The Week's Features
USA Wrecker Pageant trucks in Texas will be inside
FedEx Truck crashed in same location as another recent incident
A tow boom shuts down Junction City, Oregon, event
The Hercules unit is a 50,000-lbs. planetary winch
What's your company policy; what are the state's regs?
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The old adage "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link" is absolutely true. Knowing how to identify the different grades of chain and their working load limits is critical to safe operation. These topics and more will be highlighted in the "Chain and Connecting Links" seminar that will be presented by American Towman Field Editor Terry Abejuela at Tow Expo Dallas, August 17-19, 2017 at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas.
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJuly 26 - August 01, 2017

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Wayne, NJ
(Pop. 54,069)
Daytona Beach, FL
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Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

'We Don't Need No Stinking Badges'

PoliceBadge 41473By Randall C. Resch

Ok ... it's nearly midnight. You meet a property manager who escorts you to a beat-up car and asks you to impound it. Determining the property is legally posted, the manager signs your impound slip while you load it. You take it away to your facility, satisfied you're in accordance to state laws.

Fast forward to early, 0-dark-30 hours, when an undercover detective arrives at your release window with his hair on fire, jumping in your release clerk's face and demanding his vehicle back. Out comes a badge along with his aggressive attitude that's flippant, demanding and unprofessional.

Do you have options?

If your company provides PPI services in your community, you've probably had this scenario happen to you. Because it's vital that towers know their state's impound laws, impounds had better be conducted 100-percent according to the law.

Because of the very nature of police work, cool cars are never marked for the general public to identify. When cops conduct clandestine activities, we towers aren't privy that something's going down; you know, it's that "need to know" stuff. The cars they use aren't visually identifiable as police vehicles and have no markings indicating they're part of police operations.

So how are we to know they're on official police business? If they're on private property and violate posted "No Parking" signs, shouldn't they be subject to impound too? What about the off-duty cop who's had their personal vehicle towed ... and it's not a police car and not on official business?

If the cool car or personal vehicle is towed according to law, releasing vehicles back to the agency or off-duty cop (without being paid) is generally a decision of the tow company itself. In the past when these incidents happened, I'd usually return their vehicles if it was a rare occurrence—and if their approach was friendly, low-keyed, polite and business-like. If they screwed up, they should admit it.

Other tow owners faced with similar situations stand firm on their decisions to not give the car back, demanding full payment. If the tow was lawful, it's OK to stand your ground to get paid. You don't have to give it back, but consider the potential aftermath. I thoroughly understand the proverbial charge/no-charge mentality, but maintaining good relationships with local cops is rational thinking.

When a belligerent cop gets towed (for whatever reasons) and they're in your face demanding immediate return for free, tell 'em to stand-by as you call the chief's office requesting a supervisor. After talking with the watch commander regarding their officer's rampage, you'll probably see an immediate change in their behavior especially when reminded that they're most likely violating department policy.

As a law enforcement tower and when involved in police operations, I know that cops make mistakes. I believe that responding without emotion, yet taking into consideration the "win the battle, lose the war" syndrome is something to consider. It's not a matter of backing down; just consider your options.

This narrative applies to anyone who thinks that flashing a badge is starting their transaction on the wrong note. If so moved, advise them that they might as well put their badge away; they're only making things worse. Hiding behind a badge brings bad press especially when they've messed up. A cop's bad actions justify the old saying "You get more with kind words and a smile than you'll ever get with a smokin' gun and a bad attitude."

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operation's 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.

Center-Divider U-turns

UTurns 45518By Randall C. Resch

Flatbed carriers are lengthy and difficult to maneuver in U-turns (the operator typically must use several traffic lanes to make careful approach into openings of center dividers). U-turns are especially dangerous and typically banned by many states because of increased accident risk to motorists.

Completing a full U-turn requires that opposite lanes are clear of approaching traffic prior to tower's driving into opposite-side traffic lanes. With traffic at speeds of 80 mph, impact is imminent. More importantly, towers oftentimes forget that the carrier's deck remains in traffic lanes.

In May 2010, a Florida Highway Patrol investigation stated a flatbed carrier operator attempted to make an illegal U-turn in a center-median opening of the Florida Turnpike. The tower allegedly slowed to prepare for the U-turn in the center median, yet the carrier's deck was hanging in southbound traffic lanes. As a result, a following motorist hit the carrier's deck causing their van to roll. The motorist was killed; the tower was not injured.

In January 2014, a carrier operator allegedly attempted to make a U-turn in the center divider of Hawaii's Pali Highway. Per Hawaii law, U-turns in center dividers and medians are prohibited. A news account of the accident reported the tower slowed in traffic (near the fast lane) and entered the U-turn opening. While waiting for approaching traffic to clear, an elderly motorist hit the carrier from behind, shearing the roof off their vehicle. The impact caused the Toyota Yaris to spinout and it came to a stop on an embankment. The tow operator pleaded no-contest to causing the crash.

In investigations where vehicles are hit from behind, it's commonly thought that the striking motorist is at fault. Considering traffic moving at speed, a following motorist may not see the back end of the carrier protruding into traffic lanes after it crosses lanes. Obviously, center-divider openings aren't all that wide, requiring lengthy vehicles to swing wide to complete the turn. When viewed from varying angles, a flatbed carrier could be nearly invisible to following drivers.

In June 2015, California approved Vehicle Code Section 21719. (a) "Use of Shoulders by Tow Trucks," as being a necessary component of incident response. For tow trucks and flatbed carriers to lawfully use emergency shoulders, U-turn openings on California highways demanded specific wording. I've included the entire code for using shoulders, where allowable use of U-turn openings is covered. (Note: California tow trucks are not considered first responders.)

"Section 21719. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, in the event of an emergency occurring on a roadway that requires the rapid removal of impediments to traffic or rendering of assistance to a disabled vehicle obstructing a roadway, a tow truck driver who is either operating under an agreement with the law enforcement agency responsible for investigating traffic collisions on the roadway or summoned by the owner or operator of a vehicle involved in a collision or that is otherwise disabled on the roadway may utilize the center median or right shoulder of a roadway if all of the following conditions are met:

"(1) A peace officer employed by the investigating law enforcement agency is at the scene of the roadway obstruction and has determined that the obstruction has caused an unnecessary delay to motorists using the roadway.

"(2) A peace officer employed by the investigating law enforcement agency has determined that a tow truck can provide emergency roadside assistance by removing the disabled vehicle and gives explicit permission to the tow truck driver allowing the utilization of the center median or right shoulder of the roadway.

"(3) The tow truck is not operated on the center median or right shoulder at a speed greater than what is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the roadway, and in no event at a speed that endangers the safety of persons or property.

"(4) The tow truck displays flashing amber warning lamps to the front, rear, and both sides while driving in the center median or right shoulder of a roadway pursuant to this section.

"(b) For purposes of this section, "utilize the center median" includes making a U-turn across the center median."

California's law is specific for use of shoulders and center-divider U-turns. This training topic demands towers understand the full meaning and requirements of their own state's laws. The key here is "authorization." Remember, although you may have permission by the requesting agency to use either, you are completely responsible for safe-vehicle operations. U-turns on high-speed highways is a dangerous practice. My best advice for safety to all: drive to the next exit for return.
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