The Week's Features
Tow Expo Dallas' winning trucks are highlighted
Towman Scott Shover is being called "a guardian angel"
Redi-Letters' lighted signs easily mount on wreckers
Suspending auto repos of clients impacted by Hurricane Harvey
Or, do government controls actually work?
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingSeptember 13 - September 19, 2017

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Waterford, MI
(Pop. 72,166)
Auburn, AL
(Pop. 56,908)
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(Pop. 60,785)
Loveland, CO
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Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

Stolen Tow Trucks: Whose Fault Is It? 6d440By Randall C. Resch

Doesn't it seem like there's been a rash of stolen tow trucks reported in industry news in the past few months?

Tow trucks are taken for obvious reasons; many being the fault of tow operators using them or where and how they're parked. Typical reasons are:

• Tow trucks repossessed by creditors.
• Vehicles left running and unattended.
• Trucks parked in the yard; keys left in the ignition.
• Disgruntled employees gone mad.
• Ex-employees who get away with keys before given their last paycheck.

Having investigated a number of stolen tow trucks in many years, I'd venture to say that more than three-quarters of stolen trucks were the end result of towers leaving keys in their tow trucks.

Because I worked the field every day too, I knew where my drivers were headed. Periodically, I'd drive by, park out of sight and watch my driver's actions to see how and what they were doing.

On one occasion, my driver off-loaded the customer's vehicle from the flatbed by driving it off. He went into the service department, leaving the carrier parked in the street, flashers on, running, completely unattended.

Three days later, I followed him to another drop-off where he did exactly the same thing. This time I parked my personal vehicle, hopped into the unattended tow truck and then drove it to my yard two miles away.

It wasn't an hour when the driver called dispatch advising his tow truck was missing. I sent a supervisor to return him to my office without delay. Long story short, I scared the beejenkies out of him and made him an example. His three-day suspension was exactly the message I wanted to spread company-wide. After that, my "No Idle, No Unattended Vehicles" policy was strictly followed.

My company's policy is clearly written. It's one thing to be busy off-loading customer vehicles, but disappearing elsewhere only to leave my $100,000 carrier open for some grab-and-go opportunist? Nope, that ain't gonna happen.

Your company's employee handbook must be specific on what's required of employees entrusted with company vehicles.

My policy firmly states:

"Excessive idling wastes fuel costing the Company thousands of dollars annually. Except for FSP operations and/or on-scene recovery and salvage operations, drivers are reminded that, when out of or away from their trucks for more than ten (10) minutes, the tow truck shall be turned off and drivers will take the keys with them. Tow trucks and carriers will not be left unoccupied and running. Drivers may leave their trucks idling when in actual process of loading and off-loading, but only to complete tasks at hand. Supervisors will monitor activities of drivers to ensure that fuel is not wasted."

A company's tow trucks are their operational bread and butter; not for some crook to jump in and go cruising. If your company's policy and procedure isn't specific regarding unattended, driverless tow trucks with keys in the ignition, then you as the boss are equally as guilty as the employee who left the truck unattended in the first place.

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. Randall was inducted into the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame in 2014.

Do Rate Caps Bring the Desired Affect?

Dons.article 54e0fBy Don Archer

As a measure intended to do away with unscrupulous towers and exorbitant rates, many city governments enforce a maximum amount per tow, believing that if you take the money out of the towing business you'll only get honest, respectable businessmen doing the work.

Of course, you can't blame people for wanting to pay less.

The reality is, controlling costs has been tried before and it doesn't work. You need look no further than healthcare for an example.

"Forbes" contributor Chris Conover wrote an article in 2012 that explains exactly how attempting to control healthcare costs has had the opposite effect.

In his article he writes that, "In 1958, per capita health expenditures were $134. This may seem astonishingly small, but it actually includes everything, inclusive of care paid for by government or private health insurers. A worker earning the average wage in 1958 ($1.98) would have had to work 118 hours—nearly 15 days—to cover this expense."

In 1965 Medicare was established as a measure to control healthcare costs for seniors. Conover wrote, "By 2012, per capita health spending had climbed to $8,953.00. At the average wage, a typical worker would have to work 467 hours—about 58 days."

Conover's not just talking about inflation. The price of everything has gone up since 1958. He's using today's average wages compared with 1958's average wages to show that the price of healthcare is up by almost 400 percent, precisely due to measures aimed at controlling costs.

Some suggest that healthcare was an easy mark. And that the government became so deeply involved precisely because of its desire to widen its scope and power while increasing the dependency of the populace upon government.

Maybe that's why other city leaders are taking a different approach with towing rates. They're taking a play out of the federal government's handbook.

Rather than limiting the amount of money a tower can charge, many cities like Bridgeport, Conn., are bidding out towing services. Instead of looking at towers as a problem that needs fixing, they're taking advantage of this "common villain" and using them to collect tax dollars, somewhat covertly.

In 2013, Jim Arillo, of Jim's Auto, agreed to pay the city of Bridgeport $376 per car to win the city's towing contract. Separately the city takes in $1.5 million annually from their boot program.

In cities like Bridgeport, high "pay-to-play" rates have forced towers to raise towing fees. But in other places, the authorities have clamped down tight on the amount a tower is allowed to charge, forcing them to raise rates elsewhere.

If the desired effect of rate caps is to decrease the burden on the public, they don't seem to work. Maybe the question we should be asking is do government controls work?

Note: This article originally appeared in the July 8, 2015 edition of Tow Industry Week.

American Towman Field Editor-Midwest Don G. Archer is also a multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at
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