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Steep and narrow island road requires careful maneuvering for recovery.
Despite further legalization of marijuana, towers are advised to stay away.
Mountain logo symbolizes quest for success
Las Vegas, NV.
April 30-May 2, 2024
Fort Worth, TX.
June 20-22, 2024
Fort Worth, TX.
June 20-22, 2024
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Nov. 21-23, 2024
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in Towing May 29 - June 04, 2024

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?

American Towman Today - May 29, 2024
American Towman Today - May 29, 2024
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Tennessee Reforms Booting Laws

Published: Wednesday, May 29, 2024

In Tennessee, a $75 cap on how much a company can charge for removing a boot from a vehicle will go into place July 1.  

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed House Bill 1731 into law Tuesday that prohibits booting unless an individual is licensed through a local government. To boot a car in a commercial parking lot, a licensed parking attendant must be present, identifiable as an employee and available to remove the boot within 45 minutes of a driver’s call.

Vehicle owners must be properly notified if their vehicle is being towed, sold or demolished by a towing company and, if the towing process has begun but the vehicle hasn’t left the parking area, the bill requires towing companies to release vehicles to the owner for a fee of no more than $100.


Memorial Day Tribute Truck Honors Veterans from American Wars

Published: Monday, May 27, 2024

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By George L. Nitti

On Memorial Day, it’s most fitting to give tribute to the men and women who died serving our country.

Bee-line Transport, Inc., of Lynchburg, Virginia, in the vein of an earlier tribute wrecker dedicated to first responders and the military, pays homage to Memorial Day with their 2020 T880 Kenworth with a 40-ton NRC wrecker, which paints a rich tapestry of scenes that includes veterans, monuments, family members and other symbology dedicated to this solemn cause.

Marketing Director Leah Jones, daughter of Bee-lines Kevin Jones, said, “This truck focuses on all veterans who have fallen in the line of service.”

Serving as a mural on wheels, a montage of images on both sides of the wrecker captures poignant scenes honoring their lives.

Jones said, “There is a lot going on. Every time you look at it you notice something else going on.”  

It’s not important where you start, because before you know it you are enmeshed in these stories that span generations of American Wars.

For the Jones family, having two service members enshrined on the truck is a source of great pride.

Jones said, “On the passenger side above the rear wheels, you will see the images of my Dad’s dad and my Mom’s dad, who both served in the 2nd World War.”

Close to them is Lynchburg’s Monument Terrace, a memorial giving tribute to Lynchburg’s fallen spanning different wars.

“Each landing pays tribute to a different war,” said Jones.

Also on the passenger side, moving towards the sliding wrecker's center, other key images include a regiment of soldiers transporting the casket of a fallen soldier, a battalion of D-Day soldiers sitting together in front of the National V-Day Monument, and 3 soldiers fighting in Vietnam, where more than 58,000 were lost. Enhancing this imagery are symbols like the American stars and bursting poppy flowers that line the bottom perimeter of the rotator.

Jones said, “I love the flowers. It’s one of my favorite details. Poppy flowers are a symbol of veterans. It was designed by Brooke Hill. She pulled the inspiration from her father.”

On the other side, a marine dressed in formal uniform, is folding a flag, and next to him is a military man playing taps with Arlington Cemetery the backdrop. Yes the eye keeps moving, across the body of the wrecker, sometimes resting on wording found on the unit, such as  “20 Veterans die each day of suicide. Over 30,000 veterans have died of suicide since 2001" or the 14,000 Prisoners of War who also gave their life.. 

A tribute like none other, this unit stands out to majestically honor the men and women who served and died giving to the cause of freedom.

Did you say Cybertruck?! Tesla teams up to train tow pros at American Towman ShowPlace Las Vegas2024
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May 29 - June 04, 2024
TRAA members met with the FTC to discuss "Junk Fees" Rule

TRAA Meets with FTC over "Junk Fees" Rule

Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Bill Johnson, TRAA President, and Cynthia Martineau, TRAA Executive Director, with members of their lobbying team and legal counsel, held the first of multiple meetings directly with the FTC.  

During the meeting, TRAA reiterated their policy concerns on the proposed “Junk Fees” Rule which suggests that “predatory towing practices” be added to the final rule. TRAA is against that rule, asserting that Congress already gave statutory authority to DOT and the states to regulate towing, not the FTC.  

TRAA continues to deliver this message to various audiences involved in the FTC’s rulemaking, as well as the FTC itself. During the meeting, TRAA reiterated the policy concerns noted in a February letter to the FMCSA regarding their position against the rule.  

TRAA writes in their newsletter: "We have been continually engaging a bipartisan group of Members of Congress on the issue. Towing is a bipartisan issue, and with a Democratic Administration drafting the rule, the optimal way to ensure the best possible outcome for the industry is engaging Members of both parties.” 

Source: Press Release TRAA 

Chattanooga Tow Companies Put to Test Over Pricing  

Published: Friday, May 24, 2024

In Chattanooga, where a tow ordinance regulates what tow companies can charge if they are on police rotation, the same does not apply to companies that are not on that rotation. That issue has become the subject of resident complaints who have come before a wrecker board inquiring about disparate pricing.

"If a tow company is on our ordinance, that regulation absolutely pertains to them. If they're not on that tow rotation, we don't have any authority over that," Sgt. Jason Wood with Chattanooga Police says. 

