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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in Towing March 22 - March 28, 2023

Don’t Park on the Train Tracks

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By Randall C. Resch

October 14, 2022, a College Station, Texas, flatbed carrier operator was on-scene at railroad tracks to tow a Ford pickup involved in a collision. With local police on-scene, the operator stretched-out his flatbed carrier and proceeded to load the damaged pickup atop the tracks when a freight train plowed the carrier broadside. Most likely, the train’s engineer didn’t get the message an “active recovery” was in-process. Was it possible the tower thought it was safe to park across the tracks, not expecting a train?

From video taken at scene, a uniformed police officer was standing at the crossing some 30 feet from the carrier next to the lowered arms of the rail crossing. Also, a police vehicle was parked, with its overhead red and blue emergency lights activated. In an instant, the train came into view. The operator jumped to safety from the carrier’s cab only seconds before his carrier was destroyed by the train.

Something tells me this crash may have been the result of no inter-agency communications or no communications between police and the rail company. While this was a scary occurrence, the damaged vehicle could have been loaded with the carrier parked the opposite direction away from the tracks. 

Minimally, I’d ask four important questions:

--Were local police and rail dispatch contacted about the recovery?
--Did railroad police accept and confirm with local police that the train’s engineer was notified?
--Was the tow truck operator trained in working railroad right-of-ways and rail incidents?
--Why do tow operators continue to park atop the tracks, or drive and not away from rail associated dangers?

The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration states freight trains (nowadays) travel between 40-mph and 50-mph. For carriers parked atop railroad tracks with the deck set, it can’t get out of the train’s way from a parked position.

If this is a known fact that’s taught to the tow and recovery industry, why do towers position their wreckers and flatbed carriers across railroad tracks to perform tow and recovery activities? Why do some operators try and beat the train?

Ten-days prior to the aforementioned railway collision, a South Carolina tow operator was killed as he attempted to drive across train tracks there. Due to the dangers associated with rail crossings, another training session is highly recommended for tow companies to conduct in-house training that’s rail specific. Training should include dispatchers not sending new drivers but only those who are trained in-working on and near railroad right-of-ways.

An outline of safety training for professional truck drivers can be found at website, https://oli.org/sites/default/files/2019-09/OLI-DriverGuide-stayalive.pdf. This driver specific training contains a rail crossing “informational guide” to personnel in how-to locate and identify critical crossing information.



American Towman Today - March 24, 2023
American Towman Today - March 24, 2023
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First Responders Honor Fallen Georgia Towman, Toby Bowden 

Hundreds turned out to honor fallen Georgia towman Toby Bowden, on Thursday, March 22. The tow community came out in large numbers, driving in procession to honor Bowden. 

According to Donna Robards, owner of Twisted Hook LLC, Toby was scheduled to be married in September. “He was a Veteran, serving four years in the marines and came out and went to work as a tow operator,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking to realize how many tow ops and first responders we lose every year.” 

Bowden was assisting a Georgia State Patrol working an accident scene. He was in front of a fire truck that was being used to block the workers when a car driven by a drunk driver swerved around it, hitting a state patrol officer, and then hitting Bowden, killing him instantly.  

To see photos of the procession, visit the source.

Source: times-herald.com/



A long procession of tow trucks came out in honor of Georgia towman Toby Bowden. Photo credit: Clay Neely / The Newnan Times-Herald

Don’t Stack That Bill 

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By Randall C. Resch  

While perusing industry forums, I happened on a topic I’ve not focused on before and was inspired to write this narrative after reading one participant’s post that read, “Towing; because we’ some hungry MoFo’s! Because asking forgiveness isn’t easy to do, is it OK to gouge the motoring public for services not rendered?” 

Stacking charges has been a long-time issue in industries that provide services and products, especially when large scale events occur. For example, a southern California tow company worked as contract service provider for California’s Highway Patrol and a major motor club. As rotation provider, the company was dispatched to an on highway, multi-vehicle collision less than five-miles from the company’s facility. 

Having arrived on scene in a flatbed carrier, a CHP officer directed the tower to an unoccupied vehicle parked on the shoulder alongside a metal guardrail. The vehicle had slight damage to its front and rear bumpers (having been rear-ended).  

As part of the collision, the vehicle’s female driver was injured and transported to a local hospital. Because she was transported away from the scene, her vehicle was towed in-accordance to the CHP’s protocol and Vehicle Code Section 22651(g): “If a vehicle’s driver is injured or incapacitated, it shall be impounded and held for safe-keeping.” 

Load Em’ Up 

On instructions from the CHP officer to the operator, he advised that keys were in the ignition. The officer provided the tower CHP authorization for the tow. The tower signed and took custody of the vehicle and because the vehicle was still drivable, the tower loaded without effort onto the carrier and headed to the yard. 

Hours later, the injured motorist’s husband came to the tow facility to check on their vehicle. Identifying himself as one of the registered owners, his intent was to get the vehicle out of storage and have his insurance company for a second tow out.  

The tow company allegedly presented an itemized invoice that included plenty of made-up charges added to the bill. The company openly charged trumped up fees, alleging two trucks were on-scene, including two-drivers, additional labor and dollies.  

Without creating a scene, the vehicle’s owner attempted to negotiate a reduced price as he already knew the details of the crash. After a lengthy yet mildly heated discussion with the company’s owner, the owner unwillingly paid the tow bill and obtained a receipt showing details of what was charged.  

At the moment of release, the vehicles’ owner identified himself as an off-duty highway patrol officer only to advise the tow owner he was going to file a formal complaint with the department’s command. He also spoke to the CHP officer on-scene to determine the true facts surrounding the easy, load-and-go transport. The entire invoice was a total sham! 

