American Towman Magazine - January 2022

Page 1

New Series! Towman’s Toy

The Road Calls

James Bennett, Jr.

Quick Clearance

in the Nick of Time

TOWMAN OF THE

YEAR

FINDING

TALENTED Tow Drivers

Command Performance

Suing for Your

Fair Rates

TowIndustryWeek.com

JANUARY 2022 AmericanTowman.com

$10




Contents

Volume 46 Issue 1

January 24

Towman of the Year

2022

James Bennett, Jr.’s key role as an Incident Commander earns him a prestigious award. by Steve Temple

Cover Illustration: hand-painted in water-color by Sarah Sarfati

Departments 6

The Walkaround

8, 10

News Share

9, 11

Zoom In

13

Tow Manager

18

Safety

34

Ad Index

36

Towman’s Toy

28

40

Case Closed

44

Towman’s Market

46

My Baby

A Speedy Recovery During Rush Hour.

50

Lowdown

52

Tow Engineer

57

Adventures of A.T.

Features Quick Work by Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

36

Mr. Malibu’s Muscle Car

This Towman’s Toy is transported by a Jerr-Dan carrier. by Steve Temple

4 • January 2022 | Towman.com

First on the scene since 1977



The Walkaround Searching for Happiness in the New Year Dennie Ortiz Publisher

As we embark on a new year, we start to think about what’s to come, what’s going to be new and different in 2022. The last couple of years have taught the world to expect the unexpected and be ready to adapt to challenges that might never have been thought of before. The “be prepared” way of thinking has always been part of the towing industry’s mindset. Towers have always needed to adjust to their ever-changing environment, whether it be adjusting practices to adhere to new laws or adjusting techniques as needed during a recovery scene. A perennial problem the industry faces is operator recruitment and retention, this continues into the new year with a marked increase expounded by labor shortages across the country. Carolyn Gray, contributing writer, lends her expertise to this issue and offers insights as to how to best position your business to find, hire and keep the right person for the job. How can you provide your operators the greatest protection on the roadway? Randall Resch takes a deep dive into advanced emergency-warning equipment, suggesting the use of arrow boards as an adept way to keep your operators safe. Safety is also top of mind at Elite Services from Louisiana, whose rotator is the feature of this month’s My Baby. Keeping a towing company’s business safe is our resident attorney Josh Brown’s forte, and he discusses a case in which a tower sues the State Police Patrol to justify rates, something many towers can relate to. Happy New Year and stay safe out there!

In All Modesty

Steve Temple Editor

In researching our cover feature on The Towman of the Year, I came away impressed by James Bennett, Jr.’s cool-headed handling of a daunting crash scene. Some of his fellow responders were much more shaken by all the human casualties and massive wreckage, referring to the incident as “horrific.” James downplayed his actions, though, describing his role in this risky recovery as merely “challenging.” So many towers I’ve met in recent months display a similar mindset. They strike me as unsung heroes of the highway, whose stories need to be told. And we feel privileged to do so. So email us at: stemple@towman.com

6 • January 2022 | Towman.com

Dennie Ortiz Steve Calitri Steve Temple Randall Resch Terry Abejuela Jim “Buck” Sorrenti David Kolman John Borowski Mark Lacek Brian Riker George Nitti

Publisher Editor-In-Chief Editor Operations Editor Field Editor, West Field Editor, Northeast Chassis Editor Safety Editor Repo Run Editor Contributing 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. Customer Service Subscription Manager Regional Advertising Sales iMarketing Manager ATTV Producer President

Gina Johnson Dennie Ortiz Ellen Rosengart 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

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Copyright ©2022 American Towman Magazine is published 12 times a year by American Towman Media, Inc.

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News Share

Oregon tow trucks lined up as a tribute to fallen tower Alan Lichtwald.

Tow Truck Allegedly Backs SUV into Office Building A tow company hired to pick up a broken down Ford Excursion on Highway 30A in Santa Rosa, Florida purportedly backed it into a custom home and then never reported the incident. The owners of Aqua Home Builders say AutoWorks was hired to pick up a truck but were never notified. The owner says he returned to his office Sunday night and saw the damage. From the photos provided, they say the tow truck driver let the Excursion down incorrectly. The tow company has told the owners they will pay for the damage. Source: wkrg.com

Tower Arrested in Florida for Reckless Driving

A tower who was on the job in Orlando is being charged for a DUI and illegal possession of a drug (pain pills) after he crashed his tow truck into several parked cars on the morning of Dec. 4. The tower, Wesley Howard, was allegedly going 80 mph, crossing over the median, through opposite traffic, and into a business parking lot, where his truck left the ground and landed on top of several cars. Police say his boss, the owner of Car Store Towing, came to the scene and showed them video from the truck’s interior and exterior cameras from the moment of impact. Officers launched a DUI investigation after they noticed Howard appeared out of it and not making sense at times. Police say they found pills in his pocket. While he told them they were aspirin, officers say they were pain pills. Car Store Towing says Howard passed all requirements to be a tow truck driver, but he is no longer employed with the company. Source: fox35orlando.com

8 • January 2022 | Towman.com

Oregon Towers Honor Fallen Tow Operator

On December 12, nearly 65 tow trucks from across the state of Oregon and beyond came out in procession to honor Henry Alan Lichtwald, who lost his life while clearing a disabled vehicle on Interstate 5 in November. Lichtwald, 63, of Roseburg, Oregon, was responding to a crash when police say a commercial motor vehicle collided with him and his tow truck. Lichtwald, who worked at Walt’s Towing, died at the scene. The event was to show solidarity and once again call for stronger measures to protect drivers, in addition to Oregon’s “Move Over” law. After a brief time to meet and sign photos of Lichtwald, tow truck operators moved out in a

solemn procession that stretched over an estimated three miles. Trucks with flashing lights, from companies as far south as Medford and far north as Portland, were in attendance. Halfway through the procession, four trucks that had traveled from a tow company in Ridgefield, Washington, joined the procession in progress. In addition to the procession, highlights of the event included a presentation of a Tow Lives Matter flag to the operations manager of Walt’s Towing and a smaller group of drivers gathering at the site of Lichtwald’s death for a brief memorial. Source: nrtoday.com

Fire Rescue Training Pays Off In November, Pulver Towing of Rochester, Minn., received an emergency request involving a trapped person in a car which was under a loaded semi-box truck. Pulver responded with specialized equipment, using an ultra-heavy duty rotating crane rescue truck and specialized rigging equipment to lift the box truck off the pinned car. The Pulver operators worked extremely fast, having trained for this scenario with Rochester fire in August. The cross training paid off as the victim and unborn child were rescued.

A pregnant woman stuck under a semi-box truck was rescued by Pulver Motor Service, LLC. Shown here is a cement mixer being lifted in a Pulver cross-training exercise.


Zoom In

Jerr-Dan’s JD25 INT Updates 25-Ton Wrecker

Jerr-Dan, an Oshkosh Corporation company, recently announced the JD25 INT, a new replacement model for its current 25-ton wrecker. Available in both single- and tandem-axle body configurations, this updated heavy-duty integrated wrecker is ideal for towing medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses and tractor trailers. Designed to meet the needs of today’s tower, this all-new underlift has the power and reach to handle every day heavy duty towing needs. It boasts a rated capacity of 32,000 pounds retracted, and 15,000 pounds fully extended at 131 inches at ground level. The newly designed boom, rated at 50,000 pounds fully retracted, and 16,000 pounds fully extended at 0 degrees, features 134” of reach off the tailboard, giving the operator the ability to perform vehicle recoveries and un-deck trucks with ease. The unit comes standard with a pair of 25,000-pound Ramsey two-speed winches, and an optional fully proportional wireless remote featuring two-speed winch control and winch free-spool engagement. To allow the operator to maximize the truck’s performance, the new tailboard comes standard with four D-rings, air and electrical hookups, and rear stabilizers equipped with D-rings and three-position spade feet. “This new and improved 25-ton, integrated heavy-duty wrecker combines Jerr-Dan quality, durability and reliability with industry-leading features. Based on Voice of Customer feedback, we’ve increased boom and underlift capabilities, and improved control functionality,” said Heath Fassnacht, director of sales at Jerr-Dan. “The JD25 INT is competitively-priced and delivers unprecedented productivity and the ability to successfully complete a wide range of towing and recovery operations with significant benefits for owners and operators.” Other features of the redesigned JD25 INT wrecker include: • Touchlink control system for lighting winches with integrated E-stop • The optional Touchlink in-cab underlift control panel allows the operator to control the underlift from inside the cab • Fully proportional electric/hydraulic (E/H) controls for driver’s side control station with fewer moving parts to reduce maintenance time and cost (e.g. push/pull cables) • Base body supports both single and tandem axle applications

JerrDan.com

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 9


News Share Annual Tow Rally

More than a hundred tow trucks, law enforcement and emergency vehicles participated in a rally from Hueytown to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in order to bring further attention to their State’s moveover law. The rally is an annual event that started after tow truck driver John Hubbard was struck and killed in December 2016 while trying to tow a vehicle. “Hypothetically speaking, if you’re traveling on the interstate, the majority of the vehicles are traveling at least 70 mph hour,” Alabama State Trooper spokesman Reginal King explained. “So, it’s really a great law that was put in place to protect law enforcement and emergency responders because we always want to encourage motorists to create an area that’s conducive for safe travels.” Source: wbrc.com

Homeless Camps and Vehicles Towed in Sacramento After Covid restrictions on towing homeless camps and vehicles expired in June, the city of Sacramento recently gave notices to 160 vehicles to clear out from an industrial park, and then towed 18 vehicles on Dec. 7. Dozens of tow trucks and city vehicles with flashing lights lined the roads to remove them as the area has been heavily impacted by homeless campers, cars and RVs. Vehicles owned by homeless individuals are subject to the same traffic and parking laws as those owned by everyone else, meaning the vehicles must be registered and can’t be parked in the same place for more than 72 hours, according to a city web page. Owners of local businesses in the area have complained about urine and feces, and also about vehicles being broken into. Although the city is attempting to address the homeless problem with a more comprehensive plan, the issues continue to persist as many of the homeless feel they have nowhere to go since alternative sites are full. Source:sacbee.com

A caravan of AAA trucks honored Paul Rodriguez, a tower in Arizona.

