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The Week's Features
Complicated recovery involving a jackknifed carrier under a bridge.
Regulations you should be familiar with
Cupertino's creative graphics stand out in yellow and blue.
Post pandemic, a variety of factors are causing delinquencies to rise.
Events
Las Vegas, NV.
May 16-18, 2023
Fort Worth, TX.
July 13-15, 2023
Baltimore, MD.
Nov. 16-18, 2023
American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in Towing January 25 - January 31, 2023

Used Car Market on Fire

The used vehicle market is on fire again, spiking 5.3% in September, after 3 months of declines. The report comes from Manheim, the largest auto auction operator in the U.S.

Several factors are a play causing an increase in demand of used vehicles and the spike in prices. First, tight supplies of new vehicles due to chip shortages and factory closures resulting from the covid crisis. Normal supply for used retail is about 44 days of sales. In September used retail supply was 37 days. Wholesales supply, which normally is 23 days, was 18 days.

The low supply is also a result of a sharp decline in sales at auctions by the three largest categories of sellers in the wholesale market – rental vehicles, off-lease vehicles and repo companies selling repos. Since rental companies are having a harder time getting their hands on new vehicles, they are holding their rental cars longer. For the repo business, low lending rates and a moratorium on repos during the covid crisis have reduced the numbers of cars at used car auctions.

Further augmenting used car sales is the federal stimulus money disbursed over the last year and a half. The covid crisis has created a “wealth effect” leading people to be flush with cash and willing to pay whatever price for a used vehicle as dealers make record gross profits along the way.

In a telling sign, although it is often assumed that resale value of a new car plummets once sold, resale value of a 1-year old car is up 25%, over $7,759 according to Cox Automotive.

https://wolfstreet.com/


American Towman Today - January 31, 2023
American Towman Today - January 31, 2023
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San Diego City Council Considering New Tow Policies 

As a result of a recent audit in San Diego finding some of its towing practices disproportionately hurt low income people, several city council members are desiring a change of policies. The audit also states that the city is losing 1.5 million dollars a year with their towing program. 

According to the news source, the city is exploring a “text before tow” program, parking “boots,” community service instead of fines, fee forgiveness, income-based payment plans and eliminating tows when the only infraction is failure to pay registration fees. 

“Our towing policy worsens inequities and has devastating impacts on people’s lives,” said Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, who is spearheading the changes with help from City Attorney Mara Elliott. “The city should not take people’s cars and sell them to collect small debts or punish people for minor violations.” 

The audit found the top two reasons a vehicle gets towed — registrations expired longer than six months, and violations of the 72-hour parking rule on many city streets — typically affect low-income people more than others. 

However, one resident said city officials should be careful about the changes. “There is no district in this city in which people want cars littering their streets,” he said. 

City officials say another motive for making changes in the city’s towing program, which is led by the Police Department, is that the program is losing roughly $1.5 million a year. 

During the five years the audit covers — fiscal year 2017 through fiscal year 2021 — more than a quarter of all tows resulted in the owner giving the vehicle up instead of paying the fines owed, which typically averages $282 to retrieve their vehicle on top of violation charges.  

Source: sandiegouniontribune.com/



Citing inequity and costs of tow program, some city council members are advocating changes to tow practices.

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! 

Boost Operator Safety with Key Products featured in this Episode of AT-TV
By Don Lomax
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Do you support "blue lights" legislation allowing rear facing blue lights on tow trucks?
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Answers are anonymous
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Managing Editor: George Nitti
ATTV Editor & Anchor: Emily Oz
Advertising Sales (800-732-3869):
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Site Progr., Graphics & Video: Ryan Oser
Operations Editor: Randall C. Resch
Tow Business Editor: Brian J. Riker
Tow Illustrated Editor: George L. Nitti
January 25 - January 31, 2023
Chicago police accompanied the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) in shutting down and removing vehicles from Flash Towing's tow yard.

Tow Company Shut Down in Chicago 

Flash Towing, a South Side tow company in Chicago, was shut down by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) on January 19 for operating without a business license after they were ordered to shut down in December but continued to operate anyway.  

After a complaint that the company was operating without a license, the BACP forcibly removed at least a dozen vehicles from their lot due to the illegal tows, one that included a trailer that was invoiced to two companies for more than $37,000. 

