ever experienced.

Trantina, CEO/President of Collings Brothers Towing of St. Cloud, said it was “by far the worst we’ve dealt with.”

The scene showed cars and semis enveloped in flames and smoke, some charred by the fiery pile-up.

“It was a crazy feeling, something that was unbelievable. When I showed up on scene, my heart just sunk. Something out of a movie. Everything’s on fire, the freeway’s shut down,” said Trantina.

The tower recounted that while crawling through the wreckage to make sure everyone had gotten out, he heard cars exploding.

He said, “There was shrapnel in the air. Obviously we were all in danger.”

Miraculously no one was killed.

Source:
https://www.fox9.com/

Louisville Contracts to [b]Clean-up Abandoned Cars

On Monday, the city of Louisville signed an agreement with Suburban Towing to clean up more than 3,000 abandoned cars on the city’s streets.

The city's overflowing impound lot near Frankfort Avenue and River Road has been causing problems since 2017, but the problem only got worse with the coronavirus pandemic. Now, officials said more than 3,000 cars are just sitting, ditched on the side of the road waiting for a tow.

Suburban can haul about 30-40 vehicles per day, meaning a cleanup could take about four months.

https://www.wdrb.com/

Tower Fired Over Politics

An Oregon tow truck driver was fired Monday for allegedly refusing to help a Biden supporter after his car broke down.

The customer claimed the tower, who was not named, refused them service because of the Biden bumper sticker on their car in a Tick Tock video that went viral.

In the video, the customer said, “I don’t know this man’s name but he refused service to us for our Biden bumper sticker and tried to run us over shortly after this video.”
The claims were investigated by AAA after the footage was widely circulated on Twitter. 

The company’s Oregon/Idaho division said in a tweet, “At AAA, we stand for community and for our members. AAA does not tolerate this type of behavior.”

The tow truck driver at River’s Edge Automotive and Towing was disciplined by River’s Edge management.

In a statement shared hours later, AAA confirmed the company had cut ties with the driver.

https://thestreetjournal.org
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November 25 - December 01, 2020

Park, Slide & Swamp Recovery

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by Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

On Oct 24th 2020 I was on my way back from a visit to the ER at Good Samaritan in Suffern, NY, when I noticed a heavy wrecker from Big Tow Inc. working a Saturday night recovery in the back of a parking lot of Rhodes North Tavern on Orange Turnpike in Sloatsburg, New York.

I called Big Tow’s owner/Senior Vice President Monika Fijor for the info on this job. She informed, “We were called in by the Ramapo Police Department. They requested a heavy-duty wrecker for a vehicle off road in a swamp embankment.”

Big Tows dispatched operator Luis Quintana in their 2018 Peterbilt with a Vulcan V100 50-ton heavy-duty wrecker and operator Kevin Shapiro in their 2017 Hino with a Kildare flatbed.

Upon arrival they were told that the owner of the SUV was trying to back into a spot and instead of braking he accelerated and drove out of the parking lot, down a steep hill into a swamp area.

Luis backed the V100 to the edge of the parking lot where the blue SUV went down the embankment. Both Luis and Kevin worked together as a team to rig the car.

Monika explained, “The vehicle bottom was in the swamp with water halfway up its wheels and they could not gain access to the bottom of the car.”

Using two lines from the Vulcan V100 heavy, attached to red recovery straps, they hooked up by lacing the straps through the vehicles front wheels and winched the vehicle out of the swamp and up the hill. When the vehicle was back on top of the hill, Kevin hooked up the vehicle with the line from the Kildare winch and completed the winch onto the flatbed.

“The vehicle was transported back to our yard for further assessment of damage and body work repairs,” Monika stated. “Great Job Big Tows team!”

The husband and wife team of Ricardo and Monika Fijor are the dynamic duo and driving force of Big Tows Inc, founded in 1998 by Ricardo in Spring Valley, New York. Big Tows Inc is one of the largest family owned towing companies in Rockland County. They are a New York State Authorized Repair facility for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Their headquarters is located in Chestnut Ridge, NY and they also have an additional location in Ramsey, NJ.

Big Tow has years of experience in heavy towing and emergency recovery and all of their drivers are WreckMaster and TRAA certified. Their extensive fleet of specialized equipment includes heavy-duty wreckers, rotators and 144-inch long under-reach capabilities. They are also a New York State Authorized Repair facility for medium- and heavy-duty trucks with state-of-the-art facilities to diagnose, repair, and maintain your units.

