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AT EXPO Baltimore Nov.12-14, Exhibitors page 40

MUD The Road Calls

Wrestlin’ Handling Harsh

Winter Weather What Really

Happened in

When You’re Bogged Down

VEGAS

THE

Lowdown on

Low-Profile Carriers TowIndustryWeek.com

NOVEMBER 2021 AmericanTowman.com

$10




Contents

Cover Feature

Volume 45 Issue 11

November 36

Mud Wrestlin’ How to shore up a roadbed—when you get that sinking feeling near the shoreline by Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

2021 Departments 6 The Walkaround 8 News Share 10 Road Tools

The NRC 5065 CSR 65-ton sliding rotator lifted and winched 4-axle trailer back on to the road.

Features

42

Let It Snow

Proper preparation for harsh winter weather by Randall Resch

50

AT ShowPlace Las Vegas Recap We reveal what really happened in Las Vegas by Steve Temple

4 • November 2021 | Towman.com

11 Zoom In 12 Safety 17 Beacons On! 24 Tow Manager 34 Ad Index 60 Towman’s Market 62 My Baby 66 Lowdown 68 Case Closed N 77 Adventures of A.T. S, M W 73

First on the scene since 1977



The Walkaround Getting to Know You

Dennie Ortiz Publisher

Yes, there is cause for celebration as we end this year with the American Towman Exposition, just as the towing industry has done for 31 years prior to 2020. It’s going to be gangbusters, because we welcome back towers and suppliers alike to Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor. This year’s revelry will be unsurpassed, the show that is not to be missed! We look forward to seeing you there. The excitement continues as I am very pleased to introduce to the industry, American Towman’s new Editor Steve Temple. A veteran writer, Steve is a self-proclaimed “Diesel Head”, and sports car enthusiast with an extensive background in commercial vehicles. And if that’s not all, Steve is also a skilled professional photographer whose eyeballs were popping while he was taking in the Pageant Trucks at our last two shows in Texas and Vegas. Be sure to check out the Vegas Pageant winners on pages 52 and 54, they are some real beauts. Now on the scene, Steve has taken quickly to our unique industry and is very passionate and eager to cover all aspects of this one-of-a-kind profession. Come meet him in Baltimore. This issue covers many useful topics, from emergency light usage to securing your roadside work space to employee non-compete agreements and of course an exciting successful recovery. Cheers to all and stay safe out there!

Dennie Ortiz Steve Calitri Steve Temple Randall Resch Terry Abejuela Jim “Buck” Sorrenti David Kolman Bill Simmons 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

E-Mail:

From “The New Guy”

Steve Temple Editor

While Dennie’s enthusiastic introduction of me as the new Editor of American Towman is certainly appreciated, I’m less inclined to focus on myself and more interested in sharing some observations and future plans. Having attended a couple recent tow shows in San Antonio and Las Vegas, I came away impressed by the caliber and professionalism of towers, along with equipment suppliers and manufacturers. While some folks might perceive the towing industry as somewhat mundane, the reality is dramatically different. The technology, innovations, and “get ‘er done” ingenuity are frankly amazing. As for upcoming issues, my plan is simple: showcase great towing equipment and skilled operators in a lively and informative way. You all deserve it!

6 • November 2021 | Towman.com

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

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

Copyright ©2021 American Towman Magazine is published 12 times a year by American Towman Media, Inc.

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

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



News Share Tow Organizations Remain Vigilant Against Proposed Amendment As the proposed 3.5 trillion-dollar Infrastructure Bill (HR3684) winds its way through Congress, the Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA), Emergency Road Service Coalition of America (ERSCA), and the Association of Professional Tow Operators-Ohio (APTO) remain vigilant against the VanHollen Amendment. If added to the bill, it would give states the power to regulate consensual towing. The TRAA maintains that its lobbying efforts have helped ensure the exclusion of this amendment from the infrastructure bill that was passed by the Senate on August 10. TRAA is confident that this amendment will not be included in the final bill when the House votes on it. But TRAA is standing on watch nonetheless, as the House is drafting another bill, referred to as the 3.5 trillion Reconciliation Package, that could potentially alter that reality. TRAA, which has been working with relevant staff on house committees, with a lobbyist hired from their organization, assures this is, “not something the house considers as part of the second infrastructure package.” ERSCA as well is aware of the situation unfolding before Congress, as they were approached by APTO, which voiced its concerns and want to also take political action by hiring a lobbyist. Although both organizations are relieved that the amendment was excluded in the Senate’s bill, they indicated that, “the immediate threat has not been eliminated yet, as another congress member could request the same amendment be added to the bill.” In light of this, ERSCA is compelled to assist APTO to avoid any inclusion whatsoever and is requesting financial support through ERCSA.org to help offset costs of a lobbyist.

Black Tower Honored

as Trailblazer

Luke J. Harris, a 76-year-old tower who passed away on September 18, was honored with a tow truck procession on October 1. A total of 18 trucks from several tow companies passed by a Dover funeral home where one of Harris’ tow trucks was parked. Harris is considered to be the first black tower in Delaware, and a business trailblazer who served as a role model for other black entrepreneurs. “He did it for a long time,” said Jon Harris, one of Mr. Harris’ four sons. “He’s probably was one of the senior tow companies in the area and at one point was the biggest towing company in Kent County.” His sons, Jon, Michael, Joseph and Luke Anthony, were all trained in the towing business, and all worked for his company at one point. Michael remembers his father as someone who would sacrifice anything he could to give a hand-up to others. “Just the simple fact that he was kind of like a trailblazer for people to see him and start a business,” Michael observed. “He started with one truck and a dream, and it took off from there.” After starting an auto repair business, he needed to get a tow truck to move the cars to get to him for repair, and it transitioned from auto repairs to towing/ auto repairs. Over time, he eventually grew from that first tow truck to a fleet of nine rigs.

8 • November 2021 | Towman.com

Luke Harris was, “willing to help anybody and everybody.” Son Luke Harris was very appreciative to the other tow truck operators who came out to pay their respects to his father. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he said. “My dad is my hero, and he’s a legend in my book. The man taught me everything I know. He’s a great man, and he was willing to help anybody and everybody.” “He made a lot of other people realize that they can go out and start their own business,” Jon added. “Especially in the black community, where a lot of people don’t realize that they could be entrepreneurs.” Source:westport-news.com

Tow Company Settles with Walmart Watts’ Towing of Crewe, Va., reached a settlement with Walmart after a driver from Walmart crashed into the business, ruining an entire fleet of tow trucks. The damages were estimated to be at least $700,000. The settlement took nearly a year. The attorney for Watts’ Towing said, “It was an arrangement they were comfortable with” and the business could now restore the tow truck fleet. Source: wric.com

Several trucks at Watts’ Towing were damaged by a Walmart semi.


News Share A memorial ride for tower Raymond Mitchell included proceeds to assist his family.

Raising Awareness

for Tower Safety

Tow truck drivers from across the Northwest joined in a memorial ride to remember Raymond Mitchell who was hit and killed on I-5 last month. He was pinned against his tow truck when the rear trailer of a log truck swerved and struck him. The young father was only 33. “We’re all in this together,” tow truck

driver Cory Wells told KOIN 6 News. “We want to go home, too. Slow down and move over.” The memorial ride for Mitchell began and ended at a casino, where there were food carts. All the proceeds went to help the Mitchell family. Source: koin.com

Lighted Cross for Fallen Tower Friends, family, and co-workers of tow truck driver Raymond Mitchell, who was killed when a semi-truck driver crashed into him on the side of the highway, gathered near Kalama, Washington Friday evening, Septtoember 24, to put up a lighted cross. The cross bears his nickname, “Tow Vulture,” and the words “Slow down, pull over.” Mitchell’s friend and co-worker Kyle Widner got the news about Mitchell while he was in a driving class. “I was thankful to talk to him the night before,” said Widner. “We talked about a sticker decal he made. About slow down, move over. I was sitting in a class for my CDL when I got the news. So it wasn’t the best.” Widner is hoping people will get the message when they see the cross at milepost 28 on Interstate 5. Since December of last year, there have been four crashes involving tow trucks parked and helping disabled vehicles in Southwest Washington.Two drivers were injured, two others killed. “Truly, people can just be careless anywhere,” said Jennifer Cook of AAA

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

Tower Encounters Barrage of Bullets

In Durham, North Carolina, on September 26, a tow truck driver was shot at by a man after an argument ensued between the two. The tower said 33-year-old John Faltass fired 30 shots at him. He was in the process of delivering a vehicle to the location when Faltass, the registered owner of the car, started a verbal argument. Faltass then became, “physically combative with the tow truck driver,” the sheriff’s office said. The tow truck driver tried to leave when multiple shots were fired by Faltass, the sheriff’s office said. The victim then ran into nearby woods and called for assistance. Faltass then fired more shots at the truck, officials said. Durham County deputies responded to the scene and arrested Faltass without incident. The tow truck driver was not injured. Faltass was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, injury to personal property, simple assault, and communicating threats. Source: cbs17.com

One Final Ride

“Slow Down, Move Over” was included on the memorial cross for Raymond Mitchell. Washington. “And while we don’t know the reason behind this most recent crash, impairment was involved in one of the crashes, and a poor choice was made in another. So it’s really hard to say why. I don’t know that there is a theme. But it’s been very unfortunate for the Southwest Washington community.” Source: katu.com

Tower Gary “Bubbles” Vaughn was fondly remembered in the community of Lynchburg, Virginia as more than 40 tow trucks gave him honor with a procession on Saturday, Sept 18. Vaughn, who passed away at the age of 68 on September 4 from Covid-19, was a member of the towing community for over 40 years. He became the owner of “Bubble’s 23 1/2 hour Wrecker Service” and was its only driver. Mark Hudson with Mitchell’s Towing said Bubble’s legacy will live forever. “He was just well-known, liked by everyone,” Hudson noted. “Never had a bad review, never disliked by anybody. Served this community for 40 years. We just think he deserves some respect for that.” He said Bubble’s will be remembered as a friend to everybody and will be missed dearly. Vaughan’s casket was loaded onto the back of his tow truck to give him his last ride to his funeral service.