I imagine the details of the complaint would challenge that no second tow truck and additional driver was on-scene, no labor was involved and no-dollies were necessary due to the flatbed transporting said vehicle. Note: The off-duty officer wasn’t pressing “color of authority” and gave the tow company many opportunities to make things right.  

Send Em’ To Jail 

In my book, the tow company knowingly and openly lied and charged fees for services not rendered. That’s untruthful, illegal and prosecutable. Long story short, the tow company was removed from rotation.  

Call it what you want, but is “stacking charges” just another way to gouge the motoring public? “Let’s see, clean deck fee, go get fuel fee, fire extinguisher fee, wash the truck fee, nighttime fee, two-way fuel surcharge, paper dollies and, oh yeah, don’t forget them’ hazard fees!”  

In the Grande’ scheme of things, it’s no wonder insurance companies, motor clubs, and (especially) the motoring public don’t trust tow companies.  

I’m not referring to law abiding, reasonable and professional tow companies; this narrative is written as a stern reminder to those who think gouging is the proper thing to do. Don’t do it!      

Bio: Operations Editor Randall C. Resch is a retired California police officer and veteran tow business owner, manager, consultant and trainer. For 51-years, he has been involved in the towing and recovery industry. In 26-years, he has contributed nearly 700-articles for American Towman Magazine and TowIndustryWeek.com. He was inducted to the International Towing and Recovery Industry Hall of Fame and was the 3rd recipient of the industry's "Dave Jones Leadership Award." Email Randy at rreschran@gmail.com

Rewind...and take step back in time as we feature 3 amazing Vintage Wreckers on Chevrolets racing to win top honors at USA Wrecker Pageant at TowXpo Texas
By Don Lomax
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March 22 - March 28, 2023
A new bill asserts that Nevada towing companies would not be able to tow non-registered cars from parking lots.

Towing Companies Opposed to Nevada Bill 

A new bill, considered a refinement on existing law, is being proposed in Nevada, Bill 303, that would restrict towing companies from taking non-registered cars from parking lots. The current law presumably allows that practice; however, towing companies must allow a 48 hour window before charging storage fees. 

A lobbyist for the Nevada State Tow Association said AB303 was far more than a refinement, expanding rules to all non-consent tows, not just apartment complexes. 

Tow companies are particularly opposed to AB303’s provisions to waive towing company fees when they would present a hardship. Those provisions would prevent fees from being assessed when the owner is unable to pay the normal rate charged “for reasons outside of his or her control if the owner provides evidence that he or she:

---Is receiving benefits provided by a federal or state program of public assistance 

---Has a household net income which is equal to or less than 200 percent of the federally designated level signifying poverty as provided in the most recent federal poverty guidelines published in the Federal Register by the United States Department of Health and Human Services 

---Resides in public housing, as that term is defined in NRS 315.021 

---Has expenses for the necessities of life that exceed his or her income 

These conditions, described by towing company representatives as the “hardship tariff discount,” take a significant chunk of the profit out of towing. 

Susan Zinser, owner of D & S Tow in Sparks, said the bill removes accountability. 

“If you can’t afford to register your car, that is a hardship. If you park on a fire hydrant or in a hospital loading zone, that’s not. Towing should be a deterrent to stop that behavior,” Zinser said. She called towing “the teeth” of accountability. 

Source: newsbreak.com

Florida Towman Found Running Illegal Towing Business 

A Florida man faces numerous criminal charges after police said he operated an illegal towing business and, along with an accomplice, stole parts from a car in a  parking lot. 

The incident involved Pedro Martin, which touched off an investigation after Martin was seen stealing parts from a car that he would eventually tow along with another man. Surveillance video captured the episode, implicating both men.  

Police later found that Martin’s tow truck business did not have the requisite markings, licensing or paperwork to legally operate. 

Both men faced charges of burglary and grand theft, while Martin faced additional charges of towing a vehicle without commercial markings, a third-degree felony, and failing to maintain or produce records regarding a towing business, a misdemeanor. 

He also faced multiple local ordinance violations. 

Source: local10.com/

Towing Companies Report Influx of Abandoned Vehicles 

Sioux City towing companies are recovering more abandoned vehicles throughout the city, particularly in the aftermath of winter. 

“Vehicles come to the yard for lots of various reasons. I mean some of them are towed for abandoned, some of them people are arrested, some of them the vehicles are in accidents,” said Jeff Day, manager of Meier Towing Inc. 

Weather also plays an important role on how many cars are towed a month. 

“There is a little bit addition to what we would normally have due to the towing of the vehicles that were plowed in and such over the winter,” said Day. 

At this time, Meier Towing has between 100 and 150 cars in their lot. 

“In a month we probably bring in vehicles that actually come into the yard I would say is probably in the neighborhood of like 70 to 80 vehicles. Then many of those you know get picked up for one reason or another,” said Day. 

After a motor vehicle is impounded, the owner has 30 days to claim their car. 

“Owners are notified and they got so long to pick it up, and if vehicles aren’t picked up then they go on the auction,” said Mousel. 

Once a car is impounded, it has between 45 to 60 days before it’s eligible to be auctioned off. 

“This is right up there with one of the larger sales that we’ve had. Usually we are holding six different auctions in a year, and we will usually sell somewhere between 30 to 50 vehicles every auction,” said Day.  

Source: siouxlandproud.com

AAA Reports Rise in Women Hired in Automotive Roles

According to AAA, more females are hired as tow truck drivers and car care techs than ever before, and women working in the industry are encouraging other women to join them. AAA Oklahoma has seen an increase of more than 20% in the number of women hired for car care and automotive repair, and a jump of more than 35% in the number of women hired for fleet operations including tow drivers. 