Show Yours @ TIW
Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim “Buck” Sorrenti at jimchaos69@yahoo.com; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
 
 

Slingshot Train Lift

2 c2859by Jim ‘Buck” Sorrenti

On Nov. 11, 2020, Pepe’s Towing Service received a call from a tow company on scene in Long Beach, CA, requesting help to reset a rail car.

Joshua “Josh” Acosta explained, “We were called by City Tow that needed assistance in lifting a 200,000-pound rail car that derailed and needed to be set back on the tracks.”

Josh responded with Big Flipper, his 2019 Peterbilt 389 with a Century 1075 75-ton rotator. City Tow had two trucks on scene, a 2015 Peterbilt with a Century 9055 50-ton heavy and a 1994 Peterbilt with a Century 1060 60-ton 2-stage rotator.

“Upon arrival, I saw the other tow company had two heavies on scene, one on each end of the rail car.” explained Josh. “I positioned my 75-ton rotator to lift at the very end. Due to the extreme weight I would be lifting, I ran a 4-part line with three 15-ton snatchblocks and I finally got to use my brand new custom 15-foot slings on this rail car.”

Each sling, made by SWOS, has a working load limit of approximately 52,000-pounds. Josh informed, “These slings are much stronger and lighter than chain, and have a special urethane coating that makes them abrasion and cut resistant. Each end of my slings were attached to my BA container links with an oblong.”

The axle was chained up to the rail car so that it would not stay on the ground as it was lifted. Once rigged, all three trucks winched in.

Josh said, “By starting with my boom head over the rail track instead of over the middle of the rail car, I was able to winch it to me while also lifting it high enough to set back onto the track while a forklift helped keep the axle straight.”

Josh set it back on the tracks and was off to the next one. Once set on the tracks, the company pushed the rail car to off load it.

……………………
Jose and Delfina Acosta established Pepe’s Towing Service in March of 1978 with one tow truck converted from a standard Ford 350 pick-up truck. In the early days, Pepe’s Towing Service served the community of Los Angeles. As the business grew, Jose Jr. and brother Manuel “Manny” followed in their father’s footsteps by taking an interest in the towing business. In March 1997, Jose Jr. and Manny became full-time employees. In 1989, Lorenzo Navarro became part of the Pepe’s team and established himself as an integral part of the company. More than 40 years later, Pepe's is still family owned and operated.

Show Yours @ TIW
Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim “Buck” Sorrenti at jimchaos69@yahoo.com; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!

Takin’ Out the Trash

01 acc40
by Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

On October 19th, 2020, Jerry Burke, a heavy operator for Bumper To Bumper Towing in Naples, Fla., was sitting around the shop, waiting for a call, when he heard a loud crash outside.

Jerry explained, “It happened right across the street from our shop. I heard it happen. The trash truck was backing out of the rear of the building when it fell into a grease pit, similar to a septic tank.”

Since the truck was owned by a customer, Jerry decided to give them a call.

Soon, Jerry and his boss, company owner Carlos Macias, responded. Jerry was in the main truck, a ’06 Peterbilt with a Jerr-Dan 50-ton heavy-duty, the red truck known as Big Daddy Red. Carlos was in the secondary rig, his ’06 Peterbilt with a Jerr-Dan 50-ton heavy-duty, the black truck known as Boss Hog.

Big Daddy Red was staged at the driver’s side front of the trash truck. Jerry did the rigging with Carlos assisting.

He informed, “Being that the trash truck was fully loaded, I used two 8-inch blocks each with blue round loops/straps to lift the heavy load.”

The second truck, Boss Hog, was hooked to the front to winch forward after lifting out of the hole. Once out of the hole, the trash truck was towed to its local company shop.

------

Family owned and operated, Bumper to Bumper Towing LLC has been providing exceptional full-service towing throughout Naples, Ft. Myers and all surrounding areas since 1987.

Their fleet of state-of-the-art heavy-duty tow trucks and experienced heavy-duty towing and recovery experts can handle everything from bus towing, RV towing, and full-service winch-outs, accident recovery, accident towing services, heavy truck winch-outs to rollover recoveries, including load shifts. They offer flatbed service for motorcycles, cars, and SUVs, as well as medium, heavy-duty towing and on-road assistance.