Tribute for Tower

Who Died From Covid

Tower Paul Rodriguez, who succumbed to Covid in November after falling ill it in October, was honored for his life as a caravan of 17 AAA tow trucks came to his hometown city of Maryvale, Arizona, a village of Phoenix, on December 8. Rodriguez drove for AAA for eight years. Besides co-workers and neighboring

10 • January 2022 | Towman.com

towers who came out to honor him, friends and family were also on hand to acknowledge their pain and emptiness at his loss. According to one source, “Helping people is what Paul did.” His grieving father Julio reflected: “He was my best friend. He was my son. Losing him I lost half my heart. Half my life.” Source: .abc15.com

Snow Storm Keeps Towers on the Move Tow truck drivers along Interstate 29, running down the corridor between Fargo and Grand Forks, hustled Dec. 6 and 7 as there were more than two dozen trucks and cars in ditches left over from a snowstorm. Rich Klaski of Mayville’s Samaritan Towing was one tower challenged by the storm as phone calls poured in to help get cars out of a ditch. “I had zero visibility last night,” Klaski recalled. “I was crawling along Highway 200 and couldn’t have been doing more than ten miles an hour, just watching the side of the road so I could see where I was going.” North of Fargo, along Interstate 29, nearly 25 cars littered the ditches. At the height of the wind and snow, people couldn’t see, and drove into a ditch. It got so bad on I-29 that North Dakota Highway Patrol troopers went

A tower hooking up one of many ditched cars after a snowstorm in North Dakota. out on the interstate to rescue people who had ignored the warnings and were stranded in their cars. The following day, when the storm abated and the sun came out, tow companies said they had jobs for the entire day up and down the interstate. Source: inforum.com


Zoom In

Versatile Genesis Zacklift’s innovative Genesis 30T tow system provides superior flexibility. This fifth-wheel, detachable, 30-ton integrated boom and underlift system gives operators the ability to “Build-A-Fifthwheeler” exactly as needed, without the expense and limitations that come with standard heavy-duty tow trucks. Thoughtfully designed to be compact and balanced, the Genesis 30T is an ideal choice for towing and recovery work in tight areas and where space is limited. Also, Zacklift’s reinforced secondary boom gives the Genesis 30T one of the highest extended ratings on the market, coming in at 22,000 pounds. The unit’s underlift is rated at a very capable 35,000 pounds of lift, and 80,000 pounds of towing capacity. Shipped ready to work, with minimal installation required, the Genesis 30T drops in place on recommended wheelbase tractors with no major modification or welding required. This unit has been engineered to hold up to strenuous demands required by heavy-duty towing professionals. The flexibility and attractive price point of the Genesis makes it a solid investment in today’s aggressive and unpredictable towing industry. The Genesis 30T is easily loaded or unloaded, and stows easily off a tractor when needed. Permanent units are also available. Optional accessories include a range of modular tool boxes, winches, fenders, wireless remote, pintle/ball/fifth-wheel hitch, and self-stabilizing stiff legs. All told, the GENESIS 30T is both a customizable and upgradeable heavy-duty towing system.

Zacklift.com

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 11



Tow Manager

Building Your Dream Team

Key Actions for Successful Recruiting at a Tow Business By Carolyn Gray

H

iring the right the owner has pride in ownership, employees can be which tells a prospective employee tough. “But why is it so that it’s a well-run business. hard?” you might ask. Well, it doesn’t have to be. If DO YOU HAVE THE CORRECT you know a few key actions to PAY SYSTEM? take, you can find great tow Are you familiar what operators that become part other tow of your team for years to operators come. Not only that, we’ll in your area share some brief profiles are paid? It’s on quality operators useful to know so that you might not you stay ahead of have previously local companies. considered—tow Is your pay women. structure Figuring out h o u r l y ? what attracts great And do employees requires you include some knowledge a bonus about what they structure? Today’s find attractive in hiring environment their next job. is very competitive Great future across all industries. Look for tow operators who have a willingness to learn and employees Have these answers help others, such as Denise Carbone of Rich’s Towing. typically want and you’ll stand out to work at a business that has good word of from the other tow businesses in your area. mouth, a great standing in the community State in your recruiting efforts that you and has a good reputation. So we’d like to have not only an attractive pay structure suggest that you ask yourself each of the but also offer a bonus plan. These points following questions, and put yourself in can have a huge impact and will get people prospective employees’ work boots. motivated in working for you.

Carolyn Gray of DRIVE has an extensive background in marketing, media strategy, branding and creative, including vice president of marketing at Fox Broadcasting and co-president of Filmaka Studios. She brings that wealth of knowledge to Monrovia, Californiabased coaching and training company, DRIVE (driveshops.com).

IS YOUR BUSINESS CLEAN AND PROFESSIONAL?

One quick and effective method to check this out is to stand away from your business, even across the street. Give your operation a hard, objective look. Are the windows washed and the property clean? Is your signage easy to see? If you have plants or bushes outside, are they trimmed? These things communicate that

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

IS THE TEAM INVOLVED IN SOCIAL ACTIVITIES?

Your team members might have different schedules. Make sure that everyone knows their fellow employees. Take them all out to lunch once a week or bring lunch in. Do you conduct team building exercises? They are a fun and practical way to get your team talking and working together in a supportive environment. AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 13


ALL IN THE FAMILY Sandra Saponari, VP & CFO of Rich’s Towing in Cleveland, has been in this business all her life. Her father, Rich Smith, opened their doors in 1961. Both her dad and mom, Pat, worked tirelessly to make the company what it is today. It now includes a third-generation too. Sandra’s son RJ and daughter Ashley are both part of the Rich’s Towing team. Sandra worked alongside her dad as a kid. She followed Rich around his Sunoco service station and rode along in the trucks. Sandra has built Rich’s to now have two locations and her own Dream Team of employees. “Recruiting in this day and age is not easy,” Sandra admits. “We have found training in-house and promoting from within works best.”

IS YOUR WEBSITE ATTRACTIVE AND EFFECTIVE?

Prospective customers will search for a tow company on their phones. Having a modern and effective website—and really an overall marketing program—is a crucial component of a successful business. But here’s the thing: good prospective employees will also check out your business online. Especially if they are a Gen Z or Alpha Gen. Born after 1997, they have been raised with a smart phone in their hands. Before they set foot in your business, they will have done their homework and looked at your website and online reviews. Ensure that you are putting your best digital foot forward, not only on your website but also social media platforms too. Plus those customer-review sites. Having a Yelp or Google review page that represents you at your best, isn’t great just for prospective customers—it’s a terrific hiring tool as well.

WHAT IS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE?

Like an attractive website, your social media pages need to be upto-date with current information that best represents your brand. Consistency is key. Don’t feel you need to post everyday. A couple of times a week is a good target. This method will attract customers, and it’s also a winning strategy for getting that next great tow operator for your business. A good social media plan can attract a quality crew that will stick around and contribute to your bottom line.

WHAT IS YOUR TRAINING AND PROMOTION PLAN FOR EMPLOYEES? Sandra represents one of three generations of towing.

14 • January 2022 | Towman.com

Offering a comprehensive training program in your recruiting

efforts is a big draw for smart and reliable employees. It tells them that you care about growing your business and you want your team to be part of that growth. Include this point in all recruiting materials.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE GRAPEVINE IS?

You may not know it by that name but you use it everyday. It’s your network. The group of people you talk to everyday by text, phone or in person. They are the suppliers, the salespeople and your fellow business owners in your community. Every time you speak to an outside person, mention you are looking for employees. Pass along a business card. You will be surprised how fast this good news travels.

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT FEMALE TOW OPERATORS?

If you haven’t, now is the time. In today’s hiring environment, you need to get creative and explore new ways to get great employees on your team. Make it clear in your job outreach that women tow operators should apply. Say that your business is growing with competitive pay plans, and hands-on training is part of your onboarding.

NEVER STOP RECRUITING

Here’s the kicker for all recruiting efforts for your business: Being prepared is essential for all areas of running a business, and especially recruiting efforts. You never want to be in the position of having to scramble and find someone quickly. Otherwise you’ll end up hiring somebody that is merely adequate rather than someone who really wants to work for you. Avoid this issue by never stopping your recruiting efforts—even when you have a full team. Always be on the



TOW TRAINING MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE

You never want to be in the position of having to scramble and find someone quickly. Otherwise you’ll end up hiring somebody that is merely adequate rather than someone who really wants to work for you. Now a veteran tow operator, Denice Carbone feels she can handle almost any type of recovery.

Tow driver Denice Carbone has been working as an operator at Rich’s Towing for 10 years. She just received recognition as a Captain of the Towman Order at the recent American Towman Expo in Baltimore. What led her to this industry? She had worked for a horse farm prior to getting into towing, but the business had to relocate to a different state. “I didn’t want to move, so I was unemployed,” Denice explained. “A friend that worked for a local towing company asked me if I was interested in driving. I told him that I had never been in a tow truck—even to have my car towed.” He said that was okay, that they would train me. How have her male fellow operators responded? “In the beginning, most people doubted me,” she admits. “Drivers and customers alike. I always heard things like, ‘Are you sure you can do this?’ or ‘You shouldn’t be doing this, that it’s a man’s job and women don’t belong doing a man’s job.’” Also, it was difficult to get fellow drivers to show Denice how to do things. Needless to say, the first three years were a little rough. But when she came to work for Rich’s Towing, that’s when things began to change. “I was shown things that I didn’t know and was critiqued on how to improve,” she recalled. “Bottomline, I was shown the correct way on how to do things. The things that you are shown are tried and true. “I now can do anything that I am asked to do with confidence with no doubts that I can get the job done. Whether recovering wrecked vehicles from the roadway or down a ravine or hauling heavy equipment, there isn’t anything that I can’t do,” Denice adds. “I’m now training new hires in addition to acting as an assistant to my boss. I guess you can say the difference between then and now, is that I am now accepted as an operator for what I can do and for what I have accomplished.”

16 • January 2022 | Towman.com

lookout for employees. Interview them and if you like them, say so. And even if you don’t have an opening right now, tell them you’ll hold onto their job application. In sum, for a business to be successful, you need a team of employees that not only respect you as the owner, but also enjoy coming to work each day. They need to feel they are part of your success. They should feel they are contributing to something important (which they are!). It’s up to you to create a culture where people feel good about working at your business. All told, include a fair pay structure, real-world training, and your leadership in developing a real team. When you do, prospective employees will be calling you to ask about openings.