Jessica Mckenzie, who manages AAA Car Care, said, "When I first started, I did oil changes just in a local Walmart, and I started off with men. They didn't want me to touch their vehicle, they didn't want me to get under it, they wanted only a man to work on it." she said. "So I had to prove to people when I first started, I can do it. I know what I'm doing, and it is possible for a woman to do exactly what a man can do." 

Mckenzie has been working in the automotive industry for 13 years now, and says it is her passion, 

"Right after high school, I went straight into Walmart and I became a manager over their automotive area because that's where I wanted to be, and ever since then, cars, cars are my hobby. I like them," she said. 

She says being a woman in a male-dominated industry gives her job more meaning, 

"We are trying to actually get into more of a man side of things, so that way we can prove as women that we can do stuff just like a man could do," said Mckenzie."I feel like there's a lot more to go into our job than just being male or female. I feel like if you can do it, then go for it." 

Mckenzie loves her job, and encourages other women to get into the field, 

"Don't be scared. When I started, I knew nothing, absolutely nothing. You got to start somewhere," she said, "I just hope that there's more women out there that will just see this and realize, hey, that we can do what men can do and jump." 
 
Source: okcfox.com

Georgia Towman Struck and Killed 

Towman Toby Bowden lost his life working on Interstate 85 in Coweta County, Georgia, Wednesday morning. He was cleaning up a crash with emergency crews when investigators say a driver going too fast for conditions swerved to avoid fire trucks and rolled over hitting Bowden. 

A deputy was also injured but is expected to survive. 

Authorities arrested that driver, 31-year-old Christopher Thornton. He faces multiple charges including vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and a move-over law violation. 

"It hits us all very hard in this industry because we face it so much," said Angela Roper, Executive Vice President of the Towing and Recovery Association of Georgia. 

"It's not just that they have to worry about doing their job and doing it correctly, but they have to now worry about is the car coming down the roadway going to move over for me while I do my job," Roper said. 

The deadly crash happened just feet from an overhead sign that reads ‘State Law: Move over or slow down for stopped emergency vehicles.’ 

fox5atlanta.com


TRAA Weighs in on Automated Driving Systems 

At the request of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, TRAA commented on proposed rulemaking that impacts ADS-equipped CMVs onto the nation’s roadways. 

TRAA wrote: “While ADS-equipped CMVs are a promising technology, they also pose a number of safety and logistical challenges to traffic incident management responders, including the towing industry, that should be addressed by FMCSA as it considers prudent regulation on their introduction into interstate commerce. Fully automated SAE Level 5 CMVs have no human operators to consent to a tow, to secure a disabled vehicle, or to cooperate with the tow truck operator’s instructions. Without uniform standards for deactivating automated driving systems, ADS-equipped CMVs could pose a hazard to towers responding, and without a system for receiving consent, towers could be exposed to legal liability. While these concerns are currently hypothetical, the future of ADS-equipped CMVs is coming quickly, and federal regulations must be ready to respond. We are requesting that the needs of the towing and recovery industry and other on-scene traffic incident management responders be included in future deliberations about regulating this emerging technology.” 

Source: TRAA 

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March 22 - March 28, 2023

Bigger is not Always Better

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By George L. Nitti

Although tow operators are skilled at maneuvering their units in tight spaces, some spaces prove more challenging than others, requiring a different approach and equipment. 

Last June, McGuire’s Towing & Recovery of Ashland, Kentucky was called in the afternoon to recover a dump truck weighted down with more than 10,000 pounds of gravel. It had overturned on a narrow county road that was partially under repair.  

“The dump truck went up the hill and had to back down the hill,” said principal tow operator Stephen McGuire. “When there’s a lot of weight on a small road and you get too close to the edge, it will give way. So this dump truck rolled right over into a ditch.” 

Ideally McGuire’s would have recovered the dump truck with their 50 or 60 ton rotator, but that was impossible under the circumstances.  

Arriving on scene 65 miles from their location, brothers Stephen and Sam McGuire brought in their 2018 Ram 5500 2465 Century 12 ton/SP 9000 Side Puller and a 2015 Peterbuilt 337 Century 3212 16 ton. 

Stephen said, “The two trucks that we got in there were about as big as we could get in there.” 

Looking at the little room in which they had to maneuver and the extreme angle at which the dump truck was perched, Steve admitted that the recovery looked daunting, saying to himself, “This is going to be a nightmare. Maybe we will come back tomorrow.” 

But as the two brothers prepared for the job (they have been working together since they were kids driving with their father at 8 to 10 years old) they were resolved to finish what they started. 

Stephen said, “Working with my brother – we kind of feed off of each other. We’ve never left anything behind.  Everything we went after, it’s came out and it’s come with us at the time we went to go with it.”  

The first line of business was clearing the area and offloading some of the gravel. Fortunately, a Kubota Excavator was being used along the county road and was available for their use to clear away brush, briar thickets and poison ivy around the casualty.  

“We also had to deal with a huge hornet nest that was buried in that bank on the top side of the dump truck,” said Stephen. 

Then the tow operators positioned their trucks in front and behind the casualty. 

“We had to take the front hubcap off to get the truck in place because there was no room to get any angle. We backed up one truck a mile and half while the Dodge was driven in.” 

Establishing winch lines to the casualty, Stephen ran a three-part line to the front springs of the passenger side of the dump truck while Sam handled the back side, running a two-part line to a tree about 50 feet up the hill and back down, where it was hooked to the backside of the driver’s side. 

