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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in Towing September 27 - October 03, 2023

Trolley Up

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By George L. Nitti 

Some recoveries are super memorable in the life of a tow operator. One such recovery that stands out for Andrew White, heavy duty rotator specialist for Sterry St. Towing & Recovery of Attleboro, Massachusetts, happened in June of 2020.  

He recalls, “A guy with a medical issue was driving down the street and went through a stop sign, and barreled through a fence, flying into a ravine of the Blackstone River.”  

White estimated that when the man passed through the fencing, he flew about 60 feet airborne as the car plunged 200 feet down the embankment. Thankfully the airbags released and the man survived the accident. 

For White and his tow boss, who were both on scene in Cumberland, Rhode Island, figuring how to get the car back up to the street posed a challenge. White, who enjoys solving difficult recoveries, came up with a novel idea based on a TV show that he enjoys watching called “Ax Men.” 

He said, “Loggers cut down trees on hillsides and bring them up through a cable system.” Based on that concept, White came up with a game plan to employ a similar strategy. 

Although his boss had never seen it done before, White was given the green light, as it was essential to clear up the trafficked road from the perspective of fire and police who were also on scene and given the fact that there was no way to get another tow truck into position to help out with the recovery. 

Positioning his 2021 Peterbuilt 389 Century 1075, White planned on extending the rotator through the trees and then run one line all the way down across the ravine, securing it to an oak tree. Then he pulled a second line down and hooked it to a snatch block.  

He said, “I hooked the snatch block on to the first line and hooked the snatch block and that line to the car directly, which becomes a travelling block at that point.” 

White used the first line as the lift line while the 2nd line with the snatch block reeled the car into to him. In essence, White noted that the snatch block was being used as a trolley.  

He said, “Once the lines were set up, it was pretty easy to real them in."

The recovery took approximately two hours, most of the time spent rigging. 

Then the tow company that initially was dispatched on scene, before turning the job over to Sterry because it was outside their scope of operations, carried the totaled car off on their Peterbuilt 339 with an NRC flatbed.  

“You never know what you’ll pick up watching TV,” said White. “You can use little bits and pieces of what you learn from recoveries and glue them together.” 

Particularly important is that your tow boss on scene approves.  

White said, “The boss said I did an amazing job!” 



American Towman Today - September 29, 2023
American Towman Today - September 29, 2023
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Stertil-Koni Names Jim Jaramillo New Marketing Manager 

Stertil-Koni, a provider of heavy-duty vehicle lifts, including bus lifts and truck lifts, announced that James (“Jim”) Jaramillo has joined the company as Marketing Manager. Based at the company's  headquarters in Stevensville, Maryland, Jaramillo brings more than 10 years of marketing experience to his new role. 

“With a strong background in content creation, digital media, public relations, and social media, Jim's expertise will be key to further building the Stertil-Koni brand as we expand our market base in the U.S. and Canada,” commented Paul Feldman, Director of Marketing at Stertil-Koni. Prior to joining Stertil-Koni, Jaramillo served as an Integrated Marketing expert at Federated Wireless. 

Stertil-Koni, with their breadth of products, notably manufacturing heavy duty lifts, serves municipalities, state agencies, school bus fleets, major corporations, the U.S. Military and more.  

Source: Press Release



Jim Jaramillo

Is That Email a Scam? 

Scam Alert Web Capture 03395
By Brian J. Riker 

We have all received some very obviously fake emails asking us to file a form or pay for a compliance requirement. As email marketing grows in sophistication, more will receive some convincing emails that appear legitimate; often threatening some sort of legal or regulatory penalty if action is not immediately taken. These solicitations cost the trucking industry millions of dollars each year. 

As a compliance specialist and consultant, it infuriates me when less than scrupulous companies send these advertisements under the pretense of official notifications. It makes the legitimate companies look bad, adds confusion to an already complex regulatory environment and scams hard-working towers out of money for services that are usually either free or available at a very low cost when done yourself. 

How do you spot these scam messages? With very close scrutiny and a little independent verification. 

These solicitations usually come in bunches around certain regulatory compliance deadlines. The most common will come with an official sounding title like “Motor Carrier Compliance Division” or similar; and inform you that you are out of compliance with some common filing requirement such as Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) or the bi-annual update of your US DOT number. While these are legitimate compliance requirements for most towers and the Agencies involved have begun to send out email reminders, they never send out emails with big “action” buttons (click here to file). 

Note, the filing period for UCR opens on October 1st this year and must be completed by Dec. 31st. Anyone with an active US DOT number must file UCR, which can be done without a service charge, at www.ucr.gov  

Here are some simple tips to help you decide if an email or letter you have received is legitimate or simply a sales pitch. If you still have concerns or doubts after applying these tips then feel free to reach out to a trusted compliance expert of your choosing for more detailed guidance. You can even find some information about these solicitations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by typing in “solicitations” in the search bar at the top of their official website. 

