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The Week's Features
New patented technology offers breakthrough for towing industry.
Semi-tractor, loaded with titanium rods, gets stuck and then struck on railroad tracks.
The tow industry's need to stay vigilant on legislative developments.
Tow company finds specialty niche in towing luxury cars.
No longer the need to change batteries from inside the case!
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American Towman Today - February 21, 2024
American Towman Today - February 21, 2024
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Man with Stolen Tow Truck Creates Mayhem 

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A man who stole a tow truck in Baltimore led police on a wild chase, hitting 13 cars and injuring two officers. 

It started on I-95, at the DC Parkway, where the suspect stole a state emergency assistance tow truck. From there chaos ensued, as drivers attempted to get out of his way, some colliding head on. The suspect continued recklessly driving, even going off road and hitting electric wires.  

Police pursued him through suburban neighborhoods, to an Exxon Gas station, where he narrowly missed colliding with another vehicle. Then he hit a Maryland State Trooper’s SUV, pushing the car up the road. The chase ended 5 miles later, police capturing him with guns drawn.  

The suspect was arrested and faces several charges including reckless driving, failure to stop, assault and theft 

Source: cbsnews.com



A man who stole a tow truck took police on a wild ride, causing crashes and injury along the way.

Don’t Roll Over and Play Dead Yet

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024

By Brian J. Riker

Times are beginning to look a little rough for the average tower. With labor and equipment still at or near record high costs, insurance premiums rising even without any claims and call aggregators aggressively growing their market share, thereby reducing available direct customers and cash calls, the last thing towers need is to face an ill-informed attack by the federal government on our rates and services provided.

Unless you have been living under a rock you have likely heard about several strategic attacks on the towing industry over the last several years. While this is nothing new, the business model has been under attack for as long as I can recall, the methods being deployed are new.

In recent history, thanks to the hard work of the state and national towing associations and active towers, like this audience, our industry has fought off attempts to raise the minimum insurance liability that motor carriers, and towers by default, would be required to carry, attempts to regulate our rates and services beyond acceptable consumer protections found in non-consensual towing rules and even attacks on how we employ our drivers.

Despite the successes found in fighting off the INSURANCE Act, the Van Hollen Amendment, speed limiters and a number of other pieces of bad legislation, our opponents are not giving up. You might even say that they are just warming up for the fight, and what a fight it will be. Make no mistake, our opponents are well organized, highly funded and very connected locally and in Washington, DC.

In the most recent attack, the US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is calling for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to include the towing industry in its recently proposed rule making proposal, which would open the door to impose regulations across the board on the towing industry’s rates and business practices, including consensual towing.

His letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan points to a flawed study published late in 2023 by the American Transportation Research Institute that claims overcharging and fraudulent business practices are rampant throughout the towing industry but only relied on less than 500 invoices, hand selected by 390 respondents, mostly ATA members, to justify their conclusions. This is a very disappointing report from ATRI, as they usually publish fair and unbiased research despite being part of the American Trucking Associations.

Supporting the Biden Administration’s war on “junk fees”, which began to combat fees for services like checking your bank balance, bringing carry-on baggage or seat selection fees on airlines, the US Department of Transportation is asking the FTC to declare charging separate and distinct fees for support and ancillary items like specialty tools, safety gear, and consumable items unlawful.

Should this idea of the Federal Trade Commission intervening in the towing industry come to fruition it would pave the way for a patchwork of state level laws governing the towing and transportation of motor vehicles in a similar manner that household goods movers are licensed and regulated.

In the words of TV pitchman Billy Mays “but wait there’s more”. Following the defeat of the Van Hollen amendment, which sought to return to the states the right to regulate rates and services of even consensual towing services, meaning the state could set fees even for private party contracts between consenting parties, several states have taken it upon themselves to attempt to do the same thing by pushing for the development of towing oversight boards or similar entities.

HB179 in Florida would require counties and state troopers to establish a cost-plus recovery structure that towing operators may charge for cleanup and disposal of hazardous and nonhazardous materials incidental to a nonconsensual tow. Cities also would be permitted to enact such rates. Meanwhile, in OOIDA’s home state of Missouri, HB2214, which has had similar language defeated previously, would require the establishment of towing oversight rules including a complaint process and compel towers to release property and vehicles with a payment of as little as 30% of the towing invoice.

While we have a few things in our favor, most notably a very divided Congress that has been having difficulty agreeing on anything, it is an election year and a feel good consumer protection achievement would look good for the campaign.

All hope is not lost Our state and national associations are fighting the good fight on behalf of all towers, members or not, although there is strength in numbers and if there ever were a time your association needed help it is right now! As part of the legislative teams for both the Pennsylvania Towing Association and The Towing and Recovery Association of America, and a frequent consultant to several other state associations, I can assure you these attacks have not gone unnoticed, and we are fighting hard behind the scenes to find solutions, but the fight takes money and support.

