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The Week's Features
Alex Bleickhardt loses life during recovery.
Two rotators pushed to the max to handle I-beam recovery.
Touching on the key components constituting safety management.
Powerful color schematic, easy to read lettering.
21 Piece kit is the most comprehensive long reach kit available.
Events
Fort Worth, TX.
July 13-15, 2023
Las Vegas, NV.
Sept. 21-23, 2022
Baltimore, MD.
Nov. 17-19, 2022
American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in Towing September 21 - September 27, 2022


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American Towman ShowPlace Hits Vegas 

Amid the glitz of Las Vegas, the Westgate Hotel & Casino Events Center will be hopping with the tow industry on hand, Sept. 21 –23, as American Towman ShowPlace comes to town. Three unforgetable days will spotlight the industry’s top suppliers, along with multiple conferences, special events and AT’s legendary hospitality.   

Turn-out is looking strong, according to AT Expo President Henri “Doc” Calitri, who expects potentially a 30 to 40% increase of traffic from last year. Exhibit Hall, with over 170 suppliers, opens at 11 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. Calitri said, “The markets are reacting in a fairly strong way in light of supply and inflation issues confronting the industry. The expected turn-out in pre-registration is reflective of that.” 

The show, which draws a large western contingent of tow companies, many from California, includes a salivating food fiesta featuring a Welcoming Reception of carved meats (Suckling Pig, Slow Roasted Beef and Street Tacos) on Thursday and Pie Palooza, a sampling of all different flavors of pie, on Friday. “They are always fun and well attended events,” said Calitri. 

Other noteworthy events include AT’s series of conferences and hands-on training programs, American Towman Cup Wrecker Pageant, CTTA’s Cocktail Reception and Awards, and special events like the Desert Smoke.  

All in all, another special American Towman Exposition underway that brings the industry together for fun, growth and business. 



American Towman ShowPlace comes to Las Vegas this week, kicking off on Sept 21.

What is a Safety Management System? 

safetymanagementsystems2 5a557

Brian J Riker 

As business owners, we tend focus on individual tasks, trying to clear them off our list one by one. While doing so gives us a feeling of accomplishment, perhaps if we slowed down and stepped back for just a moment, we would see how these tasks may be intertwined. I witness this often when dealing with safety, compliance, and training issues at companies. 

Safety is not a stand-alone issue nor is it simply a department or person at your company. Safety is not a company policy, law, or regulation. Safety is not simply following standards. No, it is so much more than mere words and documents. 

Safety is a living, breathing entity that is part of everything we do each day. While I do not necessarily buy into the “safety first” mantra, as it tends to allow us to believe that someone else is responsible for our personal safety, I do subscribe to the “safety always” philosophy in which each individual takes primary responsibility for being as safe as possible, given the task at hand. 

Training is an especially important part of safety. One simply cannot be safe if they do not understand the details of the tasks they are performing, the limitations of the machinery and other important factors. Training alone will not make anyone safer; it is just one part of the process of understanding the risks we must take. This career is not without risk, some greater than others, however we still must train to be our best in an attempt to be as safe as possible while performing a dangerous job. To that end, training that is inconsistent with company policy, culture and value is also not effective in making anyone safer. You must walk the walk not just talk the talk, and this starts at the top with ownership and senior leadership. 

Independent audits and reviews are also integral to safety. Humans tend to get complacent; it is in our nature, so having an independent person or entity review your operations periodically helps to identify areas that may be slipping or did not notice on your own. Again, safety is not just words on paper or a onetime demonstration of competency; rather it is constantly evolving into something greater than the sum of the individual parts. This is why I routinely audit even the safest and most successful of my clients because something can always be improved upon somewhere. 

When you put all these components together and combine them with leadership that values safety over production, you have the beginning of a safety management system. Now, production is important because we would not be in business if we did not hit specific productivity goals resulting in profitable operations; however, without employees that are safe and willing to come to work each day, none of that truly matters. In short, safety does not cost -it pays back in dividends. 

An excellent safety management system transcends departments within a company, encompassing everything from the thought process behind hiring to equipment selection and even jobs that you accept from clients. Sales, marketing and human resources all have a place within the safety management system; not just field operations. For towers, this means your call takers and dispatchers need to be just as educated about what a specific truck and operator is capable of as does the manager and the operator themselves. All the training in the world will not matter if a supervisor instructs an operator to “get it done this time” knowing they are not properly equipped to do so. 

In short, to have an effective safety management program, your operations cannot be so separate that one hand does not know what the other hand is doing. Silos are great for segregating and storing grain, but not so great for operating a safe and effective business. I find this to be true very often in larger, multiple location companies although even small companies can have such separation where one person does not see how their actions affect others within the company. 

World’s Biggest Tow Truck at World’s Biggest Tow Show!!!
By Don Lomax
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Managing Editor: George Nitti
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September 21 - September 27, 2022
On The Hook With Mr. Industry
The borough of Shenandoah has passed an ordinance mandating a rotation system.

Pennsylvania Borough Mandates Rotation System

In Shenandoah, Pa., the borough has adopted an ordinance regulating the operations of towing companies. 