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Safety

Arrowboard Products Calvin Berkey Enterprises pages N, M 55

Show Me the Way Arrow Boards for Emergency Lighting 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.

I

t’s been more than a century since the wrecker first was invented. During this time period, more than 600 tow operators have been killed in shoulder related incidents and pedestrian strikes across the United States. This unacceptably huge number suggests that many tow operators, and the industry as a whole, are missing the point of “On-Scene Safety.” Perhaps it’s a complete disregard of what root causes get towers killed, or maybe they have an unrealistic view that, “It’s not gonna’ happen to me.” Data indicates that tow operators have consistently failed to provide “Advanced Emergency Warning”, when serving roadside events. Part of the problem is that the tow industry doesn’t promote a proper concept that supports the importance of on-scene warning. This includes a lack of understanding as to why too much emergency lighting leads to, “negative cause and effect,” creating potential blinding hazards to approaching motorists .

TONE IT DOWN

As a long-time pageant judge at American Towman shows, I’ve had the pleasure of giving wreckers and carriers 18 • January 2022 | Towman.com

Instead of installing an excess of possibly blinding lights, why not invest in equipment that gives a clearer indication where your truck is parked on the shoulder?

“the once over.” In the process, participants were asked to turn-on running lights and emergency lighting to simulate DOT inspections. On one carrier in particular, I counted 30 strobe-type lights mounted on the truck’s exterior—in the grille, underside rails, headache rack, side rails, and even mounted on the truck’s lower frame structures above the wheel lift. The truck’s amber strobe was modern and its lowprofile added to its spectacular light show. The proud tower boasted that lighting alone cost more than $5,000. While the carrier placed as a top favorite, it made me wonder: how effective excessive lighting would be in pitch-dark environments? Perhaps from a distance, the carrier certainly was noticeable, but would too much lighting create negative effects on a motorist’s, “night vision,” while they accelerated blindly towards a truckload of circus lighting? As awesome as it looked all lit up, the truck’s excessive lighting could cause motorists’ confusion as they approached the carrier.. That led me to question the reality of 30 strobes being “circus lighting,” rather than providing a safety warning to


implore motorists to slow down and move over. In 20-something years of judging wrecker pageants, I recall that only a handful of tow trucks were outfitted with commercial-style arrow boards. Because there’s no federal or state requirement that privately owned tow trucks be equipped with arrow boards, strobes have become and remained a growing fad within the industry.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

Brian Riker, one of American Towman’s frequent contributors and an industry trainer, has handson expertise in emergency lighting for tow trucks. (And he also judges at American Towman’s wrecker pageants.) In a conversation regarding on-scene lighting, Brian shared his opinion regarding emergency lighting and arrow boards. His comment was simple and direct: “Too many emergency lights diminish a motorist’s ability to make it past stationary tow trucks.” What’s the alternative? “A better solution is to add a rearward-facing arrow board that sends a clear message that a tow truck is parked on the shoulder.” Backing up Riker’s comments are a multitude of tow-related fatality investigations that specifically mention, “No pre-warning of flares, cones, triangles or safety signs were deployed at impact sites.” Investigations clearly stated there was a consistent “lack of advanced warning” where no safety devices were deployed.

following excerpts were taken from many fatality investigations that determined a “lack of use” of devices for advanced emergency warning. The following excerpts are from official investigations: Example 1: Kentucky Source: www.cdc.gov/niosh/face/ pdfs/14Ky033.pdf “Towing companies should consider utilizing portable emergency warning devices. The

only warning device the tow truck driver used was the flashing light bar on top of the tow truck. Portable warning devices such as cones, flashing triangles, and road flares warn approaching motorists of a stopped emergency vehicle ahead and provide time for drivers to slow down and move over.” Example 2: West Virginia Source: www.cdc.gov/niosh/ nioshtic-2/20029350.html

PROVING A POINT

The National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has provided analytical and statistical support to NHTSA and the highway safety community for 45 years. The Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 19


“Tow truck operators should place portable emergency warning devices such as reflective triangles on the roadway shoulder to alert oncoming traffic.” Example 3: Massachusetts Source: www.cdc.gov/niosh/face/ stateface/ma/04ma005.html “Ensure that employees use portable emergency warning devices to help alert approaching motorists of the stopped emergency vehicles ahead.” Example 4: Michigan Source: www.cdc.gov/niosh/face/ stateface/mi/18MI002.html “Visibility of operation; no hivis vest worn, pickup on truck bed obscured tow truck overhead lights, no portable emergency warning devices placed.”

20 • January 2022 | Towman.com

THE TAKEAWAY

Instead of adding more blinking lights and strobes, why not invest in equipment that doesn’t blind, and gives clear indication that your truck is parked on the shoulder? A well-placed arrow board is best situated atop the headache rack or strobe mount. This should be a standard requirement for tow trucks serving highways to better communicate “Slow Down, Move Over” (SDMO) warnings. Overhead strobes and rotor lights, especially on carriers, don’t provide sufficient lighting to rearward approach as vehicles are loaded onto a carrier’s deck. As a vehicle is winched onto a tilted deck, a loaded vehicle’s size partially blocks the effectiveness of emergency strobes and rotors. The larger the size of vehicle being loaded—SUV, minivan, or full-


size pickup truck—the more this lighting is blocked. And that also includes wreckers with vehicles loaded on wheel lifts. When purchasing or retrofitting tow trucks, I recommend that emergency lights extend farther left and right of the center mount to both sides. If arrow boards aren’t a consideration, “outriggers” (mounts) on the truck’s headache rack provide positions that extend lights beyond the width of towed or transported vehicles. This aspect is especially important for carriers.

WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

In trying to minimize tow operator fatalities, I believe the industry needs better focus on operator safety, rather than highlighting big trucks, bling, wraps, murals, new equipment and tow items that don’t relate to operator survival. Much of on-scene survival comes down to the operator’s mindset. Yet many operators don’t feel a need for additional onscene safety and provide the following excuses: • “It takes too long to set cones and flares up!” • “It’s dangerous to set them up!” • “Flares start fires!” • “Signs and arrow bars cost too much!”

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 21


Fact: Because towers don’t deploy advanced emergency lighting, pedestrian strikes will continue. On-scene safety starts with operators deploying necessary safety equipment, especially working shoulder events. Tow-business owners are responsible for making that conscious decision to provide proper equipment and training for on-highway response. If you have attended Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Training, you’re missing the meaning of, “Advanced Emergency Warning.” With the lack of advanced emergency warning being one root cause for operator fatalities; outfitting your company’s wreckers and carriers with arrow boards is a move in the right direction in-decreasing operator deaths in the future. If you think SDMO initiatives are really working, you’re way off-track. This narrative is intended to focus on making your trucks more visible and safety efficient. When adding more strobe and trinkets to increase your trucks’ “circus factor,”,why not be reasonable in making your truck’s presence known to approaching motorists? Adding arrow boards or outrigger-style lighting helps to increase a tow truck’s presence when parked stationary on highway shoulders. An arrow board’s directional left or right arrows send clear indication to approaching motorists to slow down and move over.

THE RIGHT CHOICE?

Because owners are saddled with doing everything they can to protect workers from accidents or incidents, cost of product shouldn’t be a deciding factor. If cost is a factor for not outfitting your trucks with arrow boards or outrigger lighting, simply consider, “What’s my employee’s life worth?” In today’s towing and recovery market, commercial arrow boards are available for $600. While this narrative isn’t an attempt to promote devices or products, let’s hope the industry takes heed of the known dangers that repeatedly get towers killed. Don’t wait for one of your trucks to get hit or your operator to die in a preventable pedestrian strike. Be proactive and upgrade your trucks with equipment products that work, facilitating operator safety. Why not make smart choices and outfit your trucks with equipment and accessories that offer far more safety potential than circus bling? Adding an arrow board helps to increase a tow truck’s on-scene presence. As with all products and safety accessories, though, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

22 • January 2022 | Towman.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 23


TOWMAN OF THE

YEAR

James Bennett, Jr. Conquered the Great Texas Pileup By Steve Temple

T

he 2022 Towman of the Year could easily be dually named Incident Commander of the Year. Given the scope of the incident this magazine covered in our April 2021 issue, titled “The Great Texas Pileup,” it’s a no brainer who the Incident Commander of the Year would be. This gripping article recounted how James Bennett, Jr. of Beard’s Towing had to lead the recovery operation for a massive chain-reaction accident on an icy highway in Fort Worth, Texas. 24 • January 2022 | Towman.com

The terrible pileup in February 2021 involved 135 vehicles, resulting in six deaths and dozens injured. Working alongside 150 police officers and firefighters, and coordinating eight different tow companies using about 90 wreckers, James kept a cool head in the chaotic scene. What was his first reaction when he saw the mass of wrecked vehicles

and human casualties? “This is going to be a long day,” he recalled, understating the magnitude of the horrific situation. What were his first actions? He had to find out from the police and fire departments the location of injured people who needed immediate extraction. This procedure was the hardest part of the recovery, a harrowing search-


I know of his

capabilities, and what he’s done on other incidents,

recovering

large vehicles.

and-rescue operation. James had to crawl over casualties to carefully secure extra rigging, as everything was unstable. That was the worst part, he admitted. “The biggest challenge was preserving the bodies, the fatalities,” he said. “There’s not a lot of resources to be able to deal with that. It’s the ‘under-look’ of towing.” That is, the gritty behind-the-scenes work that’s often required. (But he has another company, mentioned below, that’s equipped with Class A hazmat gear, and has special training, which were indispensable.) Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

