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The Road Calls

Working Thru the Pandemic Online Car Sales

and Towing

CHANGING

Dangerous Habits

Assessing the Terrain

TowIndustryWeek.com

JANUARY 2021 AmericanTowman.com

$10


Contents

Cover Feature

Volume 45 Issue 1

January 12

Towman of the Year

Only the second time a plurality of towers were chosen for the magazine’s prestigious honor.

2021

Departments 6

The Walkaround

8

News Share

10

Road Tools

11

Zoom In

14

Tow Safety

18

Tow Boss

31

24

Tow Manager

34

Ad Index

46

Towman’s Market

48

My Baby

Assessing the landscape and recovering a scrapper that slid into a lake.

50

Lowdown

58

Adventures of A.T.

by Steve Calitri with Randy Olson

Features Challenging Terrain by Kurt Wilson

36

Online Car Buying and Towing The internet has changed the landscape for new cars needing towing services. by Brian Riker

4 • January 2021 | Towman.com

First on the scene since 1977


The Walkaround Thank You!

Dennie Ortiz Publisher

2021 we have been waiting for you! Thank you for arriving. As a breed towers are resilient though 2020 tested even some of the toughest of souls. In our Towman of the Year issue we recognize towers that have made an impact in the past year. American Towman salutes the towers who in the face of adversity met unprecedented challenges headon in 2020. Towers went above and beyond the norm to tackle the trials presented by the pandemic and kept on serving and protecting the motoring public. We humbly acknowledge the true grit of the tower and their sense of duty by naming them collectively as Towman of the Year. We take our hats off to you and offer our immense gratitude for your steadfastness during one of the worst crises we have faced as a nation. Unpacking this issue, one item at a time leads us to Brian Riker’s article on an overlooked business segment which can help to expand your business. The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in internet usage and purchases, exponentially more so due to the pandemic. Riker looks into at-home car delivery that falls within the Final Mile Transport business model as a new way to diversify. He challenges towers to be creative when looking for new opportunities … Opportunities such as online Load Boards which he suggests may help to increase your transport work. The next article in this issue is one that every tow boss should read in order to protect your business. This piece on the SCRA (Servicemembers Civil Relief Act) will help you to understand and comply with this federal law to avoid potentially heavy fines. The author digs deep and details the legal obligations and responsibilities of tow businesses when towing, storing and/or disposing of vehicles owned by active duty military personnel. Knowing that towers love a great recovery, this issue features one so challenging that the headline itself is “Challenging Recovery.” Kurt Wilson walks us through Iowa’s Stockton Towing’s well planned and executed recovery. The casualty was a whopping 30-ton heavy-duty piece of equipment that slid into a lake. The photos captured will not disappoint. Safety is the name of the game in towing and this month’s department focuses on roadside awareness. Randall Resch explains the importance and critical need to keep proper safety practices top-of-mind when working on highways in order to make it home alive. This profession not only spends a lot of time outdoors but also inside their trucks. The interior of one particular masterpiece of a rotator is the highlight of this month’s My Baby. Paddack’s Wrecker and Transport went wild decking out their rig, it’s truly a feast for the eyes. 2020 was an extremely tough year…so 2021 here we come! Happy Safe New Year!

6 • January 2021 | Towman.com

Dennie Ortiz Steve Calitri Brendan Dooley Randall Resch Terry Abejuela Jim “Buck” Sorrenti David Kolman Bill Simmons Mark Lacek Brian Riker

Publisher Editor-In-Chief Editor Operations Editor Field Editor, West Field Editor, Northeast Chassis Editor Safety Editor Repo Run Editor Contributing Editor

Editorial Board Tommy Anderson Roy Carlson Debbie Collins Belinda Harris Bill Johnson Ron Mislan Kurt Wilson

Dallas, Texas Saint Paul, Minn. Las Vegas, Nev. Greensboro, N.C. South Hadley, Mass. Warren, N.J. Creve Coeur, Ill.

American Towman Staff Page Layout Artist Advertising Sales Mgr. Senior Account Exec. VP of Accounts Customer Service Subscription Manager Regional Advertising Sales iMarketing Manager ATTV Producer President

Gina Johnson Dennie Ortiz Ellen Rosengart Norma Calitri Henri Calitri Patrice Gesner Peggy Calabrese Ryan Oser Emily Oz Steve Calitri

American Towman Media Headquarters 2 Overlook Drive, Suite 5, Warwick, NY 10990 800-732-3869 or 845-986-4546

E-Mail: Publisher Editor-In-Chief AT’S Digital Edition AT’S Website AT’S Weekly ATTV

dortiz@towman.com scalitri@towman.com itowman.com americantowman.com towindustryweek.com americantowmantv.com

Copyright ©2020 American Towman Magazine is published 12 times a year by American Towman Media, Inc.

Subscription: Single Copy: $10 1 yr: $60 – 2 yrs: $110 International: $75 & $135

All material published through American Towman Media (AT), to include American Towman Magazine, iTowman.com and TowIndustryWeek.com, including advertisements, editorials, articles and all other content is published in good faith. However, AT accepts no liability for any errors or omissions, and does not endorse any companies, products or services that appear. AT does not test or review products submitted for inclusion in its publications. AT does not accept responsibility for the accuracy of content, warranties or claims made or implied by its advertisers. The views expressed are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of AT. The act of mailing or delivering a letter, email or article to AT shall constitute permission to publish that letter or article or any portion thereof. AT reserves the right to edit any and all material submitted. No part of the magazine or websites may be reproduced without prior written consent of AT.


News Share Hook Saves Pinned Man

Tower Brandon Dexter of Merl’s Towing of Grand Rapids, Mi., sprung into action when a speeding vehicle crashed into a home in a neighboring town that pinned an elderly man. Dexter said, “Couple of drivers and I were talking before all of this and like, ‘It’s going to be another slow, dead night.’ We were planning on just washing trucks, doing little things around here just to stay busy.” Working together with firefighters and police, Dexter backed a heavy-duty tow truck to the house, dropping a crane through a hole in the roof, which allowed first responders to lift the vehicle. “The fact that he was pinned under there for so long was enough to make you cringe just thinking about it,” he said. “Because if it was any one of your loved ones, you’d definitely want everybody to do whatever they could to get him out.”

Laying Off Drivers

AAA Missouri

AAA Missouri is closing a fleet facility and laying off 95 employees as part of a move to discontinue using its own fleet and instead use independent contractors to provide roadside assistance to members. In a filing with the state in December, AAA Missouri said layoffs will be permanent for the mostly tow truck and battery service drivers based out of the facility. They will begin in February, the private auto club said. A member of the national network of American Automobile Association clubs, AAA Missouri has its main offices in Town and Country and serves Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi,

95 employees to be laid off.

Missouri, southern Illinois and parts of Kansas and Indiana. Source: stltoday.com

Class Action Suit for Wrongful Towing

The city of Chicago is accused of wrongly towing abandoned vehicles and is now being taken to court in a class action suit. The suit was initiated by a disabled woman, Andrea Santiago, who has multiple sclerosis. She claims that her van with a custom hydraulic lift was towed by the city to the auto pound, then sold and crushed, even destroying the expensive wheelchair. “They can’t justify what they did. My mom needed that vehicle,” said Santiago’s daughter, Lisandra Velez. A federal judge has allowed Santiago’s lawsuit against the city to become a class action lawsuit for failing to provide proper notification by mail to vehicle owners – warning their vehicles were about to be sold or scrapped. The city defends its actions, maintaining that the case concerns unregistered vehicles and expired license plates that sit on the street for more than 7 days and that they provide warning through notice stickers on the car and two notice letters in the mail. Source: chicago.cbslocal.com

8 • January 2021 | Towman.com

Andrew Heykoop, Eagle Towing Operations Manager.

Alert System Used for Slow Down/Move Over Michigan’s Eagle Towing has upgraded its fleet of 51 trucks with the HAAS Alert system, which warns drivers who use the Waze App that they’re approaching a location with an emergency vehicle stopped on the shoulder of the road. Waze, which is used by over 50,000,000 drivers world-wide to get GPS Navigation, Maps and Traffic Alerts, will be able to also alert drivers that they are approaching tow trucks. “One tower is killed every seven days, and we actually had two towers killed at the same scene October 25th in Montana,” said Eagle Towing Operations Manager Andrew Heykoop. Drivers will see a warning light

within the app notifying them that they need to reduce the speed for safety reasons. The alert is automatically sent to all drivers within a half-mile of the location, and it is activated when the flashing lights on the tow truck are turned on. The HAAS Alert system can also work with other navigation apps and infotainment systems, as long as support for the technology is being added. The parent company said, “The service provides emergency responders with a cutting-edge safety enhancement in the field that gets right at the cause of most responderinvolved collisions: driver attention.” Sources: autoevolution.com wzzm13.com


News Share Students Target Tow Company

Wrecker Procession

Pardo’s flatbed, driven in procession by his son Paul Pardo.