  • Official US DOT or FMCSA communications will come from an email address ending in .gov 
  • Be sure to look closely at the lettering as some fraudulent emails end in .g0v using the number zero in place of the letter O, or other similar characters. 
  • The US DOT and FMCSA do not email motor carriers unless you have requested them to either when you registered for your US DOT number or in another form submitted with a specific question or request. 
  • The US DOT never asks for a credit card or bank access in an email or telephone call 
  • While some State Agencies do use email as a regular method of communication, they usually do not have action buttons or ask for a credit card in the email, only on their official website 
  • No governmental agency has a subscription service. If the fine print mentions a recurring fee or cancelation policy, it is from a third-party provider not an official government entity 
  • Bi-annual updates are the most common scam. While the US DOT will deactivate a US DOT number if these are not current, it doesn’t happen immediately. The status of your US DOT number can be checked for free at www.safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx and the update can be completed for free using the registration tab at www.fmcsa.dot.gov 

Bottom line: the state and federal motor carrier enforcement agencies usually do not initiate communication via email but prefer regular US Mail. The biggest exception to this is the new entrant safety audit notice which will arrive via email from a state partner of the FMCSA. 

If you get an email or telephone call demanding immediate action, is it likely to be a high-pressure sales pitch at best or an outright scam at worst. If in doubt you can always hang up and call the agency in question directly to confirm. 

Rat Rod Wrecker Turns Heads at USA Wrecker Pageant
By Don Lomax
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September 27 - October 03, 2023
TRAA will partner with the University of Alabama to conduct a study focused on near incident misses.

TRAA Partners with University on Safety Study 

TRAA is joining forces with the University of Alabama on a research study that will be conducted on near miss incident reporting. The project is entitled  "Identifying Elements for Successful Near-Miss Reporting System.”

TRAA's commitment to the project includes serving on the Project Expert Panel, circulating survey invitations, and helping coordinate interviews with a focus group of select towing companies. The existing Towing Traffic Incident Reporting System (TTIRS) created by the Statewide Towing Association (STA) of Massachusetts is also being reviewed as part of the project. 

The study is supported by a grant through the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety seeking to collect data to gain a more robust understanding of risks faced by roadside response personnel and ways to protect them. The project will examine and document existing near-miss reporting systems used in other domains, such as firefighting and aviation, to inform the design of such a system for roadside responders.  

Through interviews with developers or managers of existing reporting systems, the project team will identify the challenges, barriers, and opportunities for developing a near-miss incident reporting system for roadside responders. Perceptions and attitudes regarding near-miss reporting will also be gathered from roadside workers though focus groups and surveys.    

According to the AAA Foundation, "Collectively, these tasks will help the project team assess the data needs associated with a near-miss reporting system and to develop recommendations for a successful reporting system, from system design through to deployment."


Source: TRAA and aaafoundation.org

Memphis Towing Company Under Investigation 

The City of Memphis Permits Office is investigating A1 Towing and Hauling due to numerous complaints from truck drivers who claim that they were illegally towed or booted. 

Adam Herrell said he and his wife were sleeping inside his big rig at an unmanned truck stop when his truck was booted. Herrell said he was approached by an A1’s driver and a man dressed like a police officer. 

He said the men told him he had twenty minutes to pay $272 to get the boot off, or they would be physically removed from the truck. 

Deschun Williams said he was parked when an A1’s tow truck driver blocked him, put a lock on his air hose, and a boot on his tractor-trailer. 

The Houston, Texas, truck driver said the tow truck driver told him he would have to pay $260 via Cash App or his truck would be towed. 

Fernando Arias said he was forced to pay A1’s nearly $3,700 after his semi-truck was towed from a Walmart. The Miami trucker said he was inside the store shopping for food, and when he came outside, his vehicle was being hooked up to an A1’s tow truck. 

A Walmart spokesman said at the time, the store was in contract with A1’s Towing and Hauling, but they were not allowed to tow customers. He said Walmart quickly terminated the agreement with A1’s after its signing. 

Arias said A1’s Towing stole his truck from the Walmart, costing him his job. 

“The company paid for it, and the company took it out of my check,” said Arias. “I got fired. I got fired, and it wasn’t my fault.” 

According to the city’s booting ordinance, no vehicle with a boot may be towed unless the owner of the vehicle fails to contact the booting company within 24 hours. 

The maximum booting fee is $50. 

Companies must accept multiple forms of payment, including checks, cash, or credit cards, and must remove a boot within one hour of being contacted by the owner or operators of the vehicle that has been booted. 

The ordinance also states that if the owner of a motor vehicle parked without authorization on private property attempts to retrieve their vehicle before booting occurs, there shall be no fee, and the vehicle owner shall be allowed to remove the vehicle without further delay. 

Source: wreg.com

Tow Truck Driver Runs Over Toddler

A 21-month year old toddler was struck and killed by a tow truck driver on a busy roadway in Chelsea, Maine. The toddler, named Majesty, had wandered away from a front yard play area.

Maine State Police say the 62-year-old driver, who was towing a vehicle at the time, didn't realize the child was in the road until it was too late. 

The child’s foster mother said that she had gone into the house to grab some laundry when Majesty was hit.  