On the tow side, the difficult operation required lifting heavy semis off of crushed cars, many with people still inside them. Where to begin, though? They started at both the front and rear of the pileup, and worked toward the middle, all while trying to control the chaos and divert traffic. James is modest about his heroic efforts, citing his fellow towmen and Fort Worth first responders who all worked as a tremendous team during the 16-hour operation. He mentions in particular the efforts of Lt. Meyers of the fire department, and Buddy Calzada, Public Relations Officer for the police department. He has high words of praise for all of them. “On a scale of one to ten, working together with this team is a 10,” James noted. We spoke with Officer Calzada to get his recollections of the recovery, and observations about James Bennett, Jr. As soon as hearing of the accident, Calazda contacted him immediately. “I called James and told him to bring something to start pulling,” Calzada recalled. “I know of his capabilities, and what he’s done on other incidents, recovering large vehicles.” James had already heard what had happened on the highway, and they met at the crash scene and began walking it, listening for voices of victims. Weather didn’t permit sending up a helicopter to survey the area, so they had to rely on drones for intel. What was Calzada’s initial reaction, and then working with James to manage the dangerous situation? “It was massive, overwhelming—it sticks with you the rest of your life,” he related. “James is a hard worker, but if you can work in unity, that’s the thing. We were able to agree and make it

happen. Unity is the key word.” Although nobody can ever prepare for such a terrible scene, the fact that James and his fellow operators had just participated two weeks earlier in a cross-training exercise with other Fort Worth first responders was obviously a big help. (The big difference, though, was that the exercise involved only four or five vehicles, not 135!) We recently followed up with James to learn a bit more about his background that helped to prepare him for handling such a tragic and dangerous event. He is a lifelong tower, first riding along with his father James Bennett, Sr. at the tender age of five. As a teenager, he recalled a gritty recovery of a collapsed trailer full of goat carcasses being shipped from a slaughterhouse. Despite encountering this bloody mess, he later chose to follow in his father’s footsteps as a tow operator in order to support his growing family. Today, James’ company Beard’s Towing has 37 rigs in all, ranging from light to medium to heavy duty, along with several trucks and Landoll trailers. He prefers using Miller Industries’ vehicles, having worked closely with Tom Luciano and John Hawkins from the company on rigging and training. Besides overseeing daily operations of his firm, James is active in lobbying efforts for enhancing towers’ safety and to facilitate better business practices. On the latter aspect, he and Tommy Anderson, executive director of the Southwest Tow Operators Association, recently helped to push through a measure that allows Texas towers to charge credit-card fees to customers, instead of having to bear that expense (without any legal basis, tow operators were singled out, as no other businesses

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 25


James Bennett, Jr. at the American Towman’s Safety Commission meeting during TowXpo San Antonio.

26 • January 2022 | Towman.com


in Texas had to do so). This lobbying effort took six long years. James says he and fellow towmen turned out in large numbers to overturn this unfair regulation. “That’s a lot of fight—and a lot of money,” James exclaimed. On the safety side, he is ardent about developing an industry standard for towers’ protective clothing. He’s seen too many operators wearing tennis shoes and shorts, who get serious staph infections due to skin abrasions and lacerations from rigging equipment. “Dragging a chain across your skin can cause permanent scarring,” he pointed out. “There’s nothing written up yet to protect towers from injuries.” That’s one reason why James was selected to attend American Towman’s Safety Commission at the TowXpo in San Antonio, Texas last summer. He was instrumental in providing expert, hands-on input to this commission. He’s also a Board Member of the TXDOT Traffic Incident Management for the State of Texas, has completed National Highway Institute SHRP2 Training, and he has Level 3 Heavy Duty Recovery Specialist National Certification. In addition, James is a three-time recipient of the Order of the Towman, and has been named one of 500 most experienced Towman in America by American Towman Magazine. Related to his concern about the dangers of towing, James is involved with a hazmat company, CG Environmental. Run by his brother Erick McCallum, this firm has several offices in Texas and other nearby s fdtates. It handles cleanup and disposal of a wide range of fluid spills (diesel, hydraulic, biological), along with suicide scenes and disease contamination at public and residential facilities. Special chemical warfare training is required of the staff, which also handles micro-cleaning of hospitals and other sites affected by the Covid pandemic. This type of work has kept this firm very busy in recent years. “It’s a big deal,” James admits. “A lot of time the disposal is more time consuming than the cleanup.” Tommy Anderson has high praise for all of James’ volunteer efforts as well. These include the cross training noted above with Fort Worth’s first responders a couple times a year, along with other tow companies besides his own. “He is a guy who gives to the industry,” Tommy noted. “I don’t know of anybody who does that, on his own time and paying out of his own pocket. I give him a big thumbs-up—all the way.” And so does American Towman Magazine, who salutes James Bennett, Jr. as the 2022 Towman of the Year! Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 27


A Peterbilt cabover fully loaded with groceries rolled over in a parking lot. Surrounding traffic and obstacles required a “quick clearance” recovery.

Quick

Jim “Buck” Sorrenti, a longtime editor of American Towman, has been our field editor for the past 10 years. He is a freelance writer and photographer with more than 40 years of experience covering motorcycle, hot rod, truck and towing culture. He writes weekly for TowIndustryWeek.com.

Work By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

A North Jersey Tow Family’s Speedy Response to a Rollover

28 • January 2022 | Towman.com


T

he term “quick clearance” is now a working catchphrase for tow operators handling a hazardous recovery. So much so, it has now been written into the Traffic Incident Management Quick Clearance Laws: A National Review of Best Practices from the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. As implied by the expression, “quick clearance” involves rapidly removing temporary obstructions, such as disabled or wrecked vehicles, debris, and spilled cargo, from the roadway to increase the safety of incident responders. This approach minimizes their exposure to adjacent passing traffic, reduces the probability of secondary incidents, and relieves overall congestion levels and delay. Such was the case in July 2021 when Nick’s Towing received an urgent call about a hazardous accident scene.

Quick clearance

was the name of the game due to morning rush hour. “One of our corporate customers contacted us about a rolled-over truck on Route 21 in Newark, New Jersey,” related Joyce Testa Powers of Nick’s Towing. “We immediately responded and got approval from the local police. Quick clearance was the name of the game due to morning rush hour.” The accident occurred when the truck, fully loaded with groceries, was cut off. In an effort to avoid the interfering vehicle, the driver overcorrected and rolled the truck over into a

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 29


parking lot. The rig then slid into a parked dump truck, and the nose of that unit punctured the roof of the box truck. Operator JT Sagun responded in Unit 86, a 2007 Peterbilt 379 with a Century 1075S 75-ton rotator. Operator Florrie Sassani was in Unit 102, a 2016 Peterbilt running a 35-ton Vulcan with integrated boom, and operator Walter Gonzalez went out in the Service Van

as additional assistance. Traffic control is necessary for quick clearance, and responder safety is a priority for preventing secondary accidents. Fortunately, the driver of the rollover was not seriously hurt. With traffic control in place, the team staged the rotator

This rear view shows a Century 1075S 75-ton rotator with a 10-foot 20-inch flat strap across the back of the box

30 • January 2022 | Towman.com

and the 35-ton wrecker. The team rigged a 10-foot 20inch flat strap across the back of the box to keep the integrity of the sides intact. A single line, 10-foot chain, was run off the 75-ton rotator to the rear of the box truck’s frame as a catch line. More equipment was needed, however, to expedite the recovery. “We also ran one line from the 35-ton wrecker to the front axle of the casualty to

be utilized as a down-pull line,” explained company owner Nick Testa. “Wireless headsets were key to communication by the team throughout the recovery.” Once the casualty was upright, it was towed to a location for offloading, then to its final destination to await for an insurance adjuster to come. All told, Nick’s Towing got this quick clearance done in the nick of time.


Using rigging from a Century 1075S 75-ton rotator, the team secured a 10-foot 20-inch flat strap across the back of the box to keep the integrity of the sides intact.

After a careful setup, the 35-ton Vulcan (left) and Century 1075S 75-ton rotator (right) were ready to lift in tandem.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 31


Supplier Scoop

Matjack provides expert training for towing pros.

Matjack’s Air Cushion Class

On October 22-24, 2021, Matjack completed its 15th year of actively training students on the best recov-

32 • January 2022 | Towman.com

ery/rescue methods and equipment in the industry. This firm thanked the 25 tow professionals attending who were eager to learn from the leading trainers in the industry.


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 33


AD INDEX

January 2022

Akins Body & Carrier Sales.........................41

Jerr-Dan......................................................2

SafeAll Products.........................................29

All American Jerr-Dan.............. N, S 51, M 53

Len Zermenos............................................34

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

AmeriDeck.................................................22

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

Sea Crest Insurance Agency...................W 51

Atlanta Wrecker Sales................................32

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

ServiCase....................................................3

Calvin Berkey Enterprises.................. N, M 55

Metrocom..................................................20

Smyrna Truck & Cargo...............................43

Captain Recovery.......................... N 56, S 55

Mobile Control Systems..............................33

Texas Towing & Storage.........................W 54

Chevron Commercial..................................33

North American Bancard............................17

Towbook Management Software...................7

Crouch’s Wrecker & Equip. Sales................49

Nottingham Insurance............................ N 55

Tow Brokers Insurance...........................W 54

Custer Products.........................................43

NRC Industries...........................................15

Tow Industries.......................................W 55

Dual-Tech Wreckers & Carriers...................21

OMG Marketing..........................................26

TowMate....................................................23

Edgetec.................................................W 55

Pacific General Insurance.......................M 55

TowTract....................................................27

Elizabeth Truck Center................................35

PeakPTT....................................................32

Trail King Industries...................................23

Enzo’s Cleaning Solutions............. N 53, M 56

Peak Wrecker Sales...............................W 56

Utility Trailer Sales of S.E. TX..................W 56

Fayetteville Ford.........................................29

Progressive Commerical...............................5

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

FCar Tech USA...........................................35

PWOF...................................................38, 39

Winches Inc...........................................W 51

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

Recovery Billing Unlimited..........................33

Zacklift International..................................20

ITI..............................................................22

RimSling..............................................21, 27

Zip’s/AW Direct....................................12, 19

34 • January 2022 | Towman.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 35


Towman’s Toy

Mr. Malibu’s Muscle Car By Steve Temple

Editor’s note: Have a special ride you’d like to show off in American Towman? Email some sample photos and a short description to: stemple@towman.com

B

ruce Bailey grew up as a “Flintstone Kid,” he says, since his dad owned Hard Rock Auto Wrecking. But he didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. “I didn’t want to work as hard as at a junkyard,” he admits. So back in 1987 he bought his first car carrier and established Bedrock Towing, using a Flintstone-themed logo. After a few years in the towing business on Socal freeways, he paid off that rig and kept on going, and eventually bought a 2021 Freightliner. It was a special order truck, with the color and wheelbase he wanted, and a more powerful 300hp Cummins diesel. Why the extra torque? “I believe in overkill,” he explains. “When I’m climbing those hills to Victorville and Las Vegas, I don’t want to struggle on the steep grades.”