In Memory of Marvin Pardo

Wreckers from across eastern Indiana and western Ohio joined together on December 5th to pay tribute to Paul Marvin Pardo, 76, who passed away on November 29th. The procession included trucks from transport companies, excavating companies and local fire departments while Pardo’s flatbed, driven by his son Paul Pardo, carried a blue and green colored casket. Marvin Pardo began Pardo’s Automotive & Recovery in Richmond, Indiana, more than four decades ago.

He was well-known in the towing industry, said his son, who now operates Pardo’s Towing and Recovery with his wife, Donna. “We’ve got to take him out in style,” he said. Vern Howard, who drove a Hollis Towing truck to Richmond from Dayton, Ohio, knew Marvin Pardo.”Mr. Pardo was a big player in the game, and he had a lot of friends,” Howard said. “He was a great guy, very hands on.” Source: pal-item.com

Tribute for Alaskan Tower On Wednesday night, Dec. 3rd, more than 200 tow trucks and commercial vehicles came out to memorialize and honor tower Hans Michael Moore. A line of flashing lights streamed down a snowy roadway for about a half-hour, horns ringing out to celebrate his life. Moore, who worked for Vulcan Towing, was struck and killed loading an impounded vehicle when he was hit by a drunken driver. He had been with Vulcan Towing for about six months, according to office worker Jennifer Macalino. She said, “He was a hard worker, a fast learner and had a strong desire to help others. You can see it on people’s faces — everyone is just so sad right now.” Justin Creech, owner of Vulcan, said, “It’s been really hard on all of us.” After Moore’s death, Vulcan was overwhelmed with support, Creech said, with local businesses delivering pizzas to the office, sending flowers or calling to offer condolences.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

Riverside Towing, which patrols the college campus of LSU (Lousiana State University), is being targeted by students and parents for their towing practices, as testimonies are being gathered through a twitter account. Abigail Holden, one of the five founders of the Turn BR Towing Twitter account, said that she believes Riverside intentionally targets college students because they often aren’t aware of the laws and don’t question what they’re being charged. “They’re targeting college kids, and it’s pretty obvious,” Holden said. “Half the time people don’t even realize what they’re being charged for.”  A variety of issues have arisen over Riverside’s practices, including fees, their cash-only policy, Sunday charges, discriminatory fees for out-of-state vehicles and more. If a car’s title is not registered under the student’s name, which is often the case, they need a written statement from the owner of the car confirming the individual present is authorized to retrieve the vehicle. Some students maintain this practice has caused difficulties due to its inconvenience. Source: lsureveille.com

Gold Coin Challenge

Cavalcade in memory of Hans Michael Moore.

Moore lived part time in Alaska, working three-week shifts and then returning home for a week to Arizona, where he and his wife, CorAnn Moore lived. When he wasn’t working, he was a devoted grandfather and an avid outdoorsman. An online fundraiser  has collected donations for Moore’s family. Source: adn.com

Jerry Slinger, owner of Interstate Towing & Auto Repair of Grand Forks, ND., is offering to donate a rare golden coin appraised at nearly $2000 to the Salvation Army Kettle Drive if someone else drops the gold coin first into the kettle. Slinger got the idea of a matching contribution after someone dropped a gold coin worth nearly $2,000 in a kettle earlier in Grand Forks. “The donation is not really about us. It’s my hope we can turn this one donation into one or two or three or more coins and make a significant difference,” said Slinger. Last year, a total of three golden coins were donated. Source: inforum.com

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 9


Road Tools New Options for Landoll’s 855 and 860

Landoll.com

Landoll Corporation has introduced a new option for Models 855 and 860 Construction Series Detachable trailers. The drop side trailer option features a 5” lowered track area and a raised center. This specialty option benefits end users that are hauling tall excavators, cranes or vehicles that must obtain the very lowest deck height possible. The outer track area is only 14.37” from the ground with a 6.0” ground clearance fully loaded. The track area is raised wood covered with 2” Apitong and 24.0” wide into the main frame. The outside measurement of the main frame is 54.0” wide. Landoll Corporation is a leading manufacturer and designer of equipment transport trailers from 5 to 60-ton capacity.

Webfleet’s Link 740 Lets the Tow Boss Ride Shotgun

A complete system with software and hardware for vehicle and office using wireless technology, the Link 740 can improve your fleet performance using precise and up-to-date vehicle data. The system enables management to reduce your fleet’s running costs by monitoring real-time and historical fuel usage. 740 takes the stress of running a towing operation. You can manage your tax responsibilities using automatic logbook. You can improve your drivers’ performance and safety with driving style analyses; get notified when an accident is detected. The Optidrive 360 feature providesdriving style insights on up to 82 performance indicators. There are many more key features. Used intelligently, the 740 can make your drivers and fleet run more safely and efficiently and may be used as a tool to bring insurance costs down.

Webfleet.com

Road Flare of the Future

Nitebeam recently introduced the “road flare of the future” towers will find durable and lasting in all weather conditions. They are visible up to one mile in each direction with LED’s on both sides of the flare. They are made with military-grade high-impact casing that is waterproof. The rechargeable USB is backed up with a solar panel. The Nitebeam flare can flash continuously for over 24 hours, big plus for long-time recoveries. It comes in single color mode settings or dual color settings. The flare can be placed on the road or on a magnetic tripod giving it added height of 12 incles above ground level.

NiteBeams.com 10 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Zoom In

Towman, Meet HIM

NRC Unveils Heavy Incident Manager (CSR85)

The new Heavy Incident Manager (HIM), the flagship of NRC’s Composite Sliding Rotators, boasts a gigantic V-shaped telescopic rotating boom rated to 85-ton capacity, per SAE J2512. Fitted with 60,000 lbs main winches and optional 25,000 lbs auxiliary winches, it is ready for the most complex recoveries. With a powerful cylinder and proven, dependable, type 6, lowstick, slip nylon wear pads, the CSR85 boom can slide 139in under load, along a sturdy set of rails, allowing for an incredible 467’ of reach past the tailboard. According to NRC, a completely redesigned hydraulic system supplies 3700psi of pressure to a set of gigantic boom cylinders,

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

providing the CSR85 the power to become stuff of legend. To prove their design was safe, NRC’s engineering team had to think up ways of performing various lifts, up to and above HIM’s rated capacity. Because for NRC to call one of the company’s products an 85-ton rotator, they had to make sure it could lift a real load of 170,000 lbs; a succession of vertical pulls of up to 232,000 lbs was performed, followed by a thorough inspection of the structure by qualified, registered professional engineers. Since there is a thin line between a properly counterweighted and a grossly overweighted recovery vehicle, NRC’s team worked relentlessly to

optimize every pound of steel you can find on the CSR85, so that every component has a twofold purpose: structural and counterweighting. The CSR85 shares with the smaller CSR50 and CSR65 the proven, stylish, lightweight and highly functional composite body. It also comes standard with a set of rails and quick hydraulic coupler, ready to accept a wide range of NRC detachable underlifts, making HIM as tow-capable as it is recoverycapable. CSR85 features NRC’s latest evolutive, electronic control platform, so every piece of equipment coming out of the factory is ready for the next big thing.

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 11


2021

Towman OF THE Year

The Crème Rises to the Top By Steve Calitri with Randy Olson

A

ll across America tow operators were called on to tow vehicles throughout the pandemic. Many were called to hospitals to tow cars left in the parking lots by patients admitted for Covid. While officials preached social distancing towers availed the seat next to them for strangers they were helping. They learned to have masks available for those not wearing them and hand sanitizer dispensers for those not carrying them. Towers across the board have had significant additional expenditures on cleaning supplies and protective gear. Many towers made masks for their drivers when none could be found. Towers knew they had to take care of their own but many even went beyond that, delivering PPG to hospitals that desparately needed it. Meanwhile truckers were hailed as heroes along with the medical folk on the front line fighting the pandemic. 12 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Suddenly the transportation of basic supplies was considered critical, which of course it always was. But now truckers were out there with virus around them. One tower saw he could help truckers at rest stops by bringing them meals where the restaurants had closed down. It wasn’t the first time this tower lent a helping hand not wanting anything in return. There’s always been risk for towers dealing with the motoring public: dangerous highways, angry, even violent customers. Suddenly there was a virus easily spread and deadly to some. Serving strangers now had an extra unknown. The fear factor, fanned by the media turned out to be as big or bigger than the virus itself. Authorities told people to stay home and not to go to work. Tow bosses faced a double whammy. There was a drastic reduction in

Many towers made masks for their drivers when none could be found.

in search of new revenue streams. Some set up hot dog stands at their shops near the road. Some used stimulus funds provided

Towers knew they had to take care of their own but many even went beyond that, delivering PPG to hospitals that desparately needed it. traffic and in calls and people on hand to take those calls, whether due to layoffs or drivers afraid to continue dealing with the public. In many places authorities forbid towers to perform “nonessential” tows. For the first time in the history of towing, an industry always resilient in the face of economic crisis was having its hands tied. Many towers began to diversify Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

by Congress to become angels in their communities delivering food to the elderly. While trade shows and conventions were forbidden to happen, media was able to continue its work from home computers. Towing’s Media carried on in the face of reduced advertising revenues. American Towman Magazine, Tow Industry Week, and American Towman

TV and AT’s competitors dug in to continue providing industry news and feature articles to help towing companies get through the pandemic storm. Suppliers to the industry never left the industry’s side. The industry is taking a deep breath, hoping for a return to normal as vaccines have begun innoculating the nation’s citizens. Yet, sacrifices and struggles are still with us. Towmen and tow-women continue to fight on. To each and every tower who was steadfast working through the pandemic of 2020, American Towman salutes you as Towman of the Year. Note: Some background information was provided by tow industry veteran, Randy Olson.