According to state police, the driver says the girl was lying in the road. Roderick says two young women stopped and tried to save Majesty. One of them knocked on her door after paramedics got there. 

Authorities reported that the tow truck driver was not speeding, and informed that the roadway is dangerous.

State police continue to investigate.  


Source: fox23maine.com

Virginia Beach Ratchets Up Tow Rates 

Virginia Beach's city council voted overwhelmingly to raise their city’s tow rates in a 9-2 vote.  

Most cars will now cost $200 to retrieve, a $55 increase. Storage fees for vehicles in tow yards has also gone up from $25 a day to $60 per day after the first 24 hours. 

The maximum towing fine increases by weight, and it applies to unauthorized vehicles in private and public lots. 

The city hasn’t changed its rates in 10 years as the local towing industry, led by a Towing Advisory Board, pushed for rate increases to offset the rising costs of operations.  The board is comprised of an advocate for towing businesses; a representative from the police department; and a citizen. 

The City Council will be able to review the towing fees in two years before deciding whether to increase them again. 

Before the vote, Councilman Michael Berlucchi said he has concerns about the financial burden of towing fees but also understands the need to remove vehicles that are parked illegally or block access. 

“We have a dual role,” Berlucchi said. “We have to ensure that we have an industry that can come and get those vehicles, but we also at the same time have to ensure we have some protections.” 

Source: pilotonline.com

Woman Killed Exiting Tow Truck 

A woman riding on the passenger side of a tow truck on I-90 in the Buffalo, New York metro area was killed after she exited the vehicle while the truck was still in motion. 

New York State police found Gabriel Turner, 32, dead on the shoulder of the highway. 

What caused her death? According to Trooper James O’Callaghan no charges have been filed, but an investigation is pending as authorities examine the situation.  

“Why did this happen? Was it a suicide? Was it intentional? Was she a victim of a crime? We have to look at all the stuff with the evidence that we have,” O’Callaghan said. 

A 34-year-old man from Buffalo was driving the tow truck, and purportedly in a relationship with the woman. 

Turner’s older sister, Jaqlene Bullock, indicated that Turner was trying to get out of an abusive relationship and that she was excited for the future. She said Turner loved life and her 10-year-old son too much to ever consider jumping out of a moving vehicle. 

Source: wivb.com

Tow Owner Incarcerated for Emissions Tampering 

Dennis Cleveland, owner of Affordable Towing in Springfield, Missouri was sentenced for illegally tampering with the emissions controls of the company’s diesel towing vehicles. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Cleveland to pay a $255,000 fine. 

 “This business owner intentionally polluted the air in southwest Missouri for more than a decade with massive amounts of cancer-causing toxins in violation of federal law,” said U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore. “He pursued personal profit at the expense of the environment and the health of his neighbors....” 

On March 9, 2023, Cleveland pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and one count of tampering with a Clean Air Act monitoring device. Cleveland admitted that, since 2011, he has directed his employees to physically disable emissions control components on multiple heavy-duty diesel tow trucks. 

Cleveland was contacted by law enforcement on multiple occasions and ordered to stop emission modifications but persisted in violation of the law. Cleveland conspired with Robert Dyche, the owner and operator of Full Flash Tuning, which specializes in illegally tampering with the on-board diagnostic systems on these vehicles. Cleveland caused the Affordable Towing trucks to be tampered with to save money by avoiding maintenance expenses on emissions control systems and by spending less money on fuel. 

This tampering is frequently referred to as “tuning” or “flashing” an on-board diagnostic system. As a consequence of “tuning,” tampered vehicles spew substantially more deleterious pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (Nox), carbon monoxide (CO), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), and particulate matter (PM) into the air, presenting a risk to the environment and public health. 

Dyche pleaded guilty on March 13, 2023, to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and awaits sentencing. 

Source: justice.gov

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September 27 - October 03, 2023

Machine Recovery Amidst Fire and Death

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By George L. Nitti 

In April, after a fire broke out at a massive dairy farm in Dimmitt, Texas, killing more than 18,000 cows, the suspected cause was a heavy piece of machinery used for picking up and separating manure for the purpose of liquifying it for removal. 

Enter HBL Towing & Recovery of Dallas, Texas. They received a call from a spokesperson from the farm to remove the 17,000 + pound machine. HBL’s Operations Manager Joseph Fitzhugh said, “They wanted to have the machine removed so that they could inspect it as evidence to determine the source of the fire. The barn was low clearance, with no working utilities and lighting.” 

Dimmitt, which is located more than 350 miles west of Dallas, in the middle of nowhere, normally would not be part of HBL’s traveling range. 

Fitzhugh said, “They couldn’t find anybody with the equipment or know how to get the machinery out of the building.” 

HBL sent one of their rotators - a Century 1075 twin steer operated by Antonio Palmerin - a Landoll trailer and a service truck, with the intention of delivering the machine to a separate clean warehouse north of Texas in Sulphur Springs. 