36 • January 2022 | Towman.com

Bruce didn’t stop with those specialorder items, though, as he had VTTR install a Jerr-Dan 21-foot Shark bed with custompainted cylinders and control valves, plus an alarm, extra lighting and a high-end stereo system. This wasn’t his only project vehicle, though. During his junkyard days as a teenager, Bruce pulled out a dilapidated ’66 Malibu headed for the crusher. It originally had a six-cylinder engine, which was gone, along with the transmission and front sheetmetal. And the convertible top was all raggedy, too. He put in five years of meticulous restoration work, installing a 383 stroker V-8 with a Turbo 400 Hydramatic transmission. Why put so much into such a basket-case car? Especially since most of his friends prefer Impalas.


“I’ve always like Malibus,” he admits, pointing out that it’s what a muscle car should look like. His choice has proven out, after winning winning a slew of trophies over the years. So many, that he now has a new handle. “There’s people that can’t remember my name,” he laughs, “but they do remember that I’m ‘Mr. Malibu.’”

VTTR customized the Bedrock Freightliner’s tool boxes and subframe, color-matching them with the cab.

Dino the “dogasaurus” keeps Flintstone fans happy in the backseat when the family car is on the carrier.

The Jerr-Dan 21-foot Shark bed comes in handy when Bruce wants to transport his Malibu to a car show to win yet another trophy.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 37




Case Closed

Why We Sued the Highway Patrol A Towing Company Stands Up for Its Rights By Josh Brown, Esq.

Josh Brown is an attorney at Cassone Law Offices, LLC. where he represents dozens of small businesses throughout Ohio as business counsel and litigator.

T

ow and recovery companies across the United States deal with a lot when it comes to competition and government regulation. The good players in the industry simply seek to be treated fairly. That’s not always the case, however. In October, I filed a lawsuit on behalf of my client, Hook-N-Haul, against the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The Patrol placed Hook-N-Haul on its tow rotation list, after a long period of superior work and investment from the company. It is a family business that is a leader in the tow and recovery business in Ohio. If you attend any of American Towman’s conventions, you have probably seen the company’s owner Bryan Whittenberger, chatting passionately about the industry. So what prompted our lawsuit? One Christmas Eve, Hook-N-Haul performed a difficult recovery and two tows. The weather was extremely bad, and the vehicle was an expensive luxury SUV. It was mired deep in snow and mud. The steering wheel was locked. Yet, despite these conditions, Hook-N-Haul’s recovery specialist recovered the vehicle with no damage whatsoever. The relieved owner of the vehicle cut a check, no questions asked. However, the insurance company asked the owner to stop payment on the check. The insurance company’s agent then called the Patrol and told them that Hook-N-Haul was overcharging. What makes this even more egregious is that she had not even seen the invoice yet. This lady was a former patrolwoman herself, so she knew the consequences of her actions. In short order, the Ohio Patrol removed Hook-N-Haul from the rotation due to the lady’s call. The Patrol alleges

40 • January 2022 | Towman.com

it compared rates, but it is impossible to believe that it conducted a thorough investigation. The Patrol had called HookN-Haul at one point, but refused to have a full discussion. The officer who called wanted access to proprietary information, which Hook-N-Haul offered to provide, as long as it would remain confidential. Hook-N-Haul sued the insurance company and its agent for defamation and interfering with the business relationships between itself and the Patrol. Even more significant, Hook-N-Haul stood up to the inappropriate actions of the Patrol. Here is what the Patrol did wrong, from our perspective:

IMPROPER CREATION OF RULE

The Patrol removed Hook-N-Haul under the pretext of a document it calls OSP-200.17. Apparently, this is an internal policy document that imposes several requirements on tow and recovery companies seeking to remain on the rotation. One of the requirements says they must charge “reasonable and prevailing rates.” Most tow and recovery companies would react to such language with hostility. There are no such things as “reasonable



and prevailing” rates in tow and recovery work. The billing for this type of work can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Nowhere does the Patrol refer to such standards. Therefore, the standard imposed is nothing more than the opinion of any Patrol officer on any given day. This approach is in direct violation of Ohio law (which is similar to most states) which forbids agencies giving themselves the power to enforce made-up standards, inviting enforcement that is arbitrary, discriminatory, or unreasonable. Like most states, Ohio imposes strict rules on state agencies, requiring them to put their rules through a review process. That process would never allow the enforcement of a non-existent standard. When agencies attempt to enforce rules without undergoing

42 • January 2022 | Towman.com

this process, those rules are illegal. OSP-200.17 never underwent Ohio’s rule-making process. Thus, it never received the kind of critical analysis the law requires.

DUE PROCESS AND BREACH OF CONTRACT OR PROMISE The United States Constitution and the Ohio Constitution require the government to provide “due process” before taking away someone’s liberty or property. OSP-200.17 says that the Patrol will only remove Hook-N-Haul for a “legitimate reason.” It says that one legitimate reason would be failure to charge “reasonable or prevailing rates.” Hook-N-Haul had a “property interest” in their place on the rotation. OSP-200.17 is a promise from the Patrol that it will not remove companies without a legitimate reason. It constitutes

a contract between the entities. Hook-N-Haul invested heavily in the contract, in reliance on the Patrol’s promise. Hook-N-Haul never charged a rate that was unreasonable or not prevailing. A false report from someone at an insurance company is not a “legitimate reason.” In other words, the Patrol broke its promise to adhere to its own policy, which deprived Hook-N-Haul of a contractual entitlement. When the Patrol deprived HookN-Haul of a property interest, it was required by constitutional law to provide “due process.” This means the Patrol must provide a process that is fair to Hook-NHaul. This requires, at minimum, notice of the accusations against Hook-N-Haul and an opportunity to have its side of the story heard by decision-makers.


OVERLY VAGUE

A rule is overly vague when it fails to give people an idea of how to follow it. If the rule does not tell you what is expected of you, then you cannot follow it. The Patrol’s rule on “reasonable and prevailing rates” requires tow and recovery companies to follow a non-existent standard. Perhaps the Patrols considers the opinion of its troopers’ opinion to be the standard. Either way, there is no way for Ohio tow and recovery companies on the rotation to know what the standard is and adhere to it. In sum, there is a long, documented history of administrative agencies overreaching their authority. As an industry, tow and recovery companies must be aggressive in standing up to this improper practice and for their legitimate rights.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

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AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 45


My Baby

Cream of the Crop

Elite Service’s Rotator is a Top-Flight Truck By Steve Temple

Photos by Megan Benoit and Steve Temple

W

Steve Temple has many years of experience as an automotive photojournalist and editor of numerous magazines, both consumer and trade. He has a passion for diesel engines, and one of his personal rigs is a one-ton Dodge dually with an upgraded Cummins turbodiesel, often used for both towing and hauling.

hen you get a difficult recovery call, which rig do you want on scene? Well, for Elite Service of Lake Charles, Louisiana, it’s a 2022 Peterbilt 389, outfitted with a CSR50 rotator from NRC Industries. Why this one, out of the 17 trucks the company runs? “This unit is a specialty item in our fleet,” explains Adrien Benoit, Elite’s general manager. “It’s the cream of the crop, designated for a wide variety of recoveries.” One obvious benefit of a rotator is the ability to park in one lane for a recovery without

46 • January 2022 | Towman.com

blocking cars. “That’s huge, especially for commuters,” he notes. This rotator is not the first one Elite has owned, since it replaced another 50-ton rig. Painted bright red with yellow graphics to match the rest of the fleet, this new Peterbilt’s vivid color scheme was a real standout at the recent TowXpo in San Antonio, Texas. This was not the only noteworthy aspect, though. The towing equipment in the dozen bed boxes—snatch blocks, tow chains, shackles and frame forks—are clean, color coordinated and nicely organized for quick access on towing and recovery work. That’s a note of pride for Adrien. “We take time to go over the layout of all the


Controls for the 50-ton boom are readily at hand.

A diagram (right) with load ratings for the 50-ton boom provide the tow operator with a visual reference when raising and/or retracting the boom.

boxes and make sure it is user friendly and loaded out with every piece of equipment we would need,” he says. “This unit was ordered with $25,000 in rigging. DFW Truck & Equipment put all the stuff on the truck where we thought we wanted it, and then when we took delivery we ended up changing around four of the compartments, customizing the rigging and also the layout of the truck.” Hanging equipment in the right location is obviously important. “We make sure to put the majority of our towing equipment on the passenger side to try and keep our employees as safe as possible on the side of the road,” he points out. In addition, “The remote system on this particular unit is one of the Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

Snatch blocks, tow chains and slings are all clean and neatly laid out for quick access.

The remote system on this particular unit is one of the

most advanced pieces of equipment we have owned and operated.

most advanced pieces of equipment we have owned and operated,” Adrien notes. Elite has used the remote to handle everything from uprighting a concrete mixer to

lifting and loading a container onto a trailer. “It’s really good to know the weight you are actually lifting, compared to estimating the weight,” Adrien points out. He admits that operating the boom remotely instead of being next to the truck takes some time to get accustomed to, but it allows him to get a full view of the recovery. For instance, a recent one involved an extended reach for a forklift that rolled over on a job site. “It was a 12K-reach lift with the boom ¾ of the way out, and lift in the air around 30 feet,” Adrien recalls. There’s another new piece of equipment that makes jobs a bit safer and easier. This rotator is Elite’s first one fitted with high-

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • 47


Tech Highlights

Frame forks are painted bright yellow so they can be quickly spotted when positioned under a heavy-duty chassis.

strength synthetic rope, rather than wire rope. Why the change? “Driver safety, to avoid a slingshot effect,” Adrien says. “If it breaks, it just falls down.” He also points out there’s reduced wear and tear on the operator, since synthetic rope is not as heavy when dragging it out 200 feet or more for a recovery. And it doesn’t develop any burrs like wire rope can, causing injuries. Elite’s conscientious approach applies to not only its equipment, but also customer service. Before joining the company Adrien had several years of experience in the restaurant business, plus managing “turnaround work” for repair of facility equipment at construction plants. This background was invaluable when he joined Elite back in 2006 as a light-duty driver, even though he had little knowledge of the towing industry. Elite’s founder and owner Robert Darschied showed him the ropes (literally), along with some handson training. Adrien worked his way up by attending several towing schools as well. Most of the training he and his other operators attend is the American Towing and Recovery Institute by Wes Wilburn. Adrien says he does a great job with both hands-on and classroom training. Looking back on his many years as a tower has helped him develop in 48 • January 2022 | Towman.com

other ways. “I got my Class A CDL in 2008 and started to venture into the heavy-duty side of things,” he recalls. “After finally learning the business, I decided that I wanted to grow the business. I saw a need for a professional towing service in my area and one that was dedicated to customer service.” Robert, who’s now retired, preferred to let his recovery work do the talking for him, while Adrien says he’s more of a people person, and provides personal attention and followup with his customers. “I take pride in what we do,” he points out. “I teach the office staff how to answer phones, and transfer that out to the field as

Chassis: 2022 Peterbilt 389 Wrecker body: NRC CSR50 Rotator, 50 ton Engine: Cummins X15 with 18-speed transmission Equipment: Jerr-Dan 50-ton boom and wheel lift Built by: Toolbox layout and equipment by Elite Service Recovery & Towing well.” Besides keeping Elite’s equipment clean and presentable (immaculate, actually), he checks in with customers and takes extra steps to be both efficient and professional in his presentation. Today, Adrien’s wife Megan (Robert’s daughter) works alongside him as vice president of Elite. She also worked her way up, starting out as the company’s office manager. They met back in high school, and got married in 2006, and now are raising three kids. So the family that tows together, stays together.