It is a cold reality that lawmakers only listen to lobbyists when they bring the support of local constituents to back up their request. Even if you can’t afford to contribute to your association’s PAC or lobby fund, just joining and paying your dues gives your association a boost when speaking on your behalf. Please consider helping fight off these detrimental legislative and regulatory actions by supporting your association of choice.

Tribute to the 2023 Fallen Towman; 2 Families Standing up for Roadside Safety in wake of tragedy
By Don Lomax
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The FTC also wants to incorporate a final rule that requires the towing industry reveal all hidden fees up front.

TRAA Against “Junk Fee” Rule for Towing 

Published: Friday, February 16, 2024

TRAA points out that The Biden Administration, via the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in an effort to regulate so called “junk fees,” or “unfair and deceptive fees” in several key industries, has also brought the towing industry under the scope of this regulation. 

On February 7th, the last day comments on the proposed “junk fee” rule were accepted, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Acting Deputy Administrator, Sue Lawless, submitted an official comment to the Federal Register requesting that FTC include predatory towing in the final rule. The letter mainly complains about towers “hiding fees” and not adding them to the bill until it is final. Some of the particular practices FMCSA mentions include: 1. lack of itemized bills; 2. per-mile fee; 3. daily storage rate; 4. and administrative fee. 

FMCSA, citing a report published by the American Transportation Research Institute in November, is pushing for the final FTC rule to include: 1. Clarity that tow companies are not allowed to have hidden fees or fees disclosed after the tow – and to make each charge in this category a separate violation;  2. A requirement for a “total price,” i.e. A maximum total of fees or charges the customer must pay; 3. A “mandatory ancillary fee” that includes any ancillary fee or charge and prohibit charging any ancillary fee not included in the total upfront price; 4. A prohibition on charging for an ancillary fee that has “no value” or “costs nothing to the provider”/can be reasonably assumed by the customer to be an included cost;  5. A prohibition on excessive fee practices;  6. Guidance on how to implement this around state laws that might vary. 

According to TRAA, their objection with the addition of this rule is that industries and consumers have taken it as an opportunity to make a claim that any fee they dislike is unfair and deceptive and should be included in the final rule. 

They state, “While it is highly unusual for a federal agency responsible for regulating an industry to ask another federal agency to do its job, TRAA has already launched its response, leading the industry in doing so and providing protection for its members."  

To further advocacy, TRAA has been in contact with several Congressional offices since February 7th and will be continuing these meetings along with meetings with FMCSA during TRAA's Hill Day the first week of March. They are also submitting an official response to the FTC objecting to this regulatory overreach and educating them on the reality of working under dangerous circumstances and time constraints to remove large vehicles from roadways. 

Source: TRAA Newsletter

Virginia Towing Bills to Counter Predatory Towing

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024

On the legislative agenda in Arlington, Virginia are a couple of bills to tackle predatory towing, both of which have passed the House.

The first bill has several objectives.1.) to allow localities to require a second signature authorizing a tow, an authority other Virginia jurisdictions still enjoy. 2.) to let localities require towing operators to take and keep photos or other evidence substantiating why the vehicle was removed, to counteract against a practice of “spotting” that enables predatory “smash & grab” practices. 3.) to stiffen penalties against tow companies for certain trespass towing offenses in Northern Virginia from $150 per violation paid to a state literary fund to 10 times the total amount charged for removal, towing and storage — to be paid to the victim. 

Another bill, HB 1287, written by Del. Adele McClure (D), passed in the House with bi-partisan support. This bill clarifies existing powers Arlington, Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax counties and the city of Alexandria have regarding towing. Those localities are already allowed to require towing companies to obtain a permit to tow to a storage or release location outside of the locality. This bill makes it clear that the provision does not restrict those localities from requiring permits for towing within the boundaries of the locality, as well. 

In a statement, McClure asserted that towing ordinances are “a local issue. We need to make sure that areas in Northern Virginia have the same authority as every other community to pass ordinances around permitting towers.” 

Source: arlnow.com

Film Star Gets Unfavorable Press after Tow 

Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Emma Watson, who has starred in films such as Harry Potter, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Little Women and Beauty and the Beast, made splashy headlines in the British tabloid OnlineMail after her blue Audi was towed at Stratford-Upon-Avon, home of Shakespearean theatre. 

The media source, in dramatic form, gobbled up the fact that Watson was not a happy camper when she discovered her car getting hooked in front of a pizzeria, as she was seen racing out of a pub where she and her “mum” were hanging. 

Reportedly, a witness said, "Emma was pretty upset that her car was being towed away, she came running over shouting, 'hey, that's my car', and was arguing with the truck driver, but he was having none of it. He told her the car was being impounded, signed some paperwork to give her and hauled the car away.” 

Several days after the vexing situation, Watson tweeted, “Still searching for parking in Stratford-upon-Avon. Merchant of Venice very good if you can still get tickets.” 