Under the ordinance, there will be a rotational system in place that ensures all towing companies in the borough receive opportunities for assignments. 

The ordinance states that "no person shall engage in towing from a scene of an accident or with respect to a disabled vehicle that is either impeding traffic or on the shoulder of a limited access highway" unless that person has been selected through the rotational system. 

The council, through this action, wants to eliminate any one company from getting all the business. 

The borough will compile a list of approved, licensed towing companies for the rotational list. To be included on the list, a towing company must submit an application on a form required by Shenandoah. 

The rotational list will be determined and maintained by the borough and the Shenandoah Police Department, with all assignments "made on an alternating basis and in accordance with the level of service required for the transport," according to the ordinance. 

In addition to the rotational list, the ordinance lays down a series of parameters designed to provide safeguards and controls for towing companies. 

"Such safeguards include identifying (on the application form) the company name, the name of the owners of the company, the owner's date of birth, towing operator's license of all persons operating tow trucks within the borough, a fee schedule of towing costs and proof of insurance," Amato said. 

https://www.yahoo.com/

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American Towman Exposition Gallery
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September 21 - September 27, 2022
The scene at a Ft. Lauderdale apt. complex where a tower killed a man over a repossession.

Repossession Ends in Death

A tow truck driver shot and killed a man while trying to repossess his car Wednesday, Sept. 21, in Fort Lauderdale.

The driver, whose name has not been released, was trying to repossess a Chevy Malibu around 10 a.m. when confronted by the victim, 38-year-old Clarence King. According to reports, an alteraction ensued between the victim and the shooter and shots were fired.

A witness who lives in the neighborhood told a local news station that it “sounded like four shots — pop, pop, pop.”

“The tow truck driver was just standing over the body on the phone. He looked up, started looking around, started seeing multiple people coming up, and that’s when he started jumping up and down saying, ‘I think I just killed a man,'” another witness told WSVN.

Police are working with the Broward County State Attorney’s Office to determine whether charges will be filed against the tow truck driver, who hasn’t been identified, reports said.

https://patch.com/

NY Tower Killed  

A 33-year-old tow truck driver was killed Thursday night, Sept. 15, after police say a drunk driver veered off the roadway and crashed into him as he was working on a stranded vehicle. 

Tow Truck driver Alex Bleickhardt of TowAway LLC, located in Hudson Falls, NY, was pronounced dead at the scene after 41-year-old Justin Rodriguez left the roadway and crashed into a box truck, tow truck and Bleickhardt.  

State Police say Rodriguez had four previous DWIs and was driving on a permanently revoked license.  

Bleickhardt was with his dog Moose, who survived the accident scene. According to TowAway President William Hafner, the “two were inseparable.” 

https://www.news10.com/news/

Queens Tow Company Hit with Lawsuit 

A Queen’s tow company was hit with a class-action suit claiming that it monopolized tow services on Big Apple highways and ripped off thousands of motorists.  

The suit seeks more than $58 million in damages from several parties, including Runway Towing Corp. for allegedly running an illegal “racketeering enterprise” at the expense of unsuspecting motorists. The suit also accuses the NYPD of repeatedly extending Runway’s contract since 2013 without competitive bidding and, in the process, ignoring many complaints the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection was getting about the company’s alleged lawbreaking, which included underpaying workers and illegally compensating them with cash off the books. 

Errol Margolin, a lawyer for Runway said, “To accuse Runway, the NYPD, and the Department of Consumer [and Worker Protection] of operating an enterprise” violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act “is not only silly but sanctionable. Any such lawsuit will be dismissed because there is no enterprise, no conspiracy, and no conduct that is illegal.” 

https://nypost.com/2022/09/17/    

California Tower Named to International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame 

Robert Van Lingen of Van Lingen Towing in Torrance, Calif. will be inducted into the Towing Hall of Fame in October. Van Lingen is part of a group of 10 towing and recovery leaders who have left their mark on the industry.  

"As a youngster, Robert would sleep with clothes and boots on in front of the door so his dad couldn't run a call in the middle of the night without taking him," states his nomination statement. "He literally grew up in the industry." 
 
He has made his mark in towing and recovery by improving on procedures that have become standard in the towing industry. For instance, Van Lingen created a standard for police impound operations and facilities that today is utilized worldwide. In addition, he introduced a safer and more efficient way of uprighting overturned sea containers. "The rigging method has been adopted around the world and is known as the 'Van Lingen Method.'" 
 
Van Lingen will be honored on October 8, 2022, at the Westin Chattanooga during a special induction ceremony that will also include towing legends from around the U.S., Australia, France and Japan.  

To be inducted, each leader must have at least 20 years of experience. The Hall of Fame has grown to include over 300 distinguished towing professionals from around the world. 

https://www.einnews.com/

Milwaukee Man Sentenced for Terrorizing Towers

A man who terrorized towers from Milwaukee during a three-week crime spree last fall received 22 years in prison. 