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 9


Road Tools More Storage Space for the Holmes DTU

MillerInd.com

Who doesn’t need a place for all their stuff? The proven Holmes Detachable Towing Unit (DTU) is now available with a new toolbox storage option. The versatility of the Holmes DTU has been upgraded with plenty of storage options for attachments, tools, rigging, and safety gear. Available as an option when configuring your new DTU, the toolboxes can also be ordered separately if you’re looking to upgrade your current Holmes DTU Gen II. Along with having the appearance of a traditional heavy-duty wrecker, the toolbox option features six spacious toolboxes (three on each side), with manual locking latches. In addition to the boxes, also included are mounting brackets, junction box and wiring harness, taillights, tool-box lights, and rubber fender flares. “The goal was to keep cost at a minimum while significantly increasing the versatility of the Holmes DTU unit,” noted John Hawkins, Vice President of Heavy-Duty Wrecker Sales for Miller Industries.

So EZ

Focusing on both affordability and performance, Zacklift International’s new EZTOW is a totally self-contained, money-saving solution for emergency fleet recovery jobs. Even though it’s for budget-minded tow operators, this heavy-duty, detachable unit comes packed with loads of features to make work easier. The EZTOW’s self-contained 12V Bucher Hydraulic Pump system stays ready to go to work with the standard onboard Solar Battery Tender trickle charge system. A wireless LED light bar and LED work light keeps job visibility in mind, while an optional wireless remote is a practical and useful upgrade. The optional 10K Warn winch adds another dimension of capability to many recovery situations. An optional pintle ball hitch is also available for normal towing when needed. All these features sit nicely waiting to work for you on an included EZLOAD stand, meaning this unit can be loaded and unloaded—no forklift required! The Zacklift EZTOW is a fleet workhorse that’s designed to get the job done and save you money for years to come. Financing options are available.

Zacklift.com

TowMate Raises the AirBar

TowMate.com 10 • November 2021 | Towman.com

As part of a rapid expansion in product offerings, one of TowMate’s latest items is the LED illuminated AirBar work-zone boundary system. The AirBar system has been on the market in the UK for some time, as the company that invented it, Nuvech, is based there. TowMate and Nuvech have teamed up and TowMate now manufactures the electronic portion of the system in Rogers, Arkansas, and is the exclusive distributor for the U.S. market. This system simply requires power and air in order to deploy the LED illuminated inflatable arrow from the side of a truck. Regardless of bed position or a casualty being hooked up, the Airbar extends outward from the truck and defines a boundary for the work area close to the truck body. Being inflatable, a tow operator can simply walk right through it instead of having to go around and into the lane of traffic to reach the disabled vehicle. When installing the unit, the tower connects the activation wire to the PTO directly for automatic deployment when engaging in a job, and then retracting upon completion.


Zoom In

International Truck’s

Newly Designed MV Series

International Truck announced the launch of the new International MV Series. This truck is the next generation of International’s medium-duty vehicles, reimagined from the ground up to advance performance, safety and uptime. “The new International MV Series features thoughtful design that includes premier safety features, head-turning styling, simplified TEM integration and uptime enhancements,” said Debbie Shust, vice president, Medium-Duty Truck. “We listened to customers feedback and developed a mediumduty vehicle that is custom built for all their needs.” The new MV Series was purposely designed for increased maneuverability, visibility and safety, along with stand-out styling. An aerodynamic hood and smartly designed breakaway mirrors provide superior visibility for drivers and the restyled bumper and black, moldedin-color grille with optional chrome surround deliver attention-grabbing looks. The MV Series includes standard halogen headlights, with newly introduced, optional LED headlights to provide longer life and improved visibility. Several optional collision mitigation enhancements are also available. The Bendix Wingman Fusion System technology includes adaptive cruise, enhanced collision mitigation, multilane vehicle braking, stationary object alert, lane departure warning, and front radar and cameras. The Bendix BlindSpotter Collision Warning System is equipped with a side-object detection alert. The new International MV Series also features numerous enhancements that increase the performance capability of the vehicle. The high-efficiency cooling module eliminates mega-brackets, enabling integrated front frame extensions and an improved snowplow upfit offering. Hood-mounted splash panels and on-engine air cleaner provide improved under-hood access, while an optional under-hood work light is available for improved visibility during daily maintenance checks. Smart chassis packaging changes allow for improved body integration and improved operating costs for a wide variety of applications. The Diamond Logic electrical system comes standard, with customized programming for driver and equipment protection, ease of body integration and greater uptime. A number of other features include driver safety with the inclusion of pretrip light inspection, safety on the job site with external regen

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

InternationalTrucks.com warning, a n d equipment protection with hydraulic oil power takeoff (PTO) shutdown and an outrigger stowed interlock. The MV Series offers two engine options, the Cummins B6.7 and L9, with increased fuel efficiency as well as extended and aligned maintenance intervals. Corrosion protection is also improved with InterCoat ChemGuard standard on the cab floor, as well as optional LINE-X offering for particularly tough environments. The new MV Series is also supported through OnCommand Connection, Navistar’s remote diagnostics system, offering the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of connected vehicle services. Customers have the option to receive real-time information through GPS and geofencing capabilities, as well as easy to understand and actionable vehicle health reports. The new MV Series includes the option for customers to add International 360. This service communications platform makes it easier than ever to seamlessly communicate with the International service network and streamline the repair process.

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 11


Safety

The Blinding Truth About Lights Is it Smart to be the Brightest? By John Borowski

John Borowski is VP of Tow Industry Programs for AutoReturn. John has over 45 years experience as a tow business owner, wrecker manufacturer specialist, trainer and writer. He was awarded the first “Towman of the Year” by American Towman magazine and two Towman Medals for heroism. He was inducted in the Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame in 2001.

All types of emergency lighting can be blinding, and lead to roadside accidents.

S Note: Special thanks to Allstate Roadside and their commitment to tow operator safety.

AT’s Safety Focus sponsored by

ome might say that I’ve been around towing since the days when emergency lights were candles with mirrors behind them. While untrue, I have seen a lot of changes for the better over the years. Seriously speaking, back when I started towing, emergency lights were blinking lollipops—or bubblegum machines as we called them back in the day. They consisted of a bulb in the center with a mirror that ran around the bulb on a sprocket. As time went on, strobes started showing up on tow trucks. Everybody liked the strobes. Due to demand, they became brighter and brighter.

12 • November 2021 | Towman.com

Then, many more configurations of strobe lights came out. You could mount them in your grille, in your turn signals, or practically anywhere on the truck. Strobes had become a generational trends and operators couldn’t get enough of them. Any tow operator on the road today can tell you that they have been blinded by an overabundance of lights, specifically strobes, and accident rates have increased in turn. Towers are aware that a large number of people get struck on the roadside by passing motorists. As a matter of fact, since the International Towing and Recovery Museum and Hall of Fame started up the



To illustrate the stroboscopic effect, note the difference between the image of a moving screwdriver lit with a strobe light, compared with a stationary screwdriver. The multiple images of the strobe-lit screwdriver show how confusing the visual cues can become. Now imagine this effect on a tow vehicle doing a roadside recovery, and you can see why an approaching driver could become disoriented!

Wall of the Fallen, numbers began showing up for the annual losses of towers. It had appeared that there was a roadside kill every six days in America. Unfortunately, after serving on the confirmation committee, and being tasked with verifying these losses, I learned that six might not be accurate and that it could be an even higher number. Without a reporting process available for recording injuries and deaths, we can’t know a reliable number. You can get solid numbers on firefighters and police officers in the many different ways they have been injured or killed because they have a retirement process. But towers don’t have that. So, how can an excess of strobe lights contribute to accidents? Through something called the, “stroboscopic effect.” In scientific terms, this visual phenomenon is defined as, “An illusion of apparent motion, or absence of motion, that arises when an object or picture is not viewed continuously, but at separate time intervals that succeed one another in a periodic manner.”

In simpler terms, think of the “wagon-wheel effect” when spoked wheels (such as on horse-drawn wagons) sometimes appear to be turning backwards. What does this have to do with tow operators getting injured or even killed by the roadside? Too many strobes can make machinery appear to be either stationary or moving at a different speed. In other words, lighting systems that are highly conspicuous (such as strobes) aren’t always good indicators of speed and distance. This causes drives to have impaired reactions when approaching emergency vehicles. All told, what is the number one reason for roadside strikes? A dizzying carousel of too many lights distorting visual cues for drivers. As poof, the California collision rate of emergency

Strobes can make

machinery appear to be either stationary or moving at a different speed. vehicles that display multiple lights when stopped on a highway are 2.5 times more likely to be struck than vehicles without emergency lights. Another case in point: The Illinois State Police removed light bars from 50 percent of its fleet and found that vehicles without the light bars had 65 % fewer crashes. While strobes today are far superior to the originals, an overabundance of these are very bright. Alternative flashing strobes can create an unexpected problem. In reviewing the studies that have been done, an excess of strobes isw not only potentially hazardous to oncoming traffic, but also to the personnel on scene. This hazard is not limited to strobes, as HID, Halo, Xenon and LED illumination can also be overly bright. So, take the time to evaluate the number of lights you use and where they’re mounted, for safety’s sake. After all, it’s not always smart to be the brightest.

AT’s Safety Focus sponsored by

14 • November 2021 | Towman.com

Note: Special thanks to Allstate Roadside and their commitment to tow operator safety.




Beacons

In the Zone

On!

Tips on Securing Your Workspace Area By Terry Abejuela

Field Editor Terry Abejuela has 40-plus years of light-duty towing and recovery experience. He is also a light-duty Level 1 instructor for the California Tow Truck Association.

Securing a scene for temporary roadwork utilizing two advance warning signs and traffic cones.

T

ow truck operators have a responsibility to use the tools and training they have been provided to identify potential hazards and take the appropriate steps to ensure their safety. When it comes to securing your workspace at the roadside near traffic, you will not always be able to guarantee that your workspace is 100-percent safe and secure, but you can significantly reduce your exposure at the scene. Common sense indicates that the most important person in charge of your personal safety is you. In taking responsibility for securing your workspace, learn to do your job as safely as possible, every time you do it. While most tow truck operators know how to do the job safely, they just don’t always do things the safest way. Inevitably they might take shortcuts when they don’t perceive that there’s a significant hazard. This lapse becomes their muscle

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

reflex because they have performed this repetitive motion so many times and they become very proficient and are able to complete the job quickly. Of course, quick can be good because it minimizes the time that you are at the scene and exposed to the hazards from traffic. But it should not be achieved by taking shortcuts that jeopardize your safety. It has to be something that is an automatic reflex for you. You have to practice it every time so it becomes your muscle reflex and you will become just as proficient and quick as when you were were taking the shortcuts.