Because of that, there is cap on how much towing companies, like American Tow, which is on the city rotation can charge. But there is no cap for Chattanooga Impound, which is not on the rotation and tows from private lots like apartment complexes and retail stores, even if  Chattonooga Impound subcontracts the work to American Tow. 

"I've been told by community members and other folks that if Chattanooga Impound is towing a vehicle, American Tow has been used to come get those vehicles," Sgt. Wood says. 

Shannon Yates with Doug Yates Towing says... 

"I could open up XYZ towing and subcontract to Doug Yates, and I could charge whatever I want based on what y'all are selling me and there's nothing you can do to me. So that's what this towing company is doing." 

But Aaron Black with American Tow tells us the two companies are not affiliated. He says they don't share equipment or lots and he follows the rules. 

The Chattanooga Impound Operations Manager Larry Bailey says they set their prices based on time, type of equipment being used, and what they deem to be ethical. 

"With the price of diesel and overhead and, you know, a $100,000 Tow Truck and $5,000 a month insurance, it's a lot of money to run a company like this. 

But complaints continue to come in about possible overcharging, like from truck drivers like David Bagley who says... 

"How they came up with a $2,000 fee. I don't have a clue. 

Any changes to city ordinances would have to come through city council. Chris Anderson, their Senior Advisor for Legislative Initiatives saying... 

“There are multiple levels of local, state and federal regulations regarding the towing industry. We are working to find a solution that passes muster under federal law but protects Chattanoogans from unfair practices. We will have an announcement about new legislation in the coming weeks."


Golf Event Raises $10,000 for Survivor's Fund

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2024

Miller Industries and Marietta Wrecker Service teamed up to donate $10,000 to the Survivor's Fund.

Miller Industries Towing Equipment Inc. announced the winner of the Survivor Fund Golf Classic “Closest to Pin” contest prize. This year’s Closest to Pin winner is Josh Bequette from US Fleet Tracking. What is special about this year’s prize is that Miller Industries and Marietta Wrecker Service have teamed up to donate $5,000 to the Survivor Fund in the winner’s (Mr. Bequette’s) name.

Miller Industries has always been a large supporter of the Survivor Fund and the annual Golf Classic, which is held in Orlando, FL. The Survivor Fund helps provide funding to the surviving families of tow operators that have fallen in the line of duty, and the annual golf event helps raise money for the fund. This year Miller Industries sponsored the Closest to Pin contest with a prize of $5,000 to be donated to the Survivor Fund on behalf of the winner. When Steve Welchel of Marietta Wrecker Service in Marietta, GA heard about this he knew they could help even more.

The Welchel family and Marietta Wrecker Service have also been longtime supporters of the Survivor Fund. “We wanted to help, so I asked Miller Industries if we could match their donation and help provide greater funding for the families of those lost in tragedy to the towing and recovery industry. The money raised goes a long way to help families cover unforeseen costs as they deal with their loss”- Steve Welchel. Their matching sponsorship brought the donation total up to $10,000 for the Survivor Fund. Miller Industries and Marietta Wrecker Service extend their heartfelt appreciation to all those that participated in and supported the annual Survivor Fund Golf Classic.

Press Release Miller's Industry

Minnesota to Cease Towing for Parking Tickets

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Minnesota lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor of eliminating towing vehicles with unpaid parking tickets. Under previous state law, towing authorities could only tow vehicles from expired parking meters if the vehicle had five or more unpaid parking tickets.  

The statute still allows vehicles to be towed for violating snow emergency regulations, blocking driveways or fire hydrants and parking in otherwise restricted areas. But eliminating collecting debt from parking tickets as a basis for towing a vehicle aims to prevent burdening people by imposing even more debt in the form of impound fees to retrieve their vehicles said Rep. Erin Koegel who authored the legislation. 

“When parking tickets result in the loss of a vehicle, it has immediate and negative economic outcomes that can result in job loss, and disruptions to child care and education,” she said. “So many people in Minnesota use cars to commute to work, and 30% of households in Minnesota only have one vehicle, so how could we expect people to pay back their fines when we’re taking away their way to work.” 

Jenny Catchings, state policy manager for Justice Action Network, said it can cost a vehicle owner around $640 to retrieve their vehicle from an impound lot, which includes the previous parking debt and new fees incurred by the tow. In addition to how costly towing for debt collection is for lower-income residents, Catchings said the practice is ineffective as well. Catchings pointed to an audit conducted by the city of San Diego that found the city was losing about $1.5 million towing vehicles and housing them at impound lots, and 27% of vehicles were never recovered.  

“A lot of the vehicles go unrecovered, which means that people who were already struggling with paying their parking tickets now lost their vehicle,” she said. “If something’s ineffective and it hurts people then it shouldn’t be a practice, and the state has so many other ways of holding drivers accountable.” 


Repo Industry Organizes on Capitol Hill 

Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2024

In May, led by the American Recovery Association (ARA) and lobbyist Van Scoyoc Associates, representatives from the industry met with Members of Congress, staffers and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to discuss issues the recovery industry is facing.  

The discussions centered around lender indemnification, the consolidation of power in the auto finance industry, and the roles brokers and forwarders play in the industry – specifically how agents aren’t paid unless they repossess a vehicle and how this is to the detriment to the repossession industry.  