Find us on Facebook Read more towing news at towman.com

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 13


Tow Safety

Dangerous Habits

Change Bad Behavior To Save Your Life

By Randall C. Resch

Operations Editor Randall C. Resch is a retired California police officer and veteran tow business owner, manager, consultant and trainer. He writes for TowIndustryWeek. com and American Towman, is a member of the International Towing &  Recovery Hall of Fame and recipient of the Dave Jones Leadership Award. Email Randy at rreschran@gmail.com.

T

he words “Bad Behavior”, directs focus in-welcoming 2021 as the New Year that commands a changed attitude of safety and survival. Fact: Working accidents and incidents, as a recovery expert ... it’s a dangerous proposition. The manner tower’s respond (and work) is the difference of survival or falling next victim to an already lengthy list of operator’s killed in the US and internationally. Since the wrecker’s invention, operator fatalities have reoccurred for better than one-hundred years. To date, since 1934, I’ve recorded as many as 984-operators killed “on-the-job” for all industry events. Specifically, 364-operators were killed working high-speed highways. AT reports a tower is killed every six days on average. So why do operators continuously put themselves in harm’s way and disregard proper training and techniques?

TRAIN TO SURVIVE

Especially true to working on-highway events, there are no, “routine calls.” The manner towers respond to highway calls should never be considered routine. Perhaps the message of survival and continued safety begins with a back to basic’s look at eight-categories to readdress how towers work the highways. Consider the following: Train to Survive: Highway training is different than basic load-and-go considerations. Operators serving highway environments must have complete understanding of the dangers high-speed highways represent. Part of new and weathered operator training must consist of TIM training with a Certificate of Completion in the tower’s file. Don’t Send New Towers: High-speed highways are no environment for new 14 • January 2021 | Towman.com

personnel. Tow owners have responsibility in-ensuring personnel are competently trained in on-highway response; to include time as a ride-along or trainer/trainee shadowing. Access and Equipment Set-up: Because there are differences in what niches tow companies serve, tow truck and carrier set-up is a tactical process. For companies serving highway environments, there’s a safety advantage in locating, storing and situating tow equipment. For best case scenarios, tow trucks and carriers should have tow and recovery equipment located away from the white-line side of the tow truck. By doing so, operators are afforded the most protection by remaining off the white-line side. Identify Your Presence: During arrival assessment, activate emergency overhead lighting to initiate SDMO response by approaching motorists. Towers should know allowable lighting requirements as not all states permit tow trucks to drive with emergency lights on in-traffic as they may not be considered “authorized” emergency vehicles. “Lights-on”, indicates that towers (in tow trucks and carriers) are actively involved in work activities. Unless you’re prohibited from using lights due to law or service patrol protocol, I advise using emergency lights. Should a DUI driver or motorist strike your tow truck leaving you injured or killed, having no lighting provides them a defense that they didn’t see the tow truck. When emergency lights are activated, tow operators are provided a level of protection, however slight, if a tow truck’s lights are “on” and visible. Remember, emergency lighting creates a false sense of security not to be relied upon.


Provide Advanced Emergency Notice: Drivers (in all states) have slow-down and move-over responsibilities when nearing a tow truck’s location. “Being seen”, is a key component to survival. A common, associated factor typically written in post-accident investigations, OSHA and NIOSH investigators recommended that, “Operator should employ triangles, flares, traffic cones and proper lighting.”

Don’t allow that big ego or too much macho to cloud the way you work. An errant motorist cares nothing about who you are. Training and experience means nothing to them. Towers shouldn’t be reminded, “Don’t walk in the street.” While I understand that sometimes, towers need to work the white-line side; a conscious decision is necessary to determine what techniques should be applied to work away from always-present dangers.

Deadly exposure is something

towers of all ages and experience levels are guilty of. While a common excuse from tow operators is, “They take too long to set up and take down”, I agree they don’t provide physical safety, but, “advanced warning” announces the presence of tow trucks at-work. Not using triangles, flares or cones is a step operators regularly side-step; generally out of laziness. Work Off the Whiteline: Especially true to carrier operations, a large percentage of operator strikes occurred when the operator was standing, walking, or working at the traffic-side controls. Obviously, the traffic side is the primary location towers are struck. Modern carriers are equipped with twin-side control stations, so, work away from white-line traffic. A remote control is highly recommended. Keep Out of Traffic Lanes: Perhaps the most ignored classification operators fail to understand, no matter what age, level of experience, new driver, or company owner, towers repeatedly place themselves in harm’s way. 16 • January 2021 | Towman.com

Exit and enter the tow truck’s cab by using the “Peek a Boo” technique. Walk forward and around the tow truck’s front, look back at approaching traffic, and when safe, make that maddash to safety when there’s a clear opening. Law Enforcement Assistance: Another misused topic of contention; whether-or-not towers should call for law enforcement assistance, especially the state’s highway patrol. Example: A Wisconsin tow operator, working in freeway service patrol capacity, reportedly came upon debris in highway lanes. In his actions to remove the debris, he was struck by a semi-truck and killed. There are many dangerous scenarios like debris removal, stalled vehicles in-lanes, vehicles stopped on narrow shoulders, or, perhaps parked in “Gore-Points”. Each of these scenarios requires highway patrol assistance. I submit, “When towers know situations are monstrously deadly;

why not request highway patrol for assistance?

HERE’S THE REALITY

In the one-hundred plus years since the wrecker’s invention, highway fatalities have risen steadily especially due to the on-set of cellphones, distracted driving, DUI motorists and legalization of medical marijuana. In all reality, these influences aren’t going away. Tow operators still actively stand and work traffic-side controls loading vehicles on highway shoulders. Perhaps it’s that, “It won’t happen to me”, mentality, towers repeatedly and consistently put themselves in harm’s way. To that point, experienced towers make-up a greater percentage of working white-line events. Deadly exposure is something towers of all ages and experience levels are guilty of. When news accounts comment, “He was an experienced tower with thirtyyear’s experience”, I’m infuriated at that inaccurate observation because the tower (his/herself) “chose” to be on the white-line side. Safety is an individual endeavor that can’t be ignored. Personally, whenever I’ve stepped into a highway’s environment, my anxiety level increases a hundredfold. In that, I extend to all towers, an invitation for you to re-evaluate your individual safety presence. I sadly watch towers doing the same thing in making the same bad decisions again and again. It’s a tower’s choice to consciously recognize and change bad habits. But, in all reality, it’s with sad recognition that towers will lose their lives because they failed to heed the value of lessons learned. But, on the other hand, are you smart enough to realize it’s time to change your own bad behavior?


Tow Boss

Car being delivered by Carvana.

Photo by Anne Ruzsilla

Final Mile Services – How Online Car Buying Can Benefit Towers By Brian J Riker

Brian J. Riker is a third-generation towman, with 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator, and president of Fleet Compliance Solutions. He specializes in helping navigate the complex world of federal and state transportation regulatory compliance. He can be reached at brian.riker@fleetcompliancesolutions.net

T

he most successful towers have many different streams of revenue, often divided into separate business units, as a means to ride out the ups and downs that are a normal part of the industry. In previous articles we have covered more traditional diversification such as adding spill response remediation, roadside repair, collision repair, rental cars and even equipment transport for local construction projects. Today I want to speak about changing our business model to meet the changing ways consumers purchase things. Something positive that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic is that more items than ever before are now available for home delivery. Final mile services, as they are called in the transportation market, have become a key part of almost every retail sales operation. From home improvement stores to grocery outlets, home delivery has become a must have service offering. This includes plenty of things a tower can transport, especially automobiles.