Tightening up the lines, they checked for any issues that would have “showed themselves up” during the recovery process and slid the truck up sideways until they were able to upright it by first sliding the rear onto the road and then pulling up the nose of the truck. 

“We had to work quickly,” said Steve. “In these hills it gets a little darker a little faster.” 

With mission accomplished in less than an hour, the truck was drivable, with no damage. 

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!



Tow Force Ground Zero: Hurricane Recovery in Fort Myers

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By George L. Nitti

On September 28, Hurricane Ian swept into southeast Florida, bringing with it 150 mph winds that caused devastation and ruin. Fort Myers was ground zero, as Ian leveled the city, gutting buildings, demolishing homes, overturning cars and trucks, and tossing boats onto shore.

Much of the recovery work would fall into the lap of Alligator Towing and Transport, as the exclusive  towing provider for the city of Ft. Myers. Alligator has a long-standing relationship with the city of Fort Myers and is actively involved in the community. As the hurricane approached, Alligator was deployed as an official member Hurricane Emergency Response Team.

However, they were not working alone, but under the umbrella of their parent company Guardian Fleet Services, the largest towing, recovery, and specialized transportation provider in the United States. Concentrated in Florida, Guardian’s other enterprises participated, including A Superior Towing, Ace Wrecker, Crockett’s Towing, Kauff’s Transportation Systems, and Professional Towing and Recovery.

With Guardian supporting Alligator, tow forces were mobilized before and after Ian’s arrival. Alligator’s terminal manager, Anthony Pasqualini said, “Team members from Tallahassee to Jacksonville to Miami supported Alligator with additional manpower and trucks into the Ft. Myers markets to facilitate recoveries and aid community efforts.” This included their 100 ton rotator used for specialized recoveries and their severe incident recovery team.

In preparation for the storm, the company did a variety of things throughout the city and surrounding areas to ensure that the city’s and customers’ equipment was properly secured, including machinery transports, and assisting and moving large pieces of equipment.

“Ten days prior to Ian, we were at the height of getting ready,” said Pasqualini. “We were bringing equipment in and staging it.”

Since the hurricane, the breadth of the recovery has been staggering, some of which has included the steady transport of massive transformers, generators, and propane tankers; up righting overturned vehicles and trucks; and recovering more than 50 boats of all sizes, including transport to tow or salvage yards.

Pasqualini said, “For the crew, obstacles abounded, as secondary roads were impossible to travel and it was difficult to navigate around low hanging powerlines.”

Particularly useful during the emergency response was their M100 Century Rotator, purchased in April of 2022.  With 8300 square foot working space and a lift capability of 200,000 pounds, it came in particularly handy working with the utility companies and moving 100,000 + pound transformers.

“We had to work really closely with electrical providers for safety reasons,” said Anthony.  “One transformer weighed over 142 thousand pounds. With the M100, we loaded the transformers onto our transport 13 axle trailers such as the Landolls and detachable low boys. We also trailered huge generators for the power companies.”

In Cape Coral, a seven mile stretch of high-tension power lines folded to the ground, necessitating the company transport transformers, power lines and rolls of wire. Another job entailed up righting 30 semi-tractor trailers a couple of days after the storm that had blown over by the force of the winds.

Countless boats also needed attention. Pasqualini said, “Boats and barges floated over construction sites and landed inside concrete buildings that weren’t finished. We recovered 15 Nortek boats that had floated to a construction site and 60-ton Silverton boats that went into people’s homes, lifting them back in the water.”

One case included tractor tankers that were full of propane that floated from Ft. Myers Beach back over to the mainland of Ft. Myers in somebody’s backyard. Pasqualini said, “You couldn’t access all but a side street and reach over power lines. That was a 6-hour recovery job.”

Pasqualini concluded, “Our team is really about helping each other. They were doing all of this while thinking about their own homes and families. Everybody was so dedicated to the overall goal, restoring Ft. Myers and getting it back up and running.”

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in American Towman Magazine, January 2023 Edition.

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!






No Easy Task 

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By George L. Nitti 

Although California got much-needed rain in the month of January, not all fared well as the downpours wreaked havoc on the roadways, where driver casualties abounded. 

In San Diego County, around the city of Escondido, Tow Industry Week Operaton's Editor reported: "A car carrier semi-truck trailer traveling Highway 15 during those torrential rains lost control, hitting a slick of standing water and hydroplaning up an embankment, causing the trailer with seven-cars to JACK-KNIFE.  

Resch, who mentored both of the owners and lead operators mentioned in this story, continued, “The semi skidded and rolled onto its side and up ended under a giant overpass where the tractor hit the underside of the bridge and became stuck."

Subsequently, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) dispatched Roadway Towing of Escondido, California, who in-turn called Cortes Towing of San Diego, California to bring their 1140 Century Rotator to scene. Roadway brought 7 tow operators, their Century 70/35 on a 2020 389 Peterbuilt, a medium duty 16 ton on a 2020 Peterbuilt and seven flatbeds. 

Upon arriving, owner and lead operator Frank Khati of Roadway Towing contemplated the situation and decided that it was best not to do this complicated recovery from underneath the bridge. Instead, his decision was to reposition the carrier and pull it back 100 hundred feet. 

“I wasn’t going to take a chance that it would hit the top of the bridge.” 

Working closely with Cortes tow owner Johnny Cortes, who gave invaluable input on the job, the team centered the tractor trailer in front of the block lanes and brought it away from the walls, using lines from all three recovery trucks to pull it back and some nifty metal bracket-plates to help with the slide. 

“It was a slow, tedious process,” said Khati. “It took about an hour and a half to two hours to get it out from the bridge.” 