This is the first time representatives of the recovery industry have met with Congress in person to bring attention to these issues that concern repo agents. In attendance were ARA President Vaughn Clemmons and Immediate Past President Dave Kennedy, ARA Vice President and CALR President Marcelle Egley, Texas ARP President Stephanie Findley, Harding Brooks Insurance Vice President Mike Peplinski, and Recovery Agency Owner and ARA member Richard Grosvenor. 


Memorial Day Travel Expected to Eclipse Previous Years

Published: Monday, May 20, 2024

AAA projects 43.8 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the Memorial Day holiday travel period in 2024. This year’s total number of travelers is a 4% increase over last year and comes close to matching 2005’s record of 44 million Memorial Day travelers.  

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “We’re projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we’re exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead.”   

AAA projects 38.4 million people will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, the highest number for that holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000. The number of drivers this year is up 4% compared to last year and 1.9% higher than in 2019.  

This Memorial Day weekend drivers can expect similar gas prices as last year when the national average was roughly $3.57.    


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May 29 - June 04, 2024

Rollback Recovery in a Steep, Tight Space

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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By George L. Nitti

On the island of St. John, one of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, some of the narrow roads and tight spaces can get motorists in trouble, requiring the assistance of one of St. John’s local tow companies. 

Dwight Smith, owner of Dwight’s Towing, has been in business on the island for 15 years, running his tow operation out of his flatbed. 

“On a good day, I do five or six tows a day,” he said. 

His truck is versatile, a Ford F550 with a 99’ Jerr Dan 19’ aluminum bed. He said it was purchased from ebay from a seller from Baltimore, sent down by a shipper to Fort Everglades, Florida, where it was then shipped over to the island.  

One fairly recent recovery involved a challenging scenario for any tower – handling a rolled over Lincoln SUV situated on a steep, narrow hill. 

“I got the call the night before, but the police officer on scene advised that it was dangerous to go up there at night.” 

The following morning, Dwight got in touch with the vehicle’s owner to do the job.  

“The guy was going up the hill and he didn’t have a lot of gas in his car. So the vehicle stalled, the car rolled back, hit a rock on the side and flipped over. It landed in the middle of the road. Lucky for him that he didn’t go over the side.” 

Since the vehicle was about a half mile up the narrow road, a logistic consideration for Dwight was how he was going to get his unit in position to recover the vehicle. He realized that his only option was to back up his bed up the steep hill, yet keeping in mind the dangers involved. 

“On that same hill there is an excavator down in the bush that got away and also one of those big concrete trucks. Both of them still down in the bush.” 

Putting his unit in 4-wheel drive in low gear, Dwight let his truck do the work, walking it up the hill at about 5 miles an hour and taking approximately 15 minutes to get to the casualty. 

Then he proceeded to hook the casualty by the frame, dragging it on its side up onto his flatbed, noting that there was no other way to maneuver or turn the vehicle over and that even if he could turn it over, the wheels would not have landed on the roadside.  

He said, “When I go to the scene of a recovery, I always keep an open mind and figure out a way that I’m not going to create damage to a vehicle. In this case, the SUV already had damage and I wasn’t worried that I was going to do much more damage to it.” 

Another recent recovery was an SUV that went over the side of a wall, landing in the bush, about 20 feet down. 

“In that case, I have no other choice but to hook it up and pull it out. You have to use whatever resources you have to get the job done. Sometimes it takes a little longer.  A flatbed on a small island is critical to one’s success as a tower. Although a rotator in some situations might be preferable, like lifing a rav 4 out of the bush, its just not practical to bring that kind of equipment on this island.” 

On island Dwight it well respected. 

He said, “A hundred percent of the time that people call me, they know I am going to treat them fairly. I’m not going to overcharge. It’s about treating people right and getting their respect. The word gets out and people just pass it on.” 

Rough and Ready Off-Road Recovery

Published: Wednesday, May 08, 2024

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By George L. Nitti

It’s been an off-road credo to never leave anyone behind. So says off-roading enthusiast and off-road recovery specialist Eric Huttner of Wisconsin's BSF Recovery.

Eric is a member of a popular off-roading club called the Minnesota Go-4 Wheelers, where he participates in an annual Memorial Day off-roading event at a sprawling nine-mile park in Wisconsin.

Called the Total Off-Road Rally, the 53-year-old, four-day event brings together approximately a thousand rigs and between 1500 to 3000 4-wheel enthusiasts who drive on a course that’s filled with obstacles. The tough terrain includes sand and rock hills; mud and clay; trees and rocks where competitions, monster trucks, trail riding, off-road racing, and comraderie converge.

Inevitably a truck or two goes down. Eric said, “When there is a break down, traffic can back up for hours. So a couple of years ago, some club members decided to build off-road recovery trucks to get those broken rigs out of there so we could keep traffic moving.”

To clear the trails of broken rigs, Eric uses a 1988 Chevrolet 1-ton K30, 4 by 4. On the back, he’s got an old Nomar wrecker box with an 8-inch suspension lift, 37-inch surplus holmby tires, dual wheels in the back, lockers in the rear and front, and hydraulics that include the boom, winch and assist steering.

At the event, Eric was summoned to recover a 1-ton Dodge Dakota with a Dodge Ram frame that was stuck on a rock. Eric said, “He bounced a little too hard, busting the distributor cap. He couldn’t run anymore and it needed to be picked up with a wrecker.”

