American Towman Magazine - June 2022 - Corrected

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Tow Manager

Thieves target tow trucks because they are high off the ground, making it easy for them to slip underneath and cut off the catalytic converters. Photo courtesy of Dave Abelson at Worldwide

Beware of Cat Burglars Precious Metals are the Catalyst to Increased Theft By Brian J Riker

Brian J. Riker is a third-generation towman, with 26 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator, and president of Fleet Compliance Solutions. He specializes in helping navigate the complex world of federal and state transportation regulatory compliance. He can be reached at


atalytic converters are nothing new to the North American automotive industry. They were first introduced in the early 1950s for use on factory smokestacks and gasoline-powered forklifts, and then later for use on automobiles due to the Clean Air Act of 1970, which required the use of catalytic converters on all automobiles manufactured after 1975. After nearly 50 years of use on motor vehicles why all the hype surrounding them lately? Clean air is a hot topic, and a very important one, for the safety and survival of life as we know it. While there is a strong push towards alternative energy sources for motor vehicle transportation, the cold reality is these technologies are not ready for prime time yet, so we must continue to use internal combustion engines as a primary source of transportation power for the foreseeable future. To mitigate the environmental damage from these engines, engineers are turning

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to more complex downstream exhaust after-treatment systems that rely heavily on selective catalyst reduction technologies. At the heart of these systems are precisely controlled chemical reactions created when exhaust gases pass over special materials that act as catalysts for the conversion of polluting and harmful substances into plain oxygen and water emissions at the tailpipe.


As with nearly everything else we consume or manufacture today, natural resources play a huge role in cost, availability and efficiency. Catalytic converters are no different. Composed of different precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium, these seemingly innocuous pieces of motor vehicle exhaust systems can be quite costly to manufacture or replace, as other industries often compete with the automotive parts industry for these rare precious metals.