FILLING IN FOR FIRST RESPONDERS

In a perfect world, first responders would be on the scene at all incidents when the tow truck arrives and will have taken care of securing the scene when necessary. In the real world, though, light-duty tow truck operators frequently perform

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 17


Linear Blocking and Deployment of 6 cones - Typical securement of the workspace when parking behind a vehicle to providing roadside assistance to a vehicle that does not required towing such as a changing a flat tire or providing an emergency supply of fuel.

their work without other first responders at the scene. Disabled vehicles on the shoulder might not result in law enforcement or other first responders being dispatched to the scene. In these instances, when necessary, a tow truck operator should secure the workspace before performing recovery work. If you are not able to adequately secure your workspace when necessary, request additional assistance. Make sure you are very familiar with and abide by your state and local laws pertaining to the operation of your tow truck. Also be familiar with and abide by your company’s policies. In most if not all States, tow trucks are not considered authorized emergency vehicles. You need to know legally 18 • November 2021 | Towman.com

what you can and can’t do when parking your tow truck, deploying traffic warning devices, use of emergency lighting, and equipment you are required to carry.

Control Devices (MUTCD) is an excellent resource but does not take the place of formal, qualified training.

BE A PREPPER

Upon arrival at the scene you will have to choose where to safely park your tow truck, whether in front or behind a disabled vehicle. If you anticipate the vehicle will need to be towed, you obviously would park in front of the disabled vehicle. If you don’t know what is wrong with the vehicle or you have been provided information that the disablement is a flat tire, out of fuel, or other disablement that does not require a tow, you might park behind the disabled vehicle. It makes sense to use your tow truck as a blocking vehicle to create a safer incident space when the vehicle does not require towing. Park approximately one and half truck lengths behind the vehicle and offset slightly toward traffic if space allows. Set all brake-locking devices available on the tow truck. In many states, tow trucks are not allowed to block, impede or close traffic. If the incident requires blocking, impeding or closing a traffic lane, law enforcement assistance should be requested.

Prior to responding to any towing or road side service calls, ensure that you are completely prepared. During your pre-trip inspection at the start of your shift, confirm you have all of your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and that it is in good working condition. PPE can include high-visibility garments that are ANSI 3 compliant. This list also includes ANSI 3-compliant weather garments, hard hat, latex gloves, work gloves, work boots or shoes with an impact-protected toe, safety glasses, and face mask. Make sure all of the safety equipment on your truck is in good operating condition including emergency lighting, triangular reflectors, flares, and traffic cones. Tow truck operators should seek qualified training in the proper use of Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) devices before deploying them in the field. The Manual on Uniform Tr a f f i c

LOCATION IS EVERYTHING

An early version of a directional light bar where the arrow indictor was located under the light bar and had its own control panel.



ILLUMINATING ADVICE

Emergency lighting should only be used if you are creating an unusual traffic hazard. When doing so, then flashing amber lights and or flashing traffic directional arrows might be needed to secure your workspace. If you need to use white work lights, make sure they are adjusted properly to avoid blinding approaching traffic. Use only the lighting that is necessary in order to minimize the distraction to motorists.

Exit the truck on the side that’s away from traffic. If you must exit the traffic side, check your sideview mirror and look over your shoulder before opening the door. Open the driver’s door slightly and look directly at traffic before exiting. Exit quickly and move immediately to the non-traffic side.

GETTING BUFFED OUT

Whenever possible you want to create a lateral buffer zone between your incident scene

and live traffic with cones or flares when it is safe to do so. This buffer zone will provide some space for the tow truck operator to operate on the traffic side of the truck and not be in the live traffic lane. But avoid working the traffic side of the truck whenever possible. Always keep in mind that traffic cones do not prevent vehicles from accidentally entering your work space, so work as much as possible on the non-traffic side of the incident. If a disabled vehicle is too close to the live traffic, is moving it an option? Vehicles with a flat tire may be a candidate to drive a short distance to move it further away from the live traffic.

REQUIRED EQUIPMENT?

Traffic cones and road flares are temporary traffic control devices that are commonly carried on tow trucks. Some states require tow trucks to carry these devices. If you carry them you should be properly trained in their use (note sidebar). Traffic cones are often the quickest and easiest to deploy, but on most tow trucks you will be limited in the quantity you can carry due to the storage space they require. For most incidents where a tow truck operator would deploy cones, six should be sufficient. The MUTCD specifies 28-inch tall cones with two retro-reflective bands on them for night time use and or traffic speeds in excess of 45 mph. Placement of cones will vary based on many variables such as the location of the incident, speed of traffic, and visibility.

FIERY FLARES

Road flares are effective but may pose a fire hazard. Fuel leaks, flammable cargo on the roadway, and high fire-hazard areas are examples where road flares are not safe to use. Electronic flare devices are available that do not pose a fire hazard. Road flares would be deployed in the same pattern as cones would be. Advance warning signs are not

20 • November 2021 | Towman.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 21


common on light-duty tow trucks although carry at least one, and preferably two. Advance warning signs are particularly effective when there are limited sight or visibility issues such as rain, fog, and darkness or sight obstructions such as hills, curves, bridges or intersections. Advance warning of an incident ahead can alert motorists early enough for them to prepare for a transition to another lane. These signs should be placed on the blind side of a curve or hill.

22 • November 2021 | Towman.com

In addition to securing your workspace, tow-truck operators should always practice safety while at the side of the roadway. So wear the appropriate PPE, keep an eye on traffic, don’t turn your back to traffic, plan an escape route, complete your work and leave the scene as quickly as possible. Securing your workspace is by no means a guarantee the scene is safe, but it can significantly reduce your exposure to the hazards of working near traffic.

Being Cone Conscious To deploy traffic cones safely at an incident that is on the shoulder and not blocking traffic, but is close enough to the live traffic to create an unusual hazard, follow these steps using six cones: 1. Always keep your eye on traffic during the whole process. 2. Remove all six cones from the truck and place one cone on the outside edge of the shoulder of the road a few feet past the front of the disabled vehicle. 3. Carry the rest of the cones and walk upstream along the shoulder and place a cone on the outside edge of the shoulder near the front of the truck. 4. Continue walking upstream along the shoulder approximately 20 feet and place a cone on the outside edge of shoulder. 5. Continue the same sequence until you are at the last 20 foot space mark with the last cone and you are approximately 80 feet from the tow truck. Place the last cone at the outside edge of the shoulder. 6. Walk back downstream on the shoulder to the next cone and place that cone in the middle of the shoulder. 7. Walk back downstream to the next cone and place that cone just outside of the live traffic lane marker on the roadway. 8. Walk back downstream to the next cone and place it just outside the traffic lane marker on the roadway near the front of the tow truck 9. Walk back downstream to the next cone and move it to just outside of the live traffic lane marker on the roadway. 10. When you are ready to retrieve the cones start at the incident and work your way upstream and place each cone on the shoulder. Pick up the last cone and walk back downstream while picking up the rest of the cones from the shoulder.


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 23


Tow Manager

The Jerr-Dan 6 Ton XLP features Jerr-Dan’s exclusive No-Lube technology for less time on upkeep and more time on the road. Load angles can go as low as 7.5 degrees on the 6 Ton XLP.

The Lowdown on Low-Clearance Carriers Are Low-Deck Flatbeds the Right Choice for Your Tow Operation? By Paul Stephens

Paul Stephens is a towing industry trainer with more than 34 years of towing experience. He has served as a consultant for many automobile manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, and companies for service provider education, towability and road service procedures.

W

ith the vehicle design changes over the last decade or so, it has become increasingly difficult to gain or decrease the approach angle for loading vehicles onto flatbeds. This issue is compounded by the newer design issues such as lowered cars, low-profile tires, air ride or dropped suspensions—the list goes on and on. These vehicles usually are not easy to load and can be problematic with suspension or wheel issues. We all have the pieces of wood, ramps, or other items to cheat, but are there better loading angles available on the market? Yes, but there have been some challenges along the way. Low-clearance issues require carrier manufacturers to keep up with the auto industry, which can be pretty challenging without communication between the two parties. Information from vehicle manufacturers can be fairly well-guarded until a design is completed and ready for shipment.

24 • November 2021 | Towman.com

The three to four years that a new vehicle model is in development can be critical to advanced planning for towing equipment manufacturers. So the hard reality is that they have to play catchup after a new vehicle model hits the dealerships. There really are two general types of flatbed tow trucks: standard and LCG (Low Center of Gravity) or XLP (Extreme Low Profile) carriers. A few different terms are used in today’s towing industry, all related to carrier height and loading angles such as standard, XLP, and LCG to name a few. LCG is an acronym employed by Century, and XLP is a Jerr-Dan term. Both of these refer to low-deck carriers, but they each have unique features and benefits. The standard would be the regular style used for many decades, and the newer being the LCG and XLP models. The introduction of these newer designs has changed and given us options to align the carrier deck angles with our businesses. These carrier deck platforms can make your company