Once Eric carefully navigated his way to the casualty, he attached the Dodge’s front end to the wrecker’s sling and boom. There he winched it up over a big rock. But getting there and rigging the truck is only half the battle, especially along tricky terrain that requires careful navigation. This recovery was done under wet conditions, the wrecker sliding in the mud before it could find what Eric calls the “the sweet spot.”

He said, “In the off-road world, the sweet spot is where you get some traction.”

Slowly moving it off the road, he had to turn along a hill, and got into a little trouble, as he was on the verge of rolling over. Eric said, “The front end was really light in the air.”

But quitting is not an option, despite the conditions or difficulties, including his own wrecker troubles, like working with a leaky brake line, as in this case, or a flat tire.

“We don’t give up. We don’t leave anyone in the woods.”

Eric’s good Samaritan work you might call paying it forward.

He said, “Always help anyone that needs help because you never know when you’ll need it.”

For more of Eric’s recoveries, visit BSF Recovery on their YouTube Channel.

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; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!


Water Recovery Helps Crack 42 Year Missing Persons Case 

Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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By George L. Nitti

In February, Woolard’s Automotive & Towing of Washington, N.C., was requested to recover a vehicle that was later discovered to be a part of a 42-year-old missing persons case involving 3 men who had disappeared after leaving a bar. 

The investigator who discovered the vehicle had rigged a boogie board with sonar and did a scan on Jake’s Creek.  

Owner Mike Woolard said, “A guy contacted one of our local dive team members, Scotty Rose Jr, with information he had gathered on possible whereabouts of this vehicle. He is a person who does cold case searches that are near water, or so I was told.” 

The Divers found what appeared to be a "Chevrolet car" in approximately 12 to 14 feet of water, triggering Woolard’s to bring their 2023 Kenworth W900/Jerr-Dan 50/60 Rotator to assist with trying to remove it.  

After initially hooking up to the deteriorated drive shaft, according to Woolard, “the dive team discovered bones, leading to a decision to dredge the entire creek, encompassing nearly 3.5 gallons of water.” 

The plan was to damn up with a temporary bulkhead the opening that flowed into the Pamilco River and then pump the creek out. Woolard’s was instrumental in the dredging process, using their rotator and another wrecker to connect winch line and pump water from the creek.  

“The Jerr-Dan Rotator and light duty wrecker were used to clothesline the pump hoses to prevent them from laying on the bottom and sucking dirt,” said Woolard.  

At one point, Woolard’s discovered more water flowing back into the creek. 

Woolard said, “The pumps were making great headway until around 3:30 a.m., when one corner bulkhead sheet gave in as the water from the river ate its way around the corner.” 

After a construction team resolved the problem, a majority of the pond was successfully pumped dry and a forensic team and SBI personnel did a walking search for car parts and human remains. Once the car was cleared, Woolard’s went in to rig the car for lifting. 

Woolard said, “We all hoped that what we hooked to was still structurally strong enough to handle the pull and lift. Up it came as everyone held their breath. I brought it over the rail and under powerlines to swing around, then set it down on the back of our rollback. This was a great sigh of relief to everyone involved.” 

A 36 hour plus marathon (plus clean up the next day) finally culminated. “There were times I myself was becoming doubtful that we actually were going to pull this off but family members were there all-daywatching everyone involved and praying for closure. So no matter what was needed, we were going to do everything possible to make sure we succeeded.” 

May 29 - June 04, 2024

Just Say No - Marijuana and the Tower

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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By Brian J Riker

With some form of Cannabis or its derivative products being legal, or at least decriminalized, in all but 6 States, and with the Biden Administration announcing they plan to make history by moving Marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III, it is time to revisit what marijuana use means for the towing industry.

First of all, it remains illegal to use for any commercial driver, including non-cdl drivers. Just because the US DOT does not require a random drug test for non-cdl drivers does not mean you can use any substances that have any trace of THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. 49 CFR Part 390.5 defines a commercial motor vehicle as any vehicle used in interstate commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds, which includes most tow trucks and support vehicles.  Further, 49 CFR 392.4 is very direct in prohibiting any illegal drug use, especially Schedule I substances, and is applicable to anyone that operates a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce.

Keep in mind that although the regulations cited above are Federal rules applicable to interstate operation of commercial vehicles, most states adopt these same Federal regulations as State law, meaning even if you do not engage in interstate commerce you are still likely subject to the same driver qualification standards.

Additionally, all CDL drivers, including owner operators and casual drivers, must submit to US DOT regulated drug and alcohol testing. This testing includes pre-employment, random, post-accident and return to duty screenings. At least 50% of an employers qualified pool of CDL drivers (or consortium members) must be randomly tested for drugs and 10% for alcohol use each year.

It is imperative to remember that under Federal rules Marijuana, and other derivatives containing more than 0.3% THC, are still classified as a Schedule I drug which makes possession and use illegal for anyone performing safety sensitive transportation functions such as driving of commercial motor vehicles. This includes CBD oils and prescription usage.

While the Biden Administration’s push to move marijuana to Schedule III will help many users avoid legal punishment, it is important to note that Schedule III drugs still require a prescription and a qualified medical professional to sign off on them not causing any impairment that would affect operation of a commercial motor vehicle. Failure to have a qualified medical professional sign off on the use of any scheduled substance will result in the revocation of your DOT medical certificate, making you medically disqualified from operating any commercial vehicle.