“When we got there, it was like a cave that smelled like fire and death. Although the job took us 10 hours, our seven employees were there for three days. The process kept getting delayed by the lawyers on scene.” 

Upon removing the machinery, Fitzhugh noted they were limited on clearance. He said, “We couldn’t boom up with all three stages. We couldn’t get up above it. We had to get right next to it and just inch it over while still having clearance below the ceiling for the rotator and above the floor for the Landoll.” 

For the team at HBL, three days working under prevailing conditions was frustrating, as each step in the process was orchestrated by lawyers who were negotiating everything, including the hook points on the machinery. 

“It was all about saving evidence for the insurance claims,” said Fitzhugh. “Everybody had to agree where it was going to be hooked. It was aggravating to be held back each step of the way when you are used to incident management.” 

HBL, which has extensive experience dealing with evidence, was asked by the fire investigators to shrink wrap the machine. 

Fitzhugh said, “Once we set it down, we rigged everything and had to take it back up and begin wrapping it with shrink wrap.  We shrink wrapped everything, even the dirt that came with it, from the bottom up and then we had to slice little holes to chain it to the Landoll. It was a pain.” 

From there, the machinery was transported to a clean warehouse, with loftier ceilings and bright lighting, and set down like a museum piece.

From there, one can expect engineers and lawyers to reconstruct what caused the fire at the dairy barn on that destructive day. 

Helicopter Recovery 1, 2, 3 

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By George L. Nitti

It’s not on a tower’s everyday checklist to encounter a recovery involving a helicopter. Some may seem so easy that towing companies might wish they had more to invoice on – a nice piece of change compared to those more conventional pickups from a motor club dispatch.  

Jerry Zehrung III, lead operator for Schofield, Wisconsin tow company Lightening Express Towing, said, “I never thought I’d have a helicopter hooked on the boom of our heavy wrecker. It’s just that you really never know what kind of call you’re going to get.” 

Zehrung relished the opportunity to sink his teeth into something just a little more offbeat than his day to day, finding his first-time helicopter recovery a bit of a thrill ride, literally. Bringing his 30-ton 06’ International on a Jerr Dan wrecker into the wreckage scene, a half mile ride on a piece of overgrown land once a landing strip, you might say he found it like a Safari ride, sans giraffes and elephants, cougars and hippos. Zehrung was having fun driving driving down a bouncy half mile trail on soft sand towards destination recovery. 

Upon arrival, a team from the anonymous helicopter company included a mechanic and trailer driver waiting on Zehrung to play his part in this recovery encounter.  

“It was a catastrophic failure,” said Zehrung. “The helicopter was 3000 feet (about twice the height of the Empire State Building) up in the sky before it had engine failure. The pilot had to do a steep dive to get the blades spinning really fast. Unbelievably, everybody walked away.” 

First things first, Zehrung got out of his wrecker and did a walkabout through the long, tall grasses in order to find a spot to position his wrecker. He didn’t want to plant it on a soft spot. 

“I wanted to make sure I could get the wrecker into position to lift the aircraft,” he said. 

Rigging would be no problem. The crew of the helicopter company had it under control, including concocting specialized rigging made of steel cable to hook onto the blades of the helicopter rotor.” 

“We told them that their having more knowledge of the aircraft that it would probably be better for them to rig to the helicopter and let us rig our tow truck to their rigging.” 

With everything under control, Zehrung was in command of the lift off, lowering his 19-foot stick to the helicopter rotor, and then attaching his winch line to the steel cable which was attached to the helicopter. All Zehrung had to do was lift up and put down the casualty onto the specialized trailer, as easy as 1, 2, 3. 

“It couldn’t have been more perfect the way that it landed,” said Zehrung. “The whole thing took about 45 minutes.Every now and then we get some pretty crazy stuff.” 

Indeed, recoveries often come in surprise packages. You never know what you’re going to get in that cracker jack box. Even a helicopter. 

Rollback Recovery in a Steep, Tight Space

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By George L. Nitti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On island Dwight it well respected. 

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

September 27 - October 03, 2023

Is That Email a Scam? 

Scam Alert Web Capture 03395
By Brian J. Riker 

We have all received some very obviously fake emails asking us to file a form or pay for a compliance requirement. As email marketing grows in sophistication, more will receive some convincing emails that appear legitimate; often threatening some sort of legal or regulatory penalty if action is not immediately taken. These solicitations cost the trucking industry millions of dollars each year. 

As a compliance specialist and consultant, it infuriates me when less than scrupulous companies send these advertisements under the pretense of official notifications. It makes the legitimate companies look bad, adds confusion to an already complex regulatory environment and scams hard-working towers out of money for services that are usually either free or available at a very low cost when done yourself. 

How do you spot these scam messages? With very close scrutiny and a little independent verification. 

These solicitations usually come in bunches around certain regulatory compliance deadlines. The most common will come with an official sounding title like “Motor Carrier Compliance Division” or similar; and inform you that you are out of compliance with some common filing requirement such as Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) or the bi-annual update of your US DOT number. While these are legitimate compliance requirements for most towers and the Agencies involved have begun to send out email reminders, they never send out emails with big “action” buttons (click here to file). 