Show Yours @ TIW
Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim “Buck” Sorrenti at jimchaos69@yahoo.com; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!


MIDWESTERN – Nacogdoches, TX
$500
(pop. 34,047)

SOUTHERN – Lake City, FL
$250
(pop. 12,099)

EASTERN - King George, VA
$145
(pop. 4,457)

WESTERN - Brentwood, CA
$276.25
(pop. 53,673)

Heavy-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.
November 25 - December 01, 2020

Cannabis and the Tower

Departmen 94d12Brian J Riker

With some form of Cannabis or it’s derivative products being legal or at least decriminalized in all but 6 States and with three more states approving forms of Cannabis use on Election Day, it is time to revisit what marijuana use means for the towing industry.

All drivers of commercial motor vehicles that require a commercial driver license (CDL), including owner operators and casual drivers, must submit to US DOT regulated drug and alcohol testing. This testing includes pre-employment, random, post-accident and return to duty screenings. At least 50% of an employers qualified pool of CDL drivers (or consortium members) must be randomly tested for drugs and 10% for alcohol use each year.

Should a driver have a positive test result or refuse to submit to a test when required they will be placed out of service until they have completed the return to duty process which involves meeting with a substance abuse professional, developing a plan to stop using illegal substances and strict monitoring of their behaviors - including directly observed drug testing for a period of no less than twelve months afterwards. Keep in mind that a refusal to test can be as simple as not reporting to the test facility on time, not staying inside the facility once you have reported, being unable to produce an adequate urine sample or producing one that appears to be diluted or adulterated in any manner.

When a DOT drug test returns a positive result, the company’s Medical Review Officer (MRO) will contact the driver to see if there is a legitimate reason for the result such as a legal prescription from a Doctor. In many instances this will cancel the positive result and life will go on as usual. That is not the case with THC, even with a valid prescription for a medical professional in states where medical use is legal!

It is imperative to remember that under Federal rules Marijuana and other derivatives containing more than 0.3% THC are still classified as a Schedule 1 drug which makes possession and use illegal for anyone performing safety sensitive transportation functions such as driving of commercial motor vehicles. This includes CBD oils and prescription usage. It is especially important to consider that there are sporadic and vastly differing laboratory testing rules, if any, for many of these products so even over the counter available CBD oils may contain enough THC to cause a positive DOT drug test result.

The overall positive drug testing rate for the US trucking industry in 2019 was just at 1%, which is incredibly low; however it is unacceptable to the regulators. This is why the random testing rate was increased to 50% for 2020 because any time the overall positive rate is 1% or greater the random rate must increase. Recently, due to the increase in legal or decriminalized use of Cannabis products, marijuana has become the most popular drug to cause a positive test result to be reported. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2019, marijuana accounted for 70% of all positive drug test results.

Now, the surprising part for most drivers. Even though the drug testing regulations only apply to drivers required to have a CDL that does not mean the FMCSA turns a blind eye to drug or alcohol use by drivers of non-CDL trucks. It is still a violation of Federal regulations to use illegal substances even when testing is not required. Further, should a CDL driver have a positive test result reported, they will be immediately prohibited for operating any commercial motor vehicle, including non-CDL trucks. This means that you can’t do any commercial driving at all until you have completed the return to duty process.

Bottom line, with the implementation of the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Testing Clearinghouse regulations I wrote about two weeks ago, the push for hair testing in place of urine testing for CDL drivers and the social acceptance of marijuana use in the United States, a tower needs to be more careful than ever to keep themselves employable. Even if you have an understanding employer, or are self-employed, the insurance companies are not looking favorably upon positive drug testing results which could make you uninsurable for doing something that may not even be illegal in your state.

The “Burnt Out” Tower

fleetowner 7399 ts 459153271 2 72660By Randall C. Resch

An east-coast tower was involved in a series of (alleged) events stemming from an off-duty domestic event. The media described that a tow company employee, embroiled in family problems, created problems at the workplace. Although the news focused on the employee’s arrest, I sensed maybe “Burn-out” was the problem.

Sometimes stresses at home or domestic relationships create problems that filter to the workplace. In younger days, I remember parenting and marriage issues that unfortunately followed me to work. I felt helpless and not-in-control because issues caused increased family stresses. Because I was at work, I couldn’t focus on off-duty issues.