This will keep the over the counter items like gummies and creams off limits to truckers, and it will be unlikely that many medical examiners will sign off on the no impairment provision even though recent studies have shown that experienced users of marijuana show little to no measured impairment when operating a motor vehicle according to a joint 2022 study released by the University of Arkansas, Iowa State University and the University of Tennessee. This report does not intend to imply that use of marijuana is safe while driving, especially a large commercial truck, however it does conclude that users of marijuana tend to overcompensate and slow down or increase following distance when using, therefore making them less likely to be involved in a crash.

Speaking of over-the-counter items, please keep in mind that currently there are no Federal regulations on how they are tested, only that they must show proof of at least one batch having less than 0.03% THC, which happens to be the same level that could result in a positive DOT drug test. Ask yourself, are you willing to stake your career on the accuracy of manufacturing in an unregulated industry? Unfortunately, many drivers do, then when they return a positive test result and are forced off the road, they are shocked.

For CDL holders this is especially important given that the next phase of the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse regulation is set to take effect in November 2024, with states being required to revoke the CDL license privileges of any driver that has not completed the return to duty process and has a positive drug or alcohol test in the Clearinghouse. This means you will lose your license if you test positive.

To recap, even though the drug testing regulations only apply to drivers required to have a CDL, that does not mean the FMCSA turns a blind eye to drug or alcohol use by drivers of non-CDL trucks. It is still a violation of Federal regulations to use illegal substances even when testing is not required. Further, should a CDL driver have a positive test result reported, they will be immediately prohibited from operating any commercial motor vehicle, including non-CDL trucks. This means that you can’t do any commercial driving at all until you have completed the return to duty process.

Bottom line, with the full implementation of the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Testing Clearinghouse regulations, the push for hair testing in place of urine testing for CDL drivers, and the social acceptance of marijuana use in the United States, a tower needs to be more careful than ever before to keep themselves employable. Even if you have an understanding employer, or are self-employed, the insurance companies are not looking favorably upon positive drug testing results which could make you uninsurable for doing something that may not even be illegal in your state.

Stranded and Left to Die?

Published: Thursday, May 16, 2024

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By Randall C. Resch

Through tears and sobs, Terry Sandage, father of 29-year-old Debbie Miranda, a resident of Jefferson, New Jersey, made a gut-wrenching plea to the New Jersey’s Garden State Towing Association. His hope was to change the manner business is conducted when motorists are stranded on the highway and have no money to pay for roadside services.

In 1994, Miss Miranda experienced a flat tire driving on a Jersey highway. Because she couldn’t pay $40 for services, the tow operator allegedly left her stranded. Soon after, a good Samaritan stopped to help change the tire; however, Miss Miranda was struck and killed by a passing motorist. And, as it would happen, the tow industry would befall bad press made in a prime-time, emotionally charged statement where Mr. Sandage stated, “Because my daughter didn’t have $40, she was left to die.”

In a similar west-coast scenario, a husband and wife were broken down on a San Diego highway late at night and awaited a tow truck to take their disabled car off the highway. When the tow truck arrived, the couple advised they had no means to pay for the tow. The tower simply departed leaving the vehicle and the couple stranded. They remained with their vehicle hoping the highway patrol would happen by; however, in o-dark-thirty hours, a DUI driver plowed into their vehicle killing them both.

What’s the Solution?

These are horrific events that reflect the dangers and complications of not providing towing or on-scene services. I realize that “towers don’t work for free,” yet there has to be an obvious concern in leaving someone stranded. Especially true to the high costs of towing in today’s market, it’s a tough nut to swallow not getting paid. So, what can or what should towers do to provide an empathetic solution to simply leaving motorists stranded?

Towers are oftentimes the brunt and blame of wrongful injury and fatality scenarios. The plaintiff’s attorney will likely argue that a “Special Relationship” was created. Once the tow truck arrives on-scene, it may be asked, “Did the actions of the tow operator cause the motorist to be injured?”

Because “special relationships” are extremely difficult to define and defend, I’ll make no attempt to practice law, but bring focus to what towers are up against should they leave a stranded motorist to fend for themselves.

Drivers are certain to get caught in “that moral crossfire” of choosing to leave or provide a free tow when they’re not collecting monies for providing services. In the case of Miss Miranda being killed, the question was raised whether “money was the issue” and not that of protecting someone’s life. Here are seven potential solutions when the inability to pay is immediate:

-- Drivers contact dispatch and have a manager or supervisor determine what to do
-- Contact the highway patrol and remain on-scene until they arrive
-- Offer a free “Safety Tow” off the highway, or conduct the service for free
-- During prime-time hours, request a freeway service patrol or other motorist assist program to respond
-- Why not offer first, situate them into the tow truck with their seatbelt’s on, load the vehicle, then deliver it to a repair shop or service center
-- Ask the shop’s service manager to pay the tow and put it on the motorist’s repair bill, or
-- Take them to an ATM where there’s access to money

While not getting paid is the “operational description” of this narrative, it makes sense to provide a free, “Safety Tow” perhaps to save the lives of stranded motorists. Providing a free Safety Tow (or provide service) certainly promotes “good will” versus having to defend a multi-million-dollar, wrongful death lawsuit, or being named as an “uncaring tow company” during prime-time news. 