Using “The Right Approach” While cribbing or ramping can help with changing the entry angle of the bed for exotic or other lowered vehicles, the Century LCG carrier goes one step further (literally) with “The Right Approach.” This option allows an operator to reduce the angle to six degrees, so ramps or wood planks are not needed. Available on Century 10 or 12 series carriers (with either solid side rails or removable aluminum blade rails), it features a hinged deck section at the rear of the bed. In addition, a guide inserted in the deck keeps the cable low while winching a vehicle onto the deck. Once the front wheels are on the deck, the hinged section can be leveled out and the cable guide removed, to provide clearance at the front of the deck. This same process can then be repeated for the rear wheels so there’s no interference with an exhaust system or extended rear overhang. 26 • November 2021 | Towman.com

more versatile due to the unique dynamics of the truck. Every tow is generally different, depending on the angle of the bed, terrain, vehicle, and location. The LCG and XLP models have a different structural subframe than the standard models. This subframe mounting allows the bed to sit lower on the chassis, which can provide a better-balanced load because it makes loads less top heavy, due to the inches gained sitting closer to the frame of the truck. If you have a heavy, high-centered load, cornering and braking can be adversely affected depending on the weights. There are always ways to improve the height of your truck. However, if a bed is mounted higher on the frame it does have a different center of gravity when cornering, and can cause sway or a roll motion. If the bed is sitting lower, then some of that motion can be reduced. A lower ride height of the bed also allows for greater clearances for construction equipment, cargo vehicles, and provides additional height variances for more transport options such as sheds and sprinter vans. The bed height being lowered can gain inches to stay within legal limits for height restrictions when passing under bridges and overpasses. A lowclearance mounting can reduce the overall height by as much as of five to six inches. This new lower height also allows for easier access for tying down the vehicle while standing on the ground, without having to extend your body far or stand on something to reach over the rails. This can be a plus for an operator who is not six-foot tall, as their feet are firmly planted versus trying to balance


or climb to reach. The biggest benefit for most towing and transport companies in relation to these newer, low-clearance bodies shows up in the load angle. The bed height and chassis height are directly related to the decrease in the loading approach angle by several degrees. The lower load angle versions will help reduce the amount of cribbing or ramping needed to clear the front or rear fascias, or exhaust systems. This better approach angle will help with loading many lowered vehicles in the luxury market with limited suspension-height travel. If a carrier comes equipped with an air-ride system, then combining a low-profile deck with the air dump can lower the bed angle even more, and require almost no cribbing assistance for loading. (Note, too, the accompanying sidebar on “The Right Approach” option for Century carriers.) Attachment points are always an issue with these new model vehicles so the need for better loading angles is very important. Let’s not forget as well the electric vehicle market that is evolving rapidly. Electric vehicles naturally weigh more and have a lower center of gravity, and can have difficulty being placed into neutral. OEM companies will be changing their body designs in the near future and the chassis platforms will get wider and lower, which can be intimidating to a newer operator. So the equipment should be able to match the vehicle being towed and this is where the low-clearance carrier can offer the most benefits. Either model you choose will require fewer maintenance intervals as the manufacturers use new technology, with lessons learned from previous models, in order to make modern carriers more reliable with reduced wear areas, better hydraulic hose routing and better grease pivot pins. If a standard carrier is what you are using, then you know that sometimes a low-profile vehicle can be a challenge to load. Even so, some companies prefer the standard carrier due to the nature of their business. There are still standard models available as the technology from the low-clearance models is being incorporated into the standard versions, reducing loading angles which would not necessarily require a special chassis. The newer versions of standard carriers have taken some of the bed angles down from 11 degrees. This is not to say that a comparison when purchasing a new truck is not needed. As the angle of the bed is reduced, the easier it becomes to skate vehicles as well. The lower angle helps with this transition so even the standard carrier might be your option. Sometimes the manufacturer will build a unit that is very versatile and becomes the base for the industry, Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

which is the direction the newer low-clearance models are going and becoming the industry standard. For instance, at a recent test in Detroit for Chevrolet, Century’s LCG carrier deck sufficiently reduced the angle so that loading a new 2023 model (as low or lower than the new Corvette) required very minimal cribbing to clear. Although it was only an inch or so clearance, it did clear and the exhaust made it as well. In marked contrast, using a standard carrier would have required about 5.5 inches of cribbing to reduce that load angle. The unique characteristics of our business can make it difficult to predict what or where the next call will come from. But having a unit that can be a little more versatile could mean keeping a call versus losing it to a competitor. Low-clearance models are here to stay and will likely become the industry standard in the future.

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AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 27


News Flash

Nonconsensual Tow Fees May Rise in Auburn, AL

In Auburn, Alabama nonconsensual towing fees may be on the rise as the Auburn City Council mulls an amendment coming up for vote on October 19. According to David Dorton, director of public affairs for the city, fees haven’t gone up since 2008. Proposed changes would raise nonconsensual towing fees from a $100 maximum towing fee to a $150 maximum fee, and the maximum wheel-locking fee would be raised from $50 to $75. Passage requires unanimous consent by the Council before moving to a vote and a public hearing before the amendment can be voted on. However, not all council members are in agreement, such as councilperson Tommy Dawson. “I want to make sure it’s fair to everybody involved, especially somebody visiting Auburn with their

28 • November 2021 | Towman.com

kids and not know they have to pay $150 to get their car back,” Dawson pointed out. “$150 to get your car back seems a little excessive to me.” Dawson believes that the City Council should reconsider the dollar amount of increased fees, and feels a middle ground of $125 would be more balanced for the vehicle owner. Source: oanow.com

NYPD Officers Plead Guilty to Tow Scheme

Three former New York Police Department officers have pleaded guilty in two bribery schemes, the Department of Justice announced in a press release on October 7. Robert Hassett, Heather Busch and Robert Smith all acknowledged their roles in the “Tow Truck Scheme,” in which they were paid to direct damaged vehicles to a certain tow truck company, and the “Victim Database Scheme,” in which they sold crash victims’ personal information.


On Oct.7, Hassett became the third officer involved in the schemes to plead guilty, admitting to investigators his role in accepting bribes between 2016 and 2017, and from 2019 to 2020, the press release stated. Busch pleaded guilty on August 5 and Smith pleaded guilty on October 6. Both Busch and Smith admitted to investigators that they accepted multiple forms of bribes, the press release said. Smith also admitted to attempting to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin. “The defendants’ guilty pleas to accepting bribes are also acknowledgements that they abused the public trust and dishonored the NYPD by their actions,” Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Thursday. According to investigators, Hassett and Smith took bribes in 2016 and 2017 to refer vehicles that had been in accidents to a specific tow truck company, going directly against NYPD procedures. When Smith retired in March 2020, he “recruited” Busch, who continued the scheme after he left, according to the press release. Smith faces up to 25 years in prison for bribery and attempt to distribute heroin charges. Hassett and Busch could serve up to 5 years in prison with their sole bribery charge. Source: cbsnews.com

“Final Ride” Processional for Garry McGee

Numerous wrecker services, including his employer Apollo Wrecker Service, came out in a heartfelt “Final Ride” processional for tower Garry McGee, who was struck and killed on August 30 by an impaired driver. McGee, also an Army veteran, had been hooking up a vehicle to his truck on LBJ Freeway when he was thrown over the overpass and onto a freeway. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters. Source: foxsanantonio.com

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 29


News Flash Tow License Revoked

Victoria council has revoked the business license of a tow-truck driver who staff say operated with, “misleading business practices.” The city’s staff recommended revoking the license of John Mueller, operating as I-Tow Group, because they say he has, “demonstrated a disregard for city bylaws.” Mueller is accused of repeatedly overcharging people, failing to adequately identify his vehicle, and failing to display fees charged for vehicles towed. In April, he pleaded guilty to five charges and entered into a provincial court order with several conditions, such as properly marking his vehicles with his business name and phone number, and prominently displaying fees charged where towing occurs. the city’s staff say he has not fully complied with that order and he has avoided attempts by bylaw staff to inspect his company. Bylaw manager Shannon Perkins told councillors on Thursday staff recommended the license be revoked after “having exhausted all other avenues to gain voluntary compliance.” She said the public is not being given clear information about where their towed vehicle has been taken and how much they will be charged. Hans Doehring, Mueller’s lawyer, painted a picture of a successful small-business owner of more than

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32 • November 2021 | Towman.com

News Flash three decades, working in a business where people tend to complain. “Nobody likes to get their vehicle towed,” Doehring said. “So, in that sense, complaints are exaggerated, and they’re angry, and they’re quite frustrating for the individuals admitted, but the complaints are from disgruntled people who had their car towed from where they were parking.” Doehring said his client is concerned about “selective enforcement,” and argued tow-truck competitors have similar issues with their signs. Doehring accused Perkins of not giving Mueller the opportunity to respond to allegations of non-compliance with bylaws before suspending his license in July. Perkins countered with a list of attempts by bylaw services on three separate dates to notify Mueller of an inspection of his towing business to determine whether he was complying with conditions of his court order. Source: timescolonist.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 33


AD INDEX Access Tools..............................................25 Akins Body & Carrier Sales.........................53 American Safety & Supply..........................46 American Towman Magazine..............S, M 72 Anchor Graphics........................................23 ASAP.........................................................28 Atlanta Wrecker Sales................................30 Austin Insurance.................................... N 71 B/A Products..............................................65 Beacon Software........................................48 Brown & Brown Insurance..........................56 Captain Recovery..................... N 75, S, M 71 Chevron Commercial..................................33 Crawford Truck Sales............................. N 70 Crouch’s Wrecker & Equip. Sales................47 Custer Products.........................................32 Dual-Tech Wreckers & Carriers...................34 East Coast Truck & Trailer................... N, S 67 Edgetec.................................................W 72 Elizabeth Truck Center................................31 Environmental Chemical Solutions.......... N 72 Fayetteville Ford.........................................57 G.Stone Commercial.............................. N 71 Hale Trailers........................................... N 76 IAA...............................................................7 i BUY REMOTES..................................... N 75

34 • November 2021 | Towman.com

November 2021

ICW Group Insurance..................................46 Intek Truck & Equipment............................32 ITI..............................................................29 Jerr-Dan Corp..........................................2, 3 Joyride......................................................35 Kayln-Sierbert............................................49 Landoll Corp...............................................31 Len Zermenos............................................59 Lift Marketing Group.............................. N 72 Maryland Carrier & Wrecker................... N 74 McMahon Truck Center..........................M 67 Metrocom..................................................49 Miller Industries.........................................13 Mobile Control Systems..............................30 Mobile Video Computing Solutions..............57 New England Truckmaster...................... N 73 North American Bancard............................15 Nottingham Insurance............................ N 73 NRC Industries...........................................19 OMG Tow Marketing...................................59 Pacific General Insurance.......................M 69 PeakPTT....................................................56 Peak Wrecker Sales...............................W 70 Performance Advantage Company..............23 Progressive Commercial.............................21 PWOF.........................................................55

Quick Cash for Remotes......................... N 69 Ramsey Winch...........................................33 Recovery Billing Unlimited..........................29 SafeAll Products.........................................27 Santander Bank........................... Back Cover Santander Merchant Services.....................21 Sea Crest Insurance Agency...................W 69 Sierra Pacific Insurance..............................58 Smyrna Truck & Cargo...............................45 Talbert Mfg................................................58 Towbook Mgmt. Software.....Inside Back Cover Tow Brokers Insurance..................S 69, W 67 Tow Industries.......................................W 71 TowMate....................................................28 Trail King Industries...................................39 TTSA..........................................................57 Urgently.....................................................45 Utility Trailer Sales S.E. TX......................W 72 Warn Industries............................................5 West End Service.......................................35 Will-Burt Company.....................................44 Winches Inc...........................................W 71 XINSURANCE.......................................... N 74 Xpress-Pay................................................56 Zacklift International..................................44 Zip’s/AW Direct..............................16, 20, 22


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AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 35


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.

