The Week's Features
Philadelphia, Pa., towmen protest so-called "ticket-to-tow" law
Car-sharing services are rising
How do you get employees to care about clients?
Today, it is insane what you can do with wraps
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Many of the mistakes tow operators make that result in accidents, injuries and death in our industry are directly related to the laws of physics. American Towman Field Editor Terry Abejuela's session on the physics of towing and recovery will help tow operators understand how Newton's laws of motion, simple machines and mechanical advantage apply in the daily performance of their jobs. This seminar will be presented as part of the Rotator & Recovery Conference taking place during Tow Industry Week in Las Vegas, Nev., May 10-12 at the South Point Hotel & Casino.
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingMarch 29 - April 04, 2017
The custom Spirit Casket was loaded onto a Loyal Towing carrier. Loyal, out of Monroe/Harriman, N.Y., transported the casket to Vintage Auto Body in Westbury, N.Y., where wrecker artist Cecil Burrowes is hand-painting its unique design and images. Thank you Loyal! The second picture shows the unique graphic design digitally superimposed on the casket.

A Ceremony for the Ages

The Spirit Casket will be christened on the South Point Hotel & Casino Concourse before it takes its maiden run down the Las Vegas Strip, during Tow Industry Week, May 10-12.

"The ceremony," said Steve Calitri, "will be one for the ages, honoring towing's fallen with an official blessing before it starts out on the Spirit Ride to promote public awareness of the Move Over laws."

The ceremony will feature the entrance of the Spirit Casket onto the Concourse by car carrier, the unloading and rolling the casket under escort of the Towman Order. The ceremony will include words from industry leaders and highway patrol officials, the singing of "Booms in the Sky" honoring the fallen, followed by a special Spirit Concert with the Mike Corbin Band, performing Towman Ballads and American favorites.

Joining the Band for a few songs will be Tow Industry Week Editor Charles Duke, lending vocals and congas to the music. Also joining the Band will be Wrecker Artist Cecil Burrowes on a bass guitar. Cecil is the artist-painter of the Spirit Casket.

Following the concert will be an up-close viewing of the casket which features a dozen original scenarios hand-painted by Burrowes, portraying the challenging work and danger towmen engage in. That will be followed by a coffee and pie hospitality and an opportunity to mix with Mike and the Band, Burrowes, American Towman editors and VIP guests.

S.C. Town Considering [b]New Fee Caps

Towing companies that service commercial lots in Spartanburg, S.C., soon could see new rules for doing business in the city.

The Spartanburg City Council recently unanimously approved the first of two readings of an ordinance that adjusts the rules governing tow truck operators and caps the fees they can charge for booting, towing and storing vehicles from privately owned commercial properties.

The ordinance sets the maximum towing charge from a commercial lot at $100 for vehicles weighing less than 26,000 pounds. For vehicles over 26,000 pounds, the maximum charge would be $300.

It also caps the booting charge for all vehicles from commercial lots at 50 percent of the tow cost. And the maximum daily storage charge, applicable after 24 hours of storage, is set at $20.

Spartanburg City Manager Ed Memmott said there have been instances when police officers have been called to the scene of reported stolen vehicles only to find that the vehicles have been towed. He said amending the city code to reflect the new regulations was driven by resident complaints during the past few months.

"The city has become aware of repeated instances where vehicles were towed from private properties under what staff believes to be dubious circumstances," he said. "Staff has heard of repeated instances of one operator charging more than $300 for a tow and excessive storage rates."

When servicing a vehicle on a commercial property, the new rules under consideration would also require tow truck operators to: get written authorization from property owners; to accept payment at the scene and release a vehicle if a driver comes back before the vehicle is towed, and; to display city-approved signs, for $25 each, at locations where vehicles are subject to towing.

These operators would need to pay the city a $25 registration fee, or else lose their city business license. They would also be required to report tows to the police department within one hour.

David Ward, owner of TCB Automotive and Towing in Spartanburg, said he's in favor of the new rules and doesn't think they will make a big difference for his company.

"I and everybody that I know don't have any problems with it at all," he said. "We were hoping for this a long time ago, that (the city) would do something about it.

"The people that are doing the high-dollar impounding are giving the towing business a bad name for everybody," Ward said. "They call that 'vulture towing,' when towers go out there and patrol the lots. We never were that type. We let people call us for tows."


Soldiers Save Towman's Life

Two Soldiers from Company A of the 715th Military Intelligence Battalion, 500th MI Brigade in Hawaii, are being recommended for Soldier's Medals for their roles in helping save the life of a towman who had been hit by a vehicle in February.

Capt. Benjamin Huzzey of Co. A, 715th MI Bn., who made the recommendations, said he was grateful his soldiers were there to respond to the call of duty to assist on the morning of Feb. 23.

"Undoubtedly, their military training and experience assisted them in their timely response to what was a very serious situation," he said.

Sgt. Timothy Sirko went to pick up Spc. Tyler Gardiner on the morning of Feb. 23 because Gardiner had been rear-ended by another vehicle on and needed a ride.

Gardiner had not been injured in the incident, and the police had already taken a report and left. The tow truck driver had arrived at the scene to tow his car.

Around 6:30 a.m. the soldiers heard tires squealing, a loud crash and a man screaming. Gardiner ran to Sirko and told him to help. Sirko rushed to the towman, Valentino Tua, who had been hit by a passing vehicle. Gardiner said Sirko assessed the situation and took action to help the injured tow truck driver while a bystander called 911.