The owner of the trailer, Sergiy Danylyuk, reported that the tow company came in a couple of minutes to the scene of the accident, but that nobody had called him. After the tow company gave him a verbal estimate of $800 to take it to his trucking lot, they diverted the trailer to their tow yard, where they mandated payment before pick up. 

He said, "When I reached them later, 'No, we towed it here until you pay us - then we’re going to tow it to your yard.'" 

"For me, this situation - I have a lot of friends working in trucking business," Danylyuk said, "and I want people to know what is happening in Chicago." 

BACP officials said there is a pending investigation. 

Source: cbsnews.com

Father/Son Duo Discuss Last Season on Tow Series 

Discovery Channel's Heavy Rescue 401 is coming to an end this year in what will be its final season. The show has been running on the Discovery Channel since 2016 and features Gary and Colin Vandenheuval, the father-son towing duo from Sarnia, Ontario and their family business, Preferred Towing. 

In a Canadian radio show CBC Windsor Morning, hosted by Nav Nanwa, father and son opened up about their final season. 

When asked by the radio host how he was feeling, Gary said. "It's been bittersuite. It was a great run for seven years and a neat experience to showcase the industry and business across 170 countries.” 

According to Gary, the producers, who also produce Highway thru Hell, were doing some scouting around Discovery’s headquarters in Toronto and reached out to Preferred Towing, which is located in an area that can get some really bad weather during their winter months.  

"Everybody could remember the storm, the big snowmageddon that came through here and blocked the highway down for about five days. So you know, our name came up a couple of times," Gary said, referring to why they were partly selected for the series. 

While they were filming the show, Gary said a crew of three men would stay in Sarnia in a rental house from late November to March and wait for Preferred Towing to get a call, then meet them out in the field.  

"We've had them there as long as 16 hours on a couple of the bigger wrecks," he said. 

Gary’s son Colin said that he’s been a role model for others who might want to enter the tow industry.  

"You know, now I've got kids showing up at the door saying I watch you, I wanna do what you do," he said. “And, you know, that's neat for me because I've influenced a generation to look at a different career because not a lot of people think of towing as a career." 

Gary said that the show has resonated with many people because it’s made them “aware of the challenges and skillsets that’s needed to remove these large vehicles and keep these highways open.”   

Source: cbc.ca

Craig Baker, Owner of Cupertino Towing, Elected CTTA President

The California Tow Truck Association (CTTA) announced that Craig Baker will be the new President for the 2023-2024 term. 

At 20 years old, Baker said, "He fell in love with the towing industry and has never looked back." At 24, he started Cupertino Towing with three trucks and a staff of six. Today, he has a fleet of 33 trucks and a staff of more than 60. Baker shares the family business with his wife and three sons. 

Baker was one of the founding members and a past president of UCMCS (now ERSCA) and has worked on many of AAA’s committees as a AAA contractor over the years. Additionally, he has represented Motor Club North for the past six years on CTTA’s Towing Regulatory Oversight Council.  

He said, “As a newly elected President of CTTA, my commitment to you, the member, is to always represent this association and industry in a professional manner. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, so let’s roll up all of our sleeves and get to work.” 

Source: CTTA Press Release

Press Conference Shines Spotlight on Move Over Awareness 

On Monday, January 23, Florida officials from Florida’s Highway Patrol and family members of first responders who were struck and killed on Florida Highways spoke up at a press conference to remind motorists to follow the slow down/move over law as part of a campaign to promote Move Over Awareness in January.  

The law requires vehicles to move over a lane for emergency and service vehicles and slow down to 20 miles below the posted speed limit if it is unsafe to move over. 

The law also requires vehicles to move over a lane for sanitation vehicles, utility service vehicles, construction or maintenance vehicles, and tow trucks. 

Speakers included: 

FHP Lieutenant Tara Crescenzi; District Five Director of Transportation Operations Charles Heffinger; Brooke Lawrence, mother of Austin Gayne, a tow truck driver who was only 24 years old when he was tragically killed; Dennis Johnson, the owner of Johnson’s Wrecker Service, whose company lost two of its tow truck drivers over the last two years. 

Lawrence said, “It’s imperative to pay attention and not drive distracted.” Lawrence said she participates in these events, where Gayne’s heavy duty wrecker was on display, in order to spread awareness so that it doesn’t happen to another family.  

“It’s what I do to keep my son’s memory alive because he has two small children,” she said. “They probably won’t remember who he was.” 