Source: newsbreak.com

Texas Towman Downed, Another Injured, by FedEx Truck  

Published: Friday, February 09, 2024

A tow operator working south of Dallas/Ft. Worth was killed on I-20, Wednesday, 2/7. Another tow operator on scene was critically injured, airlifted to a hospital. 

44 year old Oscar Merchan Contreras was working the right shoulder alongside another tow operator when they were struck by a FedEx truck hauling double trailers. Reportedly,  as the two men went about their task, a FedEx 18-wheeler, its double trailers stretching along the asphalt, attempted to overtake another vehicle in the right lane. The massive truck colliding with the tow trucks. 

Contreras, a dedicated tow operator with a passion for helping others, was pronounced dead at the scene.  

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office reported that neither drugs nor alcohol are believed to have played a role in the crash. No charges have been filed as of now, and the investigation into the accident is ongoing. 

Source: towforce.net  

CSTH LLC Acquires Dynamic Towing Equipment & Manufacturing

Published: Thursday, February 08, 2024

Commercial Specialty Truck Holdings LLC, (CSTH) has acquired Dynamic Towing and Equipment Manufacturing of Norfolk, Virginia.

CSTH LLC, the parent company of E-Z Pack Trucks, Continental Mixers, and One Source Parts is excited to add another specialty body platform and will look to develop and expand Dynamic’s existng business.

“Dynamic has had a history of innovaton and success in the towing industry,” said Frank Busicchia, CEO of CSTH. “They are an ideal fit with CSTH, and our approach to the custom body markets.”

CSTH LLC plans to continue operations in Norfolk, Virginia, and expand rapidly by utilizing the growing footprint of One Source Parts, (OSP). With locations in Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Texas, OSP provides additional installation capability and product support for the towing and recovery markets.

Dynamic is the creator of the Original Self-Loading Wheel-Lift that has become the most sought-after technology in the towing industry. CSTH will continue to offer the excellent customer care that has made their operator-owned approach successful at E-Z Pack and Continental. Dynamic customers, many of them owner-operators, will continue to have direct access to company leadership.

The former owner, Anthony Gentile, will be staying on with the new company in a senior capacity.

He said, "I am thrilled about this new opportunity that CSTH has presented for Dynamic Towing, and I am excited for the future. With our new footprint, we can take care of more customers and continue what makes Dynamic great.”

Family of Fallen Towman to Receive $2 million 

Published: Thursday, February 08, 2024

The family of towman Ross Booker, who was struck and killed by a passing vehicle in Urbana, Illinois in 2022, will receive $2 million dollars in a wrongful death settlement. 

Champaign City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the settlement with the estate of Ross Booker, who was 20 at the time of his death. 

The wrongful-death suit filed by Mr. Booker’s family on Feb. 23, 2023, included claims against the city of Champaign, as well as police officers Anderson Agudelo Jr. and Clinton Lebeau. 

Agudelo and Lebeau were among the officers who responded to the crash that Mr. Booker was helping to clean up. 

The suit claimed that Agudelo “walked with Ross Booker into the intersection where he was to clean up debris and then abandoned Ross Booker,” and that one or both officers then “allowed traffic to resume travel southbound into the intersection where Ross Booker was working.” 

While the defendants admitted that a squad car to the north of the intersection was removed, they denied that it was blocking traffic. 

They also denied the remaining allegations, including “that defendants exerted authority over Ross Booker’s entry to the intersection.” 

Two weeks ago, Agudelo and Lebeau were dismissed from the suit at the agreement of both parties. 

One of the terms of the settlement was that all claims against the officers be dismissed. 

Source: news-gazette.com

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February 21 - February 27, 2024

Train Wreckage and Mangled Titanium  

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024

coversmall 55952
By George L. Nitti 

It’s a scary scenario when a heavily loaded semi-tractor trailer bottoms out on railroad tracks and gets stuck. It’s even scarier when a train is fast approaching, and the only option is to jump ship. 

Such was the case in February, in Haverstraw, New York, when a tractor trailer loaded with hundreds of titanium rods was hit head on, the tractor smashed, on one side, and the trailer, with the load of titanium rods mangled, bent and strewn in all directions, on the other. 

Fortunately, the driver had gotten out and the train was  spared any casualties. But the recovery made for a super long day for Big Tows Incorporated of Chestnut Ridge, New York. 

Tow operator Dylan Fijor, son of own Ricardo Fijor, informed: “A tractor trailer was in an area he was not supposed to be in and bottomed out on the train tracks. It hasn’t been the first time it’s happened there.” 

Big Tows responded with a small arsenal of equipment, including a couple of heavy duties, several low boys, an excavator, bobcat, and other specialty equipment. 

With their 50-ton Century Rotator on a 2020 389 Peterbuilt, Fijor dragged the tractor out, while Louis Quintana, with the Vulcan Century 50 ton on a 21’ Peterbuilt, winched out the trailer. Then, to clear the mangled titanium from around the tracks, they put an endless loop onto the rods so that “we could get the trains running again,” said Fijor. 