Peterbilt’s cab is well appointed for both function and driver comfort, with a touch-screen monitor for phone calls, navigation, and several other options. A multitude of gauges display a wide range of engine and other mechanical readouts.



Lowdown

Incident Commander Exemplar By Steve Calitri

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

T

he Great Texas Pileup that James Bennett, Jr. commandeered to get it all cleared is a great lesson in why towers should get along. There’s more to get out of a friendly relationship with a competitor than a dog-eat-dog relationship. Sure, one gets hard-nosed in the towing business but most people have it in them to show common courtesies. One can compete hard and still be friendly with competitors. Beard’s Towing is a big towing company and his competitors, I’m sure, would like to have some of his commercial accounts, along with the relationship it enjoys with highway authorities. The recovery operation of the Texas pileup brought many tow companies together for the common goal of clearing the roadway. Bennett had to call on these companies and get them all pulling on the same rope. Pre-knowledge of their capabilities and level of professionalism had to be helpful. He probably worked with some of them in previous incidents. The character of Bennett, the business owner and the man, was at play in the operation. He needed everyone’s respect and cooperation. Bennett is an example of how one tower

50 • January 2022 | Towman.com

can raise the game level for all the towers in his area. His leadership on all fronts is exemplary. He has played a role in winning legislative agendas in Texas on behalf of all towers in the state. He sits on AT’s Roadside Safety Commission sharing his knowledge for the benefit of all. American Towman is working with tow boss, Ron Myers, on the creation of a quick clearance protocol, class and test. If you consider any multiple vehicle recovery job and take a look at the Texas pileup, and how challenging is was to untangle it, it pays to also consider what could have gone wrong. Instead of an episode of tow-industry team work, what might have happened if keystone cops and like-towers had shown?. How organized was the beginning of the job and how organized was the leaving-thescene? What were the levels of command on the scene? We will certainly be asking James Bennett to weigh in on the standard protocol, standard operating procedures in the tower’s role of incident-command. The Great Texas pileup made Bennett Incident Commander Exemplar. The industry will be picking his brain for years to come.



Tow Engineer

What’s the DEF? Proper Handling of Diesel Exhaust Fluid is Critical to Keeping Your Tow Truck Running Smoothly By Jeffrey Harmening

American Petroleum Institute

Maintaining the purity of DEF is essential to keeping your tow truck running reliably.

D

ue to their husky torque and longterm durability, diesel engines are preferred for hard-working tow trucks. But operators need to be aware that modern “oil burners” can be damaged by using low-quality Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). It can cause problems such as in catalyst poisoning, deposits that restrict equipment from operating, and DEF injector and filter clogging. Even worse, repairs can be very expensive, with long downtime possible and damage that could void the manufacturer’s warranty. These potential problems clearly show why knowing how to handle and store DEF is crucial for a tow business relying on diesel engines. First, though, let’s consider the reason for using DEF. Diesel engines in trucks and other applications sold in the United States must meet stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions

North 52 • January 2022 | Towman.com

requirements. Many of these engines use Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet the requirements. SCR is an emissions after-treatment technology that converts nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the diesel-engine exhaust stream into nitrogen and water vapor, two natural components in the air we breathe. Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is an essential part of the process. It is injected into the diesel exhaust stream and heat from the exhaust, fluid, and a catalyst convert the NOx into harmless gases. DEF is made from a 32.5-percent solution of urea, with the rest of the mixture consisting of purified water. For the SCR unit to operate properly, the DEF must meet an exacting standard established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This spec ensures that the DEF provides the purity required by diesel engine manufacturers


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • North 53


This quick-reference chart shows how temperature affects the shelf life DEF. A heating element in a truck’s DEF tank thaws out frozen fluid.

DEF TIPS FOR COLD WEATHER Handling and storing DEF can be challenging in wintertime for tow drivers on the road and for those tow businesses storing it in a garage. Some things to keep in mind about DEF use and storage in winter include the following: • If DEF freezes in the vehicle, do not put any additives in the tank to help it melt. DEF needs to remain pure for it to work correctly. • In cold weather, the vehicle will generally start without an issue and the DEF tank on the vehicle has a heating element that can quickly thaw the DEF. No worries, since on-spec DEF is specifically formulated to allow the fluid to thaw at the proper concentration. • Like water, DEF will expand up to seven percent when frozen and can damage a storage tank if it is full or nearly full when it freezes. Keeping a tank that you think may freeze slightly less than full is a good idea.

and the quality to preserve the emissions control system and the environment.

PURCHASING QUALITY DEF

One of the main challenges for tow drivers is knowing the brand of DEF they are being sold, as many fill-up locations don’t identify the manufacturer and brand name on the receipts to their customers. Regulations in many states require this information be provided when bulk DEF is delivered to the location. Without it, filling stations cannot provide the information on dispenser receipts. So it could be difficult for drivers to confirm they are buying DEF that is licensed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), under its Diesel Exhaust Fluid Certification Program, unless clearly marked, or the information is otherwise provided. Yet this detail is important, as many diesel engine manufacturers recommend that drivers use API-licensed DEF. On the other hand, drivers accustomed to purchasing DEF in containers should look at the expiration date on the bottle and be sure to use it before this date as the product has a limited shelf life. (That’s why some tow business will pay extra for a pallet smaller containers of DEF, rather than buying it in bulk.)

North 54 • January 2022 | Towman.com

If a date is not present, ask for the most recently delivered DEF products.

TIPS ON HANDLING

Storage conditions also have an impact on its quality. DEF can be expected to have a minimum shelf life of 12 months or even longer in optimum conditions. So check the label for recommended storage temperatures. API advises that you don’t store if for too long in your truck once you purchase it, especially if the storage area in the vehicle is routinely hotter than the recommended storage temperatures displayed on the label. Be sure to look for the API certification mark on the bottle as well.

DEF FOR TOW TRUCK FLEETS

API has found that the biggest misconception by fleet managers is the belief that if the urea concentration of their DEF is on spec, then the DEF meets the required quality. While it is absolutely true that the concentration is very important, there are many other important quality characteristics built into the ISO 22241 specification. As already noted, DEF is composed of 32.5 percent technically-pure urea in pure water. Each of these components is critical to the manufacture


of DEF that meets the quality standard. Use of substandard urea (such as agricultural-grade urea commonly used as fertilizer) or use of untreated public tap water poses serious potential problems. They can introduce contaminants and metals that not only are detrimental to the life of the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, but can also affect the SCR system’s ability to reduce harmful NOx emissions. Fleet managers responsible for procuring DEF should confirm that their suppliers are providing DEF that meets the ISO quality standard. One way to do this is to ensure that their supplier is providing a Certificate of Analysis with every shipment which addresses all of the quality characteristics that the specification requires. Fleets and drivers can check to see if the DEF they are buying is licensed through API’s real-time directory of licensees on the API website (https://dieselexhaust.api.org/ Directory/DefSearch).

TEMPERATURE TROUBLES

For tow businesses, the handling, storage and dispensing of DEF is very important to prevent off-spec DEF from getting into their diesel trucks. Temperature during transport or at the point of storage or sale can harm the shelf life of DEF sold in containers. Also, make sure the stock is rotated to use the oldest product first. Proper storage temperatures are also vital. Storing in temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit will limit the shelf life of the DEF over time. On the other hand, room temperatures or lower will prolong the usable life of DEF (note accompanying chart). But cold weather can create some issues as described in the sidebar. Some additional things to Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • North 55


Fleet managers

responsible for procuring DEF should confirm that their suppliers are providing DEF that meets the ISO quality standard.

consider in storing and handing DEF include the following: • Bulk storage tanks should be dedicated for DEF. Don’t switch products in the bulk tank without thoroughly rinsing the tank with distilled or de-ionized water or on-spec DEF. • A closed-loop system for

North 56 • January 2022 | Towman.com

transferring DEF from a drum or bulk tank is recommended so contaminants don’t get into the DEF. This process is particularly important in a garage or job site that has dust or dirt in the air. • Use dedicated equipment for dispensing DEF. When putting DEF in a tank, don’t

use funnels, pitchers, hoses, etc. that come into contact with other types of fluids. • Anything used for dispensing DEF should be cleaned with distilled or de-ionized water and followed by a DEF rinse. Don’t use tap water for cleaning. For towing businesses and operators, it’s important to know what you are putting into your DEF tank. The quality of the DEF going into your truck is as important as the quality of the engine oils or fuels also used in your vehicles. Use of API-licensed DEF ensures that it meets the high standards required by engine and vehicle manufacturers. All told, following these tips and procedures will help you make sure your DEF is of good quality and keeping your tow rig on the road.


Episode 9

Copyright©2021 American Towman Magazine. Characters and stories are fictitious; no resemblance to real life characters is intended.


Send your thoughts/suggestions on the Adventures to scalitri@towman.com or American Towman, 2 Overlook Dr #5, Warwick NY 10990



Tow Engineer

What’s the DEF? Proper Handling of Diesel Exhaust Fluid is Critical to Keeping Your Tow Truck Running Smoothly By Jeffrey Harmening

American Petroleum Institute

Maintaining the purity of DEF is essential to keeping your tow truck running reliably.