Tow company employees, especially dispatchers and operators, experience plenty of job stresses and dangers. Long-hours, no sleep or being over-bullied by management can wear personnel down resulting in burn-out and job-dissatisfaction.

While some individuals love their work, they likely haven’t ever experienced the life of a tower. I’ll admit, while I love this industry, self-induced burn-out demanded I make a career change for my own sanity.

Industry burn-out is real. Most towers will agree they’ve had it, experiencing a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Employee stresses get compounded by a boss who is not approachable, who has a “Suck it up Butter-cup” school of management. Some bosses don’t understand when employees have a bad-day, seem off-kilter or are stressed and burnt out.

I believe bosses who share at-length relationships with their employees are more apt to understand when workers struggle or work differently than normal.

At some point, a caring, but non-pushy "How can I help" may prevent an employee from over-load, walking off the job, or worse yet, experiencing an accident or incident where they (or someone else) is injured or killed. Staying open, patient, and non-judgmental is the way to go. Remember, we all hurt sometimes.

Drug and Alcohol Testing Revisited

business 7ed53
Brian J Riker

As January 2021 fast approaches, I want to remind towers that employ CDL drivers about their obligations to utilize the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Testing Clearinghouse. Effective last January, all motor carriers that employ CDL drivers, including single truck owner operators, are required to report all drug testing results to the clearinghouse as well as perform pre-employment and annual queries of the clearinghouse records.

The FMCSA requires CDL drivers be enrolled in a random drug and alcohol testing program with employers testing 50% of their drivers quarterly for drug use and 10% for alcohol. Prior to the implementation of the clearinghouse, these records were maintained by an employer and only disclosed to a driver’s prospective new employer when/if there was a request made during the pre-hire background investigation.

This allowed many unethical drivers to “job hop” as a means to stay ahead of their drug or alcohol problems, leaving an employer when a positive test was returned and “forgetting” to disclose this fact to the next employer. The clearinghouse requirements will prevent most of this abuse.

How does this affect me, since I am only a tower and not a trucking company? I have heard that exact question often from towing companies that are facing fines or sanctions from the FMCSA. Towers, especially heavy-duty towers, are most definitely a motor carrier and fully subject to all the same rules and regulations. For some towers, drug and alcohol testing has been overlooked, not out of malicious intent but simply out of ignorance of the rules, especially for small family companies.

This testing program must be compliant with the US DOT regulations. An at home or self-administered workplace drug test is not sufficient. The simplest way to comply is to join a drug testing consortium which, in addition to being experts in compliance, also spreads out the testing among a pool of hundreds or thousands of other drivers. This pool reduces your individual cost burden and makes it less of a business disruption than sending half of your drivers each quarter for testing.

With the deployment of the clearinghouse comes a requirement to perform an annual query of the database for each of your currently employed CDL drivers. This is intended to help employers find out if a current driver, who may not have been randomly selected for a drug test all year, had another test at a different employer that came back positive. This most often happens when a driver is seeking new employment and fails a pre-employment test elsewhere. Prior to the clearinghouse, their current employer would be none the wiser to the positive test and would continue allowing them to drive.

Beginning in January 2021, enforcement officers will check the clearinghouse as part of roadside inspections to determine if a driver has a satisfactory drug testing history. Should a positive test or failure to complete the return to duty process be discovered the driver will be placed out of service on the spot. This will cause problems for their employer besides the obvious unexpected loss of a driver and inconvenience of recovering their truck and load from a weigh station somewhere.

If it is discovered that the employer had not checked their driver’s clearinghouse record within the previous twelve months, the carrier will be investigated for drug testing compliance. This will be how the FMCSA discovers the many small motor carriers that have not been in compliance with the drug and alcohol testing program regulations, which will result in fines, penalties and maybe even out of service orders.

Carriers have until January 5th, 2021 to have conducted at least one annual query of the clearinghouse on all currently employed CDL drivers, owners included if they drive even occasionally, and must have queries of all new hires before allowing them to drive a CDL required vehicle. If you are not already in compliance with this regulation please take the time to sign up and begin queries immediately.