The bigger part of the recovery, however, and the most time consuming, was spent picking up and cutting the bent titanium rods that were 30 to 35 feet long.  

Fijor said, “We had to do a lot of cutting, using specialized blades. Once the titanium was bent, you could not load them on the trailer without them being oversized. They had to be cut. Every single one.” 

This clean-up required an excavator, bobcat and three roll-off containers in which the titanium was loaded, along with a landoll trailer to remove what was left of the trailer, and another low boy to haul the rods that were not destroyed. 

All in all, a job that started around 9 a.m. in the morning did not finish until 1:30 a.m.  

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!

Cut Down Crane Stands Tall Again 

Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2024

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By George L. Nitti 

Cutting down the tops of tall, large sized trees can be perilous work, particularly if a crane flips from the weight of its extended boom due to its operator’s failure to employ outriggers that serve to provide stability. 

With no job too big, Pepe’s Towing and Recovery of Southern California was called to scene in early January to upright a 122 foot toppled crane used for tree cutting. They brought in their 50 and 75 ton Century rotators, better known as Big Flipper and Hulk, both which sit on Peterbuilt 389’s. The operation was led by lead towman Joshua Acosta. 

“It was a long day,” said Acosta. “We had a horrible working space and it started to rain on the private, residential road where the casualty lay.” 

With no way to access the crane but up through a small road, first they encountered the remnants of gargantuan sized cut logs weighing 3000 pounds or so, which needed to be removed to deal with the casualty. 

“Then we had to get close to the crane to upright it,” recounted Acosta, “which became an issue for fear of it hitting our trucks. The outriggers on the crane didn’t work, they were shot. The recovery was horribly complicated in every sense of the word.” 

The boom of the crane was fully extended sideways, laying flush to the ground, its end sitting atop a vehicle that got slammed and destroyed. Fortunately no one got hurt. 

“When you lift something heavy like a tanker, the weight is always concentrated. It’s like picking up a 10-pound dumbbell. If you lean over and pick it up, it’s no problem, but if you attach a 20 pound rod to a 10 pound dumbell, it’s much harder to lift. That’s what we were dealing with," Acosta informed. “The job would have been much easier to complete if only the boom had retracted, but that was a no go, most likely caused by an electrical short."

To gain more leverage, Pepe’s hooked up to holes in the middle of the crane, pulling up on it with their rotator and then rerigging half way up to gain further leverage and thus pulling the crane back over. 

Acosta said, “Once we got it up, the customer was adamant that the engine would start up and the boom would retract, but that was not the case. We had to crib the outrigger forcefully and extend it out until they could fix it."

After waiting a couple of days for a crane specialist to get to work again, Pepe’s returned to the scene, this time easily towing it back to their home base. 

Teamwork at the Bermuda Triangle

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2024

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By Jason S. Holding with George L. Nitti

Northern Delaware County is noted as the "Bermuda Triangle for trucks" due to the numerous major truck accidents and incidents that occur there.   

On December 9, 2023, at approximately 6:35 a.m., Northwest Towing & Recovery, with locations in Muncie and Anderson, Indiana, received a call from the Delaware County Sheriff's Office in reference to a semi-truck and trailer fire on Interstate 69 in Gaston, Indiana, receiving photos of the scene from Lt. Randy McCormick. 

Jason R. Holding, Operations Manager said, “This allowed us to muster everything we needed quickly without having to physically do a scene survey.  We had a full callout of three teams: recovery, cleanup, and hazmat.” 

Northwest arrived with two rotators, three semi tractors, one pulling a dump trailer, and two pulling traveling axle 53-foot trailers.   

“One traveling axle trailer was for the burnt truck and trailer and the other was to transport our front-end loader with bucket and forks and mini excavator with bucket and thumb,” explained Holding. “Our skid steer with broom box and bucket was also transported to scene on an industrial carrier.” 

Also transported were two service trucks, one with heavy recovery tools, and the other outfitted with hazmat cleanup tools and products, and three, four axle dump trucks. 

Once on scene, Northwest immediately dug in, quite literally. The mini excavator started scraping away the product from the trailer, and the skid steer pushed it into the front-end loader's bucket.  The front-end loader would then dump the bucket into one of the waiting dump trucks.  The hazmat team went to work on evacuating the fuel in the saddle tanks.  The recovery team separated the tractor from what was left of the trailer and rigged the tractor for lifting.   

Once all the product was removed, there wasn't much left of the refrigerated trailer; only the floor, landing gear, bogies and rear section of trailer, and refrigeration unit was left.  Semi-truck chassis, and what was left of the trailer all loaded nicely on one traveling axle trailer.   

The only hitch in the operation came when the tractor was lifted and swung out of the way to cleanup underneath. The tractor's engine flamed up again.  The tractor was lowered, and Gaston Fire reacted without hesitation to extinguish the small blaze.   

Holding said, “The fire departments in our area are outstanding to work with. Gaston Fire is no exception.”       