With a Bogged-Down Bow Thruster

36 • November 2021 | Towman.com

By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti


2018 Kenworth W-900 equipped with a Jerr-Dan 50/60 60-ton rotator and a 2018 Kenworth T-880 equipped with a NRC 5065 CSR 65-ton sliding rotator were used in this recovery.

E

ver get that sinking feeling? Gass Automotive sure did back on July 7, 2019 when the firm was called out at 4:30 pm to recover a tractor-trailer on Pelican Island in Galveston, Texas. Upon arrival the recovery team came upon a massive bow thruster on a trailer stuck in a muddy ditch.

For those unfamiliar with nautical terms, a bow thruster is a propulsion device located under the front of a ship that provides lateral (port and starboard) thrust, making the vessel more maneuverable. Nowadays ships have both bow and stern thrusters, which makes them independent of the tugboats for maneuvering in the port limits (if the port regulation does not make it compulsory to use tugboats). So what would it take to wrestle this huge item out of the mud? “We received a call for two 50ton wreckers,” recalled Tommy Gass, owner of Gass Automotive. “The truck and trailer had become stuck as the road gave out due to the location of the scene being 200 yards from Galveston Bay and the tide being high.” Tommy Gass responded to the scene with operators Eric Dierdorff, Rick Morris, Charlie Ruhl, Rockie Ziegler, Richard Hogue, John “Stranger” Dietz, Charlie Ruhl, Arnaldo Leija, Uriah Westmoreland and Austin Morris. This large crew of operators brought their 2018 Kenworth W-900 equipped with a JerrDan 50/60 60-ton rotator, a 2018 Kenworth T-880 equipped with Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 37


A Genie GTH-844 telehandler unloaded steel road plates on day two.

We thrive

on completing jobs that others can’t. a NRC 5065 CSR 65-ton sliding rotator, a Kubota SVL95 skid steer, Genie GTH-844 telehandler, three tractors with 53’ Landolls, a 2019 Kenworth T-370 equipped with a 28-foot NRC 40 TB, a 2018 Kenworth T-270 equipped with a 22-foot 6-ton Jerr-Dan rollback bed and two light plants.

After assessment of the scene the two rotators were rigged up to the trailer. With all rigging in place, approximately 275,000 pounds were winched back onto solid ground. The extreme weight of the huge bow thruster being on a 4-axle trailer placed an enormous load in a small footprint. Once the recovery began and the back of the trailer was back onto hard ground, the tractor was then lifted and set out of t h e ruts. The customer

The weight of the massive bow thruster pushed the trailer down into the mud.

38 • November 2021 | Towman.com

This rear view of the bow thruster on trailer shows it finally being towed out on the road bed’s steel plates.

then wanted to move the tractor and trailer to the other side of the roadway where it became stuck once again. “After talking with the customer it was decided that the following day we would bring in materials to repair the roadway,” Tommy related. “And then place two layers of ground protection mats on the roadway to complete the removal of the truck, trailer and load.”

DAY TWO

The following morning there were five loads of steel road plate and plastic ground protection mats hauled to the scene,


along with 60-yards of limestone. Once the mats were in place behind the trailer, it was again winched out of the ruts and now onto the mats. Once the large ruts were back-filled, a double layer of mats were placed under the trailer and in front of the tractor. Did that do the trick? “With all mats in place the truck was able to drive out to the state road and onto its final destination,” Tommy noted with pride. “We thrive on completing jobs that others can’t.” Veteran operators never know what they’re going to encounter. But experienced ones like Gass find a way to avoid getting bogged down.

This old Oshkosh M911 8x6 heavy haul tractor finally made it out to the state road and onto its final destination with its humongous load.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

About Gass Automotive Inc. Tommy Gass is the owner/president of Gass Automotive Inc. Based in Santa Fe, Texas, he founded his firm in 2001. After starting out as a small, local automotive shop, it has expanded to become one of the most diversified solutions providers serving all of Galveston County, Greater Houston and the surrounding areas. With more than 30 pieces of equipment, including two 60-ton rotators and one 65-ton sliding rotator, Gass Automotive has one of the largest and most versatile fleets in the greater Houston area. Gass specializes in heavy-duty towing, heavy equipment transport, mobile repair, heavy-duty truck and fleet repair, fleet maintenance management, automotive repair, heavy/medium/lightduty truck repairs, light- and heavy-duty towing transportation and recovery. The firm’s WreckMaster-certified and trained operators can handle anything that comes their way, always ready to meet the Greater Houston area’s most challenging jobs.

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 39


NOVEMBER 11-14, 2021

BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER

EXHIBITOR ROSTER

Exhibitor Roster as of 10/7/21 *Supplier names in bold are display advertisers in this issue with their ad page number cross-referenced

360 Payments AAA AASP-PA Access Tools - See pg. 25 AirDown all-Grip Vehicle Recovery Systems Alliance Funding Group Allstate Roadside Amdor American Safety & Supply - See pg. 46 American Towman Magazine - See pg. S, M 72 Anchor Graphics - See pg. 23 ARI-Hetra Ascentium Capital AT&T - The Wireless Experience Atlanta Wrecker Sales - See pg. 30 Aussie Rimshine Austin Insurance - See pg. N 71 Auto Data Direct B/A Products - See pg. 65 Bad Dog Tools Baremotion Battelini Wrecker Sales Bay Street BBSI Beacon Funding Beacon Software - See pg. 48 Benchmark Payment Breg Environmental Brown & Brown Insurance - See pg. 56 Car-Part.com Card Connect Century Chevron Chevron Commercial - See pg. 33 Collins Dollies Copart Auto Auctions Core Holistics Crawford Truck Sales - See pg. N 70 Crouch’s Wrecker & Equip. Sales - See pg. 47

40 • November 2021 | Towman.com

Custer Products - See pg. 32 Custom Built MFG Dedicated Funding NY DewEze Mfg. DK2 Warrior Winches Drive DriverLocator.Com Dual-Tech Wreckers & Carriers - See pg. 34 Dynamic Towing Equip. & Mfg. East Coast Truck & Trailer Sales - See pg. N, S 67 East Penn Truck Equipment Emergency Road Service Coalition of America / ERSCA Enviromotive Environmental Chemical Solutions - See pg. N 72 Excel Sportswear EZ Spare Wheel EZ Tow Assist FCar Tech USA Federal Signal First Business First Business Bank FleetNet America Flitz International FlowStop Gantt Insurance Agency GEICO Goosetown Communications Guniwheel Distributed by LKQ Corp. Haas Alert Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel - See pg. N 76 Hino Trucks Holmes Honk Technologies Hooks Towing & Equipment Hunter Engineering i Buy Remotes - See pg. N 75 IAA - See pg. 7

ICW Group Insurance - See pg. 46 Independent Auto Transporters Alliance / IATA Int’l Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum Integrated Veh. Equip. Leasing Intek Truck & Equipment Leasing/ Financing - See pg. 32 International Trucks Isuzu Commercial Truck of America J & R Products & Towing Accessories Jerr-Dan Corp. - See pgs. 2, 3 Joyride - See pg. 35 Junk Car Buyer Academy USA Kalyn Siebert - See pg. 49 Landoll Corporation - See pg. 31 Lien Enforcement, Inc. Lift And Tow Lift Marketing Group - See pg. N 72 Lodar USA Lucky’s Trailer Sales Lynch Truck Centers Magnetworks / Stamp Works Manufacturer Express Martens Johnson Insurance Maryland Carrier & Wrecker Sales - See pg. N 74 Matheny Motor Truck Co. Matjack Jumbo Safelift Menzel Technologies Metrocom - See pg. 49 MFC International Midland Equipment Finance Miller Industries - See pg. 13 Millner-Haufen Tool Mobile Road Service Solutions Mobile Video Computing Solutions - See pg. 57 Myers Benner Corp. Mytee Products Nation Safe Drivers (NSD) Nite Beams


Exhibitor Roster as of 10/7/21 *Supplier names in bold are display advertisers in this issue with their ad page number cross-referenced

Noco Jump Packs Nottingham Insurance - See pg. N 73 NRC Industries - See pg. 19 Olson & Company Omadi OMG Tow Marketing - See pg. 59 OnlineParkingPass.com Opti-luxx ParkingPass.com Peddle Penny Pockets Penske Truck Leasing People’s United Equipment Finance PGM Recovery Systems Phoenix USA Photo Card Specialists Planet Halo Podium Corp. Pop - A - Lock Pro-Vision Video Systems Purpose Wrecker QuakeLED QuestX Towing Services Quick Cash for Remotes - See pg. N 69 R&A Insurance Ramsey Winch - See pg. 33 Ranger SST Razor Wraps

RC Industries Recovery Title Solutions Ricky’s Sales & Service Roadside Protect RoadSync Robert Young’s NRC Sales & Service RP Recovery Consulting Safety Vision Santander Bank - See Back Cover SBA Loan Group ServiCase Specialty Vehicle Equip. Funding Spill Tackle Steck Mfg. Co. Stephens Truck Center/Bad Ass Tow Products Stertil-Koni, USA Superwinch Talbert Mfg. - See pg. 58 TCF Capital Solutions Time-Out Seated Massage Corner TJR Equipment Tow Life Towbook Management Software - See Inside Back Cover TowCap Premier Towing & Recovery Assoc. of America Towing.com

2021 SPONSORS MILLER ROCKS! BULL & PIG ROAST

LUXURY VEHICLE EDUCATION

REGISTRATION COUNTERS

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ATTV SPONSOR LANYARDS

TowingWebsites.com TowMate - See pg. 28 TowTruckLocator.com towXchange Tracker Management Sys. Trail King Industries - See pg. 39 Tulsa Winch TW Products Two Way Radio Gear U-Haul International Urgently - See pg. 45 US Fleet Tracking Verdant Commercial Capital Vulcan W Star USA Inc. Warn Industries - See pg. 5 Webfleet Solutions Weego Portable Power West End Service - See pg. 35 Whelen Engineering Co. Whiterail Reviews Will-Burt Company - See pg. 44 Worldwide Equipment Sales WreckMaster Xpress-Pay - See pg. 56 Zacklift International - See pg. 44 Zellner Insurance Zip’s AW Direct - See pg. 16, 20, 22

Events and Specialty Items CALITRI’S CUBA

DONNIE AWARDS

EXPO INFO CARD

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WRECKER PAGEANT VOTING BOOTH SHOW BAGS

TOWMAN ORDER HOTEL ROOM KEYS

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CAPTAINS OF INDUSTRY AT ACADEMY FESTIVAL NIGHT AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 41


As Long as You Prepare for Severe Winter Weather By Randall C. Resch

42 • November 2021 | Towman.com


A

ccording to the latest Farmer’s Almanac, we might be in for some really cold weather this season. When winter temps read minus-extremes, “Mpemba” happens. Named after a schoolboy from Tanzania who discovered this phenomenon, “Mpemba” (Mmpemba), refers to when hot water freezes faster than cold water. To see it for yourself, just toss a mug of boiling water into frigid air and notice how it turns into ice crystals before hitting the ground. Savvy tow owners and operator’s understand Mother Nature’s frigid, harsh complications by preparing for the onset of winter conditions. So this narrative isn’t just about making a wrecker or carrier winter ready. Let’s start by addressing the complications and unpredictable challenges that come during winter months.