The rotator, along with the other two heavy duties, were then positioned to help with the up righting of the tractor trailer, no easy maneuver considering the massive weight of the cargo.  

Once the tractor trailer was carefully overturned and the scissored tractor straightened out, however, the job would become more labor-intensive. 

“Then we got our asses kicked,” said Khati. “We had to cage the brakes, cutting all of the hydraulic lines and capping them. We had to fix the air lines. And the fifth wheel on the tractor didn’t want to come out. It was a NIGHTMARE!” 

Meanwhile all seven cars on the carrier were on their sides, with chains stuck and wrapped around the vehicles. Using a saw cutter, Khati said, “I had to deal with one chain at a time. I lost a lot of weight on this job.” 

Then each car had to be dragged away from the trailer, up righted and put on the flatbeds for transport back to Roadway’s facility, five miles away.  

Khati noted that at the request of CHP, the crew was also kept busy cleaning up diesel fuel with 50 bags of kitty litter, in what he described as an act of futility, the rain washing away whatever absorbent that was put down on the ground. “It was like a river coming through,” he said. “I don’t think the litter did much good.” 

Eventually the team pulled the carrier to the side of the road, so that traffic could flow. 

“All of the cars were totaled,” said Khati. “The driver demolished the cargo and truck. He is lucky to be alive.” 

Although a gargantuan job, the recovery was a success for all concerned, including the motorists. 

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!

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March 22 - March 28, 2023

Don’t Stack That Bill 

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By Randall C. Resch  

While perusing industry forums, I happened on a topic I’ve not focused on before and was inspired to write this narrative after reading one participant’s post that read, “Towing; because we’ some hungry MoFo’s! Because asking forgiveness isn’t easy to do, is it OK to gouge the motoring public for services not rendered?” 

Stacking charges has been a long-time issue in industries that provide services and products, especially when large scale events occur. For example, a southern California tow company worked as contract service provider for California’s Highway Patrol and a major motor club. As rotation provider, the company was dispatched to an on highway, multi-vehicle collision less than five-miles from the company’s facility. 

Having arrived on scene in a flatbed carrier, a CHP officer directed the tower to an unoccupied vehicle parked on the shoulder alongside a metal guardrail. The vehicle had slight damage to its front and rear bumpers (having been rear-ended).  

As part of the collision, the vehicle’s female driver was injured and transported to a local hospital. Because she was transported away from the scene, her vehicle was towed in-accordance to the CHP’s protocol and Vehicle Code Section 22651(g): “If a vehicle’s driver is injured or incapacitated, it shall be impounded and held for safe-keeping.” 

Load Em’ Up 

On instructions from the CHP officer to the operator, he advised that keys were in the ignition. The officer provided the tower CHP authorization for the tow. The tower signed and took custody of the vehicle and because the vehicle was still drivable, the tower loaded without effort onto the carrier and headed to the yard. 

Hours later, the injured motorist’s husband came to the tow facility to check on their vehicle. Identifying himself as one of the registered owners, his intent was to get the vehicle out of storage and have his insurance company for a second tow out.  

The tow company allegedly presented an itemized invoice that included plenty of made-up charges added to the bill. The company openly charged trumped up fees, alleging two trucks were on-scene, including two-drivers, additional labor and dollies.  

Without creating a scene, the vehicle’s owner attempted to negotiate a reduced price as he already knew the details of the crash. After a lengthy yet mildly heated discussion with the company’s owner, the owner unwillingly paid the tow bill and obtained a receipt showing details of what was charged.  

At the moment of release, the vehicles’ owner identified himself as an off-duty highway patrol officer only to advise the tow owner he was going to file a formal complaint with the department’s command. He also spoke to the CHP officer on-scene to determine the true facts surrounding the easy, load-and-go transport. The entire invoice was a total sham! 

I imagine the details of the complaint would challenge that no second tow truck and additional driver was on-scene, no labor was involved and no-dollies were necessary due to the flatbed transporting said vehicle. Note: The off-duty officer wasn’t pressing “color of authority” and gave the tow company many opportunities to make things right.  

Send Em’ To Jail 

In my book, the tow company knowingly and openly lied and charged fees for services not rendered. That’s untruthful, illegal and prosecutable. Long story short, the tow company was removed from rotation.  

Call it what you want, but is “stacking charges” just another way to gouge the motoring public? “Let’s see, clean deck fee, go get fuel fee, fire extinguisher fee, wash the truck fee, nighttime fee, two-way fuel surcharge, paper dollies and, oh yeah, don’t forget them’ hazard fees!”  

In the Grande’ scheme of things, it’s no wonder insurance companies, motor clubs, and (especially) the motoring public don’t trust tow companies.  

I’m not referring to law abiding, reasonable and professional tow companies; this narrative is written as a stern reminder to those who think gouging is the proper thing to do. Don’t do it!      

Bio: Operations Editor Randall C. Resch is a retired California police officer and veteran tow business owner, manager, consultant and trainer. For 51-years, he has been involved in the towing and recovery industry. In 26-years, he has contributed nearly 700-articles for American Towman Magazine and TowIndustryWeek.com. He was inducted to the International Towing and Recovery Industry Hall of Fame and was the 3rd recipient of the industry's "Dave Jones Leadership Award." Email Randy at rreschran@gmail.com

The Importance of Documenting Routine Training

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By Brian J Riker

Visiting with an old friend recently, the subject of litigation and liability came up. My friend was taken to court for damages that occurred after a wheel separated from a customer’s car on the highway. Despite having clear video from the security camera in the garage showing the technician using a torque stick on their impact wrench while tightening the lug nuts, an industry accepted practice, they were still found liable for damages of several thousand dollars!