Latherio Meadows, 25, robbed seven drivers, who all identified him, at gun point.  Meadows pleaded guilty in June to all the robberies and two counts of using a gun during a violent crime.  

Meadow's "crime spree sparked a wave of fear in the small community of self-employed tow truck drivers in the Milwaukee community," Assistant U.S. Attorney Abbey Marzick wrote in a sentencing memo. 

According to court records: Meadows called his victims, saying he either needed his car towed or wanted to scrap a car for cash. When the trucks arrived -- at various locations around Milwaukee's north side -- Meadows pointed a gun at the drivers and demanded their money, weapons and cell phones. 

He obtained cash in amounts ranging from $500 to $3,000 from drivers, and handguns from two of his victims. Meadows pistol whipped one driver, causing head wounds that had to be stapled. 

His attorney, Richard Hart, argued Meadows did the robberies during a period of intense drug cravings. He admitted the offenses were serious, but suggested a sentence of 16-17 years would achieve all the goals of sentencing.  

The two gun convictions each carry a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years, so the bare minimum sentence would be 14 years. 

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/

Procession for Oregon Tower 

Over 60 tow trucks from Oregon and one tow truck from Washington, gathered for a procession in Roseburg, Oregon on Sept. 4 to honor the life of 63-year-old Henry Lichtwald. 

Lichtwald lost his life on November 3, when he was recovering a vehicle on Interstate 5 and a commercial motor vehicle failed to move over for a tow truck and struck him. 

The memorial began at 11 a.m. and the procession followed at around 1 p.m. 

Community members would like everyone to remember the move over law. 

https://www.kdrv.com/news/

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September 21 - September 27, 2022

With a Little Help from My Friends 

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By George L. Nitti 

On January 9, 2022, just before an ice storm was predicted to hit Ohio’s I-76, a flatbed hauling 10 I-beams veered off the road. 

Summoned by the Ohio State Patrol to handle a semi-tractor load transfer, which is normally a simple procedure, lead operator Dalton Stebbins of Fall & Stebbins Automotive Inc of Mantua, Ohio, arrived on scene with his 2013 twin steer Peterbuilt with a Century 75 ton rotator. 

“After I showed up,” he said, “I realized we needed another rotator to lift the I-beams off and do the recovery safely.” 

Dalton called Interstate Towing of Twinsburg for assistance, and they brought their 75 ton to the scene.  

“It was bit challenging,” said Stebbins. “The I-beams were half on and half off the trailer. Since we were pretty far off the roadway, you have to realize that our rotators weren’t right on them. Whenever you do a lift job, you usually want to be right on top of whatever you are lifting. In this case, we had our booms extended all the way out.” 

The two rotators worked in tandem. Interstate hooked their rotator to the front of the I-beams, while Stebbins used theirs to hook the back, securing all ten I-Beams together (approximate weight 40,000 pounds) with 5/8 bridals.  

“Once you pick them up, you kind of have them and there’s no turning back from that,” said Stebbins. “It pushed both of the rotators to their maximum capacity because we were that far out.” 

Once the I-beams were picked up and removed from the damaged trailer, they were set on the ground. Dalton, using his rotator, then stacked them individually upon a flatbed with a Kenworth Road Tractor brought in by another buddy of his from Northeast Ohio Express Services. 

“We had three companies working together on this one,” said Dalton. “I try to work together with others. I’m a smaller company. I’ve got 13 trucks but only have three drivers, including myself. ” 

After loading the I-beams, Dalton used his rotator to pick up the wrecked semi-tractor, placing it upon one of the Landoll trailers. Their Kenworth T880 30 ton was then used to transport it back. The wrecked trailer was loaded onto the other Landoll trailer. 

After all of the pieces were put on trailers, everything was taken to Fall & Stebbins location, where they waited for insurance to come out. Then they were transferred to different loads and handled from there.  

Other operators that Stebbins gave thanks to included Jay Trgo, Marcus Valentine and Austin Hladki. 

“Teamwork goes a long way. It’s amazing how different companies can work together even though we don’t run trucks together every day,” Stebbins said. “Even though you are not big enough to handle things on your own, it’s ok to ask for help and work together.” 

Solid Teamwork: Recovering One Big Fracking Crane

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By George L. Nitti 

On a scorching summer’s day under clear blue skies with the needle hovering close to 110 degrees, B & B Wrecker Service of Pecos and Big Sky Towing of Odessa converged on the little town of Monahans, along Rt. 20, which runs from El Paso to Dallas, to recover an overturned crane. 

Cranes are indispensable in West Texas. We are not talking whooping cranes. Of course, they matter too. We’re talking mechanical cranes. They are hard to get a hold of, tied up on locations for weeks at a time holding up established wellheads for oil and gas companies. 26-year-old Travis Turner, a supervisor and lead operator from Big Sky informed: “The fracking business is what keeps everybody busy. We’re booming.”  

Transporting a high-capacity crane can be challenging. This Terex mobile hydraulic crane was on its way back to the yard in Odessa, when Travis said that according to the driver, the last 3 axles on the dolly locked up. “He said it shoved him off the road and flipped the crane,” said Travis. Fortunately, the driver walked off unscathed, but the crane was in a precarious situation. 