Source: wftv.com/

Towman Running for City Council 

A tower from Port Arthur, Texas, who is the owner of Opie’s Towing and Transport, has decided to run for city council.  

Allen Valka, nicknamed Opie, is seeking the District 4 seat. 

Citing a time for change, Valka, a longtime businessman, wants to be a voice for the people of the district. 

He is spearheading an ordinance that prohibits tow truck drivers from parking their vehicles in their own driveways. 

Although he has a wrecker yard, he keeps one vehicle at his house because he says it saves time and possibly lives. 

The city argues the reason for the tow truck ordinance is to beautify the city. 

Valka says if that's the case, the council is failing and focused on the wrong thing. 

Source: fox4beaumont.com/

Tow Company Cleared  

Parking Enforcement Systems, a tow company in Birmingham, Alabama, which has been criticized for rude and "predatory" behavior, has broken no laws according to Birmingham Police.  The company, which pulls vehicles from downtown lots, has not violated city ordinances governing towing services, said Sgt. Monica Law of the Birmingham Police Department. 

“The City Attorney’s Office has reviewed some incident reports that we have regarding [Parking Enforcement Systems],” Law said. “They don’t see anything that appears to document a direct violation of the ordinance. There were incidents where a community member felt an employee was rude or failed to give information.” 

The lengthy city ordinance governing towing services has a provision that lists several reasons the city council can revoke a license for a towing operation. One of those reasons is that “The licensee, his agent, servant, or employee has operated the business in such a manner as to be detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare or so as to constitute a nuisance.” 

While Parking Enforcement has racked up a substantial number of social media complaints, and even Birmingham Police incident reports touching on the behavior of its drivers and towing lot attendants, apparently, thus far, the company has not met the threshold of being “a nuisance,” as the city legal department defines it. 

“The statute … describes what it would take for the business to be considered a nuisance,” Law said. “While we would prefer all businesses to operate with respect and kindness we recognize that some complaints were about rudeness and that is largely subjective on how it is defined.” 

Source: al.com

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On The Hook With Mr. Industry
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January 25 - January 31, 2023

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!

Dump Truck Diving off the Keyes

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By George L. Nitti

Arnold’s Towing, the longest running tow company in the Florida Keyes, 45 years family owned and operated, is no stranger to water recoveries, often retrieving boats from the water. But in August, a dump truck, loaded with large rocks, blew a passenger front tire, yanking the wheel out of the driver’s hand and sending it over a guardrail and into the sea. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t make it, drowning.

“We had six guys on it. Three in the water and three on land,” according to owner and supervisor, Ricky Arnold, Jr. The units involved included a 2016 Kenworth T800 with Century 1150R, 2019 Kenworth T370 with Vulcan V30, 2008 Freightliner with Century 1130, and a 2013 Volvo VNL64T with 53’ Landoll. The operators on scene were Ricky Arnold, Jr., Vic Prohorovskis, Chase Arnold, and Thomas Borrego.

Several technical challenges ensued. One was hooking up under water. 

Arnold said, “Snatch blocks, chains and cables are heavy and must be hooked precisely or the recovery will not be successful.” In addition, rocks were jammed up into the motor, frame and transmission, making the hook up more difficult. Add to the burden of transporting hooks and chains in water.  “It was a mess,” said Arnold.

The rotator would then be used to winch up the dump truck while they ran two snatch blocks off the cables, running the end of each line off two trucks, a medium duty and a 15/30. Arnold said, “As I tried to pull, there was a ledge of rocks and it kept getting stuck, so I was walking my truck back and had to tie off the other trucks.”

The Department of Transportation notified Arnold that they did not want them to cut the remaining guard rail, thus requiring the tow company to lift the loaded dump truck that was on its side in the water up and over the guard rail. Arnold used his rotator as the low boy was slid under it upon its descent over the rail.

Once recovered, the dump truck would be over height on the landoll to transport to their facility.  Arnold said, “The dump truck had to be positioned on its side for a 60 mile transport to our facility.  Once it was at our facility, it had to be rehung, uprighted, and set on its wheels.

All in all, a 20+ hour recovery. Parting words of advice from Arnold: “Make sure you check your front tires.”