They did the job properly, going beyond what many shops would have done, documenting on the invoice that the customer is responsible for having the torque checked within 50-100 miles of driving, even noting the correct torque specification for the vehicle.

The plaintiff was able to argue that despite all the precautions taken, they failed to have routine training for their technicians on basic procedures.  The shop could not produce a written certificate of completion for any routine training, nor could they show the technician had recently completed any outside continuing education or certification programs.

The unfair part of this is that this shop has done it right from day one. The owner firmly believes in proper training, has monthly safety meetings, routine training classes, requires ASE, I-CAR and other certifications for their technicians, WreckMaster and incident management training for their tow operators, even management classes for their office staff.

They were penalized thousands of dollars because even with all this training they lacked documentation. A simple piece of paper in a file would have saved them from the trouble and expense of a trial, or at least the judgement against them. Shortly after this incident, the owner developed a method to provide routine training reminders, documenting compliance with internal and external education requirements.

To prevent a reoccurrence, they decided on a mix of readily available industry specific classes as well as internally developed classes tailored to their unique needs. Today everyone that works in their company, even in their non-automotive related business units, regularly attend professional development courses. Yes, it is tough to find the time to conduct training without disrupting your daily operations; however, the liability it removes from you is priceless.

Routine training does not have to be complicated, nor does it have to be time consuming. A few minutes weekly is all you need. Many companies outsource routine training, especially in areas such as environmental and OSHA. This content is easily delivered over the internet, allowing you to train when it is convenient, without assembling the entire team in one location. Much of this training can be delivered via cell phones, allowing your drivers to maximize downtime by completing continuing education while waiting for the next dispatch.

The bottom line is that you need to remind your team of the basics often, in a written and documentable manner, to keep from becoming complacent. True professionals practice the routine as well as the complex so that when it counts, they don’t have to think about the right thing to do; it is instinctual.

Asleep at the Wheel 

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By Randall C. Resch   

On July 1, 2020, Charleston County (SC) sheriff’s deputy Mike Costanzo positioned his marked, police unit (with red and blues activated) behind a disabled SUV that had stopped in the far-right westbound lane of I-526 of the Don N. Holt Bridge. The SUV partially was blocking the right lane and the narrow shoulder.  

Moments later, an International flatbed carrier arrived, activated its warning lights, and parked in-front of the disabled SUV. Tow operator Will Ellis, Jr., left his vehicle and began tending to the disabled SUV, now as a pedestrian worker. 

 
While deputy Costanzo and Mr. Ellis, Jr. were outside their vehicles afoot, a Ford F-350 towing an unladened trailer slammed into the sheriff’s unit. The force of impact knocked the tower over the bridge rails. Deputy Costanzo was critically injured, and tragically, Mr. Ellis was killed. Initial reports at the scene alleged that the pickup truck’s driver may have been intoxicated. 

Sleepy Not Drunk? 

Fast forward two-years, when an NTSB investigation released May 21, 2022, reported the 47-year-old driver was not proved to be intoxicated despite the number of alcoholic beverage containers found in the wreckage and on-scene. A local news segment reported: “Fatigue listed as probable cause of deadly 2020 crash on Don Holt Bridge.”  

Although the driver was likely operating under a commercial driver’s license and was involved in a fatal crash, no further drug and alcohol testing was performed beyond initial field sobriety tests that were found to be negative. 

This unfortunate fatality piqued my interest: Is drowsy driving an illegal act across the U.S.? My findings: nearly all states have no legislation or vehicle code law specific to the deadly act of driving while drowsy.  

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it’s estimated that drowsy driving was responsible for 91,000 crashes resulting in 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 deaths. While it’s said these numbers are underestimated, thousands of fatal crashes that occur each year may be caused by drowsy drivers. 

So, how can driving drowsy not be a criminal act when a motorist knowingly drives a motor vehicle when they are sleepy? Driving while drowsy is much like driving while intoxicated because the individual driver is typically aware they need sleep, yet they continue driving anyway. In nearly all states, driving while drowsy is not a prosecutable offense. 

Word to the Wise 

The crash that took Will Ellis, Jr’s., life was no accident and shouldn’t be dismissed as such. This is just another example of not holding motorists accountable for their actions.  

While most states have no specific laws regarding driving while drowsy, towers can be cited for unsafe operation of a motor vehicle or unsafe movement left or right. Let this narrative serve as a solid reminder to tow operators to not work excessive hours to any point where they’re sleep deprived. If you’re excessively tired, you know you shouldn’t continue driving a tow truck or any other vehicle. 

Bio: Operations Editor Randall C. Resch is a retired California police officer and veteran tow business owner, manager, consultant and trainer. For 51-years, he has been involved in the towing and recovery industry. In 25-years, he has contributed more than 625-articles for American Towman Magazine and TowIndustryWeek.com. He was inducted to the International Towing and Recovery Industry Hall of Fame and was the 3rd recipient of the industry's "Dave Jones Leadership Award.” Email Randy at rreschran@gmail.com.  

  

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March 22 - March 28, 2023

A Flashy Update 

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By George L. Nitti 

Sometimes a tow truck needs a little extra something – graphically speaking. Call it a makeover. Call it refurbishment. Call it a new design on an old variation. Or call it simply an “update.”  

So says Evan Yocum, an integral part of the family owned and operated business, Yocum Towing & Recovery of Allentown, Pennsylvania, established 2002. 

As the driver of one of their latest acquisitions, a 2021 Peterbuilt 389 with a 35-ton Jerr-Dan, Evan is feeling the pride that comes with a new set of wheels. And a few alterations in design. 