B & B Wrecker was dispatched, led by its supervisor, 38-year-old Harvey Carrera. Knowing that the job needed extra power, he called his friend Travis. “We had just done a challenging crane job together last month,” Harvey said, “I knew that once I called him, we would knock it out.” 

Combining forces, their equipment included Big Sky’s 2020 Kenworth T880 Tandem Tandem Vulcan 103 XP 50-ton wrecker and three of B & B’s Units: a 2005 Kenworth 1150 Century Rotator, a 1999 Peterbilt 5130 Century/30 ton, and 1996 Peterbilt 9055 Century with a 2011 bed. 

Upon arriving, their first task was to carefully turn over the flipped crane. After casting out winch lines from all four units to grab a hold of it, Travis, with his Vulcan, initiated a reverse roll. He said, “I picked it straight up and rolled it away from me. You get the most mechanical leverage that way.”  

The 35-ton next to the Vulcan was used as a catch truck while the other two units on the other side pulled the crane towards them.  “That way it doesn’t flop over,” commented Harvey. “It must be a controlled environment the whole time because if something was to yank our boom and damage it, that would suck. Plus, you want to salvage the crane as well. You don’t want to cause any more damage than what’s already happened. You have to tow it back.” 

After up righting the crane, getting it on the road proved to be a bigger job. Travis said, “Once we flipped it, the crane was stuck in the sand, wedged between a sand dune and a concrete road barrier.”  

With very little room to maneuver, the situation required that they turn the crane 90 degrees to get it back on the road in order to tow it. Moving the Vulcan to the front of the crane, Travis executed a lift and pull while B & B’s rotator was used to pull the rear of the crane around.  “It fought us every step of the way,” said Travis. “Especially the front end. I had to drag it through the dirt. It was probably the hardest winch I’ve done.” 

To facilitate the process, the team applied Dawn soap to the road that they picked up from a nearby Dollar Store. This would enable the crane’s tires to slide over more easily and not damage the light weighted dollies which had lost some of their upper supports.  

Harvey said, “We didn’t want to lose the dolly. If that happened, we would have to trailer things in and do a bunch of stuff. We tried to save the customer as much money as possible without getting more equipment involved.” 

Finally, the crane was ready for transport to a nearby yard in Monahans.  Since the Pitman arms of the crane were compromised, the front end had to be lifted and towed. “We used my wrecker because it can out tow any other tow truck,” said Travis. “I have it set up with the tandem tandem twin steer.” 

After several weeks of nonpayment by the crane company, B & B Wrecker became the proud owners of a crane. “We bought it out from them in order to settle the bill. They have agreed to sign the papers over to us. We will auction it off ourselves.” 

Four years ago, when the company picked up a much smaller crane, weighing only eight tons, B & B Wrecker gained title to it. 

Harvey said, “So off a $14,000 bill, we auctioned it off for $150,000.” 

Editor's Note: This story appeared in the September issue 2022 of American Towman Magazine. To see the story, go to Solid Teamwork: Recovering One Big Fracking Crane

Charred Remains of Airport Recovery

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By George L. Nitti

At the end of 2019, Bosco’s Automotive, Inc., of Enfield, Ct., was dispatched to Bradley’s International Airport, about 12 miles away, to handle an atypical recovery involving a B17 that crashed and exploded, decimating two deicing trucks, a glycol tank and a garage. 

“We have a contract with the airport,” said Greg Wayne, who was the lead operator, and worked alongside owners Charlie and Joe Bosco, who have since passed away. The company is now run by two other brothers, John and Angelo Bosco. 

Wayne said, “The B17 was an old military styled plane used for shows and rides. It had an engine mechanical failure as it was trying to make it back to the airport. Sadly, the pilots and passengers all died.” 

To the scene, the company brought their 2019 Kenworth T880 high hood with a Century 1150 Rotator and a 2006 Kenworth T880 with 70/35 Century Wrecker, which worked in tandem to lift and load the charred remains of the deicing trucks and glycol propane tank upon low boy trailers. 

To load the deicing trucks, they used a spreader bar on their rotator and the winch line on their wrecker in order to lift, center and place the trucks upon low boy trailers. 

Wayne said, “From there, both deicing trucks were transported to Texas by the company that owned them.” 

As for the glycol tank, that was put on Bosco’s trailer where they took it to get scrapped.  

Although a two-hour routine recovery of lifting and loading trucks onto trailers, the incident stands out with blackened memories of death. 

Show Yours @ TIW

Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor George L. Nitti at georgenitti@gmail.com; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!



Warren, MI,
$175
(pop. 134,141)

Casselberry, FL
$375
(pop. 26,449)

Elkton, MD
$640
(pop. 15,579)

Loveland, CO
$250
(pop. 70,223)

Heavy-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.
September 21 - September 27, 2022

What is a Safety Management System? 

safetymanagementsystems2 5a557

Brian J Riker 

As business owners, we tend focus on individual tasks, trying to clear them off our list one by one. While doing so gives us a feeling of accomplishment, perhaps if we slowed down and stepped back for just a moment, we would see how these tasks may be intertwined. I witness this often when dealing with safety, compliance, and training issues at companies. 