All three teams worked seamlessly together and required minimal "quarterbacking,” clearing the scene at approximately 11 a.m. 

Holding said, “We have a seasoned crew with a lot of major recovery experience and have a vast array of heavy construction equipment that over the years has been a perfect fit for these large salvage operations.”   

Every minute counts when traffic is disrupted on the highways. The longer traffic is disrupted, the greater the likelihood of a dangerous secondary accident. 

“So we deploy every possible piece of equipment that we may need, as opposed to piecemealing equipment in as the situation arises,” said Holding. 

February 21 - February 27, 2024

Don’t Roll Over and Play Dead Yet

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024

By Brian J. Riker

Times are beginning to look a little rough for the average tower. With labor and equipment still at or near record high costs, insurance premiums rising even without any claims and call aggregators aggressively growing their market share, thereby reducing available direct customers and cash calls, the last thing towers need is to face an ill-informed attack by the federal government on our rates and services provided.

Unless you have been living under a rock you have likely heard about several strategic attacks on the towing industry over the last several years. While this is nothing new, the business model has been under attack for as long as I can recall, the methods being deployed are new.

In recent history, thanks to the hard work of the state and national towing associations and active towers, like this audience, our industry has fought off attempts to raise the minimum insurance liability that motor carriers, and towers by default, would be required to carry, attempts to regulate our rates and services beyond acceptable consumer protections found in non-consensual towing rules and even attacks on how we employ our drivers.

Despite the successes found in fighting off the INSURANCE Act, the Van Hollen Amendment, speed limiters and a number of other pieces of bad legislation, our opponents are not giving up. You might even say that they are just warming up for the fight, and what a fight it will be. Make no mistake, our opponents are well organized, highly funded and very connected locally and in Washington, DC.

In the most recent attack, the US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is calling for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to include the towing industry in its recently proposed rule making proposal, which would open the door to impose regulations across the board on the towing industry’s rates and business practices, including consensual towing.

His letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan points to a flawed study published late in 2023 by the American Transportation Research Institute that claims overcharging and fraudulent business practices are rampant throughout the towing industry but only relied on less than 500 invoices, hand selected by 390 respondents, mostly ATA members, to justify their conclusions. This is a very disappointing report from ATRI, as they usually publish fair and unbiased research despite being part of the American Trucking Associations.

Supporting the Biden Administration’s war on “junk fees”, which began to combat fees for services like checking your bank balance, bringing carry-on baggage or seat selection fees on airlines, the US Department of Transportation is asking the FTC to declare charging separate and distinct fees for support and ancillary items like specialty tools, safety gear, and consumable items unlawful.

Should this idea of the Federal Trade Commission intervening in the towing industry come to fruition it would pave the way for a patchwork of state level laws governing the towing and transportation of motor vehicles in a similar manner that household goods movers are licensed and regulated.

In the words of TV pitchman Billy Mays “but wait there’s more”. Following the defeat of the Van Hollen amendment, which sought to return to the states the right to regulate rates and services of even consensual towing services, meaning the state could set fees even for private party contracts between consenting parties, several states have taken it upon themselves to attempt to do the same thing by pushing for the development of towing oversight boards or similar entities.

HB179 in Florida would require counties and state troopers to establish a cost-plus recovery structure that towing operators may charge for cleanup and disposal of hazardous and nonhazardous materials incidental to a nonconsensual tow. Cities also would be permitted to enact such rates. Meanwhile, in OOIDA’s home state of Missouri, HB2214, which has had similar language defeated previously, would require the establishment of towing oversight rules including a complaint process and compel towers to release property and vehicles with a payment of as little as 30% of the towing invoice.

While we have a few things in our favor, most notably a very divided Congress that has been having difficulty agreeing on anything, it is an election year and a feel good consumer protection achievement would look good for the campaign.

All hope is not lost Our state and national associations are fighting the good fight on behalf of all towers, members or not, although there is strength in numbers and if there ever were a time your association needed help it is right now! As part of the legislative teams for both the Pennsylvania Towing Association and The Towing and Recovery Association of America, and a frequent consultant to several other state associations, I can assure you these attacks have not gone unnoticed, and we are fighting hard behind the scenes to find solutions, but the fight takes money and support.

It is a cold reality that lawmakers only listen to lobbyists when they bring the support of local constituents to back up their request. Even if you can’t afford to contribute to your association’s PAC or lobby fund, just joining and paying your dues gives your association a boost when speaking on your behalf. Please consider helping fight off these detrimental legislative and regulatory actions by supporting your association of choice.

Securing Equipment to Prevent Theft 

Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Equipment Neat Stowed PIC 1 d34e6
By Randall C. Resch 

An industry forum had a tower’s post in which he shared a pic of his carrier’s neat and organized bed and equipment. Forum participants berated and chided his posting. While the carrier’s deck was neat and well-appointed, the topic of equipment security came to mind. 