Drivers have an obligation under this regulation as well. CDL holders that are looking for new employment or have a positive result on their record that will require a full query of their record instead of the simpler limited annual query must create their own account login to grant access to their employer to obtain their full record. I strongly suggest all CDL holders create a login just to check their own record periodically for incorrect information that may have been reported as much as of the test results are reported automatically by automated computer systems.

Even states have an obligation under this rule. Beginning in 2022, state driver license agencies will need to run a query on a CDL holder or learner permit applicant to see if they have any drug or alcohol testing violations that would prohibit them from renewing or obtaining a CDL.
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November 25 - December 01, 2020

Modern Design with Elegance

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By George L. Nitti

Elegance in design is often found through simplicity and minimal embellishment.

At Hockenberry’s Garage of Sparrow Bush, NY, the company has created an elegant design on their tow trucks through these two qualities.

Drawing on the skills of a designer from Fine Hand Signs, located in Glen Spey, NY, Hockenberry’s 2018 Ford F550 with a Chevron Renegade, featuring hydraulic stiff legs, achieves that end with vinyl decals.

According to owner Charlie Hockenberry, “We have done away with flames and are now into a more modern look.”

Indeed, their white and cranberry colored unit contains features associated with a more modern design – bright, crisp lines and shapes sparsely scattered around the truck, minimal colors consisting of two solid paint schemes, plenty of white space and easy-to-read lettering, and nice balance across the truck.

“I try to make sure that the graphics don’t overwhelm,” said Hockenberry. “Sometimes you can get lost in the advertising scheme. I want to make sure that people who see our trucks know whose trucks they are.”

Although maroon is a favored color of many tow truck company’s to pair with white, Hockenberry’s, in business since 1963, chose to pair with a cranberry red.

Hockenberry said, “We have used the color cranberry for 15 years. It is neat and clean and has a little elegance to it.”

On the hood sit a couple of cranberry squares.

On the bottom of the unit, along both sides, a horizontal line of cranberry runs across with a white line centered between it, illustrating a simple, yet elegant display. The phone number, which sits at the end, is easy to pick up with the eye.

On the front window, in the visor position, are the words, “Making it Look Easy.”

Hockenberry said, “When we go out and do a call, everybody says, ‘You make that look easy.’ So we put that slogan on our trucks.”

Although the company does motor club calls, Hockenberry maintains that most of their business is just repeat customers.

He said, “The key to our success over the years has been providing customer satisfaction. Keep the customer happy and you’ll be doing fine.”

Brag @ TIW! Should your truck be featured here? Send a few pics and your contact information to the editor at bdooley@towman.com. You might even be selected to go in print, too, in American Towman magazine!

Pride and Class

joeys 220c1By George L. Nitti

This year is a big year for Joey’s Towing & Recovery, with two locations in Detroit, Mi., and Toledo, Oh.

The company is celebrating its 20th year in the business. To mark the occasion, in September of 2020, they treated themselves to a new rotator, a 2021 Peterbilt 389 with a Century 1150, purchased from Elizabeth Truck Center of Elizabeth, NJ.

Called the Pride and Class, this unit turns heads, grabbing the heartstrings of Americans whose zeal for country is embodied in our stars and stripes. According to the unit’s driver, Will Greulich, the employees at Joey’s take pride in being true, proud Americans.

He said, “Also because it’s an election year. We wanted to show and take pride in our country.”

Greulich, along with owner Joey Bushway and a graphic designer worked together to come up with a stellar patriotic themed design centered around the American flag.

On the unit’s rotator side, the American flag is partially wrapped, its image blown up, undulating in a downward sloping trajectory, while on the front end, a more realistic image of a full-bodied American flag is found.

As expected, the colors of red, white and blue are the unit’s prevailing colors, with blue serving as the dominant color, especially the boom, outriggers and unit’s many accents.

Greulich said, “We wanted to stick with blue because blue and white are the colors of our other trucks and we wanted it to blend in with our fleet.”

Greulich also said that what makes this rotator stand out are its many customized features - the polished chrome, fender, bumper, drop front, and the red, white and blue strobe lights.

The rotator also has a sleeper cabin, which Greulich pointed out is frequently used. He said, “Since September, we’ve exceeded 26,000 miles. We will go anywhere in the United States.”

Like any winning design, this one includes special touches, such as the “Made in Detroit” slogan found on the back, reasserting American values in home-made products and American manufacturing.