Safety is not a stand-alone issue nor is it simply a department or person at your company. Safety is not a company policy, law, or regulation. Safety is not simply following standards. No, it is so much more than mere words and documents. 

Safety is a living, breathing entity that is part of everything we do each day. While I do not necessarily buy into the “safety first” mantra, as it tends to allow us to believe that someone else is responsible for our personal safety, I do subscribe to the “safety always” philosophy in which each individual takes primary responsibility for being as safe as possible, given the task at hand. 

Training is an especially important part of safety. One simply cannot be safe if they do not understand the details of the tasks they are performing, the limitations of the machinery and other important factors. Training alone will not make anyone safer; it is just one part of the process of understanding the risks we must take. This career is not without risk, some greater than others, however we still must train to be our best in an attempt to be as safe as possible while performing a dangerous job. To that end, training that is inconsistent with company policy, culture and value is also not effective in making anyone safer. You must walk the walk not just talk the talk, and this starts at the top with ownership and senior leadership. 

Independent audits and reviews are also integral to safety. Humans tend to get complacent; it is in our nature, so having an independent person or entity review your operations periodically helps to identify areas that may be slipping or did not notice on your own. Again, safety is not just words on paper or a onetime demonstration of competency; rather it is constantly evolving into something greater than the sum of the individual parts. This is why I routinely audit even the safest and most successful of my clients because something can always be improved upon somewhere. 

When you put all these components together and combine them with leadership that values safety over production, you have the beginning of a safety management system. Now, production is important because we would not be in business if we did not hit specific productivity goals resulting in profitable operations; however, without employees that are safe and willing to come to work each day, none of that truly matters. In short, safety does not cost -it pays back in dividends. 

An excellent safety management system transcends departments within a company, encompassing everything from the thought process behind hiring to equipment selection and even jobs that you accept from clients. Sales, marketing and human resources all have a place within the safety management system; not just field operations. For towers, this means your call takers and dispatchers need to be just as educated about what a specific truck and operator is capable of as does the manager and the operator themselves. All the training in the world will not matter if a supervisor instructs an operator to “get it done this time” knowing they are not properly equipped to do so. 

In short, to have an effective safety management program, your operations cannot be so separate that one hand does not know what the other hand is doing. Silos are great for segregating and storing grain, but not so great for operating a safe and effective business. I find this to be true very often in larger, multiple location companies although even small companies can have such separation where one person does not see how their actions affect others within the company. 

Posting Insensitive Photos 

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By Randall C. Resch 

Last month, a young tower in Connecticut was killed when his carrier rear ended a semi-tractor trailer. Within three-hours after the brutal crash, a morbid photograph of the impacted carrier appeared on several of the industry’s forums.  

Having been a crash investigator (in an earlier career), I’ll assert that that photo made its way to the Internet before the crash investigation was completed. I don’t understand the need of having to post gruesome fatality photos for any reason. That’s just wrong! 

There’s not a week goes by where tow operators openly post photographs of vehicles involved in incredible crashes. I don’t agree with any reasoning why crash photographs are necessary; nothing fatality and crash photos aren’t the same as what’s photo-recorded for “prior tow damages.” 

Resist the Urge 

Tow operators taking insensitive pictures has been sticky business for many years. Whether it’s a matter of recording a recovery for billing/insurance purposes, taking time to “snap a few pics” only increases time on-scene and could lead to operator safety being compromised. 

For example, a South Africa tow truck operator was struck and killed when standing in the roadway taking pictures of the car he was getting ready to tow off the highway’s shoulder. 

Accordingly, the California Highway Patrol’s, Tow Service Agreement (TSA), addresses the activity of taking photos with the intent of sharing on the Internet and social media. 

In the TSA’s, Section 19, COMPLIANCE WITH TOW SERVICE AGREEMENT, it states, “Tow operators shall not record (i.e., videotape or photograph) a scene unless it is for official use by the tow company for business related reasons.  

1) The on-scene investigating officer or incident commander shall make the determination when a tow operator may record a scene for tow related business reasons.  

2) In the event a tow operator is determined to be in violation of this provision, they will immediately surrender any such recording device to an officer of the CHP.” 

Taking photos on-scene only to plaster them on the Internet is not what the Tow Service Agreement had in-mind. While towers have the right to take pictures while in a public place or not on-scene, there are responsibilities that go along with doing so.  

Photos shouldn’t show faces of persons or bystanders and never include faces of police officers and first responders. Don’t include license plates. Photos should never include picturing persons who are injured or killed.  

I find posting these kinds of photographs distasteful, unprofessional and insensitive to crash victims and injured motorists. To the individual who “Just had to post” the tow truck fatality in Connecticut, I say, “Shame on You!” If there are lessons to be learned here, it’s not hard to figure-out … resist the urge. 

   

Certification Is Not A One Time Achievement

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Brian J Riker

How often to you refresh your skills as a professional tower? Or take a refresher course on automotive technology? Or a defensive driving class? If you are like most, the answer is not often enough or never.