Offering free service or Safety Tow off the highway is a compassionate thing to do. What if it were your family member who didn’t have funds for service? How would you want the tow company to react? While it’s every tow company’s right to refuse service, it’s important to understand the dangers and legal ramifications that exist when making the choice to leave behind the motorist who can’t pay.       

Colleague Not Competitor

Published: Wednesday, May 08, 2024

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By Brian J Riker

Competition is healthy, no doubt about it, but it doesn’t need to always be confrontational or adversarial. Many industries enjoy healthy competition while fostering a spirit of friendly cooperation and growth. Towing doesn’t have to be different, we too can enjoy this spirit of cooperation.

Returning home from the 2024 American Towman ShowPlace-Las Vegas, I am inspired by the spirit of cooperation I witnessed during the show, both on the floor and after hours as towers from across the country broke bread and shared ideas freely.

Why does the spirit have to end once the show ends? I have long supported professional competition, meaning my competitors are just as dedicated to safety, compliance, innovation and training as I am. When I can compete against a peer the playing field is level and success depends upon being able to leverage my unique strengths or my ability to cast a vision that places my company ahead of the others. I don’t want to compete against the uneducated, unskilled, and dangerous operators. There is no legitimate way to compete with them and I refuse to bring myself down to their level.

If we look at doctors, lawyers and even our nemesis, insurance companies, they all have strong professional camaraderie, share best practices, and help elevate each other. Even the larger trucking companies share best practices and cooperate well, all while competing for limited freight to move and a dwindling pool of drivers. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Working to develop industry accepted, voluntarily adopted, standards is an important step towards our industry being recognized as true professionals. Let’s face it, we are under attack on many fronts, including our billing practices and how we complete jobs, among many other things. Without standards we do not stand a chance, and if we don’t work towards developing these ourselves then outside forces will, and we will not like them, that I can guarantee!

This all ties into developing a means to fight back against outside parties that do not have our best interests at heart. They view us as a necessary evil that they are looking to contain as much as possible. This is plainly evident with the recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “junk fees” proposed rule, and how the Agency charged with oversight of our industry couldn’t give away that authority quickly enough to another agency.

I was impressed with the amount of legislative information available at the show this year, especially the legislative update provided by CTTA and the NORSHC meeting, which was open to all attendees. They made it very clear that it is past time to develop our own industry standards to mitigate the damage that is already occurring. Great job to both organizations, but the work has only just begun, and as an industry we are behind and need to catch up fast.

Sadly, this will never happen without major industry buy-in and cooperation. I know this as a fact given my long history of working with the Towing and Recovery Association of America, which is the only national organization fighting for the interests of towers, yet membership is nowhere as robust by percentage of industry as are our enemies’ trade groups. The same can be said about many state associations, with most only capturing 10-15% of the total towers in their state as members, with even less as active members contributing anything beyond their annual dues.

Many have seen the emergence of new coalitions in the recent years as an attempt to knock down the “old guard,” meaning TRAA; however I do not believe that is the case, at least not anymore. I believe there is room for all of us to coexist, and working in the spirt of collaboration, we can be a powerful force in defense of the towing industry. I welcome the different viewpoints. Seeing things from another point of view can open a new line of attack. Just like the scene size-up at a wreck, having multiple eyes on a problem can lead to a better solution than just one person is able to provide.

I encourage towers of all size, and from all states, to join their state association, the national association and even one of these coalitions if you think it will help, and it will help. We need strength in numbers. Together our voices can rise from a whisper to a roar, and the legislators will have no choice but to listen.

My only concern is if the various organizations tackling the industry problems don’t open effective lines of communication between themselves, we may end up doing more harm than good. Even with differing opinions on some things, and different styles of leadership or operational guidelines, we all can still work together for the common good of the industry.

Just a few years ago TRAA joined forces with one of our most vocal opponents, OOIDA, in an effort to kill a few bills and regulations that would be detrimental not only to trucking, but the towing industry as well. Working in unison, when possible, helps build relationships and shows both sides we have fewer differences and more in common than we ever thought.

Those of you in states with more than one towing association, or where the towing association is part of the trucking association, should understand this better than most. Having an inconsistent message with the lawmakers and regulators often results in nothing being accomplished despite strong efforts from both sides.

So, what say you, my fellow towers? Can we have unity, even with our differences, and grow our industry or are we going to watch it all go down in flames because of ego and misunderstandings? I chose unity.

May 29 - June 04, 2024

Memorial Day Tribute Truck Honors Veterans from American Wars

Published: Monday, May 27, 2024

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By George L. Nitti

On Memorial Day, it’s most fitting to give tribute to the men and women who died serving our country.

Bee-line Transport, Inc., of Lynchburg, Virginia, in the vein of an earlier tribute wrecker dedicated to first responders and the military, pays homage to Memorial Day with their 2020 T880 Kenworth with a 40-ton NRC wrecker, which paints a rich tapestry of scenes that includes veterans, monuments, family members and other symbology dedicated to this solemn cause.

Marketing Director Leah Jones, daughter of Bee-lines Kevin Jones, said, “This truck focuses on all veterans who have fallen in the line of service.”

Serving as a mural on wheels, a montage of images on both sides of the wrecker captures poignant scenes honoring their lives.

Jones said, “There is a lot going on. Every time you look at it you notice something else going on.”  

It’s not important where you start, because before you know it you are enmeshed in these stories that span generations of American Wars.

For the Jones family, having two service members enshrined on the truck is a source of great pride.