I agree that appearance and organization should be a priority every tower strives for. However, leaving equipment “topside and exposed” lends to competitors and thieves having easy access. If I were someone “shopping” for tow truck equipment, outfitting a wrecker or carrier would be an easy proposition. Why?  

Because towers are oftentimes lax to secure top-side equipment and accessories. In a case in which a picture is worth a thousand words, I ask, “How secure would this carrier’s equipment and accessories be if the truck were left unoccupied and parked outside?” 

Take home trucks are a luxury few companies boast. Based on the size of a company’s fleet, there might not be enough available trucks for all operators to take one home. If you’re an operator assigned a take home truck, there are responsibilities necessary to help prevent theft of tow equipment and accessories. 

Directed to tow owners reading this, I’m confident you’ll agree that your operators bear responsibility to take appropriate measures to prevent theft of company equipment. For towers working company wreckers and carriers, the same applies to you. 

Five Finger Discount 

Having resided in the Northern California mountains below Tahoe, my small fleet of three wreckers, four carriers and an off-road recovery truck, all were well equipped per requirements of the California Highway Patrol’s, Tow Truck Inspection Form 234 (b).  

All trucks were equipped to meet the rigors of mountain recovery and a rotation area that was rural and spread out. My operators were assigned “take home trucks” to help meet the CHP’s response times. In one memorable scenario, my operator parked at a rural market, only to return to his carrier discovering someone “liberated” most of the tools, accessories and equipment left lying and unsecured atop the carrier’s deck. The question I asked was, “Was the equipment locked up?” He shamefully answered, “No!”  

Company Rules Say 

Because theft is rampant in the industry, what the operator does to protect the company’s equipment is vital. Arriving on-scene to discover most of the truck’s equipment gone is an extremely disheartening feeling, not to mention the operator might not be able to complete the tow or recovery. Only a few things trump having to make that “ever dreaded” phone call telling the boss saying the truck’s equipment was stolen.  

When looking at what “risk management” owners must instill, the company’s policy and procedure manual should have a dedicated section to what protection and safety measures help ensure the truck and its equipment are cared for. While thwarting thieves in action isn’t likely, equipment should be stowed under lock and key to prevent it from being stolen.  

A company’s PPM should include mention that’s specific to securing the truck and its contents. For example, the following paragraph is part of my PPM specific to equipment and truck securing. Under, “Tow Trucks, Equipment & Take-Home Vehicles”, the PPM reads:  

“Every employee assigned a Company owned vehicle(s) shall take necessary steps to ensure the tow truck, flatbed carrier, or other Company vehicle and its included equipment and accessories, is NOT stolen as a result of it being unoccupied or running. While away from the vehicle, keys will be removed from the vehicle’s igniton, even for a short time. 

Operators shall not leave unoccupied tow trucks or carriers running to go into a store, or double parked for activities other than load, off-load, and recovery. Note: For operators assigned take home trucks, and regardless type of equipment used, all equipment and tow accessories shall be stowed and secured to prevent theft including items atop the carrier’s deck.”  

Under Lock and Key 

I highly recommend that tow equipment and accessories are stowed (and locked) in truck mounted boxes, within the truck’s cab, or atop carrier boxes with the deck secured. Leaving items in-the-open and unprotected only invites bad guys to shop for tow goodies. Especially true to wheel lift trucks, dollies are to be locked and secured. 

Security is only as good as it’s implemented. As for the carrier’s equipment shown in the opening photo, if it all were stolen in one fell swoop, the thief would easily gain a chain bridle, a pair of Go-Jak’s, two ratchets and straps, a pair of skates and a wireless Tow Mate.  

At today’s prices, replacing these items would easily be a thousand dollar hit. While the pictured equipment “looks picture nice”, it’s vulnerable when lying unsecured atop a carrier’s deck. Being under lock and key or stowed atop carrier boxes will help ensure equipment and accessory items won’t be riding on someone else’s truck.      

Operations Editor Randall C. Resch is a retired California police officer and veteran tow business owner. As consultant and trainer, he authored and teaches light-duty operator safety courses approved by the California Highway Patrol. For 52-years, he has been involved in the towing and recovery industry. In 26-years, he has contributed more than 700-safety focused articles for American Towman Magazine and TowIndustryWeek.com. He was inducted to the International Towing and Recovery Industry Hall of Fame, was the 3rd recipient of the industry's "Dave Jones Leadership Award," and is a member of American Towman’s Safety Committee. Email Randy at rreschran@gmail.com  

  

  

Employee Handbooks – Where Your Policies Live 

Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2024

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By Brian J Riker 

Do you have an employee handbook? If so, I commend you for being in the top of your field. Feedback from my last article, Do You Have a Policy for That? lead me to the realization that many towers do not have any written policies or procedures, or if they do, they have not been organized into a single source document. 

When was the last time you reviewed this handbook? 

The employee handbook is a living document and as such it needs to be reviewed at least annually for any changes to your policy or revisions necessary to maintain compliance with various governmental agency regulations. While revising these policies, keep in mind that a written policy is no good if it is not what you are actually practicing. 

