The Week's Features
Co-owner of Thomas Towing in California died Dec. 3
Need to change old laws to reflect increased dangers
Charley’s Crane Service says character represents “kindness”
MX-13 to be offered with two new ratings for 2019
Company cited for unfair and deceptive trade practices
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingDecember 12 - December 18, 2018

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The Problem With Workers' Compensation

workers 3aa65By Don Archer

Most would agree with the safety net of workers' compensation that provides temporary assistance to workers who are legitimately injured on the job. But some of us in the towing industry consider the added payroll expenditure ($10 to $12 per $100 of payroll in my state) overly burdensome and unfairly administered.

Workers' comp proponents suggest that we simply "pass the costs along to the consumer," but that still doesn't get to the heart of the problem.

The argument is that not requiring all businesses to pay into the system punishes large companies and creates an unfair advantage for smaller ones who aren't made to participate. Even in circumstances where all companies are required to carry the coverage, there are still those who don't—and get away with it. Many business owners throughout the country share this sentiment: workers' compensation needs to be reformed.

Another complaint is that only insurance companies benefit from this government-mandated bureaucracy. They suggest that, rather than being motivated by benevolent ideals, these folks are spurred on by profits that far surpass what's being paid out to the injured. While exorbitant premiums continue to drive up the costs of goods and services across the board, insurance companies claim they're losing money through bogus claims, stolen premiums and crooked doctors.

Maybe it's the private investigators, hired to look into rampant fraud and abuse. Or, maybe, it's the predatory injury lawyers who ignite and stoke the flames of envy and greed in late-night infomercials. Could it be that these two groups are sucking up all of our hard-earned premiums? What about the millions spent in taxes to fund entire departments in every state to administer and enforce workers' comp laws? Through it all—the assertions of loss and insolvency—it's easy to see that workers' comp continues to be big business for some.

Maybe one of the reasons those of us in the trenches (the business owners paying the freight) have little chance at effecting change is because ... it is big business. And we're one of the hindrances toward its greater success.

The loudest complaint the insurance industry has is that employers steal premiums. In other words, employers mis-categorize their employees, pay them under the table or use other fraudulent accounting procedures to hide payroll. All this, they say, is done in an effort to avoid workers' comp premiums. They argue that more is lost every year through these stolen premiums than through fraudulent injury claims brought by employees.

In other words, they're saying—from their penthouse offices on Madison Avenue—we're not paying enough.

It's a claim that can ignite passions.

I believe that, as it exists, workers' comp creates more problems for the economy than it solves. What insurance companies fail to take into consideration are the costs taken on by the employer due to the current workers' comp program.

The most insidious problem with the current workers' comp program is the fact that more and more workers are taking less and less responsibility for themselves. They know that if they are injured on the job, they'll be rewarded with paid time off and the very real possibility of a large chunk of money from a court judgment. With that knowledge, many have become careless, or downright negligent, in their work. This causes the business owner to experience losses due to the customer's disintegrated perception of their business and, potentially, their diminished capacity to do the work promised.

Another problem employers face is the fear of a claim. We all know that the more claims you have, the more it costs you in premiums and lost labor.

In our business, each time an employee is sent out the door there's risk of injury. Couple that with difficult daily tasks employees would rather avoid; then add to that an employee who believes his employer or manager is unfairly singling him out for those difficult tasks—and you've got a recipe for a workers' comp claim. This fear can paralyze an employer, causing him to either waste labor sending two men to do the job of one or send someone else while his first choice is allowed to lounge. Either way, it's a no-win situation.

But there is a solution to ALL the problems that exist with workers' compensation.

Employees, insurance companies, and even employers can all come out on top if we change just one piece of the puzzle. Instead of requiring the employer to pay for worker's compensation insurance, we should require the employee to pay for it. In reality, they're already paying for it in reduced wages.

Let that sink in a bit.