NOT SO FAST

Of course driving in frigid conditions demands slower speeds, in order to avoid a loss of control during steering and cornering maneuvers. In ice and snow environments, wreckers and carriers aren’t immune from slipping and sliding as conditions worsen. Unloaded carriers are more apt to lose control without weight over the truck’s rear axle. Most motorists are caught offguard because they’re not winterproficient. The worst culprits are city folk who think they’re experienced “winter drivers.” (In one instance, I had to pull the same car from the snow twice in the same day because the driver didn’t proceed cautiously.)

ALL CHAINED-UP

Although a chained-up tow truck has better traction, too many towers don’t use them, saying, “Installation’s a hassle.” Hassle or Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

With the right equipment and proper positioning, a snow roll can be handled in minutes.

In ice and snow environments, wreckers and carriers aren’t immune from slipping and sliding as conditions worsen. not, chains should be at the top of a tower’s winter equipment list. Snow chains provide traction when it’s needed most, allowing tow trucks to operate in slippery conditions without much effort or special skills. On four-wheel drive tow trucks, when outfitted and “chained-up” both front and rear, experienced operators can go virtually anywhere in snow, ice or mud within reason. Chain installation can be relatively easy. While some towers put chains only on the outside duals, some chain all rear tires. Practice makes attaching them much easier, as does outfitting tow trucks with snow chains. Chains with built-in cam tensioners make installation a cinch.

The installation process includes three basic techniques: •   Before starting the chain-up process, chock both the front and back, opposite-side tires to avoid slipping •   Position long 4x4s under the inner, dual tires. Slowly backup on top; doing so creates four inches of clearance at the bottom of the outside tires •   Keep hands, legs and feet out from under lifted tires in case the truck slips off the 4x4s. A seasoned chain installer can install (both) outside chains in about ten minutes. So, when you’re working in winter or muddy recovery environments, what other tricks do you to ease chain installation?

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 43


OUT AND ABOUT

Sensible driving suggests staying on the hard-pack wherever possible. Slow, creeping speeds atop frozen roadway surfaces make the vehicle’s driver ready for obstacles that may unknowingly present. Be mindful of icy surfaces where water or ponds are frozen. Never drive a wrecker onto frozen surfaces for simple fear of breaking through the surface. Your company policy should prohibit drivers from entering or fording streams or frozen/ice environments. When approaching these potential hazards, the acronym GOAL comes into play (Get Out And Look).

DANGEROUS SLIDE-BACK

Another important item is recognizing pre-existing conditions such as “footprint ice-over”, when vehicles are parked in freezing conditions. In one tragic example, a medium-duty wrecker responded to tow a Class-B propane tanker that broke down the night before. The operator responded the next day on what should have been a routine call. The tanker was parked curbside the day before atop wet-pavement on a sloped street. Overnight, temperatures dropped, creating freezing conditions. The tower backed to the disabled truck

44 • November 2021 | Towman.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 45


and proceeded to attach the under-reach. As he was between the wrecker’s tailboard and the tanker, it slid forward pinning him to the rear of the wrecker’s dock bumper. He was discovered deceased by his wife who was riding in the tow truck. In another grievous instance, a tower was attaching his truck to a disabled vehicle. It slid on the sloped, iced driveway, pinning the operator between both vehicles, killing him. A word of caution: neither fatality investigation mentioned these two towers chocking the wheels.

LET WINCHING BEGIN

Ice and snow winching requires a solid footprint. If possible, stay straight inline with the casualty. When angle is part of the winching scenario, the tow truck could slip sideways atop icy or wet surfaces. When winching begins, operators should stand at the truck’s controls, away from the casualty—not in a pinch-zone. If the casualty vehicle is rolled over, handling it, especially with a single-line wrecker or carrier, necessitates a basic “T-Position” to gain the best mechanical advantage in getting the vehicle to start its rotation. An easy “snow roll” shouldn’t take more than ten minutes if the truck is positioned properly. Discuss your recovery plan with the officer-on-scene if you need extra room. Note: not all officers will allow you room to work, so have a secondary plan. For increased operator safety, operators should rest one foot atop the wrecker’s rim so to feel the truck’s movement. If extreme movement or breakaway were to occur, push away (from the truck), let it settle and avoid being dragged to the pavement and run over. Useful Equipment can include the following: •   Scotch Blocks are steel wedges that have serrated, multi-toothed edges to help gain added traction to winching scenarios •   Down-riggers on the back of the truck tend to pack with road-wash, gook and snow debris, making them difficult to deploy in extreme cold conditions. Carry a small sledgehammer to tap off ice. Don’t use an L-Bar or accessory ends to pound them free, in order to avoid buggering the ends •   At winter’s onset, carry five gallons of rock salt next to dry sweep. Rock salt in strategic locations can help defeat ice or snow, turning the mixture into liquid or semi-liquid slush. Rock-salt sprinkled under the wrecker’s tires, down-riggers or chock blocks, helps increase traction during winching scenarios. Note, however, that salt products are corrosive, requiring a thorough rinsing once returned to the shop

46 • November 2021 | Towman.com



If using the wheel-lift to “get yer’self out”, exercise caution so as not to bend the lift. By incorporating blocking, digging, winching and a nearby, “Holmes Tree”, creative towers get themselves unstuck from most situations. Wreckers should have extra cable.

IT MAKES SENSE

If there’s a police officer on scene, explain your recovery plan if you need extra room or have to block the roadway.

GET YERSELF OUT

Every tower who’s ever worked snow recoveries has their own, “I got stuck,” story. Most claim, “I got myself unstuck.” Not getting stuck is the name of the recovery game, but it’s bound

48 • November 2021 | Towman.com

to happen. Because wreckers and carriers are winched-equipped, be creative and use on-board equipment to winch yourself out. Or carefully use the truck’s wheellift to help raise, block and winch your stuck truck from captivity.

A solid pre-inspection of systems and equipment ensures your truck is ready for its next adventure. Re-wrap the winch’s cable and apply a coat of maintenance oil or lubrication of your choice. Note: According to the WD-40 company, they claim the product’s “freeze point” is minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Check safety clips, thimbles and eyelets for damage. Replace where necessary. In addition, several accidents have involved towers killed while attempting to clear snow from


under carrier decks. Typical to snow environments, an accumulation of snow and ice amasses under a carrier’s frame and bed. When removing mud and crud from under a carrier’s raised bed, provide a safety device specifically designed to hold up a raised bed before working on the undersides. A long 4x4 is not the proper device, for fear of snapping or slipping resulting in the deck falling. Ice and snow environments also inflict stresses on tow operators. Remember, the medical dangers of hypothermia could cause an unexpected medical emergency. If you’re wet, first get dry and warm— don’t wait. All wreckers and carriers should be outfitted with, “Cold Weather Emergency Kits”, necessary to aid winter survival. Cold weather kits should consist of the following

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

items: flashlight, batteries, tarp, space blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots, extra socks, food items, firstaid kit, etc. Especially important: include at least six, 30-minute road flares. Not only for emergency illumination, but also for igniting an igloo of wet brush if a warming or signal fire becomes necessary. With winter headed your way, are you prepared for Mpemba? A tower’s ultimate survival depends on knowing how to endure and handle the harshest of conditions. Don’t be winter’s next victim.

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

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 49


Spectators enjoyed watching tow operators try their hand at a boom maneuvering exercise, conducted by Chris Neilson of Rocky Mountain Wrecker Sales. Sponsored by Jerr-Dan.

50 • November 2021 | Towman.com

The informative business seminars and conferences were packed with attendees.


SHOWPLACE AMERICAN TOWMAN

LasVegas

2021

A Big Hit With Towers!

T

By Steve Temple

urning a popular quip on its head, “What happens in Vegas, actually doesn’t stay there— especially when it comes to towers. Rather than claiming they have a ton of memories that they can’t talk about, towers had plenty to discuss after American Towman’s “ShowPlace Las Vegas” event. First off, we held the event at a new venue, the Westgate Resort right off the Strip, where attendees could get in on more of the local action. This move proved to be a welcome change for attendees and exhibitors alike, with dozens of lightto heavy-duty rigs on display, plus a wide array of towing products and

services. There was a strong turnout of colorfully customized trucks in the pageant area, plus plenty of towers at hands-on training demos and the numerous business seminars and conferences. American Towman’s publisher Dennie Ortiz summed up the event this way: “Towers from across the country came to catch up with each other and hook up with suppliers— and of course have a bit of Vegas fun! So clearly the high rollers in play were not only at the gaming tables but also the kind who roll on tow trucks. The accompanying photos tell the story—just don’t keep it to yourself!