Although technology, regulations and best practices change often, many of us don’t stay current, instead relying on costly on the job learning through the school of hard knocks. This weekend, this became apparent to me when I recertified as an inspection mechanic in Pennsylvania.  

I have been certified to conduct safety inspections on everything except motorcycles in Pennsylvania since October of 1992; however this recertification process is relatively new. Prior to 2013 you took the hands-on training once in your lifetime and as long as you renewed your credential on time, there was no continuing education or recertification exam. Mechanics were left to fend for themselves to stay current, which caused a lot of vehicles to fail for false reasons, or worse yet to pass when they were not in compliance with the Vehicle Code.

Today we are required to recertify every five years. When I attempted to recertify without the refresher training, I dang near failed the recert exam. Lesson learned: take advantage of the continuing education that is available, even when you practice something often.

The same can be said for tow operators. I am third generation, taught by my father, but have taken it upon myself to advance my education as often as possible. Even today, while not an active tow operator anymore, I still attend factory training events, recertify my TRAA, WreckMaster and ATRI credentials and attend tow show seminars so that I can stay relevant with the things I write and lecture about within the industry. Besides, my time in a wrecker is far from over and I just may be back on call someday.

I believe that all true professionals should never stop learning. When we stop trying to improve our understanding of something, we become most dangerous. An example is understanding new vehicle technology. Today’s cars and trucks are nothing like those from my youth. If you don’t fully understand how the embedded technology works, you can cause damage to the vehicle or even place yourself in harm’s way by possibly forcing the vehicle to do something it is not designed to do.

So why do most towers feel they don’t need any routine education or certification? Why would you buy a new brand or model of truck at a six-figure cost then turn your operators loose on it without the most basic understanding of what features and functions are new, improved, or different from your previous brand or model of equipment? Why would you assume your operators can “figure it out” while on a live call, attempting to service a type of vehicle they have never even seen before?

Think about your current education and certification program. Ask yourself if your operators truly have a means to learn and demonstrate proficiency in the tasks needed to safely and properly complete their job functions daily. If not, what can you do about it?

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September 21 - September 27, 2022

Rockin' Rotator

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By George L. Nitti

When Mark Sylver of Sylverline Towing, located in Temple Hills, M.D., broke off from the family business in 2013-14 to start his own company, he knew he wanted his trucks to be easily seen and read, rather than flashy or busy like some of his competition throughout the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area.

Today, Sylver’s intention can be found on his tow trucks, mostly heavy-duty, including 3 rotators. His latest purchase of a Kenworth 2021 T880 with a Century 1150 Rotator illustrates a powerful color schematic of orange and silver and a straight-forward, easy to read white lettering that pops against those two contrasting colors.

The unit’s eye-catching colors are its first striking feature.  “I went with orange because I didn’t want my company to be mistaken for anyone else,” Sylver said. Although not stated, the color silver, which covers the upper half of the unit, seems a play on the “Sylver” name – yet works perfectly as a contrasting color, when often, white or black, would be the go-to.

Along the side, written in large white letters, is the company name/logo - “Sylverline.” Sylver said, “My family’s business was M&N – the name Sylverline just clicked one day.”

The company, which specializes in heavy duty towing, particularly coach buses (“before they fell out of favor due to Covid”) perhaps connects to coachline. Adding to the name is a catchy winchline running through the logo bearing a hook.

Also prominently written on the side is an easy-to-read phone number. Sylver said, “If somebody is broken down, legally you can’t solicit, but if you drive by and they see your truck and phone number, they can call you. That happened last week. Somebody called me and said, ‘I saw you towing a bus. Can you come by and tow me.’”

On the back of the cab is a slogan Sylver picked up from his church: “Favor Ain’t Fair.” “If you have the favor of God, it ain’t fair. You just have it,” said Sylver. “And you can’t worry about what somebody else has, because they are in the favor of God.”

While Sylver points out that he has been favored with three rotators, he also points out that good service is a key to his success, which sometimes means saying no to jobs.

He said, “I can’t please everybody. There are other companies around me that promise a cheaper price but if you call them 4 hours later, they still haven’t come. When they call me, the job is handled. I can’t tow everybody, so I have to be the best at what I do.”

The “Good Old Girl” 

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By George L. Nitti

Although 1985 wasn’t too long ago, that was the year Big Al Hibler of Hibler’s Towing and Recovery/Al’s Garage, Inc., located in Binghamton, NY, picked up a new Chevy from a local dealership. Over the years, it would become a classic. 

Gary Hibler, who took over the business from his father when Al passed in 2020, recalls fondly: “That Chevy was most of my childhood. I remember him driving it. It’s got a big engine. It would rumble the house and you knew that Dad was going to work.” 

As a tribute to Big Al, the company brought the Chevy, which was rusting away in their impound lot, to be restored and used in local pageants and tow shows. 

“It sadly sat out in our impound yard for about 10 years,” said Hibler. “Although it was good advertisement, it was killing the truck.” 