Flawless Combine Recovery

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By Josh Schafer

On March 22, 2022, on a snowy and windy day in Minnesota, Pulver Towing responded to an emergency request from the Minnesota State Patrol involving an incident on US HWY 14 where a John Deere S780 combine track slid off of a trailer and was blocking the roadway.

Pulver, led by lead operator Josh Schafer, responded with the specialized equipment needed to recover the combine. Equipment included a 2006 Kenworth Century 9055 50 Ton, 2006 Freightliner Jerr-Dan 35 Ton, and 2018 Peterbilt 389 Century 1150 Rotator. The team of operators at scene also included Mark Schafer, Christian Riester, Bob Jaster, Justin Staeffler, Aaron Beek, and Darcy Beek.

Upon arrival, the first Pulver operator discovered that the combine was overturned and was cross ways blocking both lanes of US HWY 14. The Pulver professionals along with the Minnesota Balaton Fire Dept. took emergency corrective actions to mitigate the leaking fluids, using all the speedy dry they had available. Pulver used 18 bags of spill tackle rapid absorbent and 14 absorbent pads. The leaked fluid was contained to the roadway, curb and gutter and stopped from reaching the storm drain that went to the lake.

Pulver professionals then addressed the overturned combine. The rear planetary drives on the combine needed to be removed to prevent damage to them and the underside of the combine. Pulver removed the two planetary drives and placed them in the incident managers response truck.

Pulver professionals then rigged the combine to be up righted with a catchline to safely lower the combine to the ground. Pulver used two heavy recovery trucks to upright the combine. Once the combine was up righted, Pulver used a heavy recovery truck to extract the combine from the roadway to a side street allowing the US HWY to be reopened to the motoring public. The combine had no wheel / tracks on it and extra precautions were used to not damage its underside.

Once the combine was extracted from the US HWY, Pulver professionals and Balaton Fire removed the absorbents from the US HWY. The city of Balaton brought out a wheel loader to place the debris in and the City of Balaton disposed of the debris.

Pulver’s rotator was on a different incident at the time, causing a short delay until it would be available to lift the combine onto a lowboy trailer. When the rotator arrived, it was positioned to lift the combine. Pulver professionals used specialized rigging to lift the combine from four points on the combine. The fact that the combine did not have wheels or tracks on it was a challenge. The weight of the combine needed to be close to the rotator to safely lift it.

The lowboy trailer had to be backed under the combine and the rotator outrigger legs needed to be clear to allow the trailer to get under the combine. The combine was lifted and placed back on the lowboy trailer. A lot of consideration and planning transpired to perform the job safely and not create any damage to the combine that had a value of over $400,000.

After the combine was removed from the side street, Pulver professionals took corrective actions to clean up the absorbents on the street and in the curb and gutter. Pulver used a flatbed ramp truck to transport the containers of waste that was removed from the street and gutter. The waist was disposed of in the hazardous container at Pulver Marshall location.    

The recovery ended flawlessly and the combine was brought to a local dealership for repairs.

.............................
Pulver Motor Service, with several locations in Minnesota, has been towing for 100+ years, incorporating in 1920. Pulver's trucks, equipment, and experience handles all towing needs: light-duty towing, medium-duty towing, heavy-duty towing and recovery, equipment transport, local/long-distance towing, roadside assistance, lockout services, and jumpstarts. The company also does light to heavy-duty truck repair.

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

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

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

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

Heavy-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.
January 25 - January 31, 2023

Motor Carrier Compliance Annual Review 

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By Brian J Riker 

Sticking with the “New Year New You” theme, January is a great time to review your motor carrier compliance. But, Brian, I am just a simple light duty towing company, so what does motor carrier compliance even mean? Great question! 

Very few towing companies, even those that are light duty only providers, are exempt from regulation by the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. FMCSA has very broad authority under the definition of interstate commerce. Simply put, it is a myth that your truck must cross state lines to engage in interstate commerce. It is the origin, destination or intent of the shipment, or your part thereof, that determines which set of regulations you are operating under. 

Most towers switch between intrastate and interstate commerce multiple times per day without even realizing it. Given, in most states, interstate regulations are either adopted by reference or are more restrictive than state regulations, it makes good sense to always comply to the stricter interstate standards. Rarely will this let you down or result in a fine or penalty for non-compliance. This is not to say that you can ignore your local or state requirements. They are also applicable for the intrastate and true emergency towing operations you perform; however Federal qualifications generally are tougher. 

