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

City, State
Waterford, MI
(Pop. 72,166)
Auburn, AL
(Pop. 56,908)
Terre Haute, IN
(Pop. 60,785)
Loveland, CO
(Pop. 72,651)
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

Free Market Motor Clubs

roadsvcBy DON ARCHER

So we know that motorists love roadside assistance, which means they love motor clubs right? I suppose.

I believe that stranded motorists love the idea of motor clubs. They certainly appreciate what they do for them, providing ... safe passage during trying times. But as time goes by and wait times become annoying, some might become disenchanted.

That's not to say they'll give up their motor clubs and choose to call some unknown tower in an unknown land. No ... the belief that the insurance company/motor club has their best interest in mind will justify the wait ... until something better comes along.

So motorists are happy for now. What about towers?

I continuously hear the question, "How can towers possibly thrive and actually make money within this framework?"

I've found it difficult to take my selfish interests out of this conversation because I, too, work for motor clubs. It sounds like an AA meeting: "Hi my name is Don... and I work for motor clubs." But I believe I can be objective, more or less.

To begin, let's first recognize that motor clubs have helped the towing industry with regards to raising the awareness of motorists on options when in need of roadside assistance.

The need created is not dissimilar to the public's dependency on cellphones. Today we can hardly stand to be out of arm's reach. Whereas 10 years ago, we had no problem waiting to get home or driving to the nearest phone booth to deposit a few quarters. Now that type of wait would be torture.

Motorists today have become accustomed to using the services of a towing company rather than relying on friends and family when in time of need. Granted we've always been here, but motor clubs have provided that elevating tide, raising all ships, at least with regards to awareness.

With that said, motor clubs don't pay much.

But at least there's work. This is what attracts most newcomers to the business. The idea that, "If I work for every motor club that'll have me, I'll make enough money to at least pay the bills and get my foot in the door," has motivated many young towers to take that first step towards independence.

The evolution of that thinking is that once they do get their foot in the door and start gaining cash-paying customers, repair shop accounts and police work, they'll let some or all of that motor club stuff go. It's either that or hire help to continue to service the clubs.

But will the rates warrant the added employee expense? If the answer is no, then there's a constant revolving door of service providers entering and exiting the motor club arena. A system somewhat similar to the way minimum wage works, as the majority of people working at that level are young and just starting out.

As may have already become evident, this capricious changing of service providers can affect the quality of services received by the clubs' members.

There is another side of the motor club coin that must be addressed. There are some large, established companies who cater to motor clubs and do so prosperously.

There is no denying that many towing companies throughout the nation work for motor clubs and make money in the process. But that's not their only means of bringing revenue into the company. A strong towing business is one that's not too heavily dependent on any one source of income—this is true in all businesses.

These larger companies supplement their cash flow with motor club work. In doing so they decrease what I call the twiddle factor. Instead of paying drivers to twiddle their thumbs for extended periods of time without work and constantly be available when there are no calls, these companies provide services for motor clubs. Although, to my knowledge, there are no independent towing companies that tow for motor clubs exclusively.

So to the issue at hand, towers want to make money and motorists want to save money ... and we both have relationships with motor clubs.

We know motorists like the sense of security and the belief that they won't be overcharged. The question remains how a tower can make motor clubs work in his favor?

The answer is in the free market. Just as a customer in a free market determines whom he or she will do business with based on the value received, so does a service provider have the freedom to choose what motor clubs he serves.

If a motor club's rates are so low that the service provider can barely cover his expenses, then he is free to discontinue working for them.

But there will still be demand for those services, motorists will continue to call roadside, and younger towers will gladly pick up where others left off.

So rather than constantly swimming upriver and denying what the market wants, we should seek to work within a system that's win/win/win. A system of roadside assistance where the Motorist wins, the Roadside Assistance Originator wins, and the Towing Company wins.

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

Sometimes Are We Towers to Blame?

Screen2 cb8a3By Randall C. Resch

The recent victory for Canadian towers to use red and blue lighting brings with it huge on-scene responsibilities. Red and blue lighting is simply a small issue on a much bigger problem.

Watch the video at: Evaluate what you'd consider obvious on-scene safety errors. Was on-scene safety effectively set up to provide adequate advanced emergency notice before traffic reached the recovery locations? How and where would you have set up to protect an approaching dangerous curve or other night-lighted scenarios; especially where there's snow and ice?

Look closely to see towers working traffic-side controls and towers walking with their backs to traffic. Then see a highly reflective, uniformed traffic controller move intentionally and directly in front of an approaching semi with expectations the semi will stop immediately at his enthusiastic instructions.

I believe the traffic controller's actions caused the semi's driver to lock the brakes resulting in an uncontrollable skid. (Note: The semi appears in-control until the controller/pedestrian jumped in front.)

From the same video, one tower's words were, "I've been clipped four times over the last six months. In each instance, the circumstances were more or less the same. I was just walking back to my truck and I turned my back for a split second and the car mirror hit my back."
I see his anxiety and I know his apprehension. We know there are better ways.

Motorists don't control a tower's movement; tower's do. This video is a great example of what NOT to do all in one segment. Look to see towers placing themselves in harm's way. Realize that it's not always a motorist's fault because the scene may not have provided adequate traffic control necessary to slow the motoring public down and properly direct their actions.

It's a mathematical certainty that cars and semis can't slow and steer safely when they're not provided ample time to do so. Remember, not all motorists are distracted. If on-scene cones, flares, signage, lighting or traffic direction is problematic and doesn't indicate a clear and obvious path, confusion takes over and it's just as deadly as distracted driving.

Had TIM and industry techniques been employed during these scenarios, perhaps one tower (interviewed) wouldn't have been struck because he would have and should have been on the non-traffic side. That's a perfect-world mentality, but not all towers think that way. These techniques aren't new, but they're especially important and directed to experienced towers still locked in old-school mentalities. Complacency is a tower's worst enemy; what about 1 million plus one scenario that proves to be the fatal mistake?

Tow operator safety and survival crosses all boundaries and may someday have an impact on every tower who goes boots to the ground. This isn't a Canada thing or specific to U.S. highways; my comments are confirmed by hundreds of tow operator fatalities in the history of the industry.

It's easy to blame tow operator strikes on distracted motorists. Haven't we learned by now that working, walking or standing on the white-line side is the fast-track to being killed? The history of operator strikes suggests a change in tower mentality is warranted.

This video demonstrates that our industry needs drastic change in safety and survival tactics. I use this video in my safety courses and safety meetings as an opening visual aide. At pure minimum, it generates great discussion towards safety and survival.

Isn't there room for tow operator improvement?
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