How did you develop your handbook? 

I often see requests from small businesses looking for another company to share their employee handbook with them. This is a bad idea. I strongly suggest obtaining content for your handbook from multiple reputable sources such as employment attorneys and other regulatory compliance specialists. 

A good handbook is usually twenty or more pages covering complex legal issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act and wage and hour compliance. Additionally, a good handbook will have your company’s basic safety policies, terms of employment such as vacation and time off requests and company rules. 

An employee handbook is a legal document, often with the same force and effect as a contract between you and your employees. As such it must reflect your policies, the regulations that apply to your size company and the state that you are operating in. Having outdated or incorrect information in your handbook could subject your company to thousands of dollars in fines and penalties should someone make a claim with the Department of Labor or other similar agency. 

What should be included? 

The basic content should include your work rules that apply to all employees like vacation and sick time, what happens if you are late, overtime policy and when pay day is. This is a good place for the required policies and notices such as family medical leave, harassment, workplace violence and equal opportunity policies. 

An employee handbook is a good place to include rules about dress code, truck upkeep, personal use of company facilities/equipment, cell phone use and passenger policies. If these policies are not presented to your employees in writing, they are usually not enforceable. In many cases these types of policies, especially cell phone and passenger policies, must be in writing to satisfy Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. 

What shouldn’t be included in your employee handbook? 

Workplace safety is often addressed in employee handbooks, and while it is a good idea to have this information all in one place, some safety policies may require separate documentation to be OSHA compliant. 

Safety policies such as personal protective equipment are a good example of policies that should be separate from your employee handbook. Since these policies require frequent updates and routine training it is usually simpler to keep them separate. If you do include them in your handbook, please be sure to review them often to ensure the most current version is in the handbook when issued to new employees and your current employees have been given an updated copy. 

Having basic statements about complying with state and federal regulations and basic safety oriented polices is always a good idea, but leave the detailed safety plans and policies as standalone documents. 

Avoiding “absolutes” with the language in your policy documents can help avoid placing your company in a no-win situation should something happen and the injured party claims you contributed to their injury by violating your own company polices. This is why your policy documents need to be reviewed by legal counsel before implementation. 

When do you need an employee handbook? 

That is simple, as soon as you have an employee, even part-time. There is no magic number that says employers of less than X number of people are exempt from compliance with labor or employment laws. 

I often hear from employers after an OSHA or Department of Labor visit because they thought they didn’t need to comply until they had 50 or more employees. That is simply not true. Yes, some reporting requirements are relaxed, and some states provide minimal exceptions to some labor laws, however most of the rules apply to any size employer in our industry, even when your employees are all family. 

In summary, having good written policies helps keep everybody, including the owner, accountable for appropriate behavior in the workplace. Designing your own custom handbook with realistic policies for the environment and culture you are promoting in your company will help keep things flowing smoothly. Documenting best practices, then following through with them as your actual practices in daily operation, provides the best defense against injuries and financial losses when incidents occur. 

Since policies are always changing based on business needs and the everchanging regulatory environment we live in today, don’t forget to give updated policies, in writing, to your current employees, and be sure to get a receipt acknowledging they have read and understand them. 

February 21 - February 27, 2024

Unique Design for Exotic Protection

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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By George L. Nitti

Success in any industry sometimes comes down to finding one’s niche.

Shawn Sowden, owner of 64 Motor Cars of Middlesex, NJ, which exclusively focuses in on the transport of specialty/exotic cars, is a case in point. While working as a manager for a luxury car transport business, he made contacts with car dealerships that directly solicited his help to move cars for them.

One day, he was offered an opportunity to transport a specialty/exotic car to Colorado, using his own pickup truck and trailer. He said, “When I talked to my father and asked him what to do, my father responded, ‘Son, do the job. I’ll put you under my insurance and you’ll transport the car.’”

Sowden revealed that his trip to Colorado led to blowing every single tire on the trailer and spending every dollar that he made on repairs to his truck. Upon his return, a big question mark loomed about his future, but the phone calls from dealers requesting his service continued to trickle in. “At first,” he said, “I thought it would become a side business.”

10 years later, Sowden now finds himself transporting between 3000 and 3500 specialty cars a year, having purchased his fourteenth piece of equipment that includes 5 rollbacks, one of which is a 2020 International NV with a Century LoadRight.

The company name, 64 Motor Cars, which is written elegantly on the side of their units just under a sketched image of a race car, sprang from the death of a good friend. Sowden said that when he started the business, he was grappling with a name and didn’t want to use clichés like “luxury” or “white glove” to define his business. Instead, he thought of his friend and co-worker who had died in a car accident at 21. Sowden said, “He drove a race car numbered 64.” In his memory, he took the number as the name for the company.

Graphically, Sowden intended to use a ripped American flag on his units. “But the problem I ran into was that anytime you took the American flag, and you tore it up to make it look like it was ripped, it just never looked right,” he said.