Sirko noticed Tua appeared to be trying to move his legs, but they were clearly broken. He and Gardiner dragged him to a patch of grass about 10 feet away from the road and applied digital pressure to the his groin area to stop the bleeding.

Gardiner assisted Sirko by rubbing Tua's sternum and asking him questions to keep him conscious until the ambulance arrived.

Sirko has remained in touch with Tua's family, offering support in the aftermath of the ordeal.

Tua's wife, Nani Tua, said her husband had to have his right leg amputated and remains in critical condition.

"He's fighting to keep his other leg," she said. "There's nothing we can do but just hope that he pulls through."

Nani Tua, who is pregnant with her husband's first child, said she is grateful for the support of Sirko, who has visited her husband at the hospital.

"I just really want people to take into consideration that tow truck drivers are just trying to clear the road and keep people safe," she said. "Just take into consideration they have to do it even if it's not in a safe location.

"If your car broke down, they're the ones who would come and try to help you, try to get the road clear again," she explained. "I just wish people thought about it like that."

According to the Honolulu Police Department, the case is still under investigation, and no arrests have been made at press time.


Oregon Looking at [b]New Tow Regulations

Auto-theft victims, who can face steep towing and storage fees to get their stolen vehicles back, would get some help under legislation being considered in Oregon. In general, the bills and proposed amendments would:

• Allow law enforcement agencies to provide towing companies with contact information for owners of recovered vehicles. Towers currently get that information from the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division, which can take days and lead to steep storage fees.

• Allow owners of recovered stolen vehicles that are considered totaled to surrender their title to the tower and walk away from a vehicle without further charges. The process currently takes about 30 days and can leave owners owing money to the tower in excess of the value of the vehicle.

• Require towers to receive written, signed authority from the parking facility's owner or agent before towing. Currently, the tower can contact the facility owner to initiate the tow.

• Require towers to provide vehicle owners a photograph showing the vehicle parked in violation. Current law requires towers to take the photo, but not to show anyone.

• Prohibit vehicles from being towed unless a sign in plain view prohibits or restricts public parking.

• Require towers to tow to the nearest available facility to avoid unnecessary mileage charges.

• Clarify when a "hookup" is complete. Towers can charge a hookup fee even if they have not yet towed a vehicle.

• Add certain towing provisions to acts enforceable as unlawful trade practice, and create a civil process for vehicle owners or operators to challenge the validity of a tow.

Members of the Oregon Tow Truck Association testified in support of some of the provisions, such as getting vehicle owner contact information from law enforcement agencies.

But they objected to creating a civil process, saying it would overburden the court system. Instead, they support forming a complaint resolution committee, similar to one used in Montana.

They also recommended changing Oregon insurance regulations to require companies to cover towing and storage.

"Someone in our profession would have to be pretty heartless to not understand the personal loss someone can experience when they have their car stolen," said Mike Wagner, past association president and owner of Santiam Towing & Recovery in Lyons.


Tow Companies [b]Ask for Injunction

Several competing towing companies in Philadelphia, Pa., have formed an unlikely coalition to contest the so-called "ticket-to-tow" law, saying it hurts their business and threatens public safety by diverting police attention from crime-fighting.

They have asked a judge to intervene and invalidate the ordinance, which they say unconstitutionally makes towing an activity that requires "governmental approval" by inserting police between property owners and the tow companies they hire to remove illegally parked cars from private property.

They complained that police can take hours to respond to complaints of illegally parked cars—and sometimes don't respond at all. Six property owners joined the suit.

One plaintiff in the case, Rick Caban of Siani's Towing and Recovery, said his calls dropped so low that he laid off two drivers and two secretaries. He's also now trying to sell one of his tow trucks "just to stay afloat."

He added that towing, like any other profession, is tainted by "a few bad apples." The new law unfairly penalizes all towing companies for the misdeeds of a few, he said.

"This law is actually garbage," said Caban, whose brother started Siani's about 15 years ago. "The city knows the corrupt companies, and it's the city's job to shut them down and make sure they never get a license again. Instead, we're the ones being held accountable and liable for it. The city is driving us out of business."

Towing company owner Lew Blum, another plaintiff, said he applauds any effort to reform the industry - except the ticket-to-tow law, which he complains unjustly demonizes the whole industry and should be repealed.

"We don't get rid of all Council when there's one bad Council person. You get rid of the bad Council person. You don't get rid of all police officers because there's been a few bad police officers who were selling drugs or robbing criminals. You don't say to all 6,000 police officers: 'You're out of here! We're going to get a whole new fresh batch!' No. They get the bad ones out of their barrel," Blum said. "That's our remedy: Get the bad towers out of our barrel and let us go on towing vehicles the way we know how."


Towman Lake Passed Away

Donald L. Lake, 76, passed away Feb. 25 at his home in Columbia, Mo. He owned and operated Don Lake Towing & Trucking and was known for his "blinged-out" tow trucks.

According to a local newspaper report, Lake was the first in Columbia to have heavy recovery trucks.

At his funeral March 2, more than 20 tow trucks came to pay their respects. Lake's colleagues hoisted an American Flag over the cemetery with two tow trucks as he was laid to rest.

He enjoyed mowing lawns, collecting John Deere tractors and spending time with his dog Roxy. Survivors include Vera Lake of Columbia, two children, two sisters, one brother and a host of other family members.

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WreckMaster President Justin Cruse said that the WreckMaster Convention will bring together towers from all over North America to provide a unique and beneficial opportunity to broaden knowledge.
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