Finally, it’s their 20th year celebration medallion at the back of the rotator that adds just that extra touch of class, bringing together the unit’s overwhelming expression of pride to raise this rotator to the stars.

Brag @ TIW! Should your truck be featured here? Send a few pics and your contact information to the editor at georgenitti@gmail.com. You might even be selected to go in print, too, in American Towman magazine!


Vintage Gold

1 3f61cBy George L. Nitti

In 1959. Wayne Plunske, the founder of Plunske’s Garage in Wallingford, Ct., purchased a red and black ’41 Dodge power wagon with a Holmes 440. It would go on to become a classic, like many at Plunske’s Garage.

Plunske, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 87, started the business in 1949, leaving his 2 sons, Dan and Jim, to carry on his legacy of collecting and maintaining a fleet of classic tow trucks that continue to be used today.

Jim Plunske said, “My father started the towing business to bring cars into the garage for repair. As the towing business grew, he saw that it had a life of its own and kept adding to the fleet. He was one of the first to own a flatbed in ’73.”

Regarding the ’41 Dodge, he said, “In the days before power lifts, hand cranks were used to lift the vehicles onto the trucks. By ’65, the cranks were replaced by an early Holmes unit, and then again replaced in 1990 with the 440 where an electric front winch was added.”

With a fleet of 42 trucks, more than 20 of them are classics, enhancing their image and setting them apart from their competition.

Plunske said, “People think it’s cool. Anybody can buy a new truck. These trucks are well taken care of, like kids.”

His father’s favorite was a 1955 Ford F250. Plunske said, “It was a wreck chaser because it had a 390 Thunderbird engine. Back in the day, the first tow truck on scene got the work.”

A couple of other classic units in their fleet include a WWII vintage ’41 Diamond T, used for hauling tractors, which has two axles on the back, and a ’58 International with a 40-ton Weld Built Boom.

The company takes pride in keeping their fleet in tip top shape.

Plunske said, “My father was a navy man. If it didn’t move, he painted it. He always liked things painted and clean.”

Brag @ TIW! Should your truck be featured here? Send a few pics and your contact information to the editor at georgenitti@gmail.com. You might even be selected to go in print, too, in American Towman magazine!

November 25 - December 01, 2020

The PRO-VISION® Fleet Dash Camera

shadow. jpg 0cfefThe PRO-VISION® Fleet Dash Camera records 1080p High-Definition resolution on both adjustable built-in cameras and on an optional third camera.

Not all accidents happen directly in front of the vehicle. That’s why we designed both built-in cameras to capture a 175 degree field-of-view, providing better coverage and ensuring crucial events aren't missed.

Providing a brighter picture, wider view and longer range in low-light situations, the PRO-VISION® Fleet Dash Camera uses the latest night vision technology to provide the best picture, even in total darkness.

Some features:
• GPS - Videos are tagged with the location provided by the embedded GPS – use PV Dashboard® to see events on a map.
• WI-FI - An integrated Wi-Fi hot-spot makes it simple to connect your device to an existing network.
• G-FORCE SENSOR - The built in multi-axis G-Force sensor triggers an alert if it detects excessive acceleration, braking or cornering, notifying you of possible erratic driving.
• WIRELESS OFFLOAD - The DR-200 Fleet Dash Camera automatically uploads your files when a vehicle gets within ran

Webfleet Asset Management - LINK 740

image001 63c3eThe first-choice fleet management device optimizes your workflow with broad integration. Equipped with CAN & Bluetooth connectivity and offering I/O interfaces, LINK 740 is designed to improve your fleet’s performance, helping your business advance to the next level.
• Improve your fleet performance using precise and up-to-date vehicle data.
• Reduce your running costs by monitoring real-time and historical fuel usage.
• Identify areas of improvement and make effective decisions using our comprehensive reports.
• Integrate easily with additional hardware, e.g. Webfleet Solutions’ PRO Driver Terminals, sensors. • Access a wide range of business applications through Bluetooth & multiple I/O interfaces.
• Manage your tax responsibilities using automatic logbook.
• Improve your drivers’ performance and safety with driving style analyses.
• Stay on top of maintenance and service schedule with timely reminders.

https://www.webfleet.com/en_us/webfleet/

Mack® MD Series

Mack e1a9d
The Mack MD6, a Class 6 model, and the MD7, a Class 7 model, is an all-new model range built specifically for medium-duty applications. With the introduction of the MD6, which has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 25,995 pounds, and the MD7, which has a GVWR of 33,000 pounds, Mack now offers a complete lineup of Class 6 to Class 8 vehicles. Both models are exempt from the 12 percent Federal Excise Tax (FET).