D

ue to their husky torque and longterm durability, diesel engines are preferred for hard-working tow trucks. But operators need to be aware that modern “oil burners” can be damaged by using low-quality Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). It can cause problems such as in catalyst poisoning, deposits that restrict equipment from operating, and DEF injector and filter clogging. Even worse, repairs can be very expensive, with long downtime possible and damage that could void the manufacturer’s warranty. These potential problems clearly show why knowing how to handle and store DEF is crucial for a tow business relying on diesel engines. First, though, let’s consider the reason for using DEF. Diesel engines in trucks and other applications sold in the United States must meet stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions

South 52 • January 2022 | Towman.com

requirements. Many of these engines use Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet the requirements. SCR is an emissions after-treatment technology that converts nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the diesel-engine exhaust stream into nitrogen and water vapor, two natural components in the air we breathe. Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is an essential part of the process. It is injected into the diesel exhaust stream and heat from the exhaust, fluid, and a catalyst convert the NOx into harmless gases. DEF is made from a 32.5-percent solution of urea, with the rest of the mixture consisting of purified water. For the SCR unit to operate properly, the DEF must meet an exacting standard established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This spec ensures that the DEF provides the purity required by diesel engine manufacturers


This quick-reference chart shows how temperature affects the shelf life DEF.

and the quality to preserve the emissions control system and the environment.

the most recently delivered DEF products.

PURCHASING QUALITY DEF

Storage conditions also have an impact on its quality. DEF can be expected to have a minimum shelf life of 12 months or even longer in optimum conditions. So check the label for recommended storage temperatures. API advises that you don’t store if for too long in your truck once you purchase it, especially if the storage area in the vehicle is routinely hotter than the recommended storage temperatures displayed on the label. Be sure to look for the API certification mark on the bottle as well.

One of the main challenges for tow drivers is knowing the brand of DEF they are being sold, as many fill-up locations don’t identify the manufacturer and brand name on the receipts to their customers. Regulations in many states require this information be provided when bulk DEF is delivered to the location. Without it, filling stations cannot provide the information on dispenser receipts. So it could be difficult for drivers to confirm they are buying DEF that is licensed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), under its Diesel Exhaust Fluid Certification Program, unless clearly marked, or the information is otherwise provided. Yet this detail is important, as many diesel engine manufacturers recommend that drivers use API-licensed DEF. On the other hand, drivers accustomed to purchasing DEF in containers should look at the expiration date on the bottle and be sure to use it before this date as the product has a limited shelf life. (That’s why some tow business will pay extra for a pallet smaller containers of DEF, rather than buying it in bulk.) If a date is not present, ask for Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

TIPS ON HANDLING

DEF FOR TOW TRUCK FLEETS

API has found that the biggest misconception by fleet managers is the belief that if the urea concentration of their DEF is on spec, then the DEF meets the required quality. While it is absolutely true that the concentration is very important, there are many other important quality characteristics built into the ISO 22241 specification. As already noted, DEF is composed of 32.5 percent technically-pure urea in pure water. Each of these components is critical to the manufacture of DEF that meets the quality

A heating element in a truck’s DEF tank thaws out frozen fluid.

DEF TIPS FOR COLD WEATHER Handling and storing DEF can be challenging in wintertime for tow drivers on the road and for those tow businesses storing it in a garage. Some things to keep in mind about DEF use and storage in winter include the following: • If DEF freezes in the vehicle, do not put any additives in the tank to help it melt. DEF needs to remain pure for it to work correctly. • In cold weather, the vehicle will generally start without an issue and the DEF tank on the vehicle has a heating element that can quickly thaw the DEF. No worries, since on-spec DEF is specifically formulated to allow the fluid to thaw at the proper concentration. • Like water, DEF will expand up to seven percent when frozen and can damage a storage tank if it is full or nearly full when it freezes. Keeping a tank that you think may freeze slightly less than full is a good idea.

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • South 53


standard. Use of substandard urea (such as agricultural-grade urea commonly used as fertilizer) or use of untreated public tap water poses serious potential problems. They can introduce contaminants and metals that not only are detrimental to the life of the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, but can also affect the SCR system’s ability to reduce harmful NOx emissions. Fleet managers responsible for procuring DEF should confirm that their suppliers are providing DEF that meets the ISO quality standard. One way to do this is to ensure that their supplier is providing a Certificate of Analysis with every shipment which addresses all of the quality characteristics that the specification requires. Fleets and drivers can check to see if the DEF they are buying is licensed through API’s real-time directory of licensees on the API website (https://dieselexhaust.api.org/ Directory/DefSearch).

TEMPERATURE TROUBLES

For tow businesses, the handling, storage and dispensing of DEF is very important to prevent offspec DEF from getting into their diesel trucks. Temperature during transport or at the point of storage or sale can harm the shelf life of DEF sold in containers. Also, make sure the stock is rotated to use the oldest product first. Proper storage temperatures are also vital. Storing in temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit will limit the shelf life of the DEF over time. On the other hand, room temperatures or lower will prolong

Fleet managers

responsible for procuring DEF should confirm that their suppliers are providing DEF that meets the ISO quality standard.

the usable life of DEF (note accompanying chart). But cold weather can create some issues as described in the sidebar. Some additional things to consider in storing and handing DEF include the following: • Bulk storage tanks should be dedicated for DEF. Don’t switch products in the bulk tank without thoroughly rinsing the tank with distilled or de-ionized water or onspec DEF. • A closed-loop system for transferring DEF from a drum or bulk tank is recommended so contaminants don’t get

South 54 • January 2022 | Towman.com

into the DEF. This process is particularly important in a garage or job site that has dust or dirt in the air. • Use dedicated equipment for dispensing DEF. When putting DEF in a tank, don’t use funnels, pitchers, hoses, etc. that come into contact with other types of fluids. • Anything used for dispensing DEF should be cleaned with distilled or de-ionized water and followed by a DEF rinse. Don’t use tap water for cleaning. For towing businesses and operators, it’s important to know what you are putting into your DEF tank. The quality of the DEF going into your truck is as important as the quality of the engine oils or fuels also used in your vehicles. Use of API-licensed DEF ensures that it meets the high standards required by engine and vehicle manufacturers. All told, following these tips and procedures will help you make sure your DEF is of good quality and keeping your tow rig on the road.


News Flash The city of Louisville is seeking to find another tow lot as this one is crowded with abandoned cars.

Louisville Awash in Abandoned Cars

Louisville is struggling with an abandoned car problem, as the streets are littered with cars and their impound lot stuffed full. Despite numerous complaints by city residents and the city council putting aside $2 million as part of the capital budget to buy a tow lot, nothing has materialized. “Sometimes I get three or four (resident complaints) a day,” said David James, president of the Louisville Metro Council. Across the city there are cars on

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

ramps, on blocks, missing wheels, some missing practically everything. “The bottom line is we need a tow lot,” James said. James added that the Mayor’s administration has shown no urgency to buy a new lot, despite compiling a list of 43 locations. Several locations on the list have been ruled out due to a variety of reasons. What’s left on the list then? Mayor Greg Fischer says not much. “The impound lot has been a real bedeviling solution to find a place where neighbors will accept it,” said Fischer.

Fischer said he’s not giving up. He wasn’t sure if new federal infrastructure money could boost the $2 million already approved by the council. “As soon as we find a property that’s a solution and partners that can help us out, we will be moving on an impound lot because it’s a community wide problem,” Fischer said. The impound lot has auctioned over 300 cars in the last month and a half, but with potentially 4,000 cars abandoned throughout the metro the lot just fills right up again. Source:wave3.com

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • South 55


South 56 • January 2022 | Towman.com


Episode 9

Copyright©2021 American Towman Magazine. Characters and stories are fictitious; no resemblance to real life characters is intended.


Send your thoughts/suggestions on the Adventures to scalitri@towman.com or American Towman, 2 Overlook Dr #5, Warwick NY 10990



Tow Engineer

What’s the DEF? Proper Handling of Diesel Exhaust Fluid is Critical to Keeping Your Tow Truck Running Smoothly By Jeffrey Harmening

American Petroleum Institute

Maintaining the purity of DEF is essential to keeping your tow truck running reliably.

D

ue to their husky torque and longterm durability, diesel engines are preferred for hard-working tow trucks. But operators need to be aware that modern “oil burners” can be damaged by using low-quality Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). It can cause problems such as in catalyst poisoning, deposits that restrict equipment from operating, and DEF injector and filter clogging. Even worse, repairs can be very expensive, with long downtime possible and damage that could void the manufacturer’s warranty. These potential problems clearly show why knowing how to handle and store DEF is crucial for a tow business relying on diesel engines. First, though, let’s consider the reason for using DEF. Diesel engines in trucks and other applications sold in the United States must meet stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions

Midwest 52 • January 2022 | Towman.com

requirements. Many of these engines use Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet the requirements. SCR is an emissions after-treatment technology that converts nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the diesel-engine exhaust stream into nitrogen and water vapor, two natural components in the air we breathe. Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is an essential part of the process. It is injected into the diesel exhaust stream and heat from the exhaust, fluid, and a catalyst convert the NOx into harmless gases. DEF is made from a 32.5-percent solution of urea, with the rest of the mixture consisting of purified water. For the SCR unit to operate properly, the DEF must meet an exacting standard established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This spec ensures that the DEF provides the purity required by diesel engine manufacturers



This quick-reference chart shows how temperature affects the shelf life DEF. A heating element in a truck’s DEF tank thaws out frozen fluid.

DEF TIPS FOR COLD WEATHER Handling and storing DEF can be challenging in wintertime for tow drivers on the road and for those tow businesses storing it in a garage. Some things to keep in mind about DEF use and storage in winter include the following: • If DEF freezes in the vehicle, do not put any additives in the tank to help it melt. DEF needs to remain pure for it to work correctly. • In cold weather, the vehicle will generally start without an issue and the DEF tank on the vehicle has a heating element that can quickly thaw the DEF. No worries, since on-spec DEF is specifically formulated to allow the fluid to thaw at the proper concentration. • Like water, DEF will expand up to seven percent when frozen and can damage a storage tank if it is full or nearly full when it freezes. Keeping a tank that you think may freeze slightly less than full is a good idea.

and the quality to preserve the emissions control system and the environment.

PURCHASING QUALITY DEF

One of the main challenges for tow drivers is knowing the brand of DEF they are being sold, as many fill-up locations don’t identify the manufacturer and brand name on the receipts to their customers. Regulations in many states require this information be provided when bulk DEF is delivered to the location. Without it, filling stations cannot provide the information on dispenser receipts. So it could be difficult for drivers to confirm they are buying DEF that is licensed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), under its Diesel Exhaust Fluid Certification Program, unless clearly marked, or the information is otherwise provided. Yet this detail is important, as many diesel engine manufacturers recommend that drivers use API-licensed DEF. On the other hand, drivers accustomed to purchasing DEF in containers should look at the expiration date on the bottle and be sure to use it before this date as the product has a limited shelf life. (That’s why some tow business will pay extra for a pallet smaller containers of DEF, rather than buying it in bulk.)