So the wrapped design became a minimal rendition of the American flag, with no stars and red stripes that were turned into tears, on a white background.

Although Sowden entertained the idea of doing custom paint, he discovered after the first (and last) painted unit that paint chips and was more difficult to maintain. He said, “Vinyl is easy. If I sell the truck, I just peel it off. It’s good to go.”

What also sets his units apart are the Conestoga covers made by Quick Draw, which ensure that the specialty vehicles that the company transports are protected from nature’s harsher elements.

He said, “We were the first independent company outside of a dealership to have an enclosed rollback. It’s airtight and keeps the water out.”

With a focus on exclusivity, and a niche with demand, catering to such a business clientele requires having the tools and equipment to execute the job to perfection.

Afterall, someone has to transport that 22 million dollar McLaren F1! Why not 64 Motor Cars?

Climbing Higher, Powered by Family

Published: Thursday, February 01, 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.  

A Flashy Update 

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2024

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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! 

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February 21 - February 27, 2024

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 TowMate.com or contact your local dealer.

Lite It Wireless Battery and Charger

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2024

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External 20-volt Battery and Charger for your wireless light bar.

This battery is mounted externally and there is no longer the need to change the 2 batteries from inside the case.  You simply take the discharged battery off the battery plate and replace it with a fresh battery.  Designed to accept both M18 and DeWalt style batteries.  These new wireless lightbars have the same great warranty and customer service included with every purchase.  

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You may purchase the external battery light bars without the battery and charger and use your own.

Now available in 36”, 48”, 60” wireless LED light bar.  Add flashers or strobes. 7-pin transmitter, external 20-volt battery and charger included.

For more info: 800-490-3158     WWW.CUSTERPRODUCTS.COM

Ice Claw

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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This Ice Claw keeps you safe in icy conditions. Designed to fit 3-1/2" x 3-1/2" crossbars which are commonly found on car carriers and light-duty tow trucks. 

Features 

  • Increase Safety: Helps prevent slipping on ice 
  • The 3" fits 3" x 3" crossbar 
  • The 3.5" fits 3-1/2" x 3-1/2" crossbar 
  • The crossbar is commonly found on car carriers and light-duty tow trucks 
For more information on the Ice Claw, visit zips.com
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February 21 - February 27, 2024
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February 21 - February 27, 2024
The scene of the incident where a repo driver was punched and then later shot after pursuing the suspect.

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. 

Source:curepossession.com

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."

Source: www.youtube.com

Police Officers Fired Over Repo Incident in Alabama 

Published: Monday, December 11, 2023

Three Police officers were fired by the mayor of the city of Dectur after they were responding to a repossession, resulting in the shooting death of the suspect. 

Stephen Perkins, 39, was fatally shot on September 29 after officials said he “brandished a handgun” with a light “towards an officer with the Decatur Police Department,” according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. 

Decatur police were initially called to Perkins’ home after he allegedly pulled a handgun on a tow truck driver as he was attempting to repossess a vehicle at the 39-year-old’s home. 

Officers arrived at the scene with the tow truck driver, which is when Perkins “exited the residence armed with a handgun and began to threaten the tow truck driver,” according to police. 

The officers claimed that they ordered the suspect to drop his weapon. But according to the police chief no such order was given.  

“We now know the officer identified themselves as ‘police’ and ordered Mr. Perkins to ‘get on the ground’ prior to the officer firing rather than ordering him to drop the weapon at that time as we initially reported the morning of the shooting,” said the police chief. “That means that we also erred in stating Mr. Perkins ‘refused’ to drop his firearm prior to the shooting. I apologize for the inaccurate description of the encounter in our initial statement.”  

The family of Perkins said that he did not owe money on the vehicle, having financial receipts as proof. 

Source: michiganchronicle.com

Repo Driver Weighs in on Decatur Shooting 

Published: Monday, October 16, 2023

As details of the Decatur, Alabama police shooting of Steve Perkins continue to unfold, a repo driver weighed in on common practices for car repossessions in the state of Alabama. 

Steve Andrews, who repossessed cars for more than a decade, said anyone who works in the industry should leave if somebody tries to stop a car repossession on their property. According to the law, if police show up during a repossession then that repo is over. 

Andrews said, “Legally in Alabama, if somebody comes out…and it may be nationwide but if somebody comes out and objects to the repossession…technically they can go back into the house and you have to leave without that vehicle.” 

In terms of the deadly Decatur police shooting of Steve Perkins, Andrews says that it puzzles him as to why the tow truck driver fled the scene when Perkins allegedly threatened him with a handgun but then returned with Decatur police. 

Andrews said, “It’s a tragic situation, I don’t know anything about the shooting part, I don’t know a thing in the world about the police and the shooting part. But to me the police should have never been called. If the repo man called, he should have never done that. I don’t know what he was thinking he was gone do. Evidently, he doesn't know the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act that tells you if the police show up, the repo is over. Either he doesn't know or he doesn't care.” 

Source: waaytv.com

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