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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In his seminar, "Dispatching, GPS and Mapping Innovations," Todd Althouse of Beacon Software will take a look at how a dispatch office has changed in the last 20 years. He'll review modern tools available to dispatchers, such as GPS locations, PTO activity, computer-assisted dispatch for driver recommendations and much more to improve efficiencies. This Management Conference seminar will take place at the American Towman Exposition, November 17-19 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland–register today!
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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.

Get Your Butt Out of the Truck

images e2674By Don Archer

Many towers might agree that the owners of most successful auto mechanic and body shops they know don't get their hands dirty that often. They might lend a hand once in a while, but those who have an eye on growing their businesses into the millions have long since exited the shop floor.

Why do so many towers believe that the towing business is different? Why can't we do the same thing?

Well, for one, it's a widely held view that taking your butt out of the truck means losing control.

But what is control?

Many believe that being in the truck is the epitome of control. But could time spent in the truck be better used elsewhere? If you had more time, could you work on getting more accounts? Could you work on recruiting and training better-qualified drivers and dispatchers?

I believe so.

Getting out of the truck gives you the ability to tend to employee issues and promotions, which increase morale. With more time, you could also dig into the nuts 'n' bolts of your business. You could cut out what's not working and give more attention to what is—so you make more money.

Rather than being just another moving part of your unfinished dream, more time and breathing room would allow you to create a business to be envied—something you could sell.

Of course there is the fear that if you make the change and try to grow in this direction, the opposite might happen. You might think that because you are out of the truck, you might not be able to guarantee the same quality service as before, and damages will occur more often. And—you're not too excited about becoming more dependent on your drivers.

But if you're growing so much that you're asking these questions, you're already depending on them to do many of the calls. What's the difference if they do all the calls?

You need to trust and nurture someone to do what you do, as you're probably the go-to guy when it comes to doing the tough jobs, like rollovers, and heavy calls.

What other options do you have? Are you going to stay in the truck for the rest of your life? I know there are still 70-year-olds who go out in subzero temperatures at 2 a.m.—but is that what you want?

If you want to grow with the idea of one day selling your business for a big pay day, then you're going to need to structure it in a way that allows a new owner to come in and take control Day One.

First you need to learn what your new role is.
There are so many unanswered questions:
• Will I be behind a desk 10 hours a day?
• Will I be on the roads supervising drivers?
• Will I have to do more cold calling and schmoozing?
• Will my guys lose respect for me?
The answer to all those questions is it depends on how your business is structured. There is good news. Since you were the dreamer in the beginning and built your business, then you get to paint your own picture of what you want it to look like going forward.

Start by looking at the numbers to see if making a change will work for you. When you do, remember it's not a zero-sum game. You'll have to ask yourself if you'll be able to add enough additional revenue to support an increase in payroll. If the answer is no, don't let that stop you. Even though you may lose a little money in the beginning, there's much more to be gained if you stick with it.

Once you're on top and you're managing all the moving parts, you'll gain momentum. You'll have the time to call on new accounts, properly train drivers and dispatchers and begin to see less damages and higher productivity. That's because now you can pay attention to all the details.

Making a change like this isn't for everyone. And if you're comfortable where you are and are willing to continue what you're doing well into your 70s, then by all means continue.

But if you would like to build a profitable business that you can one day sell, then you're going to have to get your butt out of the truck and make a change.

Don G. Archer and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, MO. Don is also multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country. E-mail him direct at


123 25928By Randall C. Resch

"A motorist is almost 20-times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision involving another motor vehicle," according to a statement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So, what can tow operators do to better their survival odds when working railway incidents?

There's a video on YouTube that shows a carrier working an accident recovery within inches of live train tracks. The tower is inside the cab of the carrier and makes no attempt to escape, while there's either sufficient room to load the vehicle from the opposite end vs. waiting until access is available.

A news article reported that the driver alleged police made him go to the front to load vs. stopping traffic within the intersection to load the vehicle from the rear.

If you were the tower, what alternative solutions would you have provided to the police officer to keep you or your truck from being hit by the train?

Why take chances?

First consideration should come from the dispatch office in regards to what assets should be sent to railway incidents. Maybe an on-scene safety manager is necessary? Recovery time should be the quickest possible, but loading a carrier on or near the tracks could be deadly.

Regardless as to the nature of the rail-involved recovery, dispatch should know to send the best tow operator and not the new driver.

Sometimes tow trucks and flatbed carriers don't mix with railroad right of way. Low clearances for carriers and tow trucks with low-slung fuel tanks could become snagged on the tracks, causing further risk.

While advanced notice may be passed down from the tow company to the local police, word may not get to the train's operator in time to stop the train. It takes as much as a full mile to stop a moving train; putting your faith in the train to stop is a deadly gamble.

The following examples are rail-involved jobs that resulted in tow operator fatality:
November 2016; Miami, Fla.: When a tow truck arrived to transport a vehicle from an earlier crash, a passing train clipped the bed of the truck, sending a car flying. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office reported that the railroad was notified of the accident scene, but was not contacted in time to get the train stopped.

October 2015; Toronto, Canada: A tow operator was killed after his tow truck was inadvertently parking partially on the tracks. When he noticed the approaching train and realized his truck was in its path, the driver hopped back into the truck to move it but was too late.

May 2015; Amite City, La.: A tow operator driving a flatbed carrier passed across the tracks directly in the path of an Amtrak train. The crossing did not have cross bucks.

December 2012; Cardiff, Calif.: A 27-year-old tow operator, mistakenly parked his carrier on a rail right-of-way. When he saw the train coming, he jumped into the cab to drive off but was struck broadside.

March 2013; Crawford, Texas: A tow operator responded to tow a disabled vehicle and accidentally drove onto an unprotected rail crossing and was struck by a BNSF train.

I can't say never when it comes to rail recoveries. However, the best and safest option may be to park well off the tracks and consider winching the vehicle away from them. Evaluate your approach so to remain completely away from a train or trolley. Be aware that if a train does hit the casualty vehicle, the impact could drag the tow truck or carrier as well.

Rail crossings are extremely dangerous; always anticipate a train may be coming from another direction.

Rail crossing scenarios demand towers make the right choices. Before taking any action, have a plan as to how to get the recovery completed safely in the quickest amount of time, and always be aware of an approaching train. Remember, there's no guarantee that the train's engineer is aware that you are working a rail incident.

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, and is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame.
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