When Big Al bought the Chevy K20 with a 454 drive train, he attached a Holmes 500 to it from a previous model Chevy the company used in the 70’s. “It’s a split boom,” said Gary. “It was able to pick up from both sides of the unit.” 

With a boxy shape and large front grill, the simply decorated red and white unit contains all the essential details of the business including company names, a phone number written large, towing services from light to heavy duty, and hours of operation.  

The interior was also made over and includes an interior with a bench seat and a custom dash where the lights light up. 

On the back fender, it states In Loving Memory of Big Al "The Trucker’s Pal.” 

“He got the nickname somewhere along the line and it just stuck,” said Gary.  

Starting the business in 1966, Al Hibler was beloved by many. His baby was his Chevy, whom he called “The Good Old Girl.” 

Not sure how she got its nickname, Gary said, “Dad would always say, ‘Take the Good Old Girl,’ and do this call. 

Show Yours @ TIW

Do you have a truck to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor George L. Nitti at georgenitti@gmail.com; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!

Bright, Uplifting Design

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By George L. Nitti 

At TowXpo San Antonio, in the 2021 USA Wrecker Pageant, several units vied for Best in Working Class, the winner Commercial Towing Services of Buda, Texas. Tow owner Jonathan Cleaver said, “We were shocked to have won. There were many beautiful trucks.” 

Winning though wasn’t accidental, as several factors came into play to sway judges’ opinions. One factor is cleanliness and how well the truck is groomed. Cleaver said, “We pulled it about a week ahead of time and did a lot of work prepping it.” 

With 54,000 miles, their 2020 Kenworth W990 Century 1150 rotator with 5 winches and a kneeboom (a new style underlift) still looks brand new. Cleaver acknowledges there was some anxiety about its steep cost when he purchased it, but that the investment has paid off. 

He said, “Either we purchased it or our local competitors would have moved in and performed these big jobs.” 

In addition to babying the rotator by keeping it spotless, the company did a make-over of their graphics, leaving it up to the creative freedom of The Print Shop/Wrap Genius of Georgetown, Texas to provide that “Wow” factor that Cleaver knew was essential. 

“We realized we needed something that popped. Prior, our logo and graphics were simple that included only riveted sheet metal with text,” he said. “The Print Shop proposed making changes. Now we get compliments on the truck every day.” 

One “Wow” factor is the bright, cheery yellow striping that emanates upward on the unit’s front side, as if the sun were rising, casting its rays in all directions. The yellow clearly brightens and turns heads and is further accented on the rear and side outriggers along with other key spots. 

Adding juxtaposition next to the vibrant yellow are the more grounded gray and black features that include striping and lettering. This contrast is clearly visible in the company’s name, written large on the side of the rotator, the word “Towing” popping out in creative yellow lettering while “Commercial” is written in a more straightforward black lettering. 

Completing this uplifting design is a hook with dollar symbols inside. Yes, nothing like the sound of “Ka-Ching” when the call comes to move that rotator’s potential from the garage to the bank. 

Brag @ TIW!  

Should your truck be featured here? Send a few pics and your contact information to the editor at georgenitti@gmail.com. You might even be selected to go in print, too, in American Towman magazine! 

September 21 - September 27, 2022

Lock Out Set - The Ultimate Long Reach Kit

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The Ultimate Long Reach Kit includes every tool and accessory you need to open virtualy any vehicle on the road today using the long reach method. This 21 piece kit is the most comprehensive and complete long reach tool set ever made. Four of the most popular long reach tools, Button Master and Mega Master snare tools, two Air Wedges, two pry-bar style wedge tools, protective lockout tape, slim jim, windshield mounted flashlight for nighttime openings, our new heavy duty long padded carrying case with internal pockets, and the list goes on.. With this kit in your toolbox, you will never need any other tools to perform world class professional lockouts.

--Most Popular Tools Include
--Most Comprehensive Kit
--Easy To Transport
--Perfect for Beginners and Pros

For more information, contact accesstoolsusa.com

Tow Operator Lighted Safety Vests

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Class 3 ANSI approved illuminated breakaway safety vest with option of illuminated ID panel.  

- Fiber Optic Illuminated strips can be seen through any adverse weather conditions.

- These vests are designed to give added visibility when you are out in Highway traffic.

- The illuminated strips are USB rechargeable and charges in 1 1/2 hours and run for 8 to 10 hours on time.

- Many options of illuminated ID panels available. Example: Trucker, Tow Operator. Call for any custom ID panels.    

https://nightlightsafety.com/?fbclid=IwAR0EvIUxzcTnvC7iL6amgLoXKrQWOiwOupaLG2w-ztO-DMU4eL-umEc2Alc 

Surface Mount LED Warning Light 

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Wolo’s new 8000 Series Grill and Surface Mount LED Warning Light delivers powerful safety lighting for commercial trucks. It offers high visibility in bright sun, dense fog, and heavy rain, with 26 light patterns, including strobe-like flash and three color options-amber, blue, or red.  