These trucks, like the Mack MD6, are packed from the exterior to the driver environment with features that ensure a smooth, stress-free ride. The MD6 and MD7 models meet the needs of medium-duty trucking applications requiring dry van/refrigerated, stake/flatbed, dump and tank truck vocations. The MD6 model does not require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate for nonhazardous payloads. Available in 4x2 configurations, the MD6 and MD7 models feature a sharp wheel cut for enhanced maneuverability for tough urban settings. The MD Series cab design features an industry-best bumper-to-back-of-cab (BBC) measurement of 103 inches. Mack mimicked the bold styling of the cab, hood and grille of the Mack Anthem®, Mack’s highway model.

The Mack MD Series will be supported by Mack’s extensive dealer network. “Mack Trucks is very proud of the dedication of the RVO team, who worked tirelessly to begin full production amidst the challenges of COVID-19,” said Martin Weissburg, president of Mack Trucks. “Mack is 120 years old this year, and as we have done all along, we continue to solidify our leadership in the industry by offering customers the right products with the right features.”

Customers interested in the Mack MD Series can visit their local Mack dealer or www.macktrucks.com .
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November 25 - December 01, 2020
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November 25 - December 01, 2020

Auto Repossessions on the Rise

As the economic situation in America becomes more dire due to the effects of Covid-19, auto repossessions are expected to rise. Without more stimulus - jobless benefits, financial programs and consumer protections are all set to expire, causing evictions, foreclosures and auto repossessions.

“We’ve certainly seen an uptick in defaults and delinquencies,” said John Van Alst of the National Consumer Law Center. “I think that’s going to translate into a really large increase in repossessions.”

According to the credit reporting agency TransUnion, the number of auto loan accounts that are 30 days past due moved to 3.1% in August, compared to 3.0% in July.

“I’m almost certain the number of repossessions are going to increase,” said Les McCook, executive director for the American Recovery Association.

Source: https://www.poynter.org/

Georgia Woman Charged for Obstruction

A woman faces a charge of obstruction after an incident in a parking lot of a mall area in Warner Robins, Georgia.

According to Police Chief John Wagner, it started with a car being repossessed.

He says the woman jumped into the car and refused to get out. Officers were called to the scene and tried to get her to exit the vehicle.

Then, he says, she started the car and tried to drive it away while it was connected to the wrecker.

Officers broke the car window as she was trying to drive off, and she was ultimately removed from the car.

The woman was charged for obstructing an officer.

https://www.13wmaz.com/

Repossession Leads to [b]Drug Discovery

A repossession of a rental car at an Oregon mobile home park first led to an altercation than to a drug discovery.

The suspect, Jeremy Peppinger, allegedly threatened to "get a gun" when the rental car he was driving was being taken back for his failure to return it--and pay for it.

A 911 call led to Deputies reporting to the scene. When they arrived Peppinger was removing personal items from the vehicle.  On probable cause Deputies obtained a search warrant for the vehicle, and inside found a baggie of what appeared to be a crystal-like substance, and numerous needles in the car.

Peppinger was booked for felony threats while the substance was turned over to investigators.

Source: https://newstalk870.am/
 

Nissan to Pay for Wrongful [b]Repossessions

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) alleged that between 2013 and 2019, Nissan Motor’s lending unit “wrongly repossessed hundreds of consumers’ vehicles despite the consumer having made payment.” Although Nissan’s lending arm denied any wrongdoing, they agreed to pay $4 million to settle the allegations.

The CFPB charges include that Nissan repossessed vehicles within delinquency of 60 days when terms stipulated against that. In addition, they kept personal property in repossessed vehicles until consumers paid a storage fee, and deprived consumers paying by phone of the ability to select payment options with significantly lower fees."

The agency said actions violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act prohibition against unfair and deceptive acts and practices. The settlement imposes requirements "to prevent future violations and remediate consumers whose vehicles are wrongfully repossessed going forward," the bureau said.

https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com/
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