"We wanted to do an update on our graphics and give it a little more flash," he said.

Already flashy like a fire truck, with its bright red colors arresting to the eye, Yocum’s additional changes, like their enlarged tow name on the real estate side of the wrecker, give it more prominence and boldness. The lettering is punctuated in an effervescent silvery modern font, accented with black shadows and written on a downward tilt. 

Cutting through the company name is an oversized tow chain which picks up at the back end of the unit as well. 

Of course, silver is a nice contrast with red, while an orange sun, serving as their logo, takes up space between the red background and company name, giving an aura of 3D. 

“It pops in your face,” said Yocum.  

Helping us to move along the wrecker’s surface are the blue “swirly” lines that add motion like a winding road, snaking along from front to end. 

Bells and whistles you might ask? 

Why of course. “Extra strobe lighting on the side, an underglow, extra marker lights, big chrome visor, window chops....” 

The company door is more modest, with their abbreviated logo, YTR, written in small lettering, the same lettering used on their tee-shirts that they sell. But their Yocum name on the back of the truck, written gargantuan sized, surely makes up for the sizing difference found on the door. 

Together, the deep hues of silver, red and blue all meld together in this special concocted design – giving it a fresh feel. Like spring. Like a spruced-up house.  

Brag @ TIW!  

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

Simple Yet Eye-Catching 

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By George L. Nitti 

Simplicity can be eye catching, such as an all-yellow tow truck with a creatively lettered logo done in a contrasting cool blue stating “Cupertino Towing.” 

Based out of Antioch, California and with a fleet of approximately 30 trucks, many of them flatbeds, the company maintains a robust call volume serving law enforcement, commercial calls and as a large contractor to AAA.  

“We get 4500 – 5000 calls a month,” said Craig Baker, owner of Cupertino Towing and President of the California Tow Truck Association (CTTA). 

Two of their latest acquisitions, 2023 Kenworth’s with Chevron 12 Series LCG’s, embody a tradition of excellence in graphic design. 

The company logo has evolved over time. Until four years ago, their logos were hand-painted, but since then, are vinyl.  

Baker said, “Our lettering guy 'Mike the Stripe' has adapted to the times. But he does not use canned graphics. He can now do what he did by hand in vinyl.” 

Although Baker has always appreciated the artistic integrity of hand painted graphics, he acknowledges that vinyl is more efficient, taking the company less time to get the trucks lettered and more easily removing the lettering when they are looking to rotate trucks out of their fleet. 

“It used to take us hours to remove the lettering with a lot of oven cleaner and heavy duty scrubbing,” said Baker. “Now it takes us less than a half hour.” 

In part, moving to a more efficient system of maintaining their fleet has become a core principle of their operations, due to the havoc Covid wreaked on the industry and the challenges of getting parts. 

Baker said, “We’ve streamlined the fleet to primarily Kenworth’s and Ford’s.” He added, “By streamlining the fleet we can maintain a larger parts inventory in house that is universally exchangeable among all the trucks.” 

The company is also rotating fewer trucks out of their fleet on a yearly basis due to the skyrocketing prices of tow trucks. “The flatbeds that once cost $140,000 are now pushing $175,000,” he said. 

Yet despite post Covid challenges, Baker prides himself on maintaining the family feel of his company, asking of his employees, only what he would do himself. 

Brag @ TIW!  

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

Graphics Fit for a King 


eblast 2b944By George L. Nitti 

Often outstanding graphics stand out for a variety of reasons. Color scheme is a primary attribute. Creative lettering another. A catchy logo and other images help. Blending together, these ingredients can make for the perfect tow truck. 

Tow King of Waco, Texas has the right package of elements giving shine to their 20 tow trucks. Drawing on the help of Precision Graphics over the last four years, their stellar wraps turn heads like a boom in the sky. 

Their 2022 Kenworth with a Vulcan V103 50 ton is three weeks fresh on the road after spending nine months cycling through a delivery process.  

Owner Gary Hoffman said, “We purchased three new heavies over the last six months. We had to replace one due to an accident and took advantage of an opportunity to buy another knowing how tight the market is.” 

In terms of color schematic, the company has had a 30-year tradition of using green. 

“The first truck that we bought was a two-tone green in 92',” said Hoffman. “We stayed green and when we started doing wraps, we’d buy a black truck and then do the green wraps on it.” 

Green flames envelop a good part of the wrap, particularly the hood and doors, where they cascade over and down the sides, with large chains crisscrossing. 

Another stand-out feature is its creative lettering, written in a royal font, spelling out the company name and aptly accompanied by a crown.  

“The company name came about from a road trip,” said Hoffman. “Someone threw out the name ‘Tow King’ and it stuck. We put a crown on the initial truck and now it includes all of them.” 

Other lettering, written in a hot pink, includes words on the boom like “Texas,” “Mistress,” and “Heavy Duty Recovery.” 

Always ready for duty, on the front of the unit, it states “Rolling 24/7,” while a pair of dice completes the image. 

The back of the unit includes reflective Chevron lettering with the words “Slow Down, Move Over.” 

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! 

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March 22 - March 28, 2023

Steering Wheel Lock with Claw Hooks

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Prevent the front wheels of a towed vehicle from turning while towing from the rear with this steering wheel lock from BA Products. The strap is equipped with two coated claw hooks to latch onto the steering wheel and the brake pedal. A cam or ratchet buckle cinches the two ends tight.