This kit comes complete with two, super-bright linear LED clusters, and also features simple plug-and-play, waterproof connections for ease of installation. The lights are operated by the switch control, which can be mounted to the dashboard or console. They are built with painted black aluminum brackets to fit seamlessly into a vehicle’s grill, and the polycarbonate lenses resist yellowing, even when exposed to sunlight.

The Wolo 8000-A is pre-wired to accept additional lighting and can be expanded from two to four LEDs with an optional expansion pack.  

For more information, click here.  

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September 21 - September 27, 2022
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September 21 - September 27, 2022
San Diego Police investigating the shooting of a tower at an apartment complex.

Tower Shot in the Arm during a Repossession 

In San Diego, a tower was shot in the arm while attempting to repossess a vehicle that was illegally parked at an intersection.

After being shot in the arm, the tower called 911, who alerted the San Diego Police. 

The police said a woman and a few others confronted the tow truck driver. The woman pulled out a gun and shot the driver at least once in the arm, SDPD said. The driver was taken to the hospital and expected to survive. 

The group was believed to have retreated into a nearby apartment complex, prompting police to surround the building and call a SWAT team to respond. 

After several hours, officers made their way inside two apartments and searched the units. No one was inside and the SWAT standoff was called off, SDPD said. 

SDPD says they are still searching for the woman.  

https://www.nbcsandiego.com/

Car Repossessions Surging  

Over the last couple of years, with supply shortages mounting from automakers and demand for autos at a premium, as the price of cars have surged, so too have higher auto loans and more repossessions.  

In a report by Kelley Blue Book, the average MSRP for a new car has gone up 13.5% to $47,148 in May 2022. Add in higher monthly payments and limited budgets, more Americans are having trouble paying for cars bought in the last two years. According to Edmunds, 12.7% of customers that bought a new vehicle in the last two years are making payments for at least $1,000 per month. 

It's been noted that subprime borrowers, or those with the worst credit history, are defaulting, up 11%, but even those with excellent credit have doubled in the past 2 years. 

Besides supply shortages, many auto loans were put into forbearance during the pandemic while economic stimulus and unemployment benefits gave consumers the confidence to take on more debt to purchase a car. But as progress was made against alleviating the pandemic, inflation has heated up and interest rates have risen, causing distress with borrowers. 

Lisa Beilfuss, a writer for Barron’s who covers the repo market, potentially sees a bubble bursting, citing several indicators, including the ones mentioned as factors. She added that one auto dealer that she spoke to who buys repossessed vehicles said that he sees repos surging based on what he’s buying in the repossession car market.  

Don Adams of Don Adams Towing and Recovery of Owensboro, Kentucky, said last year that he reported approximately 175 repossessions and says this year alone he has repossessed 250 vehicles with another half year to go.  

https://www.wevv.com/news/
https://www.texasstandard.org/stories/
https://www.powernationtv.com/post/

Repo Industry Gathers at NARS 

At the North American Repossessors Summit (NARS) held in Denver, Colorado, on June 21 and June 22, a gathering of close to 500 repossession agents, collections and recovery managers from an array of industry service providers convened to discuss a variety of issues of concern to the industry.  

The two-day event was hosted by the American Recovery Association (ARA) and included presentations given by executives from the finance community and repossession agents. 

In one panel discussion led by three executives in the finance community expected repossession volume to rise in the coming months. One from a California credit union noted a need to increase loss reserves due to upcoming market turbulence in the next 9 to 12 months. Another highlighted that due to the unpredictability of the economy, that the credit card market could be a good predictor of what’s going to happen with repossession rates. 

Three active repossession agents comprised another panel. Dave Kennedy, president of ARA, focused much of his comments on the successes of the Repo Alliance, the grassroots funded lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C.  

Starr Sawalqah, who runs Alpha Recovery in Phoenix, offered several recommendations to her fellow repossession agents. She insisted that agents “shouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable” when describing their escalating costs to finance companies. But she emphasized that agents need to back up their claims with plenty of data to show just how much it costs to skip-trace a customer and repossess a vehicle. 

James McNeil, the chief executive officer of Day Break Metro, which provides repossession, locksmithing and transportation services from seven lot locations in California, encouraged industry members to buttress their resources, including trucks, physical resources and their workforce.  

He said, “We’re in an industry that’s going to be surprised by how much we’re going to be overwhelmed with assignments.”  

https://www.autoremarketing.com/subprime/

Man Arrested for Shooting Owner of Car Dealership 

The man who shot the owner of a car dealership in Ft. Worth, Texas was taken into custody by Arlington police and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and robbery. 

The incident occurred around noon on May 16 when dealership owner Adel Elhindawi came to repossess a car loaned to Espy. After Espy’s car was repaired for mechanical issues and returned to him and his loaner not returned, Elhindawi came to repossess the vehicle. 

“For somebody to do this to a loving person who was doing a favor who was helping them out who was going above and beyond to help them out,” said Damien Espinoza, an employee at the dealership. “Give them a car when they needed a car. For them to do this to him, it’s senseless,”  

Elhindawi remains in critical condition. 

Read more at: https://www.star-telegram.com/news/

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