18 • January 2021 | Towman.com

We have all seen the ads on tv for the past few years showing how companies like Carvana are disrupting the car sales market. Until now their services were merely a fad, or so many thought, as most folks still want to see and touch their next car in person before committing to likely the second largest purchase they will ever make. That has all changed rapidly now that many are uncomfortable being around crowds of people or are complying with state mandated restrictions on businesses. Combine this with the way the younger generations purchase things and remote car buying is likely here to stay. I challenge today’s tow boss to think outside the box and proactively pursue these types of opportunities for new business. You may not get into a service such as Carvana as they have their own fleet of delivery vehicles, although that fleet will need roadside repair and towing services, but what is stopping you from approaching the local dealerships you already work with and offering to be


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 19


their face away from the sales floor? According to Dealer Services Consulting, LLC there will be approximately 1.4 million vehicles sold and delivered in the US this year without the customer ever visiting a dealership. By 2023 this number is projected to be greater than 8 million. Your local new and used car dealers are searching for ways to maintain a competitive edge and being able to deliver a vehicle directly to their customer’s home is one giant advantage.

often even be a trade in to return to the dealership or take directly to a local auto auction. How sweet would round trip work be in these uncertain times? For local car dealers to go fully online in their sales process, which will be a survival tool for their future as well as ours, they need more than just someone to deliver the sold vehicle. Often online customers will want to look at a vehicle without the commitment to purchase or perhaps they wish

Providing this type of service as a tower is quite different than a typical service tow but nothing a

true professional can’t handle. I am willing to wager that many would love to offer this type of service but simply do not have the staff or other resources to do so. Providing this type of service as a tower is quite different than a typical service tow but nothing a true professional can’t handle. The key thing to remember is you will be the face of your customer, possibly the first time their customer has met with anyone in person, so appearance and attitude are key to success. I envision a typical final mile transport service to include a detailed inspection prior to loading the vehicle, walk around with a dealership representative to confirm the condition and make sure all the customers requests have been met, flatbed transport to the delivery site and a walk around (socially distant of course) with the buyer to verify the condition of the car as received. There may 20 • January 2021 | Towman.com

to trade in a vehicle. In either case someone needs to bring them the vehicle to test drive and inspect their potential trade in, both services that a tower is well qualified to provide. I feel towers are uniquely qualified to provide a detailed vehicle inspection on behalf of the dealership. Imagine having work for your service drivers to do in between breakdown calls that use their mechanical skills. For a flat fee you could dispatch a driver in a small car or van to take a few pictures, some tire measurements and maybe even a short test drive -all in the name of helping your client at the dealership make a better sale, one that you will ultimately end up delivering on their behalf. Side note about liability. Transport work is much different than traditional towing in that the Bill of Lading is the go-to document for who is liable for what and

getting a signature for delivery without exceptions noted is key to reducing your exposure. Many of the towing dispatch software programs have great features for this, especially those that allow for pictures before and after and the capture of a signature on both ends. Many of the auto transport focused dispatch apps and load boards also have this type of functionality built in. In either case, the days of paper condition reports and no photos are long gone, please protect yourself with good photos and an organized system to store and retrieve them. Offering services such as these to your local dealership also opens up the conversation about providing transport work to and from auto auctions or between detail centers and their retail locations. Large used car dealerships such as Car Max often contract their overflow work with local towers to rotate inventory between locations as well as other traditional transportation services. Often dealers are willing to pay a premium above wholesale rate if you can be quick as time is money. National Automobile Dealers Association studies show the average used car loses $12 in value per day, which means if the dealer has to wait a week to get their car from the auction onto their lot it has already lost around $60 in sale value. This concept is not limited to just automobile dealerships. Every type of dealer whether they sell cars, trucks, motorcycles or even farm/garden implement dealers can benefit from this type of concierge service today. Besides the COVID implications around social distancing many folks just don’t have the time to go pickup their purchases in person anymore nor do these dealerships always have someone on staff with the time and skill to make the delivery. This is prime for someone that thinks


I feel towers

are uniquely qualified to provide a

detailed vehicle inspection on behalf of the dealership.

Car being picked up by Carvana.

outside the box to step in and solve for all parties involved. A word of caution, this type of work is legally much different than traditional towing and will require operating authority and possibly increased insurance coverage. Towers enjoy a few exceptions from DOT compliance, mostly administrative, when only towing wrecked or disabled vehicles that are not applicable to traditional truck transportation. These types of moves, even when local, are most likely interstate commerce because of the nationwide source of the vehicles being delivered and as such will require a US DOT and MC number. Even when they are not interstate commerce many states also have operating authority requirements, typically administered through their Public Utilities Commission or a similar Agency, that will apply. 22 • January 2021 | Towman.com

Photo by Andrea Wynn

Special registrations must be considered as wrecker or tow truck plates may not allow for transport work. On hook insurance as it is called in the towing industry is similar to but not always the same as cargo insurance. Check with your insurance agent prior to beginning these types of services to make sure you have the proper coverage for auto transport work. An area that is often overlooked when doing auto transport work is the need to drive the vehicle to or from the truck to pickup or drop off at auction lots, dealerships or customer locations. This places a different exposure on your insurance, one that typical garage keepers or on-hook policies will not cover. In the internet age there are dozens of online load boards to find even more auto transport work. Once reserved for the general freight world load boards

such as Super Dispatch, Central Dispatch, Ready Logistics, Cars Arrive and Reindeer have now become commonplace in the auto transport industry. This is both a blessing and a curse, blessing for the ease of access to work, curse for the damage it has done to the rates. Don’t expect your retail tow rates for this type of work as it is typically wholesale rates. That said, the door to door or expedited service is worth a premium and should be on par with a typical retail tow rate. Once your tow service has the appropriate operating authority and insurance I suggest you sign up with one or more auto transport load boards to look for other work in and around the areas you will service for your local dealership clients. There is no reason why you couldn’t transport two vehicles at the same time with a well equipped and properly spec’d rollback. The best part of this type of work is predictability. Auto auctions have their sale on the same day each week so you can gauge when you will see a uptick in inbound or outbound units at


any particular auction location, and as the units age the rates go up in an effort to move them in time for the next sale or before storage fees begin. Similar to the process you may be familiar with from salvage auctions, whole car auctions like Manheim and Adesa also have fees for vehicles left on their lot past the sale date. Off lease vehicles, repossessions and wholesale used units are readily available in almost every part of the country, just waiting for a transporter to pick them up. By signing up with these load boards you may be able to pick up a vehicle at a dealership that you are dropping a service vehicle or motor club dispatch off at, again minimizing deadhead and maximizing revenue per mile. All it takes is a little understanding of the spot market and a dispatcher willing to pay attention to sources

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

other than your phone line for potential work. Keep in mind that there are also load boards focused on freight that may be a good fit for your flatbeds or trailers. Less than truckload freight often pays a decent premium above dry van freight and is a prime target for a towing service to pickup and deliver. One last thought on the nature of online retail today. The modern tower should already be using an online auction platform to dispose of their unwanted or unclaimed vehicles left abandoned in their storage facilities. Why not work with the buyer of these vehicles to provide transport services out of your lot? Better yet, if the vehicle has an above average value, and your state permits you to, why not clean it up and retail sale it yourself online with the final mile delivery included?

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 23


Tow Manager

Towing and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act By Roy L. Kaufmann

Roy L. Kaufmann, an attorney, is the director of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service, which processes military verifications and affidavit requests.

A

s service providers, towing operators rely heavily on their image and reputation to stand out from the competition. Clients expect fast, efficient service with as few complications as possible. Nothing can tank a business faster than towing and selling a car belonging to an activeduty servicemember. Prosecution by the government can follow, or word could get out that the business is not following rules, taking shortcuts — or worse — ignoring the rights of military servicemembers.

24 • January 2021 | Towman.com

WHAT IS THE SCRA?

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that protects the rights of servicemembers while on active military duty by suspending or modifying certain civil obligations. The goal is to allow servicemembers to focus on their valuable service to the country without the worry of some financial obligations, repossessions, and some court actions. Section 3958 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (https://bit.ly/3mJlYa8) states that “a person holding a lien [which includes a storage or repair


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 25


lien or for any other reason] may not during the period of military service or 90 days thereafter foreclose or enforce any lien … without a court order … A person who knowingly takes an action contrary to this section, or attempts to do so, shall be fined … or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.” In addition to the federal law, operators should be aware that many states have adopted their own versions of the SCRA, which may impose additional requirements. For example, the federal SCRA protects National Guard members who have been called to duty by the president. A state version of the law may add protections for members who were called up by a governor.

SCRA TOWING LAWSUITS

The Department of Justice has been vigilant in pursuing operators who tow and then sell vehicles without complying with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Four recent federal lawsuits (https://bit.ly/3hSh3jq) have resulted in consent decrees which levied heavy fines. The Justice Department lawsuits focused on multiple operators who were flagrantly towing and selling vehicles without taking steps to see if the owners were active duty servicemembers or first obtaining court orders.

WHAT HAPPENS TO SCRA VIOLATORS?

The most recent towing prosecution involving a municipality that towed and then sold cars was resolved at the end of 2020 in Texas. An active duty Air Force staff sergeant deployed in Afghanistan discovered that her car had been towed. Both she and a legal assistance attorney 26 • January 2021 | Towman.com

contacted the storage operator repeatedly, advising that the sergeant was on active duty. The facility refused to release the car and refused to allow anyone to retrieve personal property that was in the car, which included military equipment. The car was sold without a court order. Under the consent decree filed in court, the group involved in towing and selling the cars had to pay a fine of $47,000 to the sergeant and one other servicemember, a $62,000 civil penalty, and an additional $150,000 for a fund to be set up for other servicemembers whose SCRA rights may be violated. Another towing company became embroiled in a similar towing suit even though the operator waited six months before selling the car after trying to figure out if the owner was in the military. In another Justice Department lawsuit, the operator was accused of ignoring the obvious. The car was towed in the vicinity of a base, had military decals, and had papers in the glove box about military matters. But the real damage to the operator goes beyond the out-ofpocket costs.