Jones said, “On the passenger side above the rear wheels, you will see the images of my Dad’s dad and my Mom’s dad, who both served in the 2nd World War.”

Close to them is Lynchburg’s Monument Terrace, a memorial giving tribute to Lynchburg’s fallen spanning different wars.

“Each landing pays tribute to a different war,” said Jones.

Also on the passenger side, moving towards the sliding wrecker's center, other key images include a regiment of soldiers transporting the casket of a fallen soldier, a battalion of D-Day soldiers sitting together in front of the National V-Day Monument, and 3 soldiers fighting in Vietnam, where more than 58,000 were lost. Enhancing this imagery are symbols like the American stars and bursting poppy flowers that line the bottom perimeter of the rotator.

Jones said, “I love the flowers. It’s one of my favorite details. Poppy flowers are a symbol of veterans. It was designed by Brooke Hill. She pulled the inspiration from her father.”

On the other side, a marine dressed in formal uniform, is folding a flag, and next to him is a military man playing taps with Arlington Cemetery the backdrop. Yes the eye keeps moving, across the body of the wrecker, sometimes resting on wording found on the unit, such as  “20 Veterans die each day of suicide. Over 30,000 veterans have died of suicide since 2001" or the 14,000 Prisoners of War who also gave their life.. 

A tribute like none other, this unit stands out to majestically honor the men and women who served and died giving to the cause of freedom.

Climbing Higher, Powered by Family

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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By George L. Nitti

A good logo and slogan are critical parts of the mix of elements that comprise company graphics and promote customer interest and loyalty. In Southern Florida, where Alpine Towing resides with seven locations, one might wonder why a company would embrace a name suggesting the mountains, when they tow mainly on the Florida plain. 

However, Larry J. Saravia, owner of Alpine Towing Inc, whose fleet has exceeded 60 trucks, attributes his mountain logo to company success, a symbol for what he saw himself becoming as a tow boss.  

Saravia recounts first starting out in the business, stating, “When we started out, those were the years of the yellow pages. We wanted our company to be found under the letter A. I struggled coming up with something and just as I was about to quit, Alpine popped into my head. The designer told me ‘Alpine means one of the tallest mountains.’ I said ‘That’s great man. Cause that’s what I want to be. Big!” 

Over the years, staying consistent with that image, Alpine has continued to showcase its logo on their sharp looking tow trucks. 

“When people see the mountains, they know it’s Alpine,” said Saravia. 

The huge fleet included a recent line of new 2023 Hino 21 foot with Jerr Dan rollbacks that were wrapped by Razor Wrap Designs of Fredericksburg, Virginia, drawing on the skills of artist Mark Long, who has done numerous designs for the towing industry. 

Saravia said, “I take my trucks from Miami to Virginia to get them wrapped. They do a phenomenal job from the material they use, to the way they wrap and the extra things they do without us asking. They do things and don’t tell you this is going to be extra. They just do it.” 

Also found on the trucks are green swirling stripes against a black background. The combined imagery causes people to turn their heads, stare at the truck and take pictures of it, according to Saravia.  

Also important for Saravia is that his tow operators have trucks they are proud to drive. 

“I know what a driver needs and what a driver wants and I know how a driver feels.” 

At the same time, his drivers are expected to keep their units clean and carry a shirt inside the truck to wipe down the insides. 

Also critical to this company’s fortune is their catchy slogan - “Powered by Family.” 

Saravia said, “I followed in my grandfather’s footsteps, who had a lot of businesses. He had a lot of integrity and taught me to be transparent with customers and to give 100%, no matter the size. I’m a second generation tower and my son will be 3rd generation. If you are our customer, we treat you like family.  

The “Good Old Girl” 

Published: Wednesday, May 08, 2024

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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; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!

May 29 - June 04, 2024

Bi-Directional Pneumatic Air Hammer

Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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The AIRSTRIKE -  Bi-directional Air Tool. From fleet repairs to heavy equipment, its 3,000 blows per minute deliver maximum power. 

Durable, compact, and loaded with accessories, this is the ultimate pneumatic hammer and puller you need in your tool kit.  


Quickly pull stuck fuel injectors 

Remove diesel/gas NOx & particulate sensors 

Pull stubborn oil tubes & stuck oil seals 

Attach to locking pliers for popping stuck fasteners and more 

Loosen hydraulic fittings 

Remove stubborn nuts and bolts without thread galling 

Remove harmonic balancers 

Bust seams of spot welded bonded panels 

Hem narrow window flanges

View more details here: 


I-Tow App

Published: Monday, March 25, 2024 itowapp 95b03

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TowMate Unveils Groundbreaking Safety Lighting

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2024

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TowMate, a U.S. manufacturer of automotive lighting located in Rogers, Arkansas, launched two safety lighting products incorporating the patented HINVII technology: the SS470UVA and the TM-LS-UVA.

According to a TowMate press release: “These products are a game-changer in enhancing the visibility and safety of roadside workers without compromising their field of vision.”

The SS470UVA UV light head is designed to dramatically increase the visibility of roadside workers' vests. This product employs the patented HINVII technology, emitting a non-visible light that causes workers' vests to glow intensely, ensuring they are unmistakably visible to passing motorists. While the vests appear brilliantly lit to drivers, the light itself is non-distracting and non-visible to the workers, allowing them to focus on their tasks without any impairment to their field of vision. The light head also features amber LED’s that can be set to alternate with the HINVII LED’s for greater visibility in varying conditions.