  • 2" Cam or Ratchet Buckle
  • 1-3/4"W yellow straps
  • Coated claw locks
For more information, visit zips.com

Orange Reflective Traffic Cone

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JBC Revolution Series Cones are the leader in the traffic safety industry. Revolution Series Cones are made from an innovative injection molded design that holds up in all temperatures and maintains color in difficult UV situations. Indented handles at the top allow the cones to easily be picked up and stacked. The black bases are made entirely from recycled materials and are marked with a unique dotted pattern. Spot the dots to know it s JBC!

--Base stays attached to the body, even after being run over by a car
--Non-stick area makes stacked cones easier to separate
--Heavy, 100% recycled black base provides stability
--Engineered to meet MUTCD specifications
--Ultraviolet stabilized color provides maximum resistance to fading
--Recessed Style Cones have an indented area that helps protect the body when stacked
--Size: 28" or 36"
--Base Weight: 28" - 7 lbs, 28" - 10 lbs, 36" - 10 lbs, 36" - 12 lbs, 36" - 15 lbs
--Color: Orange
--Collar: 6" reflective stripe

For more info: zips.com

Essential Long Reach Kit

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Access Tools has a new tool set called the Essential Long Reach Kit. The Essential Long Reach Kit includes all of the required tools for the majority of vehicle openings with the addition of the popular Button Master accessory and a Long Carrying Case to hold everything together. Included in this set is the Quick Max Long Reach Tool, the Button Master, the One Hand Jack Tool, the Super Air Jack air wedge, the 60” Long Heavy-Duty Carrying Case, and the Quick Instructional Manual and Videos. For more information, go to accesstoolsusa.com.

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March 22 - March 28, 2023
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March 22 - March 28, 2023

Car Loan Delinquencies on the Rise 

Car loan delinquencies have been rising. Key factors include termination of loan relief programs post pandemic, rising inflation, higher interest rates, and higher used and new car prices, which have resulted in extended payments on car loans. According to Cox Automotive, the average cost of a new car reached $47,148 as of May 2022. This is a 13.5% increase from the average cost only one year ago, in May 2021.  

According to TransUnion data, 4.35% of car owners ages 18 to 40 were at least 60 days late on their auto loans in early 2022. In 2019, before the pandemic began, Gen Z had a past-due rate of 1.75%. Today, past-due rates have reached as high as 2.21% among Gen Z car owners. Similarly, millennials now show increased past-due rates of 2.14%, compared with 1.66% before the pandemic. 

The percentage of subprime auto borrowers who are at least 60 days past due on payments rose to 5.67% in December from a seven-year low of 2.58% in April 2021. That compares with the peak of 5.04% in January 2009 during the financial crisis. 

Higher interest rates make it harder for Americans who borrow to buy cars to make monthly payments. The average new-car loan rate was 8.02% in December, up from 5.15% in the same period in 2021, according to Cox Automotive. Interest rates for subprime borrowers can be much higher, with some even paying over 25% on their car loans. 

Source: breakinglatest.news

Car Repos Rising 

Car repossessions continue to rise, as consumers fall behind on their car payments due to higher car prices and prolonged inflation, according to a report by NBC News. Loan defaults now exceed where they were in 2019, pre-pandemic. Economists are predicting 2023 to continue that trend, with increasing unemployment, high inflation and dwindling household savings. 

The average monthly payment for a new car is up 26% since 2019 to $718, with nearly one in six new car buyers spending more than $1000 a month on vehicles.  

“These repossessions are occurring on people who could afford that $500 or $600 a month payment two years ago, but now everything else in their life is more expensive,” said Ivan Drury, director of insights at car buying website Edmunds. “That’s where we’re starting to see the repossessions happen because it’s just everything else starting to pin you down.” 

Consequently, the repo business is having a hard time keeping up, as 30% of repo firms left the business when repo rates plummeted in 2020. Jeremy Cross, the president of International Recovery Systems in Pennsylvania, said he can’t find enough repo men to meet the demand. He said lenders are paying him premiums to repossess their cars first in anticipation of a continued increase in loan defaults.  

Source: nbcnews.com

2022 Winners of the RABF Dynamic Slide  

Ana Favela and her husband of Lalo’s Towing in Illinois are the winners of the Dynamic Slide in Unit, which was donated by Anthony Gentile and Dynamic Towing Equipment and Manufacturing. The drawing took place at the American Towman Exposition in Baltimore, Nov. 16 – 19, and benefits the Recovery Agents Benefit Fund. 

Ana and her husband entered the drawing after purchasing two raffle tickets on November 19. They purchased two more tickets and ended up having the winning ticket drawn by a young volunteer. Ana said, “I’m happy to support the work of the Recovery Agents Benefit Fund and excited to win this year’s raffle!” 

The Recovery Agents Benefit Fund has disbursed over $44,000 in 2022 to nine families and over $685,000 to date. The unit is valued at over $10,000 and raises thousands of dollars annually, helping families affected by the dangers of the repossession industry and their unfortunate circumstances that can devastate a family.

For more information about donating to the fund, visit www.recoveryagentsbenefitfund.org, contact 703-365-0409, or email at donations@recoveryagentsbenefitfund.org. 

Auto Loan Balances and Delinquencies Rise  

Despite a 19% decline in auto sales over the last 3 months, balances on auto loans and leases are surging due higher priced vehicles and constrained supply. Auto loans also surged because used-vehicle prices had spiked. 

Balances on auto loans and leases increased by 2.2% in Q3 from Q2, and by 6.1% year-over-year, to a record $1.52 trillion, according to data from the New York Fed’s Household Debt and Credit Report. 

The rate of all auto loans and leases – prime and subprime – that were 30 days and more past due rose to 6.2% in Q3, according to the New York Fed’s Household Debt and Credit. 

Source: wolfstreet.com

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