All the consent decrees between tow operators and the Justice Department have resulted in lengthy and strict sets of procedures with constant reports to the Justice Department to make sure that the operator is complying with the SCRA. The continuing administrative burden and costs are significant.

SCRA REPOSSESSION REPERCUSSIONS

2) Training Train your employees to make sure they know that active duty servicemembers have certain protections because they deserve them. This mindset has to overcome the default impression that the owners of vehicles can be dismissed as scofflaws or delinquent debtors. After the training, employees should sign an acknowledgment that should be retained and available in case there is ever an allegation that you took no steps to train your employees.

There is justifiable negative publicity when an operator is found to have cavalierly ignored the law and intentionally ignored a servicemember’s situation. When a business, landlord, or municipality body hires a towing company, they want a smooth operation. They do not want to be embroiled in a disaster that reflects badly upon everyone. The industry is expected to comply with laws to the letter and to show some common sense.

STEPS TO COMPLY WITH THE SCRA

Compliance with the SCRA is essential for the industry and is not difficult or expensive. But, it requires focus and creating a plan to create a document called “SCRA Policies and Procedures for Vehicle Sales and Disposal” which should include the following: 1)  Name Someone to Be in Charge of Compliance A good start would be to name one person who will be in charge of SCRA compliance. This compliance officer would be the one who has the final sign-off on a checklist before a vehicle is sold. The compliance officer could be the office manager or an owner of the company and should be prepared to take the heat if a servicemember’s car is sold without a court order.


An acknowledgment could look like this: EMPLOYEE ACKNOWLEDGMENT I acknowledge that on ___________________, 20___, I was provided training regarding compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and copies of my employer’s SCRA Policies and Procedures applicable to my duties. I have read and understand these documents and have had my questions about these documents and the SCRA answered. I understand my legal responsibilities and shall comply with these responsibilities. ________________________________ Print name ________________________________ Signature ________________________________ Date ________________________________ Title

Once a year, there should be a refresher course, or a bulletin circulated with a similar Employee Acknowledgment to be signed. These acknowledgments have great value if you are ever investigated. 3) Checklist – An electronic or paper folder should be kept with a checklist. The compliance officer’s signature should be required before a sale. a. Is the owner of the vehicle protected by the SCRA? Being protected by the SCRA and being employed as military personnel are not the same. For example, a person could have retired from the military, but they may continue to have some SCRA benefits after termination. If you receive information that the person may be on active duty, stop and listen. b. Determine SCRA protection eligibility. Find the owner’s name, possibly by checking the VIN or tag number. Carefully note the spelling of the name. Use an online verification tool and be sure to spell the owner’s name correctly. If you are aware of any variations in the last name or aliases (e.g. maiden names, hyphenated or composite surnames, various spellings, etc.) used by the owner, run a separate search for each name variation or alias. The most comprehensive resource for the towing industry is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service (www. ServicemembersCivilReliefAct.com) (known as the SCRACVS), a private contractor used by many in the industry. It is cost-effective, streamlined and no Social Security number is required. You can save the email response verification or order a notarized military affidavit. Attach the affidavit or response to the checklist so the compliance officer sees it before they sign off on the sale. The Department of Defense also operates a database called the Defense Manpower Data Center (which is free), but is only a reliable resource if you have the owner’s Social Security number. You can also submit a search to the DMDC with the date of birth only, but responses come with a warning that stipulates that the results are not guaranteed which may not satisfy a judge. If you have neither the Social Security number nor the date of birth, you cannot use the DMDC. c. Mark your calendar so you can redo your online military verification not more than two days before any sale. It is probably a good idea to avoid scheduling sales for Mondays or days following holidays to be certain

28 • January 2021 | Towman.com


your verification comes back in time. d. Inspect the car. Are there military decals, uniforms, documents about military service or are there papers in the vehicle (if you have access) that would lead you to believe that the owner may be in the military? Any information should be noted on the checklist for the compliance officer.

the stakes are so high? Your local lawyer will show you a streamlined approach. Before a court issues your order, it will require an affidavit saying whether the owner is in military service or, if the plaintiff is unable to determine whether the owner is in military service, stating that the plaintiff is unable to determine whether the owner is in military service (usually called “affidavits

of due diligence”). These affidavits are available from the SCRACVS. A local lawyer will assist you. Compliance with the SCRA is crucial for towing operators. Successful professionals know the importance of setting up the procedures and the value of a checklist. SCRACVS is a good source of information, but having a local attorney is vital as the ultimate resource.

e. Review any waiver given to you. If you have a written document from the owner purporting to waive SCRA protections you should: • Check with your lawyer to make sure that the document is sufficient under the SCRA at 50 U.S.C. § 3918. A good example of a sufficient waiver can be found as Exhibit A to the Consent Decree (https:// bit.ly/3mHSgSK). • Make sure the waiver is executed after or during the period of military service (not before). • Send a copy of the waiver to the owner before the 30th day before the auction or sale along with a notice that the sale is taking place. Attach a copy to your checklist. • Check with your local lawyer to see if your state has additional requirements or any database that needs to be checked to add to your checklist. • Obtain a court order if in doubt before you sell or dispose of a vehicle.

WHEN IN DOUBT, GET A COURT ORDER

The SCRA says that you should first obtain a court order if the vehicle belongs to a servicemember. If you are in doubt, obtain a court order first. Why take a risk when Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 29


Terrain By Kurt Wilson

Stockton Towing Proves the Value of the Walkaround 30 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Lines were rigged to allow unit to be brought sideways with front end still in the jackknifed position.

O

n September 24, 2020, Stockton Towing in Le Mars, Iowa, was contacted by the owner of a Terex TS-14 scrapper which slid off a bank becoming submerged in a lake in Centerville, South Dakota. The weight of the machine was 31 tons. Since it was early evening, Mark Stockton offered to come out to take a look so that he could see what equipment he would need to be able to get back to it. Upon arrival, the field access road back to the lake had been traveled enough in the past by heavy haul equipment. Getting heavy duty recovery equipment would not be a concern except for one short high slope hill that would need to be climbed before reaching the recovery area. The scrapper was resting on its left side with the wheels facing the bank. With the area cleared where the recovery units would need to be positioned, the next area of concern would be the bank where the machine would be recovered up. The Terex scrapper was building up the bank. If the bank could be cut down, this would help eliminate the risk of the wheels of the scrapper being hung up during the recovery process. Besides, the owner being on site were two gentlemen from another excavating company who would be on hand to assist in clearing the recovery path. With a plan to cut the bank back, it was time to address how the scrapper would be rigged for the recovery. The depth of the water could be estimated by the water line on the scrapper. It was determined that using a small boat would be the safest way to get the rigging, rigger, and winch lines attached to the machine. A start time was decided on for the next day giving the excavating crew enough time to prepare the recovery site with a plan in place. Stockton Towing dispatched Mark Stockton in a 2019 Kenworth T880 Jerr-Dan 50/60 Rotator, Travis Thederahn in a 2017 Peterbilt 567 Jerr-Dan 50/60 Rotator, and Alex Schafer in a 2018 Peterbilt 389 50-ton integrated Wrecker. Bronc Stockton was on scene as well as a rigger. Once on scene, the Peterbilt Jerr-Dan 50-ton wrecker (truck three) was backed in perpendicular at the rear of the scrapper. Next, the Peterbilt Jerr-Dan 50/60 Rotator (truck two) was backed in next to the 50-ton wrecker placing it in the middle of the scrapper. The Kenworth

â—€

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 31


2019 Kenworth T880 Jerr-Dan 50/60 Rotator, 2017 Peterbilt 567 Jerr-Dan 50/60 Rotator, 2018 Peterbilt 389 50-ton integrated Wrecker were all used in this successful recovery.

Jerr-Dan 50/60 Rotator (truck one) was backed in at the end, lining it up with front end of the scrapper. Using the boat, Mark searched for spots to rig to on the scrapper. While he was doing that, the rest of the crew pulled out the main winch lines on the recovery trucks. On truck one, one of the winch lines was attached to the rear frame of the scrapper, which was facing

snatch block installed attaching to a chain rigged to the very rear of the scrapper. The drag winch off truck one was pulled out to have a snatch block installed on it. The snatch block was attached to the lower frame on the front of the scrapper next to main winch line off the same truck. The second main winch line was attached to an orange round sling around the neck on the scrapper.