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Complementing the SS470UVA, the TM-LS-UVA is a rechargeable, traffic-cone mounted system. It not only features the innovative SS470UVA light head but also is reachargeable and portable, ensuring the benefits of worker visibility can be realized where they are needed and not just limited to around the truck. The HINVII light capability ensures maximum visibility in various lighting conditions and traffic scenarios, making it an indispensable tool for roadside safety.

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These products come with a lifetime warranty on electronics and LEDs.For more information about the SS470UVA and TM-LS-UVA, please visit or contact your local dealer.

May 29 - June 04, 2024
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May 29 - June 04, 2024

Auto Loan Delinquency Continues to Rise  

Published: Wednesday, May 01, 2024

A study by attorneys at Thompson Consumer Law Group analyzed 2022 and 2023 auto loan data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to see which states had the highest percentage of auto loan balances delinquent for more than 90 days. Their results showed it’s not only a problem everywhere but it’s increasing. 

Between 2022 and 2023, the percentage of auto loan balances over 90 days delinquent in America increased from 3.81% to 4.2%, and every state experienced an increase.  

The study showed these states with the highest percentage of auto loan balances delinquent: 

Mississippi: 6.77; Alabama: 6.05%; Georgia: 5.71% Louisiana: 5.69%; Indiana: 5.29%; Hawaii: 5.24%; Michigan: 5.24%; Delaware; 5.2%; South Carolina: 5.2%; North Carolina; 5.14%. 

A lending officer at Michigan First Credit Union says he sees delinquent payments steadily climbing.  

Jeff Fitrzyk, their chief lending officer, said, “We’re also seeing an increase in repossessions, both voluntary and involuntary,” he added, noting people are dealing with inflationary pressures that demand their immediate attention and one of the things that often falls behind are auto loans, which seem to be returning to their pre-COVID levels. 


Towman Murdered in Florida 

Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Towman Juan Garcia, 39, owner of JL Towing, was murdered late Wednesday, April 10, in what police authorities are investigating as a connected crime involving another woman who was carjacked and murdered as well.  

Garcia was killed at a house just before 10 p.m. Wednesday night. It was one day before Katherine Aguasvivas was kidnapped in a separate crime. At the house, Orange County deputies said more than 100 10 mm shell casings were found. WESH2’s Tony Atkins personally saw more than 80 markers from just outside the house and crime scene. 

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said the green Acura seen in the kidnapping video showing was the same vehicle Garcia and his company towed from an Orange County apartment complex at some point last month. 

Lemma also said rounds both in Garcia’s murder and where Aguasvivas’ body was found in Osceola County matched one another. 

“At the scene, there are more than 100 rounds, but a good percentage of those rounds on the ground are 10 mm, the gun used in the murder of our victim that we found burnt up in the vehicle in Osceola county,” Lemma said. 

At last check, the suspect or suspects in the Taft shooting are still on the run. 


Florida Repo Driver Shot During Repossession 

Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Last Thursday, a repo driver in Port St. Lucie was allegedly shot six times after trying to repossess a vehicle. 

The agent, 28-year-old Tristan Hastings, attempted to repossess a vehicle where he encountered 59-year-old Omar Sueque. 

As can be seen on video, Sueque placed himself between his car and the tow truck yelling, “Hey, get out, this is private property,” and “I have cameras here.” Undaunted, Hastings can be seen ignoring the borrower and edging his truck further back toward the car. 

Infuriated, Sueque can be seen charging up to the truck and punching Hastings through the open truck window. Equally outraged, Hastings leapt from his truck and chased after Sueque. 

Repossessions Inc. owner Bill Kelly watched the video and said that he was surprised that the tow truck driver followed Sueque. 

“What did he get out of the car for and chase the guy? He should have just continued with what he was doing and left,” Kelly told them. “I’ve had people, a pregnant woman, lay down between the car and the tow truck. Obviously, you get out of Dodge, you don’t want to be involved in a situation like that.” 

Tre Smith of Off the Chain Towing and Recovery said that he cut his workday short Thursday after he heard about the shooting. 

“It’s a little too close to home,” Smith said. “I’m on my way to do the same thing, so can I make it back home?” 

” My heart goes out to him, and his family and we offer our condolences,” Smith said.

Decatur, Alabama Considering Banning Night Time Repos

Published: Tuesday, December 19, 2023 After two men were killed involving repossessions in Alabama, city leaders in Decatur are considering banning repossessions at night.

The first deadly incident occurred in September involving Stephen Perkins, who was shot and killed by police in Decatur after his car was subject to repossession. Three officers have been fired as a result of that deadly confrontation that took place in the presence of the repo driver.

Last Wednesday, tow owner Jason Click was shot and killed in Huntsville, Alabama during a night time repossession.

Both incidents are galvanizing change.

Billy Green, executive director of the Alabama Towing and Recovery Association, indicated that their organization may need to turn to lobbyists to advocate changes that will make repossessions safer.
He said, "We may need to look at the laws on the books and what protections there are for the repossessor."

State Senator Arthur Orr has been following Decatur's situation closely saying he's committed to finding a solution to prevent further tragedies.

"I think it's important that we do look at how we are doing the repossessions and if another state or municipality has a better or safer option out there that they have put in the code to improve the safety and de-escalate the potential for violence, that's something we need to look at."

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