Note, the filing period for UCR opens on October 1st this year and must be completed by Dec. 31st. Anyone with an active US DOT number must file UCR, which can be done without a service charge, at www.ucr.gov  

Here are some simple tips to help you decide if an email or letter you have received is legitimate or simply a sales pitch. If you still have concerns or doubts after applying these tips then feel free to reach out to a trusted compliance expert of your choosing for more detailed guidance. You can even find some information about these solicitations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by typing in “solicitations” in the search bar at the top of their official website. 

  • Official US DOT or FMCSA communications will come from an email address ending in .gov 
  • Be sure to look closely at the lettering as some fraudulent emails end in .g0v using the number zero in place of the letter O, or other similar characters. 
  • The US DOT and FMCSA do not email motor carriers unless you have requested them to either when you registered for your US DOT number or in another form submitted with a specific question or request. 
  • The US DOT never asks for a credit card or bank access in an email or telephone call 
  • While some State Agencies do use email as a regular method of communication, they usually do not have action buttons or ask for a credit card in the email, only on their official website 
  • No governmental agency has a subscription service. If the fine print mentions a recurring fee or cancelation policy, it is from a third-party provider not an official government entity 
  • Bi-annual updates are the most common scam. While the US DOT will deactivate a US DOT number if these are not current, it doesn’t happen immediately. The status of your US DOT number can be checked for free at www.safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx and the update can be completed for free using the registration tab at www.fmcsa.dot.gov 

Bottom line: the state and federal motor carrier enforcement agencies usually do not initiate communication via email but prefer regular US Mail. The biggest exception to this is the new entrant safety audit notice which will arrive via email from a state partner of the FMCSA. 

If you get an email or telephone call demanding immediate action, is it likely to be a high-pressure sales pitch at best or an outright scam at worst. If in doubt you can always hang up and call the agency in question directly to confirm. 

Understanding Care, Custody and Control 

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By Randall C. Resch 

Some tow owners don’t fully comprehend what “Care, Custody and Control” is?  When vehicles are impounded and stored by means of non-consent towing, private property impounds, or actions by law enforcement, tow companies have responsibilities to care for the property of others.    

For the tow and recovery industry, “Care, Custody and Control,” are risk management processes that span the entire duration (of storage) when vehicles, or property of others is entrusted to the company and its employees. The concept of “CC&C” is simple.  

Care  

Tow companies are responsible for direct damages to a customer’s vehicle during acts of loading, off-loading, during tow operations, test drives, picking up and delivery from a customer’s premises, lawful impound and while parked or being moved with the tow company’s property. 

Tow companies are responsible for total actions of its employees, citing “Vicarious Liability” applicable to vehicle operations and driving habits, exposure to contents not of 5their own, or actions that require industry standard training, techniques, and strategies.  

A certain “Standard of Care” is necessary in protecting a motorist’s vehicle and included property during tow, transport, and recovery tasks. The same liability is true 24/7 at the company’s facility, shop, and storage yard. To this point, is your facility properly insured to cover unlikely mishaps that cause damage to stored vehicles?     

Custody 

Is derived when best business practices ensure that vehicles or properties of others are reasonably protected from intentional or accidental damage. This includes harm, theft, or access provided to individuals not directly linked to stored or impounded vehicles while in the tow company’s custody.  

Tow companies are entrusted with providing adequate security in order to prevent a vehicle’s theft or liberation of its property/contents while serving time in custody or that of simple storage. It’s essential tow companies reduce opportunities of theft of property from towed, transported, stored or impounded vehicles by continuing business strategies intended to provide the following controls: 

1. Install a centralized intrusion alarm that covers the entire premises 
2. Provide a 24/7 video surveillance system 
3. Maintain a “key control program,” lock-box or key-board 
4. Require employee training regarding access and release procedures 
5. Implement a “Zero-Tolerance Theft Policy” to prohibit random “shopping by employees” 
6. Store vehicles in secured areas until released  
7. Inventory, report and/or store items of value 
8. Keep facility access gates and portals closed to all non-employee personnel 

Control 

Tow companies and their employees have direct responsibility to protect vehicles or properties of others by controlling accessibility or actions of persons not the owner/agent while vehicles and property is in the company’s safekeeping.  

“Control” is maintained by ensuring vehicles and properties remain safe within secured storage, including acceptable (employee) actions necessary to protect against accidental or intentional damage and theft.  

A company shall not allow unauthorized access or release of vehicles or properties to individuals other than those authorized by law enforcement, completed investigation, a valid court order, or documents necessary for release are obtained from the vehicle’s rightful (registered) owners or agents.   

I Didn’t Do It 

What happens when someone claims "My car wasn’t like that until you guys towed it.” It seems most claims are fictitious and revengeful moves to get back at the tow company, generally filed in attempts to recoup monies paid to bail vehicles out.  

Most contracts require companies to accept damage or theft claims filed by vehicle owners or agents. While there’s small certainty a vehicle was damaged in process of load and go, companies may be required to make repairs or “cut a check” for reasonable costs. When claims are made, savvy tow management invites the customer back to file a written complaint. Why? 