Yes, I understand that there is an exception from FMCSA regulations for transportation of wrecked or disabled vehicles, however that is only applicable at the first point of disablement. If you pick it up off the roadway, golden, if it is a secondary tow - even from your own storage lot or garage - then it is regulated transportation. Now, the only question becomes is it intra or interstate commerce. 

Interstate commerce involves anything that comes from or is destined for a location out of state or country. This means tourists passing through, most rental cars and virtually all commercial vehicles can be classified as interstate in nature even if you never leave your home town. What this means for you is your company needs to meet the qualifications set forth in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including but not limited to 49 CFR Parts 300-399. These regulations can be found at www.fmcsa/dot.gov and control everything from minimum qualifications for your drivers, the hours they may work and must rest, inspection and repair of your vehicles to the paperwork you must collect and retain. 

Here are a few highlights that apply to anyone operating any vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating greater than 10,000 pounds for business purposes, regardless of payment received. 

--US DOT registration number, commonly called a DOT number. This is in addition to any state identification or permit that must be obtained and/or displayed. 

--Motor Carrier Authority, MC number, is required for any work that involves transporting property not owned by the motor carrier, such as towing a car or moving a piece of construction equipment. 

--Unified Carrier Registration, UCR, is required of anyone that has an active US DOT number, paid annually at www.ucr.gov  

--Federal Annual Inspection or equivalent state safety inspection on every vehicle or trailer with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds. 

--Drug and alcohol testing program that is DOT compliant if any of your drivers use, or are expected to use, a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) as part of their job, including managers or owners that only drive occasionally. This also includes FMCSA Clearinghouse reporting and query requirements for any driver possessing a CDL, even if they are hired in a non-cdl capacity. 

--Completed driver qualification file with copies of all required documents, including an employment application (even for solo owner/operators) and background investigations. Highlights include a minimum age of 21, medical certificate from a qualified provider and annual driver license report. 

--Vehicle maintenance files, including details of your planned preventative maintenance program, periodic inspections and all repairs. Fun fact, the vehicle maintenance file must indicate the legal owner of the vehicle, tire size, full VIN and registration number among other things. 

--Hours of service documents, either true and accurate time card type records, if your drivers qualify for the short haul provisions, or log books for those that do not qualify. Since 2017, most log books have been required to be completed using a compliant electronic logging device (ELD) unless you meet the very narrow exemption requirements. 

These are only a few of the requirements for operating a legally compliant interstate motor carrier. If after conducting a self-evaluation you do not believe you are fully compliant, please seek competent consultation. The FMCSA recently announced new, higher fines and penalties for non-compliance ranging from a few hundred dollars upwards of $12,000 per occurrence, often per day. These penalties can put a small company out of business quickly. 

Stop Following Me   

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By Randall C. Resch 

GPS and technical savvy dispatch programs are available to today’s tow companies. They’ve become increasingly favorite to tow companies assigning company vehicles to personnel specifically for dispatching calls and tracking fleet movements as they go about daily tasks. Once again this topic’s raised its ugly head! 

When tow operators and employees are hired into the company fold, it’s commonplace that a dispatch specific app is added to one’s personal cellphone as part of the hire-on agreement. Part of that process may include the employee signing a statement that they’re aware the app was installed on their phone. 

In a Florida prime time news segment, a tow operator allegedly asked for personal time-off claiming his wife was sick, noting he could help his wife’s need and help take care of his kids. The company, in good faith, approved his reasonable request believing his story to be true.  

Fast forward later that day. The tower, now off-duty and using his own vehicle and personal cellphone, appeared on the company’s dispatch computer where the program’s GPS found him not at home. It was alleged the tower visited a competitor tow company to fill out an employment application. Ultimately, the tower was dismissed from the company. Although admitting he wasn’t at work, he claimed the company violated his privacy. 

Written in a publication narrative of The Florida Law Review, Assistant Professor Marc McAliister wrote the paper “GPS Cell Phone Tracking of Employees," commenting: “Because employees who use such apps typically consent to the monitoring of their phone’s location, this Article concludes that employees tracked in this manner cannot reasonably expect privacy in such monitoring. As a result, this Article predicts that app-based employee tracking will not trigger Fourth Amendment protection, nor will it be sufficient to sustain a privacy-related tort claim, such that employers will typically not face civil liability for tracking employees through smart phone apps.” 