If the employee is required to pay the bill, they might be more careful while working. They'll be mindful of safety knowing that an accident that results in a claim makes rates go up. Conversely, they'll be positively motivated to stay safe so rates would go down. It would be easy to administer: the employer would be required to withhold whatever the employee's individual experience modification factor (a number the insurance company uses to tell how big of a risk the individual is) suggests be withheld, and submit it on a paycheck-by-paycheck basis to the insurance company.

This would result in fewer fraudulent claims and help eliminate the insurance companies' biggest gripe: stolen claims. It would result in less need for investigators that look into those claims.

When employees are paying their own workers' compensation insurance, they'll also be more discerning when choosing an employer. This will cause employers to "spruce up" the place, and improve working conditions in order to attract better employees.

If this new plan did result in less fraud, waste and abuse—and insurance companies, employees and employers alike reaped the rewards—it would require less government oversight and fewer predatory injury lawyers.

Aristotle once said, "Law is reason free from passion." That is until you try to change it.

Don Archer lives and works in Jefferson City, Mo., where he and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker, a 12-truck operation that's been in business since the 1950s. Email him at don@broadwaywrecker.com.
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There's No Watchdog Watching Your Back

Watchdog e34dbBy Randall C. Resch

If you're a tow professional at any level of experience, you already know that your state's vehicle code requires you typically to provide a four-point tie-down and use extension lights on all towed vehicles.

For example, California's Vehicle Code regarding secured vehicles on flatbed carriers is specific. It reads, "A vehicle transported on a slide back carrier, tow truck, or, on a trailer, shall be secured by at least four tie-down chains, straps, or an equivalent device, independent of the winch or loading cable."

Regarding towed vehicle lighting, CVC says, "Whenever a tow car is towing a vehicle and a stop lamps and turn signal lamps cannot be lighted and displayed on the rear of a towed vehicle, the tow car operator shall by means of an extension cord display to the rear, a stop lamp and turn signal lamps mounted on the towed vehicle."

It Is Written

Vehicle code laws exist for the overall safety and good of the motoring public. However, to be in compliance with the wording it required operators to be in harm's way.

Why?

Think about the industry's white-line fatalities that have occurred throughout the years. There are laws on the books that have led to tow operators being injured or killed because they were required to walk the white-line side in order to complete a four-point tie-down or apply extension lights to towed vehicles.

Example 1: On Dec. 17, 2005, San Diego tow operator Winford Enoch had loaded a disabled vehicle onto his tow truck's wheel lift on the shoulder of a major interstate. Once the vehicle was loaded onto the truck, his last act of preparing the vehicle for tow was to apply rearward-facing extension lights. As Enoch moved to plug in the extension lights standing on the white line, he was struck by a motorist and killed.

Because the plug for the extension lights was located at the tow truck's driver's side, Enoch was forced to move to that position to be in final compliance with the law.

(Note to manufacturers: Extension light plugs should be mounted on the non-traffic-side of the wrecker or flatbed carrier.)

Example 2: On Dec. 29, 2016, New York tow operator Sal Brescia had winched a vehicle onto his carrier and was preparing to secure the vehicle in accordance to his state's four-point tie-down law. As Brescia moved to the traffic side of his carrier with J-hook in hand, he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run motorist. An on-scene news photo clearly showed a chain lying on the white line where he was struck.

Red and blue lights are for police use only. Why is red and blue coloring reserved only for law enforcement when their presence does have the desired influence on Slow Down-Move Over?

Towers in Peril

There are vehicle code laws on the books like these that inadvertently place tow operators in harm's way. I know that California's laws have been around for many, many years; and California leads the nation in white-line fatalities.

So why hasn't the industry as a whole, or in California specifically, lobbied to change old laws to reflect increased dangers?

Perhaps these related laws should be re-written specifically with tow operators in mind to allow them the ability to relocate a towed or transported vehicle to some safer place. Laws should reflect safety and common sense that keeps towers out of harm's way.

To paraphrase an oft-quoted line, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." It's insane that we towers continue to be killed because old vehicle code laws aren't changed to reflect the current day. Point fingers where you may, but it looks like our industry's watchdogs have dropped the ball both statewide and nationally.

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, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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