By tightening the winch lines, the

scrapper rolled towards the bank,

exposing more of the left side out of the water. up since the unit had jackknifed when it went in the water. Truck two had one of the main winch lines attached to the middle of the scrapper. By tightening the winch lines, the scrapper rolled towards the bank, exposing more of the left side out of the water. This allowed the crew to find other spots to rig attachment points to for the other winch lines. Both winch lines on truck three were married together with a 32 • January 2021 | Towman.com

With the lines rigged the way they were it allowed the unit to be brought sideways with the front end still in the jackknifed position. The operators working together winched the unit up the bank until the scrapper’s wheels were out of the water. The scrapper’s wheels rolled freely while bringing it out of the water. Truck two’s main winch line was disconnected from the scrapper. Using the drag winch


off truck two, it was attached to the very rear of the scrapper to help steer the unit as it was winched backwards. At this point, the drag winch off truck one was disconnected from the rear frame of the front half of the scrapper. The main winch line was left attached on the neck. The drag winch off truck two was attached in the previous location of the drag winch of truck one was after truck two was pulled forward. Truck three was repositioned one hundred feet away from the rear of the scrapper. The winch lines were reattached to the previous attachment point. With all of the operators working

together, the unit was winched further back into the field. As the unit came back, the boom on truck one was rotated counter-clockwise to keep it in line with the scrapper’s neck. At the point, the front wheels were entirely on the field off the bank, the winch line off truck one was unhooked from the scrapper. Truck two and three winched the unit until it was in the location the owner wanted it. The Stockton crew broke down all of the rigging, putting it back on the correct truck. The recovery trucks were returned back to their transport mode. At this time, all units cleared the scene returning to their assigned terminal.

Using a small boat was the safest way to get the rigging, rigger, and winch lines attached to the scrapper.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 33


AD INDEX

January 2021

Akins Body & Carrier Sales.........................27

Intek Leasing.............................................44

Quick Draw Tarpaulin System.....................37

Allstate Roadside.......................................19

Joyride......................................................19

Santander Bank.........................................60

American Towman Expos......... N 56, M, S 54

Kenworth of South Florida..........................25

Sea Crest Insurance Agency...................W 53

AmeriDeck.................................................28

Lanair Waste Oil Heaters............................29

Select Truck & Equipment......................M 57

Atlanta Wrecker Sales................................23

Len Zermenos............................................39

Sierra Pacific Insurance..........................W 54

Austin Insurance...........................M 53, S 55

Matjack Jumbo Safelift..............................59

Smyrna Truck & Cargo...............................45

Bolt On Technology......................................2

McMahon Truck Center..........................M 51

Towbook Management Software...................5

Captain Recovery.................M, N, S 52, W 56

Metrocom..................................................23

Tow Brokers Insurance.......................S, W 51

Chevron Commercial..................................34

Miller Industries...........................................3

Tow Industries.......................................W 52

Collins Dollies........................................ N 51

Mobile Control Systems..............................29

TowMate....................................................25

Crouch’s Wrecker & Equip. Sales................41

New England Truckmaster.....M 53, N 51, S 55

Trail King Industries...................................39

Dual-Tech Wreckers & Carriers...................43

North American Bancard............................35

Trucks for Sale.....................M 55, N, S, W 57

East Coast Truck & Trailer.............. N 55, S 53

NRC Industries...........................................17

Utility Trailer Sales S.E. TX......................W 52

Elizabeth Truck Center................................44

Pacific General Insurance.......................M 57

Valor Trailers..........................................W 54

Enzo’s Cleaning Solutions............. M 52, N 53

Peak Wrecker Sales...............................W 53

West End Service.......................................42

Fayetteville Ford.........................................43

Performance Advantage Company..............45

Winches Inc...........................................W 55

G. Stone Commercial.............................. N 53

Progressive Commerical Insurance...............7

Wrecker Warehouse...............................W 55

Hydraulic Shop...........................................37

PWOF.........................................................15

Zip’s/AW Direct..........................................21

34 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Impact of COVID-19 on the Towing Industry How towers and their suppliers can adapt to this time of uncertainty By Bob Nelson

C

OVID-19 has changed the world - and the towing industry has felt the impact in a major way. Less cars on the road and fewer car sales have translated into decreased tow and recovery calls and the need for new equipment. What can tow companies do to remain sustainable and viable during these uncertain times? How can manufacturers, dealers and distributors keep their businesses moving forward to help them?.

KEEP AN OPEN DIALOGUE Bob Nelson is Vice President and General Manager of the Jerr-Dan Corporation.

Although business may be down due to a decline in travel, manufacturers should continue to connect with dealers

36 • January 2021 | Towman.com

and distributors to share thoughts and ideas around the handling of business and the impacts of the pandemic. Addressing concerns -- such as making sure both inventory levels and staffing are sufficient -- are also extremely important to help manage the everchanging supply and demand curve. Virtual meetings among manufacturers, dealers and distributors are also critical for helping tow companies understand what is going on in their local markets. The coronavirus has impacted regions of the country differently, and “hot spots” or “flare ups” of cases will have a direct impact on the tow industry.


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 37


OFFER FINANCIAL INCENTIVES

When business is down, cash flow is tight. Tow manufacturers are trying to help dealers by offering attractive rates from their finance partners. Some are offering low monthly payments until the economic climate improves as well as flexible lending options and competitive interest rates with extended payment terms. Manufacturers can also offer incentives to help increase aftermarket sales. Working with dealers on payment relief terms for popular parts and accessories allows them to keep inventory on the shelves to meet customer demand.

working from home and families were reluctant to travel. This had a significant impact on the tow industry. However, less consumer travel has resulted in a surge in home deliveries that has put additional over-the-road heavy duty and regional delivery trucks on the road. Based on this change, tow companies have had to quickly adapt their fleets to include large equipment such as heavy-duty wreckers and vehicles with side recovery capabilities. Dealers who have had the right equipment available at the right time are better able to meet the changing needs of tow companies.

BECOME MORE VIRTUAL

In addition to connecting with dealers via regular meetings or touchpoints, manufacturers can also offer online demonstrations and training to engage with customers, since in-person visits are now dependent on the individual’s comfort level as well as state guidelines. With trade shows being cancelled or postponed it has become increasingly important to find new and creative ways to offer virtual “hands on” instruction for the operation and utilization of trucks and equipment. Tow operators are front-line, essential workers. Therefore, training programs should be in place to help these first responders follow proper social distancing and protection protocols when responding to an accident or call. Guidelines should also be in place on how to properly clean and disinfect equipment and get it prepped for the next run.

BE AGILE AND ADAPTABLE

When COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic in the United States, many employees began 38 • January 2021 | Towman.com

This

resurgence in industry optimism is

putting drivers back on the road ASK QUESTIONS. FIND SOLUTIONS.

Keeping the tow industry viable during the pandemic should include an ongoing conversation between manufacturers, dealers and distributors about how their business is faring and to help find solutions to their unique challenges. Questions manufacturers should be asking include: • What is business like in their market and how is it impacting utilization? • What are tow operators experiencing? Are they starting to see additional calls? • From a distributor standpoint, are there more opportunities

for sales leads? Keeping a monthly cadence of calls, while trying to understand and potentially solve the pain points of customers, will help ensure dealers, distributors and drivers remain safe, healthy and prosperous.

GETTING BACK ON THE ROAD

Car and Driver Magazine recently indicated the majority of travelers are more likely to take road trips both during and after the pandemic due to concerns around coming in close contact with other travelers via mass transportation. In fact, some states have already seen a significant increase in road trips as travel restrictions are lifted. According to data prepared by the Maryland Transportation Institute  for the federal government, during the week preceding the July 4 holiday Americans made 32.2 million trips of more than 50 miles. That’s slightly more than the 31.9 million long trips made during the same period in 2019.According to an article first published in Commercial Carrier Journal, nearly 50% of truck fleet owners responding to a survey about the coronavirus’ impact said they expect to see an increase in freight levels. In addition, 38% said they have brought back drivers and another 39% expect to bring drivers back in the near term. This resurgence in industry optimism is putting drivers back on the road and giving fleet owners the courage to bring back drivers as well as non-driving staff. Bottom line? Brighter days are ahead for the tow industry as the country tries to reemerge from the pandemic and as consumers begin venturing back out on the roads to experience a new sense of normalcy.


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 39


Supplier Scoop

Zip’s Used Truck Marketplace Launched

Zip’s AW Direct has created a new online experience designed to bring buyers and sellers of used commercial trucks and trailers together - right within the zips.com website platform. Designed with the busiest of business owners in mind, users will find it very quick and easy to list a truck for sale. Zip’s Used Truck Marketplace, found at zips.com/marketplace, provides a great user experience

with recognizable and specific truck and trailer categories for both the seller and the buyer. Simply click on the green ‘Sell My Truck’ button and follow five simple steps to complete the process. Can be done right from your smartphone! A relevant feature Zip’s Used Truck Marketplace provides is the ability to reach out to the seller via a familiar comment section - similar to other social media platforms. Over the years, Zips.com has become the go-to website for ev-

erything towing & recovery. All Used Truck Marketplace sellers now have the opportunity to capitalize off more than 1.5 million pageviews each month that zips.com provides. Sellers can expect maximum exposure of their truck listings utilizing Zips.com as their personal platform. “This service will initially be offered for free, providing a unique platform for person-to-person transactions and conversations,” said Zip’s Executive Vice President David Rottinghaus. “It is our goal to provide a place for industry professionals to connect with each other and easily sell and buy used commercial trucks and trailers. We hope business owners find it to be a goto tool in their toolbox.”

