The Week's Features
News reports note uptick in tower activity downtown
Motorist awareness of the law touted on truck
Roadside steps to increased safety awareness
New design makes down-driveway hookups easier
Puts cap on assets; forces four off board by end of year
Digital Edition
Click Here
AT ShowPlace
Las Vegas, NV.
May 9-11, 2018
Tow Expo Dallas
Dallas, TX.
August 16-18, 2018
AT Exposition
Baltimore, MD.
Nov. 16-18, 2018
Don't Miss It!
American Towman Operations Editor Randall Resch instructs on avoiding sloppy actions on-scene, questionable vehicle operations and chances that tower’s repeatedly take. His seminar, “Wreckers in Trouble,” will take place during Tow Industry Week, May 9-12 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

City, State
Dover, NH
(Pop. 30,220)
Nacogdoches, TX
(Pop. 34,047)
Danville, IL
(Pop. 32,649)
Mount Vernon, WA
(Pop. 32,287)
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

Operations: Requesting Assistance

Workers.Falzone f8481By Randall Resch

A West Coast tow company was dispatched to a highway patrol impound of a Freightliner pulling a set of double-dumps. The truck was stopped for a traffic violation and the dump truck's driver wasn't licensed for the truck he was driving. Subsequently, the highway patrol requested a big rig to impound the semi. Upon the operator's arrival, he contacted the officer and was told the keys were in the ignition. After 10 minutes or so, the tower sheepishly walked back to the officer to confess he never towed a double-dump before, and asked to get assistance.

The officer, feeling the tower lacked confidence and the appropriate experience to work an impound, sent him away and requested the next rotation company. That officer didn't play and he wasn't happy. Tow operators are typically assumed to be experienced and capable to handle general load-and-go big-rig operations if they're dispatched to law enforcement calls.

The tower's inability to handle this hook-up resulted in the tow company being suspended for sending an untrained driver. This suspension was challenged all the way to the highway patrol's command. Subsequently, the area commander upheld the suspension re-stating that an untrained driver should never have been dispatched.
At what point is a tower allowed to request assistance when there are differences in load-and-go scenarios vs. accident and salvage operations? Some tow managers salute their towers who aren't experienced for not making a bad scenario worse.

However, law enforcement has no leeway in untrained towers not getting the job done.

There are situations that do require assistance. A basic load-and-go set of double-dumps isn't one of them. There is allowable leeway when a justifiable need for assistance arises. As there are varying ways to conduct recoveries or salvage operations, experienced towers must be prepared to offer options and alternative recovery solutions in the interest of safety and quick clearance.

In the California Highway Patrol's Tow Service Agreement, the "Response to Calls" section states:
A. There may be times when the operator/tow truck driver assigned the initial call may require assistance from an additional operator/tow truck driver.
1) The assigned operator/tow truck driver may, with the concurrence of the scene manager, request a specific operator/tow truck driver for additional assistance.
2) The operator/tow truck driver's approved request shall be routed through the CHP.

When these kinds of scenarios occur, requesting assistance generally is authorized when the on-scene incident commander is briefed on the needs and necessities of the towman.

There are scenarios that require bringing in an additional truck and towman for safety, quick clearance and to potentially inflict less damage to vehicles, their contents and the location where recoveries take place.

Bottom line: Advising the on-scene commander of your recovery needs is far different than a driver telling them, "I can't do the tow."

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.

Total Safety Compliance is a Process

1 cb03dBy Randall C. Resch

I responded to an email that posed a flurry of safety questions regarding loading or towing from the shoulders of a highway. The writer's questions were, "When a vehicle is on the left-side of the highway and a tow driver has to use controls on the traffic-side because that's where the controls are ... how much time does he or she spend there working the controls? ... What's the total range of minutes for that job? If it's less than one-minute, can the driver wait for no cars coming and work for five seconds at a time, look again to see if it's clear, then hide and waits again until another clearing takes place? Can they do this for 10-minutes if it doesn't take longer than that and until the job gets done?"

These are all great questions and here's my combined response. I believe two of the most obvious reasons that tow trucks or tow operators are struck is because, one, they're working the traffic-side of the tow truck or carrier, and two, when the tow and load process takes too long by increasing their exposure or possibility of being struck. The longer towers remain in the same place, the odds increase that they'll be struck. Although, tow operators can play the "Peek a Boo" game, that's a very dangerous practice that's resulted in numerous operator strikes.

I believe tow operators must use common sense in determining if location scenarios are too dangerous and what techniques should be used. In a perfect world, a typical tow/load scenario shouldn't take more than seven to 10 minutes to be ready to roll.

Where a shoulder location is deemed dangerous, by working quickly towers have a couple of options:

1. For carrier operators, once the vehicle is loaded and the deck is stowed forward for transport, from the non-traffic side, climb up the carrier's deck and attach all top-side chains and ratchet straps. Although it gets the tower off the pavement and away from the traffic-side, this is a dangerous practice as there's literally no place to go if the carrier were to be impacted. Worst scene scenarios suggest the tower would be crushed between the headache rack, by the vehicle atop the carrier's deck, or swept off the side. Tow owners don't like this option as it could minimally lead to slip and fall.

2. Better: Load or attach the disabled vehicle using safe and efficient techniques to avoid working/standing on the traffic side. Next, drive the tow truck or carrier forward and into a clearer, safer area to attach remaining safety chains and ratchet straps. This technique provides additional safety room if there's room to be had, but increases time spent on-scene.

3. Best: Load or attach minimal safety chains and ratchet straps using non-traffic side techniques, place the vehicle in-park and in-gear, and then carefully tow or transport it to the first off-ramp where remaining safety chains and straps can be applied.

Note: Technique No. 3 is where tower's get into trouble when they don't stop to apply remaining straps or chains and continue to drive to their intended destination. This option is only intended to load or tow the vehicle forward to a safer location or off-the-highway, not to disregard applying all safety attachment devices or accessories. Technique No. 3 makes best sense when asking, "Is it reasonable or prudent for a pedestrian worker to stand in a traffic-lane or dangerously close to approaching traffic?"

Tow operators are bound by vehicle code law and industry best practices to employ appropriate four-point tie-downs for carriers, ratchets and hold-down straps, as well as required safety chains in providing for a safe and solid tow or transport. Nowhere in any state vehicle code does it state that tow operators must put themselves in harm's way; however, most vehicle code language was written long before distracted driving was an epidemic. It's my opinion that current vehicle code laws and their specific meaning places tow truck operators in harm's way.

I believe that every tow operator who thinks logically and safely will have an on-scene hookup routine that enables them to prepare a vehicle for load or tow while remaining as safe as reasonably possible. The number of tow operator fatalities or struck-by incidents (for all first responders), suggest that pedestrian, highway workers, or, first responders are most vulnerable when working the traffic-side of the highway.

Accordingly, professional tow operators must be aware of what techniques are necessary to avoid becoming another statistic. Remember, it takes 1 second for distracted motorists to enter the shoulder's workspace. And, when vehicles travel at highway speeds, there's a probable chance that towers can't react.
Translate Page
Contact Us

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.
© 2018  Tow Industry Week/American Towman Media, Inc.