The company’s complaint form should include a “Perjury Statement,” noting “False claims will be prosecuted.” It’s surprising how many go away when claimant’s note they could be prosecuted for perjury. 

A company’s best evidence is tower’s taking plenty of photos that capture “pre-tow damages.” Also include a careful, “plain sight inventory” of the vehicle’s condition and its contents (both inside and out).  

Tow operators are tasked with making sure what they see is noted on the officer’s impound report before taking custody of a vehicle. Remember, documentation is key to fighting false claims.  

Whatever your processes are in providing Care, Custody and Control, be sure your facility is properly insured to cover unlikely mishaps including fire, theft, vandalism, or extensive damage caused to stored vehicles. If you’re not sure your policy includes Garage Keeper’s Insurance, give your insurance agent a call.  

Operations Editor  Randall C. Resch is a retired California police officer and veteran tow business owner. As consultant and trainer, he authored and teaches a tow truck operator safety course approved by the California Highway Patrol. For 51-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

OSHA and the Towing Industry 

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By Brian J. Riker 

Does OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) regulate the towing industry? This has been debated for as long as I can recall, and the short answer is YES. Since at least January 2002 there has been an industry classification code specifically for the towing industry, and it has never been on the exempted industries list. Towing industry regulation prior to 2002 was lumped into either general transportation or service stations. For reference the current NAICS Code is 488410. 

Now before you panic, OSHA is a complicated but predictable agency, and you may have some protection from random inspections and enforcement if your state has their own occupational safety and health agency. 

Ultimately all industries must comply with at least the basic principles of OSHA which makes it an employer’s duty to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. This is known as the General Duty Clause. Our industry is complicated — while OSHA clearly regulates all activities at a fixed place of business — they do not have jurisdiction over activities that are regulated by another Federal Agency such as the Department of Transportation. Meaning, if your towing company engages in interstate commerce, and is therefore subject to US Department of Transportation regulation, you may have two or more agencies with overlapping areas of responsibility regarding employee health and safety to be mindful of compliance with. 

Still not sure about OSHA regulations and the towing industry. A cursory search of OSHA records since 2002 returns hundreds of inspection details with many that involve struck by type accidents mostly occurring alongside public roadways. These inspections resulted in enforcement actions against towing companies with fines ranging from a few hundred to over twelve thousand dollars. These inspections have occurred all across the country, including in some states that have notably strong state run OSHA programs like California. 

No state is excluded from OSHA enforcement, nor is any employer, even the self-employed and family only operations. 

It is important to note that OSHA has a very wide jurisdiction and often gathers tips to begin investigations from multiple sources including news outlets, social media and reports from current or former employees that may be disgruntled. This is important to consider when posting pictures of jobs online or bragging about abusing your equipment, especially if a failure were to result later, as you may have just given the investigator the evidence needed to condemn yourself. 

OSHA has been known to show up at the scene of a large crash because an investigator happened to see it on the news or was in the area, and yes they can just show up unannounced although this is rather unusual and you do have protections against immediate inspection and enforcement unless they witness something that is an immediate hazard to life - then they can shut down a job on the spot with a stop work order. 

Please do not confuse the under 10 employee threshold for posting injury reports with the fact that OSHA applies to your operation. Additionally, this threshold does not apply if there is a serious injury resulting in hospitalization, loss of an appendage, eyesight or death. Any accident resulting in any of those conditions must be immediately reported to the nearest OSHA office for investigation. Further, should you be a large employer with 250 or more employees there is also an electronic reporting requirement. 

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September 27 - October 03, 2023

Colorful Landscape, Magical World  

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Back in its day, during the mid 80’s, the Nintendo game Super Mario Brothers was all the rage, becoming one of the all-time popular video games ever.  

Drawing on this theme, the owner of P.J.’s Towing of Lansing Michigan, with the expertise of graphic design company 180 Designs, created a memorable wrap covering their 2020 Kenworth T880 with an 1150 Century Rotator. 

“It’s a beautiful truck,” said P.J. “It shows all of the tunnels and some of the backgrounds from the game itself.” 

Indeed, this unique wrap is a magical mystery tour of characters who graced the game and is filled with a colorful landscape of lush greens and other bright, happy colors. 

On the lower half of the unit, a tannish flamed themed design blends harmoniously with those brighter colors. 

Imagery connected to the towing industry also abounds, like the large tow chain that wends its way through the magical landscape, the slogan on the boom of the rotator extolling “Get Hooked on P.J.’s,” and the familiar logo of P.J’s Towing found on the side of the unit.  

P.J., who has wrapped over a hundred vehicles throughout the years with 180 Designs, was particularly proud of this wrap. He noted that it had recently one best of show at the Ultimate Truck Show in Michigan at the Gilmore Car Museum. 

Yet the fate of this mesmerizing rotator is currently unknown, as it was stolen from one of their five locations following the contest. After dropping the unit off at their secured facility and locking it inside a building that included nine surveillance cameras on the property, it was reported stolen on Sunday, September 10. 

