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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

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Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

Who Pays the Admin Fees?

gov feesBy DON ARCHER

In the August 2013 issue of American Towman magazine, there's a news item about a town in Illinois that has implemented a $500 administrative towing fee on motorists who are arrested for driving under the influence.

The fee was put in place so as to compensate the city for the outlay in additional personnel costs incurred when the arresting officer was required to be away from his patrol car and defend his arrest in court. To be clear the new towing administration fees were not put in place to compensate the tow company but the city.

In the referenced article, Wonder Lake Village Board President Tony Topf said, "We were looking for a way to have the person who is creating the arrest pay for it."

The article went on to say that many towns and cities were adopting similar policies in order to recoup some of their costs.

Because the laundry list of things wrong with this way of thinking would require hours to respond, I'll only comment on a few things important to the towing industry.

To begin with you have a village that's forcing motorists to pay more so that it can enforce existing laws—laws that have been in place since before its incorporation some 39 years ago. Weren't they prepared for the possibility that they might need to defend an arrest now and again?

Instead of increasing funding during a shortfall through more traditional means, such as taxing its inhabitants, this village (and many like it) have chosen to impose a form of "speed trap tax for drunks" to collect revenue.

There's no doubt that cities like Wonder Lake will justify their actions by claiming most people accused of drinking and driving decide to "lawyer up." This means that because the laws are laden with complications it can take more than just a day or two of lost time for the arresting officer to fulfill his duties in court.

But to say that the complications imposed by one governing body are reasonable excuses to allow another governing body to create new laws that impose higher fines upon those caught in the middle is irresponsible.

What might concern us more: When city governments treat those, whom they're empowered to serve and protect this way ... how will it treat those in a lesser position—say those contracted to provide services?

With this new fee in place how will the town now handle the relationship and possible conflicts of interests that come down the road with respect to the towing company that tows and impounds the arrested person's car?

What happens when the person arrested doesn't show for arraignment and abandons their vehicle? Will the city attempt to extract their $500 administrative fee from the only thing of value left from the arrest—the car?

What if the salvage value of the car is less than $500? Who takes the first position with respect to getting paid, the city or the towing company?

Besides the potential conflicts of interest, when did it become acceptable to assume that the individuals who are in the position of requiring a tow are responsible for creating the very conditions that warrant the tow? When did government start believing in personal responsibility?

Whether due to an accident, abandonment, or an arrest, towers have been forced to accept less and less in compensation for their services in order to keep towing costs down because we've been told, "It's in the best interest of the people of the community," thereby relieving them from full responsibility.

Could it be instead that they require our fees to remain low because city governments want to extract their own exorbitant fees?

It's a given but must be said: No one should drink and drive. This article should not be misconstrued to excuse that type of behavior. But the misguided behavior of those in city governments across the nation should not be excused either.

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

Harvesting Value from Your Mistakes

6 7cef3By Don G. Archer

When we think of learning, generally we think about our time at school and the process: history timelines, multiplication tables, proper punctuation and grammar, etc.

Some learn through listening, others through observation, and many rely on hands-on experience for concepts to really sink in.

The quickest and most valuable lessons don't come from these timeworn methods. We are conditioned to either continue doing something or stop doing it based upon the consequences of our actions.

That is to say: We learn most from our mistakes.

How many times have you made the wrong choice when dealing with a disgruntled customer? Have you allowed a toxic employee to stay on too long because you "needed" him or her? What about not taking responsibility for your mistakes or the mistakes of your employees?

These all have real-world consequences. However, if you share what you've learned, there's a chance others can avoid making the same mistakes.

One mistake I made that included real-world consequences was when to cut my losses.

It was an overnight recovery on a 53' refrigerated trailer full of dairy products. It was being stored on a warehouse lot where some asphalt had given way. One of the trailer legs was completely buried and the trailer was resting on one corner.

When my guys arrived, they rigged it and pulled it out of the hole; but in haste, they chose the lower-rated strap. It didn't stand up to the load and broke, sending the trailer back to the ground. It was a horrible mistake that could have resulted in a much worse outcome ... and clearly our fault.

I received a call from the dairy company the next morning asking how we were going to pay for the damages.

(This was one of the largest dairy companies in our area, having been around for almost 90 years. They had dozens of trucks and supplied us with loads of work, so my goal was to keep them happy.)

I assumed the damages were limited to the trailer hitting the ground when the strap broke; I quickly learned that they expected me to pay for damages to the products on the trailer. They were suggesting that due to the impact from our mistake, hundreds of gallons of milk and other items had been compromised.

I wasn't aware of any spillage, so I told the company representative that I would have to talk with my operators on the scene and get back with him.

A discussion with my guys resulted in a denial of causing the mess and photographs taken before they even touched the trailer. The images clearly showed that there was spillage before we had arrived.

I took what they provided at face value and now had a decision to make.

To some of you, smarter than I, deciding what to do in this situation might be easy. Suck up the loss and drive on. Why would you bite the hand that feeds you? In hindsight, you are right ... I should have accepted it as a cost of doing business.

I didn't.

I believed my guys were telling the truth. I believed the photos were legit—taken before they started—as is our standard procedure, but I reacted out of paranoia.

Slowly, suspicion began growing in my mind and I started to think the dairy company was using the leverage they had over me to get me to pay for their mistake. It was their lot that had given way, and I had successfully deluded myself into believing we had definitive proof that the initial impact caused the bulk of damage.

What did it matter if I was right? Did I believe the principal of the thing mattered more than the business I received from them? That's the only answer I can come up with, because when I called the company rep back I told him we were only partially responsible. This didn't sit well, and in the end I lost them as a customer.

Rather than hanging a lantern on our mistake and squabbling over peanuts, I should have apologized profusely and accepted full responsibility.

A lesson I learned the hard way that I will never forget.

American Towman Field Editor-Midwest Don G. Archer is also a multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at
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