Stay Connected in the Truck

Wilson Electronics has launched the Drive Reach OTR and the Drive Reach RV, two of its most powerful, in-vehicle cellular signal boosters designed to provide strong cellular connectivity in cars, trucks, RVs and off-road vehicles. Compatible with all mobile devices and wireless carriers in North America, the boosters allow users to enjoy optimal call quality, fewer dead zones and faster data upload/download speeds while on and off the road. “The current pandemic has boosted people’s interest in vehicular adventures, from road trips and RV journeys to off-roading and overlanding. As a result, staying connected and safe on the road is more crucial than ever before,” said Wilson Electronics’ CEO Bruce Lancaster. Source: weboost.com.

Find us on Facebook You can find a new Boomer each week on TowIndustryWeek.com

40 • January 2021 | Towman.com

Read more towing news at towman.com


News Flash

Towing Secures Seat on Traffic Safety Council

Recently, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced the formation of the Ohio Traffic Safety Council. The council was created to coordinate and monitor all statewide traffic safety initiatives, analyze trends, and advise the Governor on creating safer roads through education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency response. Shortly after the council was announced, the OTRLC quickly contacted the Director of the Department of Public Safety to request a seat on the council for the Ohio Towing and Recovery Industry. The OTRLC is pleased to announce that Ohio towers were awarded a seat on the council and we selected Ron Myers of Pine Tree Towing & Recovery, and current OTRLC Board member, as our representative. Ron brings a wealth of experience to this posi-

42 • January 2021 | Towman.com

tion, including being an active instructor for the OTIM and National TIM 4-Hour programs, serving to Train the Trainer for the Dayton Police Department and the Ohio State Highway Patrol Washington County Post. He also trained ODOT personnel in Chillicothe, Marietta, and Athens, including personnel from law enforcement, fire departments, EMS, ODOT, and towing companies. Ron has attended advanced TIM training in Nashville, TN at the TN Highway Patrol Headquarters and in Boston, MA at the federal training center, and the FEMA Federal Highway Safety Symposium at the National Emergency Training Center. He was one of only seven towers that attended the 3-day event at the Federal Highway Safety Symposium. In addition, Ron has made presentations at multiple Tri-State TIM Conferences, representing the towing industry. He also worked

with TRAA on the National TIM Committee, and developed personal relationships with SHRP-2 National TIM program administrators. He currently sits on the OTIM Steering committee, the state’s traffic incident management program with multiple disciplines including ODOT, law enforcement, Fire, EMA, and towing and recovery services. These disciplines will also participate on the Ohio Traffic Safety Council. Source: OTRLC

Truckers Send Letter to President-Elect Biden

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s president and CEO, Todd Spencer, sent a letter with a list of regulatory priorities to President-elect Joe Biden. The agency’s primary mission is to reduce crashes involving large trucks. It also points out issues that mean the most to small-business truck-


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 43


News Flash

ers which make up the majority of the trucking industry fleets. “We should review regulations currently in place that have a direct connection to crashes,” said Spencer. “It’s also important to have expanded dialogue about issues that impact small-business truckers such as infrastructure funding, truck parking, detention time, automated vehicles and many others.” “Too many new drivers enter the industry without the basic skills to safely operate a CMV,” said Spencer. “There are more regulations in place today than ever, and there is more enforcement and compliance with those regulations, yet highway safety isn’t improving,” said Spencer. “We look forward to working closely with the incoming Administration to advance policies that matter most to professional drivers and are most meaningful to improving highway safety.” Source: OOIDA

44 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 45


Towman’s Market F O R S A L E U S E D T R U C K S

TOWKING NETWORK Dispatch

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CALIFORNIA TOW TRUCK ASSOCIATION INTRO TO TOWING The California Tow Truck Assn. presents INTRO TO TOWING. A new 5-part online course for towing beginners and new hires! Through five videos and corresponding quizzes, operators will learn the basics of towing. Students will receive a certificate of completion, and company owners are able to track their progress! Available now at: ctta@ctta.com

To Advertise In Towman’s Market CALL

800-732-3869

Ellen Rosengart x 203 erosengart@towman.com 46 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Towman’s Market USED TRUCKS FOR SALE

• 2017 Ford F550, Vulcan 807 • 2017 Dodge 5500, Vulcan 810 • 2016 Dodge Ram 5500, Century 411 Body • 2015 International 4300, Century 12 Steel LCG • 2017 Dodge Ram 5500, Dual Tech 19Ft Carrier • 2017 Ford E450 • 2016 Ford F550, Jerr Dan 19 Ft Carrier 860-488-7100

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I will give you an honest opinion of the value and what your prospects are of a sale. GeorgeMetos@aol.com www.businessbrokergeorge.com See George’s profile on LinkedIn.com

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 47


My Baby

Interior Bliss By George L. Nitti

P George L. Nitti has written for American Towman since 2009. He started out as a news writer and now writes a weekly feature on TowIndustryWeek.com, Tow Illustrated, which spotlights the tow truck graphics.

addack’s Wrecker and Heavy Transport, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, has a tow truck that will take you on such a voyage, in luxury, with their latest acquisition, a 2020 Kenworth W900 with a Century 1075 Rotator. It’s interior includes plush red leather seats with red and orange painted aluminum floors, a ceiling that is lined with patterned leather black buttons, a dash camera with GPS, a custom radio

48 • January 2021 | Towman.com


with 13 speakers, and a host of other bells and whistles that would “wow” any star voyager. For Paddack’s it signifies a journey long in the making. Fleet manager Jacob Ripley, son of owner Jeff Ripley, said, “As a kid I always wanted a custom truck and so I finally built a show truck. It’s my home away from home.” Of all their red trucks in a fleet of 50, this one really stands out, due to several marked differences, including a unique blue heartbeat found in two places on the unit’s side. Jacob explained, “Back in the 90’s, my father bought the company from Norm Paddack. They built a truck together with the same scheme: A heartbeat. Norm passed away 4 years ago and as a memorial type thing I went with the old-style lettering for my Dad and Norm.” Striped decals along the rotator’s side give the unit distinction as the colors of yellow, orange, royal blue and burgundy contrast nicely with its bold, red background. And a little white pin-striping on the royal navy adds just the right touch, giving it a subtle, decorative note. With all reflective lettering, pertinent information about the company is made clear, during night and day. On the side, it’s stated “Wrecks and Recovery Specialists.” On the boom, and its backside, the Paddack name pops out in a unique, white lettering while on the grill, the company name stands out with class. Of course, at night, it shines too, enveloped in 3 inch maxxima lights. What better way to travel above and beyond to the moon than this rotator that travels with a heartbeat?

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • 49


Lowdown

The Vaccine and Towing

A

Steve Calitri Editor-in-Chief scalitri@towman.com

s I write this it looks like the vaccines coming on the market to inoculate the public against Covid-19 are safe and effective. This should help tow business owners who found it tough enough to recruit operators before the pandemic struck. Those people most concerned about contracting Covid will get inoculated and not be afraid to be in close contact with other people, like motorists. Right now a pressing question is this: will towing be prioritized as an essential service industry that will move toward the front of the line for getting the vaccine? Many states have identified tow truck operators as first responders and have given them the privileges of other essential services and front-line workers fighting the pandemic. Homeland Security’s CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) put out an advisory in March of 2020 which suggested that any service supporting the transportation industry be considered “essential service” as relating to the pandemic. In speaking to Cindy Martineau, executive director of the Towing and Recovery Association of America, she believes the CISA directive indicates towing is considered an essential service by the federal government. Towers who have been active with state highway authorities have fought for this recognition for decades. During the Spirit Ride of 2017 and 2018 which interacted with Police and Fire Departments in over 300 U.S. cities, it was clear that towing was gaining due respect from these traditional first responders and being recognized as one of the team. But the media, the public and the politicians still need to realize that towers are indeed first responders.

50 • January 2021 | Towman.com

Reporting and projections on the pandemic from the Center for Disease Control and the media have been often misleading and inconsistent in its claims. The death rate reported is usually erroneous. When total cases of infections are totaled, including the projected number of nonsymptomatic cases, the fatality rate is only a small fraction of one percent. Given all the media misinformation, the general public fears for its life whenever they step foot outdoors. Will the propagandizing media still beat the drum to drive fear into the public in spite of these vaccines that have proven to be 95% effective? Will governors and mayors persist in their lockdown strategies that have severely injured our economy and small business owners? It will take the first quarter before we know the answer.