According to P.J., the thieves jumped the fence and punched a hole in a window on the garage door, ransacked the shop, took the GPS off the truck, drove the truck away, and cut the lock off the gate shortly after midnight. 

He said, “It just makes me sick. I’ve worked my butt off to build a good company and to have a truck like that. I was proud of it. It was beautiful, fully stocked and ready to work. It was a show truck. The graphics were incredible.”  

Let’s pray P.J. and company get their masterfully wrapped rotator back where it belongs. The world would surely be a better place.   

Wraps of Many Colors

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By George L. Nitti

Some tow trucks one might say are edible. Like a birthday cake. You want to sink your teeth into them as they invite you, seduce you, entice you with delectability. Their bright colors are icing on the cake; their flickering candles you must blow out.

At Prime Towing & Transport, Inc., located in Tulare, California, owned by Aiver and Jessica Delatorre, the company has been ramping up their fleet, adding a horde of new 22’ and 23’ Freightliners with Century Vulcan beds. Yummy!

Chalk it up to the ills of post pandemic backlogs in truck inventory and a host of legislation in California desiring everything EV and one will understand the feverish pace by which Prime is adding to their growing fleet.

“They are getting rid of the Cummins Engine,” said manager Aaron Vargas. “We have 25 trucks on order. You have to preorder everything.”

That says it all. Time to order new trucks now before they phase out a mainstay of the towing industry, the revered Cummins engine. Hopefully Cummins is engineering cutting edge designs that will bring the towing industry on the brink of revolutionary gains.

But now to those mouthwatering colors that Prime has coated their new units with, wraps of many colors – blue, yellow, teal, red, brown, and green. It’s kind of a religious experience if you get my drift.

Order me up the blue bed to go with my blue classic! Indeed, customers at Prime can select the bed they want to use for transport.

“People call us and ask ‘Can I get the teal truck.’  The girls like it. We do a lot of custom cars. If their cars are blue they want the blue truck,” said Vargas.

Blue goes with blue and red red. It’s poetry in motion - on a flatbed. Same design, different colors is a catchy branding stratagem, thinking that goes outside the box. Prime’s modern design, with slick lines that also blend in black and white across the fleet, works wonders.

Vargis said, “That’s a new design for us. We don’t want to blend in with anyone else.  Our trucks are our rolling billboard.”

Of course employees can’t complain bitterly when you give them a new unit with a delectable color.

“We give our guys the best equipment we can give them,” said Vargas. “And birthday cakes too. We take care of them.”

Re-Branding “Stranded”

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By George L. Nitti

Most experienced motorists are acquainted with the sinking feeling of being stranded on the roadway.

To capitalize on this universal affliction, one towing company went so far as to name themselves “Stranded,” with hopes to reach a broader audience by creating a distinct brand capturing motorist angst.

In 1994, Charles Ellis started Stranded Towing, based out of Indianapolis, Ind., realizing a boyhood dream.

He said, “At 12 my father asked me what I wanted to do. I said, ‘Dad, I want to own tow trucks.’ I bought my first tow truck at age 13, customizing it in 1982, before I could even drive it. Today, our trucks set the standard for how clean tow trucks can be.”

Their 2019 Freightliner M2 with a 22 ft Jerr Dan bed sets a high standard, both in cleanliness and design, where it stands out with its bright, colorful lettering, which Ellis credits his daughter for creating 22 years ago.

“When she was in elementary school, I told her to color it in the way you see it on a business card. I wanted the letters in “stranded” to be put in blocks and in different colors,” Ellis said.

The “Stranded” name is now clearly visible on their four trucks, with unique lettering that stands out just as the bold, colorful lettering does on the Google brand.

Ellis said, “It’s catchy. It’s simple. It’s what we needed to say. And it’s easy to remember.”

Yet, Ellis maintained that he had a larger objective: to work with a network of companies under the “Stranded” name.

He said, “I don’t want a fleet of trucks. I want an influx of phone calls.”

Hence, Ellis’ strategy was to build a brand that dispatches calls for other towing companies, effectively bypassing motor clubs, so that towers can be paid now rather than later at fair market rates.

“We work with about 50 companies in different areas,” Ellis said. “There are GPS units on these tow trucks so the dispatch is a lot smoother and cleaner. There is one number to call when you are stranded and we use the local tow company to run those calls.”

Afterall, when you are stranded, does it matter the name of the truck that picks you up? Just call “Stranded” for relief.

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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September 27 - October 03, 2023

Snatch Block Pulley

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XRP Snatch Block Pully is a lightweight alternative to traditional heavy snatch blocks/Pulleys. The XRP snatch block pully can be used to increase pulling power or redirect the winch line. The XRP is for use with synthetic rope only and is to be used in conjunction with a soft shackle. 

Xrteme Snatch block Pulley 4”
For 3/8" & 1/2" shackles
Synthetic Rope 3/26" To 1/2" Inch Diameter
Weight Capacity: 12,000-lbs.