Our Field Editor Terry Abejuela lent a hand in the training sessions.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 51


American Towman Cup Wrecker Pageant

Winners

AT ShowPlace Las Vegas

Heavy Duty Tandem CHINO’S TOWING

San Bernardino, CA 2019 Peterbilt 379 Holmes DTU

Car Carrier

BEDROCK TOWING

San Bernardino, CA 2021 Freightliner • 2002 JerrDan Shark

52 • November 2021 | Towman.com



Winners

Rotator

ROYAL COACHES AUTO BODY & TOWING Baldwin Park, CA 2020 Peterbilt 389 Century 1140

Working Class TODAY’S TOWING

San Bernardino, CA 2019 Peterbilt Century 7035

Best of Show

SANDOVAL’S GENERAL TOWING & TRANSPORT Fontana, CA 2021 Peterbilt 567 2021 Custom Built

54 • November 2021 | Towman.com



News Flash

Mass. Tower Killed in Crash

A tow truck driver was killed in a crash on Route 495 in Milford, Mass., when his Freightliner “veered out of its lane,” smashing into the guardrail and then riding up and over it. The cab of the truck was left hanging halfway off the bridge that goes over Route 16 for several hours overnight. The driver, identified only as a 24-year-old man, was rushed to Milford Hospital where he died. A passenger in the truck, a 20-yearold woman, was also taken there and was treated for minor injuries. “The investigation into the facts and circumstances of the crash,

56 • November 2021 | Towman.com

including whether speed or inclement weather conditions were contributing factors, is ongoing,” stated State Police spokesman Dave Procopio on Friday, September 10. Source: boston.cbslocal.com

Three Cops Arrested in Towing Bribery Scheme

Two current NYPD officers and a retired NYPD officer were arrested by the FBI on 10/1 over an alleged towing scheme. According to investigators, the officers, James Davneiro and Giancarlo Osma, and retired officer Michael Perri, who owned an auto repair shop, worked together. The two NYPD officers responded to accidents and steered


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 57


News Flash the damaged vehicles to a towing and auto repair business operated by Perri. In exchange, Perri allegedly paid the two officers thousands in cash bribes to tow broken-down vehicles. The feds said the crooked arrangement lasted a year, with Perri funneling cash payments to the cops. The bust is the second one in the last six months featuring NYPD cops accused of a tow-trucking scheme. “These defendants disgraced their badges and betrayed the public trust and their oaths as police officers by lining their pockets with cash bribes,” said acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis. In March, Davneiro and Osma arranged for Perri’s company to tow at least one vehicle, bypassing NYPD protocol, prosecutors said. Less than a month later, Perri allegedly paid Osma $1,600. In April and May, the officers illegally arranged for Perri’s company to tow cars at least seven times, and Perri gave them $1,000 each in exchange, according to the indictment. The arrests came just five months after three other Queens cops were busted in a similar scheme. The trio are scheduled to be arraigned in Brooklyn federal court Friday afternoon. If convicted, they each face up to five years in prison. Sources: nypost.com, newyork.cbslocal.com nydailynews.com

58 • November 2021 | Towman.com


Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 59


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60 • November 2021 | Towman.com

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Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

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AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 61


My Baby

The Royal Treatment

This Regal-Looking Rotator is Busy as a Bee By Steve Temple

Photos by Bessie Escobar

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.

W

hen Bill Salazar decided to get another Century 1140 rotator on a Peterbilt 389, he was looking for a way to rebrand his company Royal Coaches Auto Body & Towing with a new logo. He liked the vinyl lettering done by American Wrap, but he wanted something more to stand out and really get noticed. “We needed a mascot,” he recalls. “Something nobody else has.” Bill noticed that other tow companies had comic book characters like Bugs Bunny or the big green Hulk. He felt those didn’t represent his firm’s character, however, and

62 • November 2021 | Towman.com

his daughter Victoria came across the image of a busy bee. They looked at a few different versions before settling on one in particular. One change they made on later designs was to replace the bee’s stinger with a tow hook, along with adding some honeycomb graphics as well. How does this bee represent R o y a l Coaches?


“He’s a hard-working little critter, like a boom way up in the air,” he notes. And besides being easy to remember, “He tells the story of the company.” Bill’s father Robert founded Royal Coaches way back in 1973. He had emigrated to Los Angeles from Columbia in South America, and attended trade school for two years before opening a body shop. Wanting to branch out in the mid‘70s, he built a custom electric/ hydraulic wrecker on his ’68 Ford, and later a second one as well. Bill was still a fresh-faced teenager at the time, but learned how to tow at the tender age of 16. To drum up business, he went around town to small mom-andpop auto shops, offering to tow for

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

only $7.50 for a hookup, and $1.50 per mile. Some seven years later, he secured his first police contract,

“He goes after the nectar. It’s one sweet rotator!” and from there the business just blossomed (which fits with a pollen-gathering honey bee). He’s come a very long way since those early days, and now boasts

a fleet of 30 trucks at his Baldwin Park location, 18 of which are on freeway service patrol that’s funded by the State of California and two Socal counties. He also has multiple municipal contracts with the California Highway Patrol and local police departments. All this buzzing around town has resulted in a number of exemplary service awards such as Driver of the Year and People’s Choice. What does he attribute all these accolades to? “I’ve been hands-on all my life, and know how to do the job,” he points out. “I work shoulder-toshoulder with my operators.” As for his Century 1140 rotator, it started out handling just one call per month, but now does about ten times that number. Many

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • 63


Royal Coach’s Bill Salazar really appreciates the Raptor’s joystick controls on the Century 1140 rotator.

of them are in the San Gabriel mountains north of Pasadena for cliff-side recoveries. “My operators have to rappel down to hook up the vehicle,” he explains. “They have to be very careful.” Simplifying the operation, the rotator takes up only one lane of

a narrow mountain road, since the boom can extend sideways from the Peterbilt with the outriggers deployed. Another advantage is the Century’s Raptor computerized controls, which has a joystick instead of levers on the truck. “It’s like playing a video game,”

Bill grins. “I can run two controls at the same time, raising/lowering and rotating the boom at the same time.” He holds the unit with both hands, using thumbs and fingers to provide input. In addition, this device displays a lot of valuable information on load levels, for easier towing and faster yet safer recoveries. Bill has yet to name his bee mascot (maybe “Buzz”?), but does mention one important detail: “He goes after the nectar,” he laughs. “It’s one sweet rotator!”

Tech Highlights Chassis: 2020 Peterbilt 389

Wrecker Body: Century 1140 rotator Engine: Cummins X15

Built by: Miller Industries Graphics: American Wrap Royal Coaches handles many cliffside recoveries in the San Gabriel mountains north of Pasadena.

64 • November 2021 | Towman.com



Lowdown

Gathering of Generals By Steve Calitri

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

O

ne long-time participant of AT Expo once remarked, “Baltimore is like a networking event on steroids.” There’s several reasons for that perception and the biggest one is the tow boss himself. Tow bosses are like generals in a war theater overseeing the tactics of the trade. He deploys tow operators with wreckers to deal with skirmishes (the random call, a car gone into a ditch), major battles (multivehicle recoveries of a highway incident) and special ops (rescue scenes, a vehicle in a river or tottering on a bridge rail). As the top-ranking officer of his company he plots the overall strategy for the business; paths for growth, which call segments to focus on and cultivate, when and where to diversify, fleet equipment acquisitions, etc. The tow boss is a general who finds himself in a war zone where many nations or tribes (competing companies) are fighting for turf. He, or she, is thus isolated in the war. It’s rare that another army will join forces with his or a white flag of truce is raised on the battlefield. There is seldom peace. Police rotation lists and rule of law keep towers

66 • November 2021 | Towman.com

from each other’s throat as effectively as the United Nations keeps the peace in the Middle East. When these Generals gather in Baltimore for the American Towman Exposition, as they will November 12-14 this year, it will be for more than looking over the latest war gear. Though this purpose alone is reason enough for any general to show up. Beyond scouting for products and services that can give him an advantage in the field, the General is in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to share notes with other Generals. There are many Pattons in our industry, Johnson in Massachusetts, Myers in Ohio, Bennet in Texas, to name a few. When they come to Baltimore they are there not just for a premium cigar and photo shoot with the other legendary commanders of our industry. They are there to hear battle reports from their peers, listening for a shred of intelligence that may be relevant to their operations. Of course, if nothing else, they feel inspired from rubbing shoulders with the greatest Generals of our time. The Generals (tow bosses) in Baltimore, in the Harbor and inside the Baltimore Convention Center, roam freely about a neutral land. Odds are they will not have a run-in with an enemy faction. These Generals have come from all 50 states of the Union and some 20 foreign nations. For the most part, they represent the most aggressive towing companies in their town. In the event a competitor also shows in Baltimore, the odds are small that among the thousands there he will run into his arch rival. But if, against the odds, he does, the rules of neutrality apply in Baltimore as if it were Switzerland. There is rarely if ever a war with a clean beginning and end. Winning is seldom absolute, and losing is not forever. In the tow battlefields, it has been an endless war. Baltimore is where the Generals come for a port in the storm.



Case Closed

Gone But Not Forgotten When an Employee Becomes a Competitor By Josh Brown

T

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

here’s nothing like getting a call, informing you that your customers are leaving your company. Then you find out that your former employee, in whom you invested years and lots of resources—is the one taking them from you. This happens to tow and recovery companies all the time, but there is a way to deal with it. Here’s one example: Ryan, Brutus, and Urban are former employees of Tow & Recovery Inc. (T&R) who recently left the company and started their own companies. T&R is losing business as a result. These three gentlemen were tow and recovery specialists who learned their profession well. T&R had a large contract with the local municipality, which kept this operation very busy and made a good amount of money. T&R had invested heavily in developing this relationship with the municipality, purchasing millions of dollars in the equipment that the municipality needed. T&R also spent large amounts of time developing relationships with local politicos. T&R even paid for Ryan to have an expense account, so he could spend more time with the local officials.

North 68 • November 2021 | Towman.com

Ryan and Brutus were T&R’s top guys. Both started with no experience in the field whatsoever. To better serve their client, T&R paid for Ryan and Brutus to receive additional training and education, in addition to their on-the-job training. The company also paid for them to attend American Towman events. T&R’s owner took his own time to train the two on how to use new equipment, so both could be more valuable to the company. As Ryan and Brutus’ experience and skills grew, so did their relationships with the local municipality. In fact, Ryan and Brutus became the face of the company to the local officials. The city even began calling them directly for tow calls. Urban was a long-time employee of T&R, being hired long before the current ownership took over. Urban had his own clients and largely his own equipment. He simply put the T&R name on his truck, solely because he did not want to handle money and human resources, and all the things that go along with running a business. Urban worked the same geographic area as T&R, but only did small tow jobs for a few clients. Although T&R could and would do such jobs, it was not


T&R’s primary business. Urban was the only one who worked for those clients, and T&R’s ownership never met Urban’s clients. One day, Ryan and the Mayor made a deal—the municipality would move their contract over to Ryan, if he left T&R and do so at a lower price. Without him, the employer would be hard-pressed to find someone to take over his responsibilities, given the extensive investment made in his career. Even so, Ryan quit and started his own company. Then the municipality quickly opened up bids for a new contract, which he then provided. The next day, Brutus found a defunct tow and recovery company about 500 miles away in Ann Arbor City. Brutus took out a loan and bought the company. Brutus only served the local Ann Arbor market, which was a market T&R did not serve.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

The next day after that, Urban found a company, called Bobcat’s Bookkeeping LLC, that would handle money and do human resources work for him. He hired Bobcat’s Bookkeeping company and started his own business. All Urban’s clients immediately fired T&R and hired Urban’s new business. T&R filed lawsuits against all three. All three had signed non-compete agreements. Unfortunately, tow-recovery companies often face situations with employees where it is difficult to enforce a contractual agreement. The towing business is very competitive and requires highly skilled specialists, who are good workers, can operate the equipment, and navigate control of a chaotic scene. Companies must invest incredible resources into developing these specialists.