A primary purpose of dispatch apps is to know where company tow trucks are.  Was this employee caught in "non-official business" after telling the company his need for time-off for family matters? Although he wasn’t using the company tow truck or on-the-clock, his personal cellphone was active which reported his GPS location as he moved about.  

OK, Ya’ Got Me 

Was the company following his movements solely or did the dispatch app capture all trucks in the field? Both dispatch supervisor and company owner confirmed they weren’t focused on his specific movements, but visually demonstrated that all company vehicles were monitored as part of the dispatch process. Could the argument be: the GPS (in this instance) wasn’t used for timekeeping purposes, but to track one employee’s movements? 

So, why is this kind of technology any different than an employee using the company's dispatch, desktop, or laptop computer for shopping or watching porn not associated with company business? Is this a huge invasion of privacy or is it not? Should there be an expectation of privacy?   

Why are facility cameras a source of employee angst? “Whatsmatta’ …ya’ don’t trust us?” While trust always is a prime issue, facility protection is a part of facility protection, yet, there are many incidents of employees stealing from stored cars or even a disappearance of tow equipment as a disgruntled employee makes ready to start their own company.  

Bye-Bye Trust   

I see this being an issue of mis-trust when employees aren’t candid in their claims. Looking for work (elsewhere) should be saved for the employee’s time-off. Remember, he was on approved time-off which likely is considered his time free to do as he pleases. In the case of this firing, an administrative judge may not uphold an employees firing by asking: "Did the employee’s looking for work elsewhere have anything to do with their job performance, or did their subsequent actions violate work regulations?"  

When nothing’s mentioned in the company’s PPM to address employee time-off, honesty in the workplace, or other like type topics, good luck justifying the termination. Note: The employee may not have been searching for work elsewhere if he/she wasn't treated well by his company, management or peers. 

Owners, to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit claiming invasion of privacy, be sure you’re aware of your state’s laws on the subject. If you’re not sure, consult your attorney. Administratively, have employees sign all hire-on agreements specific to the GPS (brand) apps and software used to track fleet movements. 

Could it be the employee’s firing was an emotional reaction because the company felt lied too? You decide!     

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.  

Whose Stuff Is It?

Straps Specialty Equipment 14daa
By Randall C. Resch

If you had one gripe about working the tow and recovery industry, what would that be? One small town tow operator said, “My company’s owner is too cheap to put specialty equipment on the trucks!”

Are tow truck owner’s responsible for outfitting trucks beyond basic equipment? While there’s generally no pre-hire demand (or requirement) that tow operators provide their own equipment, it comes down to the pre-hire arrangement between company and employee. Comparably, if a repair shop hires someone as an ASE mechanic, it’s likely the mechanic provides their own tools. Should it be any different?

More than Basics?

At seventeen-years of age, I was destined to be the world’s best tow operator outfitted with the world’s best gear. Because I worked at my parent’s company, my misguided entitlement suggested the company’s owner (dad) was responsible for “Gucci equipment items” I determined important. From that silliness came a huge “No” in which I learned the important life’s lesson of “improvise, adapt and overcome.”

For tow trucks purchased new, tow manufacturers typically supply a minimum equipment package, i.e., winch, cable, snatch-block, a pair of ratchets and straps, J-Hooks, bucket, broom, and fire extinguisher. Any equipment beyond basic comes at the whim (and expense) of the company’s owner to meet niche and customer needs. Police contracts oftentimes require upgraded equipment necessary to rotation services.

When companies serve the high-end transport market, flatbed carriers should be outfitted with a plethora of soft, endless loops, eight-point tie-down straps, padding, ramps, sport’s car straps, dollies and even a motorcycle dolly. But, at who’s cost?

Go Professional

Most towers barely afford “three square meals” let alone buy specialty equipment. But for towers who have saved a bit of “mad money,” the industry is full of (tow) equipment providers catering to the industry’s specialty needs. As in any profession, if you’re that consummate professional, I recommend you purchase specialty equipment (like lock-out tools) of your own.

Although there are some “downsides” to purchasing your own equipment (i.e., everyone will want to borrow your stuff), the “upside” is that you’ll have proper specialty equipment when needed, you won’t need to call the shop to request specialty equipment and it may promote job safety.