Xrteme Snatch block Pulley 6”
For 1/2" to 5/8" Shackle
Synthetic Rope: 1/2" to 3/4” Inch Diameter
Weight Capacity: 58,000-lbs.

Xrteme Snatch block Pulley 10”
For 1" Shackle
Synthetic Rope 1” Inch Diameter
Weight Capacity: 85,000-lbs.

For more information on this product, visit towtoolz.com

Mega Carrying Case for Lock-Out Tools

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Access Tools, the undisputed leader in lockout tools, has a Heavy Duty Carrying Case that is designed to fit all of their In-The-Door Tools along with other tools and accessories. The Heavy Duty Mega Deluxe Case is made with luggage quality nylon, features heavy duty zippers, reinforced seams, and is virtually impossible to rip or tear. It also features see-through pockets made with heavy duty industrial quality plastic so you can easily organize your tools.

All of the Complete Locksmith Sets from Access Tools come with the Heavy Duty Mega Deluxe Case as a standard item, but it can also be purchased separately either as a replacement for an aging case or an upgrade to another tool set. Don’t struggle with an inferior Carrying Case to keep your tools organized and at your fingertips. The Heavy Duty Mega Deluxe Case from Access Tools is the solution to all of your organization problems. For more information, visit www.CarOpeningTools.com

Spliced Eye Synthetic Recovery Slings

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This synthetic rope sling is designed slimmer yet has a higher WLL. The RimSling has a protective Cordura Sleeve over the entire sling giving it maximum protection. Also, it has a special braid guard at the center of the sling providing extended life. A 6" sling eye is located on either end of the sling. 

Zip's Tip: Tie a zip-tie on the eye of the sling to help feed the rope through the aluminum wheel holes!

--Slimmer synthetic rope maintains higher WLL
--Protective cordura sleeve over entire sling
--Special braid guard at the center of sling for extended life
--6" sling eyes
--USA made
--5:1 Safety Factor
--Rated for Overhead Lifting
--Available Colors: Purple (Standard), Red, Orange, Safety Green, Military Green, Yellow, Blue, Light Blue, Black, Gray, Pink

For more information and weight capabilities,zips.com
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September 27 - October 03, 2023
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September 27 - October 03, 2023
Jesse Jones

Tow Company Owner Murdered on Repo Job 

Jesse Jones, 44, a tow owner in St. Louis, was murdered while repossessing a car on Thursday, September 7. 

Jones was on a mission to pick up a Jeep Cherokee on a short-term loan from a dealership from a woman who was in the process of moving. Jones’ sister Stephanie informed that the woman’s brother was helping her with the move when Jones showed up and was shot dead. 

Police tracked the alleged shooter, Dwayne Davis, 27, using a GPS device on the Jeep. Investigators tracked the vehicle the jeep, where Illinois State Police attempted to stop it. The Jeep then sped off before crashing on the Poplar Street Bridge, according to court documents. 

Police say Davis was spotted exiting the Jeep after the crash before throwing a gun off the bridge. 

Jones’ sister said her brother “had a big heart. He was a big, burly man who you might cross a street when you first saw him, but he would do anything to make someone smile."  

Stephanie Jones said Saturday that her brother loved his new wife, Chrysta, whom he married this spring. He enjoyed traveling the country on his motorcycle and reading. He is survived by an adopted adult son and a teenage daughter.  

"It is a huge loss for the people he loved and his family. He would drop everything and drive three states just to help us out," she said. "The world is a worse place today without him." 

Source: stltoday.com

Repo Business Booming 

According to a recent report on rising delinquencies on subprime auto loans, the repossession industry is continuing to benefit, seeing a banner year as repos have continued to rise since the peak of the Pandemic in 2021. In March, the percentage of delinquent subprime auto loans increased to 5.3 percent, up from 2.6 percent two years ago. Various factors are at play, including rising interest rates, higher prices for used and new cars, and inflation pinching consumers across the board.

At the recent North American Reposessors Summit conference in Orlando, Florida, it was reported that repo companies are having a hard time keeping up with demand and finding drivers. “As the economy curves down, our industry curves up,” said Ben Deese, vice president at North Carolina-based Home Detective Co. The $1.7 billion industry primarily recovers assets like cars, trucks, and boats, all requiring skilled tow truck drivers.    

Speaking to this point with TIW, Jordan McIntosh of Rapture Enterprises of Burnsville, North Carolina, who services the Appalachian region covering several states, spoke of his current need for more drivers, noting that during the Pandemic a lower demand caused some of his agents to opt for unemployment benefits.  

He said, “We lost a lot of good agents, but fortunately had some good guys who saw the need to keep our company open. That’s what got us through until the volume started coming back. In January of 23’ we broke our record for the numbers of vehicles we picked up.” 

Anticipating this summer’s volume, McIntosh has bought five late model trucks in the last year and has been adding drivers "pretty much consistently." He said, “I’ve got seven drivers now, but to be honest with you, I could use seven more.” 

Source: Bloombergmotor1.com and Tow Industry Week

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

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