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • North 51


News Flash Auto Repossessions on the Rise

As the economic situation in America becomes more dire due to the effects of Covid-19, auto repossessions are expected to rise. Without more stimulus - jobless benefits, financial programs and consumer protections are all set to expire, causing evictions, foreclosures and auto repossessions. “We’ve certainly seen an uptick in defaults and delinquencies,” said John Van Alst of the National Consumer Law Center. “I think that’s going to translate into a really large increase in repossessions.” According to the credit reporting agency TransUnion, the number of auto loan accounts that are 30 days past due moved to 3.1% in August, compared to 3.0% in July. “I’m almost certain the number

of repossessions are going to increase,” said Les McCook, executive director for the American Recovery Association. Source: poynter.org Source: fox9.com

TRAA Weighs-in on Two Regulatory Changes

The Towing and Recovery Association of America, Inc. filed comments in November on two proposed regulatory changes that will have a significant effect on the towing industry. First, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has requested comments on changes to the Federal Workplace Drug Testing Guidelines with the intention of creating a regulation that would allow hair testing to be used in place of the current method of urinalysis. TRAA opposes this for a number of reasons in-

North 52 • January 2021 | Towman.com

cluding the validity of the test, potential discriminatory racial bias, and a cost factor estimated to be four times the current cost of urinebased drug testing. Second, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a pilot program to collect substantial data on the safety of allowing drivers under age 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. TRAA has filed comments in support of this proposal as it will allow for collection of invaluable safety performance data that will, in their opinion, support the safe operation of commercial vehicles by drivers under age 21. TRAA believes this will allow for their members to access a larger pool of qualified labor as tow truck operators and road service technicians.TRAA also believes age limits place an extreme burden on


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • North 53


News Flash operators of commercial vehicles that are based on or near state borders. Their comments, among all others, on the under 21 pilot program can be viewed at www. regulations.gov.

County in Virginia Considers Tow Regulations

Roanoke County, Va., is considering police-initiated towing regulations with an advisory board to regulate tow companies. A work session included input from tow companies and the County’s Chief of Police. A regulatory board would give the county better control over its police-initiated towing situation, and help to manage consumer complaints, said Allen Wood, of Woods Towing & Recovery. “The current county system is broken,” Wood said. Currently the county doesn’t

regulate towing. When police initiate a tow, the owner can request a company from the list or pick a tow company. If no one is picked, the next company on the list is chosen. There are several problems with that. One is lack of accountability, according to Howard Hall, County Chief of Police. He said, “We do not have the ability to deal with any complaints related to tow issues.” Another issue includes disparities in fees from one tow company to the next, as they are not bound to abide by fee schedules, in a county that spans 250 miles. Thirdly, some companies on the rotation are owned by one company. “We do have situations where multiple companies are owned by the same person, so in terms of that rotation, they’re getting through more often,” Hall said.

North 54 • January 2021 | Towman.com

Charlie Brown of Brown & Son Towing agreed a regulatory board would help to root out wrecker services with unethical practices. “I think most of us would support it,” Brown said. “We see things going on that shouldn’t be going on that’s affecting our county’s citizens.” Tow professionals in attendance said qualified, certified tow companies are the ones who should be looked at for any contracts that might be implemented, rather than unqualified companies. Source: roanoke.com

Find us on Facebook Read more towing news at towman.com


News Flash TRAA Weighs-in on Two Regulatory Changes

The Towing and Recovery Association of America, Inc. filed comments in November on two proposed regulatory changes that will have a significant effect on the towing industry. First, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has requested comments on changes to the Federal Workplace Drug Testing Guidelines with the intention of creating a regulation that would allow hair testing to be used in place of the current method of urinalysis. TRAA opposes this for a number of reasons including the validity of the test, potential discriminatory racial bias, and a cost factor estimated to be four times the current cost of urinebased drug testing. Second, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a pilot program to col-

lect substantial data on the safety of allowing drivers under age 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. TRAA has filed comments in support of this proposal as it will allow for collection of invaluable safety performance data that will, in their opinion, support the safe operation of commercial vehicles by drivers under age 21. TRAA believes this will allow for their members to access a larger pool of qualified labor as tow truck operators and road service technicians.TRAA also believes age limits place an extreme burden on operators of commercial vehicles that are based on or near state borders. Their comments, among all others, on the under 21 pilot program can be viewed at www.regulations.gov.

County in Virginia Considers Tow Regulations

Roanoke County, Va., is considering police-initiated towing reg-

South 52 • January 2021 | Towman.com

ulations with an advisory board to regulate tow companies. A work session included input from tow companies and the County’s Chief of Police. A regulatory board would give the county better control over its police-initiated towing situation, and help to manage consumer complaints, said Allen Wood, of Woods Towing & Recovery. “The current county system is broken,” Wood said. Currently the county doesn’t regulate towing. When police initiate a tow, the owner can request a company from the list or pick a tow company. If no one is picked, the next company on the list is chosen. There are several problems with that. One is lack of accountability, according to Howard Hall, County Chief of Police. He said, “We do not have the ability to deal with any complaints related to tow issues.” Another issue includes dis-


News Flash parities in fees from one tow company to the next, as they are not bound to abide by fee schedules, in a county that spans 250 miles. Thirdly, some companies on the rotation are owned by one company. “We do have situations where multiple companies are owned by the same person, so in terms of that rotation, they’re getting through more often,” Hall said. Charlie Brown of Brown & Son Towing agreed a regulatory board would help to root out wrecker services with unethical practices. “I think most of us would support it,” Brown said. “We see things going on that shouldn’t be going on that’s affecting our county’s citizens.” Tow professionals in attendance said qualified, certified tow companies are the ones who should be looked at for any contracts that might be implemented, rather than unqualified companies. Source: roanoke.com

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • South 55


South 56 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Midwest 52 • January 2021 | Towman.com


News Flash Auto Repossessions on the Rise

As the economic situation in America becomes more dire due to the effects of Covid-19, auto repossessions are expected to rise. Without more stimulus jobless benefits, financial programs and consumer protections are all set to expire, causing evictions, foreclosures and auto repossessions. “We’ve certainly seen an uptick in defaults and delinquencies,” said John Van Alst of the National Consumer Law Center. “I think that’s going to translate into a really large increase in repossessions.” According to the credit reporting agency TransUnion, the number of auto loan accounts that are 30 days past due moved to 3.1% in August, compared to 3.0% in July. “I’m almost certain the number of repossessions are going to increase,” said Les McCook, executive director for the American Recovery Association. Source: poynter.org Source: fox9.com

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • Midwest 53


Midwest 56 • January 2021 | Towman.com


News Flash County in Virginia Considers Tow Regulations

Roanoke County, Va., is considering police-initiated towing regulations with an advisory board to regulate tow companies. A work session included input from tow companies and the County’s Chief of Police. A regulatory board would give the county better control over its police-initiated towing situation, and help to manage consumer complaints, said Allen Wood, of Woods Towing & Recovery. “The current county system is broken,” Wood said. Currently the county doesn’t regulate towing. When police initiate a tow, the owner can request a company from the list or pick a tow company. If no one is picked, the next company on the list is chosen. There are several problems with that. One is lack of accountability, according to Howard Hall, County Chief of Police. He said, “We do not have the ability to deal with any complaints related to tow issues.” Another issue includes disparities in fees from one tow company to the next, as they are not bound to abide by fee schedules, in a county that spans 250 miles. Thirdly, some companies on the rotation are owned by one company. “We do have situations where multiple companies are owned by the same person, so in terms of that rotation, they’re getting through more often,” Hall said. Charlie Brown of Brown & Son Towing agreed a regulatory board would help to root out wrecker services with unethical practices. “I think most of us would support it,” Brown said. “We see things going on that shouldn’t be going on that’s affecting our county’s citizens.” Tow professionals in attendance said qualified, certified tow companies are the ones who should be looked at for any contracts that might be implemented, rather than unqualified companies. Source: roanoke.com

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • Midwest 57


News Flash County in Virginia Considers Tow Regulations

Roanoke County, Va., is considering police-initiated towing regulations with an advisory board to regulate tow companies. A work session included input from tow companies and the County’s Chief of Police. A regulatory board would give the county better control over its police-initiated towing situation, and help to manage consumer complaints, said Allen Wood, of Woods Towing & Recovery. “The current county system is broken,” Wood said. Currently the county doesn’t regulate towing. When police initiate a tow, the owner can request a company from the list or pick a tow company. If no one is picked, the next company on the list is chosen. There are several problems with that. One is lack of accountability, according to Howard Hall, County Chief of Police. He said, “We do not have the ability to deal with any complaints related to tow issues.”

West 52 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • West 53


News Flash Another issue includes disparities in fees from one tow company to the next, as they are not bound to abide by fee schedules, in a county that spans 250 miles. Thirdly, some companies on the rotation are owned by one company. “We do have situations where multiple companies are owned by the same person, so in terms of that rotation, they’re getting through more often,” Hall said. Charlie Brown of Brown & Son Towing agreed a regulatory board would help to root out wrecker services with unethical practices. “I think most of us would support it,” Brown said. “We see things going on that shouldn’t be going on that’s affecting our county’s citizens.” Tow professionals in attendance said qualified, certified tow companies are the ones who should be looked at for any contracts that might be implemented, rather than unqualified companies. Source: roanoke.com

West 54 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2021 • West 55


West 56 • January 2021 | Towman.com


Episode 193

CopyrightŠ2021 American Towman Magazine. Characters and stories are fictitious; no resemblance to real life characters is intended.


Profile for dortiz-towman

American Towman Magazine - January 2021  

American Towman Magazine - January 2021