Rat in the Woodpile

Tow companies typically supply “only the minimal” for the simple reason that some tow operators are famous for losing equipment or “taking stuff” only to start their own companies.  In two-weeks alone, my average sized, eight-truck tow company mysteriously lost a set of extension lights, two recovery chains, a set of keys and a broom. One would think that’s mighty suspicious right?

Losing that much equipment wasn’t just a financial hit, I felt that one driver had sticky fingers. He’d been with the company less than a year and “word on the street” suggested he was buying a second-hand wrecker to set out on his own.

Under watchful eye of a carefully placed stealth camera, the culprit was captured red handed. Forget “tough love;” he was immediately dismissed and all equipment was recovered in-exchange for him not being prosecuted.

I believe it “company courtesy” that tow owners include specialty equipment as a means to meet best practices and total risk management head on. A reasonable arrangement suggests owner provide operators the best equipment possible to instill efficiency, proper equipment for situations, and to enhance on-scene safety.

On the other hand, it’s the employee’s responsibility to maintain and protect against subsequent loss, theft and damage. A tow operator should have no expectation and entitlement that specialty equipment is provided or for the taking. And when it’s time to  move on, the employee agrees to return company equipment without delay upon departure.     

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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January 25 - January 31, 2023

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! 

Snowmobile Rotator Transformation

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By George L. Nitti

In the snow country of northern Ontario, where more than 20,000 miles of groomed snow trails are connected and maintained by a federation of snowmobile clubs, it takes a unique vision and dedication to rescue stranded snowmobilers. 

“A lot of people break down and get stuck and don’t have anyone to call,” said Domenic Lacaria, who designed a unique snow mobile with the essential functions of a tow truck. “I wanted to combine my love for designing with my love for snowmobiling. When I was snowmobiling and broke down a couple of times, I had no one to come rescue me.” 

So Lacaria, with a background in engineering, designed and patented a specially operated snowmobile rotator he calls the Tow Mobile, giving it the acronym S.T.A.R, which stands for Snowmobile Towing Assistance and Recovery.  

Sitting 4 ft. wide by 18.5 ft. long, the red unit is powered by a car engine and includes a rotator with an 800-pound boom, hydraulic pump system, winch and cables, custom built toolboxes, 3 ft wide outriggers, a heated cab with heated seats, and other devices common to the towing and recovery trade. 

“Tow mobile is more like a transport truck. You don’t take it off road because it is heavy, weighing 4500 pounds,” said Lacaria. “It’s designed with a lot of pulling power and dual wide track. I extended the whole thing by seven feet. The tracks, motor and hood are all original.” The original design includes the Italian made Alpina Sherpa 1.6 liter snowmobile. 

Although the boom can lift 3200, in its application it is designed to lift up to 1000 pounds, with the heaviest of snowmobiles weighing 600 to 700 pounds. Most snowmobiles that he picks up average 500 pounds. 

Getting stuck on a snowmobile could be an all-day affair if not for Lacaria, who will travel a radius of 2 hours to recover stranded drivers. He said, “You can run snowmobiles for two to three hours between cities and if you break down in the bush you may have a 30 mile walk to the main road. You are in bare land.” 

Which is not where you want to be stuck, particularly as night approaches and temperatures get colder. 

“Sometimes snowmobilers get their machines stuck in a creek in freezing conditions,” said Lacaria. “One guy last year lost the tips of 3 of his fingers trying to get it out. That’s one of the main concerns - not just towing the sled but getting the people out of the cold and back to town.”  

Since Tow Mobile is a big unit, it is frequently not used for many of the jobs that Lacaria will do, recoveries that require a nimbler approach with a smaller machine and sleigh. Lacaria said, “If the recovery is more than 300 ft off trail, then I will take another snowmobile. I will find out where the person is and drive along with the trailer and bring it to the nearest road crossing and leave the truck and trailer on the side of the road and off load it, go down the trail and do the recovery, take it back to my truck and then drive them and their snowmobile back to town.” 

As for the work, Lacaria notes that he goes out every other day, sometimes two times a day, and calculates his fees on a rough hourly rate, the distance he has to travel, how far down a trail he will need to go and the weight of the machine.  

“I’ve been getting calls across the northern states as well as Canada looking to purchase the Tow Mobile," he said. "As for the future, I want to grow and encompass the whole province. I want to work with existing towing companies and add to their list of things that they can do.” 

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

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January 25 - January 31, 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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January 25 - January 31, 2023
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January 25 - January 31, 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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