Midwest 54 • January 2022 | Towman.com

If a date is not present, ask for the most recently delivered DEF products.

TIPS ON HANDLING

Storage conditions also have an impact on its quality. DEF can be expected to have a minimum shelf life of 12 months or even longer in optimum conditions. So check the label for recommended storage temperatures. API advises that you don’t store if for too long in your truck once you purchase it, especially if the storage area in the vehicle is routinely hotter than the recommended storage temperatures displayed on the label. Be sure to look for the API certification mark on the bottle as well.

DEF FOR TOW TRUCK FLEETS

API has found that the biggest misconception by fleet managers is the belief that if the urea concentration of their DEF is on spec, then the DEF meets the required quality. While it is absolutely true that the concentration is very important, there are many other important quality characteristics built into the ISO 22241 specification. As already noted, DEF is composed of 32.5 percent technically-pure urea in pure water. Each of these components


is critical to the manufacture of DEF that meets the quality standard. Use of substandard urea (such as agricultural-grade urea commonly used as fertilizer) or use of untreated public tap water poses serious potential problems. They can introduce contaminants and metals that not only are detrimental to the life of the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, but can also affect the SCR system’s ability to reduce harmful NOx emissions. Fleet managers responsible for procuring DEF should confirm that their suppliers are providing DEF that meets the ISO quality standard. One way to do this is to ensure that their supplier is providing a Certificate of Analysis with every shipment which addresses all of the quality characteristics that the specification requires. Fleets and drivers can check to see if the DEF they are buying is licensed through API’s real-time directory of licensees on the API website (https://dieselexhaust.api. org/Directory/DefSearch).

TEMPERATURE TROUBLES

For tow businesses, the handling, storage and dispensing of DEF is very important to prevent off-spec DEF from getting into their diesel trucks. Temperature during transport or at the point of storage or sale can harm the shelf life of DEF sold in containers. Also, make sure the stock is rotated to use the oldest product first. Proper storage temperatures are also vital. Storing in temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit will limit the shelf life of the DEF over time. On the other hand, room temperatures or lower will prolong the usable life of DEF (note accompanying chart). But cold weather can create some issues as described in the sidebar. Some additional things to

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • Midwest 55


consider in storing and handing DEF include the following: • Bulk storage tanks should be dedicated for DEF. Don’t switch products in the bulk tank without thoroughly rinsing the tank with distilled or de-ionized water or on-spec DEF. • A closed-loop system for transferring DEF from a drum or bulk tank is recommended so contaminants don’t get into the DEF. This process is particularly important in a garage or job site that has dust or dirt in the air. • Use dedicated equipment for dispensing DEF. When putting DEF in a tank, don’t use funnels, pitchers, hoses, etc. that come into contact with other types of fluids. • Anything used for dispensing DEF should be cleaned with

distilled or deionized water and followed by a DEF rinse. Don’t use tap water for cleaning. For towing businesses and operators, it’s important to know what you are putting into your DEF tank. The quality of the DEF going into your truck is as important as the quality of the engine oils or fuels also used in your vehicles. Use of API-licensed DEF ensures that it meets the high standards required by engine and vehicle manufacturers. All told, following these tips and procedures will help you make sure your DEF is of good quality and keeping your tow rig on the road.

Midwest 56 • January 2022 | Towman.com

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


Episode 9

Copyright©2021 American Towman Magazine. Characters and stories are fictitious; no resemblance to real life characters is intended.


Send your thoughts/suggestions on the Adventures to scalitri@towman.com or American Towman, 2 Overlook Dr #5, Warwick NY 10990


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • West 51


Tow Engineer

What’s the DEF? Proper Handling of Diesel Exhaust Fluid is Critical to Keeping Your Tow Truck Running Smoothly By Jeffrey Harmening

American Petroleum Institute

Maintaining the purity of DEF is essential to keeping your tow truck running reliably.

D

ue to their husky torque and longterm durability, diesel engines are preferred for hard-working tow trucks. But operators need to be aware that modern “oil burners” can be damaged by using low-quality Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). It can cause problems such as in catalyst poisoning, deposits that restrict equipment from operating, and DEF injector and filter clogging. Even worse, repairs can be very expensive, with long downtime possible and damage that could void the manufacturer’s warranty. These potential problems clearly show why knowing how to handle and store DEF is crucial for a tow business relying on diesel engines. First, though, let’s consider the reason for using DEF. Diesel engines in trucks and other applications sold in the United States must meet stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions requirements. Many of these engines use

West 52 • January 2022 | Towman.com

Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet the requirements. SCR is an emissions after-treatment technology that converts nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the diesel-engine exhaust stream into nitrogen and water vapor, two natural components in the air we breathe. Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is an essential part of the process. It is injected into the diesel exhaust stream and heat from the exhaust, fluid, and a catalyst convert the NOx into harmless gases. DEF is made from a 32.5-percent solution of urea, with the rest of the mixture consisting of purified water. For the SCR unit to operate properly, the DEF must meet an exacting standard established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This spec ensures that the DEF provides the purity required by diesel engine manufacturers and the quality to preserve the emissions control system and the environment.


This quick-reference chart shows how temperature affects the shelf life DEF.

PURCHASING QUALITY DEF

One of the main challenges for tow drivers is knowing the brand of DEF they are being sold, as many fill-up locations don’t identify the manufacturer and brand name on the receipts to their customers. Regulations in many states require this information be provided when bulk DEF is delivered to the location. Without it, filling stations cannot provide the information on dispenser receipts. So it could be difficult for drivers to confirm they are buying DEF that is licensed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), under its Diesel Exhaust Fluid Certification Program, unless clearly marked, or the information is otherwise provided. Yet this detail is important, as many diesel engine manufacturers recommend that drivers use API-licensed DEF. On the other hand, drivers accustomed to purchasing DEF in containers should look at the expiration date on the bottle and be sure to use it before this date as the product has a limited shelf life. (That’s why some tow business will pay extra for a pallet smaller containers of DEF, rather than buying it in bulk.) If a date is not present, ask for the most recently delivered DEF products.

TIPS ON HANDLING

Storage conditions also have an

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

impact on its quality. DEF can be expected to have a minimum shelf life of 12 months or even longer in optimum conditions. So check the label for recommended storage temperatures. API advises that you don’t store if for too long in your truck once you purchase it, especially if the storage area in the vehicle is routinely hotter than the recommended storage temperatures displayed on the label. Be sure to look for the API certification mark on the bottle as well.

DEF FOR TOW TRUCK FLEETS

API has found that the biggest misconception by fleet managers is the belief that if the urea concentration of their DEF is on spec, then the DEF meets the required quality. While it is absolutely true that the concentration is very important, there are many other important quality characteristics built into the ISO 22241 specification. As already noted, DEF is composed of 32.5 percent technicallypure urea in pure water. Each of these components is critical to the manufacture of DEF that meets the quality standard. Use of substandard urea (such as agricultural-grade urea commonly used as fertilizer) or use of untreated public tap water poses serious potential problems. They can introduce contaminants and metals that not only are detrimental

A heating element in a truck’s DEF tank thaws out frozen fluid.

DEF TIPS FOR COLD WEATHER Handling and storing DEF can be challenging in wintertime for tow drivers on the road and for those tow businesses storing it in a garage. Some things to keep in mind about DEF use and storage in winter include the following: • If DEF freezes in the vehicle, do not put any additives in the tank to help it melt. DEF needs to remain pure for it to work correctly. • In cold weather, the vehicle will generally start without an issue and the DEF tank on the vehicle has a heating element that can quickly thaw the DEF. No worries, since on-spec DEF is specifically formulated to allow the fluid to thaw at the proper concentration. • Like water, DEF will expand up to seven percent when frozen and can damage a storage tank if it is full or nearly full when it freezes. Keeping a tank that you think may freeze slightly less than full is a good idea.

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • West 53


to the life of the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, but can also affect the SCR system’s ability to reduce harmful NOx emissions. Fleet managers responsible for procuring DEF should confirm that their suppliers are providing DEF that meets the ISO quality standard. One way to do this is to ensure that their supplier is providing a Certificate of Analysis with every shipment which addresses all of the quality characteristics that the specification requires. Fleets and drivers can check to see if the DEF they are buying is licensed through API’s real-time directory of licensees on the API website (dieselexhaust.api.org/ Directory/DefSearch).

TEMPERATURE TROUBLES

For tow businesses, the handling, storage and dispensing of DEF is very important to prevent off-spec DEF from getting into their diesel trucks. Temperature during transport or at the point of storage or sale can harm the shelf life of DEF sold in containers. Also, make sure the stock is rotated to use the oldest product first. Proper storage temperatures are also vital. Storing in temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit will limit the shelf life of the DEF over time. On the other hand, room temperatures or lower will prolong the usable life of DEF (note accompanying chart). But cold weather can create some issues as described in the sidebar. Some additional things to consider in storing and handing DEF include the following: • Bulk storage tanks should be dedicated for DEF. Don’t switch products in the bulk tank without thoroughly rinsing the tank with distilled or de-ionized water or onspec DEF. • A closed-loop system for transferring DEF from a drum or bulk tank is recommended so contaminants don’t get into the DEF. This process is particularly West 54 • January 2022 | Towman.com


important in a garage or job site that has dust or dirt in the air. • Use dedicated equipment for dispensing DEF. When putting DEF in a tank, don’t use funnels, pitchers, hoses, etc. that come into contact with other types of fluids. • Anything used for dispensing DEF should be cleaned with distilled or de-ionized water and followed by a DEF rinse. Don’t use tap water for cleaning. For towing businesses and operators, it’s important to know what you are putting into your DEF tank. The quality of the DEF going into your truck is as important as the quality of the engine oils or fuels also used in your vehicles. Use of API-licensed DEF ensures that it meets the high standards required by engine and vehicle manufacturers. All told, following these tips and procedures will help you make sure your DEF is of good quality and keeping your tow rig on the road.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | January 2022 • West 55


West 56 • January 2022 | Towman.com


Episode 9

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