It takes time, money, risk, and sacrifice. Meanwhile, employees do not always want to repay your investment. Once they become highly skilled, they may want to start their own tow-recovery company—using the skills you gave them. To protect their investment, many companies use non-compete agreements. So the question is: who wins on each of these lawsuits noted above? The first answer is (as always with lawyers) “it depends.” How well did T&R write its noncompete agreement? Under what circumstances did the employee sign it? Did T&R include a condition for continued employment on the signature? Did T&R offer a bonus for signing the contract? Each of these questions, and others, could influence the enforceability of the non-compete agreement right

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • North 69



out of the gate. The second answer is again, “it depends.” Let’s say the contract was signed under conditions that would not be a problem for T&R. The next question is whether the contract protects more than the company is allowed to protect. The company is allowed to protect its own products and its own investments. It is not allowed, however, to protect things it did not create and did not invest in. This is called the company’s “protectable interest.” The third question is yet again, “it depends.” Let’s say there are no problems in how the agreement was executed and the agreement only covers the employer’s protectable interest. The next question the court will ask is if the agreement is unduly harmful to the former employee or the community. Court generally will not enforce contracts that put people

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • North 71


completely out of work or deprive communities of highly-needed skilled workers. For example, courts rarely enforce non-compete agreements against medical doctors, because it would harm society to do so. Here, Ryan’s contract is clearly more enforceable than Brutus’. Ryan is directly competing with his former employer. Ryan is taking business from the former employer. Ryan is using investment made by T&R to his own advantage, which is essentially stealing the investment T&R made, both in Ryan’s professional development and the relationship with the municipality. Before enforcing the contract, the court will generally look at whether the employee is profiting from something Ryan did not make the investment to create. Certainly, Ryan’s good work and relationship management was partially a product of his own investment, not just T&R’s.

North 72 • November 2021 | Towman.com


Even so, Ryan was being paid to make that investment, whereas T&R was paying for it. In other words, arguably, Ryan was already compensated for his part of the investment. Meanwhile, Ryan is free to practice his business elsewhere and get his own clients. It is unlikely the court will see limitations on direct competition as undue. Next, Ryan and T&R are in a highly competitive business with lots of players. The court will likely not see a noncompete agreement as being unduly harmful to society. Brutus, on the other hand, is not competing with T&R in any way. T&R’s lawsuit against Brutus is weaker, because now, it just looks like T&R just doesn’t want Brutus to make a living at all for himself and wants to deprive the public of his services. Courts will rarely enable this kind of vindictive attitude.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • North 73


The trickier situation is Urban. Urban is competing with T&R and taking its customers. Part of Urban’s new business arises from investments from the former employer. However, the former employer did not really make investments to attain and retain Urban’s clients. Urban developed these relationships entirely on his own, just simply under the banner of T&R. How much T&R’s banner contributed to those relationships is a matter of debate. This situation would need more detail before a court could make a determination, and it may vary state-to-state. Generally speaking, tow companies should engage in practices that minimize these situations (note sidebar). Consult with an experienced lawyer before hiring and training employees. Good practices, in the management of employees and clients, can help avoid these situations.

North 74 • November 2021 | Towman.com


Keys to Enforceable Non-Compete Agreements

The key to making non-compete agreements enforceable is creating the proper record for later use in court. A lawyer attacking a non-compete for a former employee is going to attack three main things that might be defended with having written documentation on file: 1. First, he going to tell the court that the employee had no real choice but to sign the non-compete agreement and the employee was not properly compensated for the detriment he took on when he signed it. 2. Second, the lawyer is going say that the employer is overreaching, greedy, and vindictive—i.e., unduly restricting the employee’s ability to fairly compete in the market. 3. Third, the lawyer may argue that the restrictions—even though otherwise enforceable—are destroying the former employee’s ability to make a living and/or destroying the ability of the community to get a much-needed service.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • North 75



Episode 7

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



Case Closed

Gone But Not Forgotten When an Employee Becomes a Competitor By Josh Brown

T

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

here’s nothing like getting a call, informing you that your customers are leaving your company. Then you find out that your former employee, in whom you invested years and lots of resources—is the one taking them from you. This happens to tow and recovery companies all the time, but there is a way to deal with it. Here’s one example: Ryan, Brutus, and Urban are former employees of Tow & Recovery Inc. (T&R) who recently left the company and started their own companies. T&R is losing business as a result. These three gentlemen were tow and recovery specialists who learned their profession well. T&R had a large contract with the local municipality, which kept this operation very busy and made a good amount of money. T&R had invested heavily in developing this relationship with the municipality, purchasing millions of dollars in the equipment that the municipality needed. T&R also spent large amounts of time developing relationships with local politicos. T&R even paid for Ryan to have an expense account, so he could spend more time with the local officials. Ryan and Brutus were T&R’s top guys.

South 68 • November 2021 | Towman.com

Both started with no experience in the field whatsoever. To better serve their client, T&R paid for Ryan and Brutus to receive additional training and education, in addition to their on-the-job training. The company also paid for them to attend American Towman events. T&R’s owner took his own time to train the two on how to use new equipment, so both could be more valuable to the company. As Ryan and Brutus’ experience and skills grew, so did their relationships with the local municipality. In fact, Ryan and Brutus became the face of the company to the local officials. The city even began calling them directly for tow calls. Urban was a long-time employee of T&R, being hired long before the current ownership took over. Urban had his own clients and largely his own equipment. He simply put the T&R name on his truck, solely because he did not want to handle money and human resources, and all the things that go along with running a business. Urban worked the same geographic area as T&R, but only did small tow jobs for a few clients. Although T&R could and would do such jobs, it was not T&R’s primary business. Urban was



the only one who worked for those clients, and T&R’s ownership never met Urban’s clients. One day, Ryan and the Mayor made a deal—the municipality would move their contract over to Ryan, if he left T&R and do so at a lower price. Without him, the employer would be hard-pressed to find someone to take over his responsibilities, given the extensive investment made in his career. Even so, Ryan quit and started his own company. Then the municipality quickly opened up bids for a new contract, which he then provided.

situations with employees where it is difficult to enforce a contractual agreement. The towing business is very competitive and requires highly skilled specialists, who are good workers, can operate the equipment, and navigate control of a chaotic scene. Companies must invest incredible resources into developing these specialists. It takes time, money, risk, and sacrifice. Meanwhile, employees do not always want to repay your investment. Once they become highly skilled, they may want to start their own tow-recovery

The towing business is very competitive and requires

highly skilled specialists,

who are good workers, can operate the equipment, and navigate control of a chaotic scene. The next day, Brutus found a defunct tow and recovery company about 500 miles away in Ann Arbor City. Brutus took out a loan and bought the company. Brutus only served the local Ann Arbor market, which was a market T&R did not serve. The next day after that, Urban found a company, called Bobcat’s Bookkeeping LLC, that would handle money and do human resources work for him. He hired Bobcat’s Bookkeeping company and started his own business. All Urban’s clients immediately fired T&R and hired Urban’s new business. T&R filed lawsuits against all three. All three had signed noncompete agreements. Unfortunately, tow-recovery companies often face

company—using the skills you gave them. To protect their investment, many companies use non-compete agreements. So the question is: who wins on each of these lawsuits noted above? The first answer is (as always with lawyers) “it depends.” How well did T&R write its noncompete agreement? Under what circumstances did the employee sign it? Did T&R include a condition for continued employment on the signature? Did T&R offer a bonus for signing the contract? Each of these questions, and others, could influence the enforceability of the non-compete agreement right out of the gate. The second answer is again, “it depends.” Let’s say the contract was

South 70 • November 2021 | Towman.com

signed under conditions that would not be a problem for T&R. The next question is whether the contract protects more than the company is allowed to protect. The company is allowed to protect its own products and its own investments. It is not allowed, however, to protect things it did not create and did not invest in. This is called the company’s “protectable interest.” The third question is yet again, “it depends.” Let’s say there are no problems in how the agreement was executed and the agreement only covers the employer’s protectable interest. The next question the court will ask is if the agreement is unduly harmful to the former employee or the community. Court generally will not enforce contracts that put people completely out of work or deprive communities of highly-needed skilled workers. For example, courts rarely enforce non-compete agreements against medical doctors, because it would harm society to do so. Here, Ryan’s contract is clearly more enforceable than Brutus’. Ryan is directly competing with his former employer. Ryan is taking business from the former employer. Ryan is using investment made by T&R to his own advantage, which is essentially stealing the investment T&R made, both in Ryan’s professional development and the relationship with the municipality. Before enforcing the contract, the court will generally look at whether the employee is profiting from something Ryan did not make the investment to create. Certainly, Ryan’s good work and relationship management was partially a product of his own investment, not just T&R’s. Even so, Ryan was being paid to make that investment, whereas T&R was paying for it. In other words, arguably, Ryan was already compensated for his part of


the investment. Meanwhile, Ryan is free to practice his business elsewhere and get his own clients. It is unlikely the court will see limitations on direct competition as undue. Next, Ryan and T&R are in a highly competitive business with lots of players. The court will likely not see a non-compete agreement as being unduly harmful to society. Brutus, on the other hand, is not competing with T&R in any way. T&R’s lawsuit against Brutus is weaker, because now, it just looks like T&R just doesn’t want Brutus to make a living at all for himself and wants to deprive the public of his services. Courts will rarely enable this kind of vindictive attitude. The trickier situation is Urban. Urban is competing with T&R and taking its customers. Part

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

of Urban’s new business arises from investments from the former employer. However, the former employer did not really make investments to attain and retain Urban’s clients. Urban developed these relationships entirely on his own, just simply under the banner of T&R. How much T&R’s banner contributed to those relationships is a matter of debate. This situation would need more detail before a court could make a determination, and it may vary state-to-state. Generally speaking, tow companies should engage in practices that minimize these situations (note sidebar). Consult with an experienced lawyer before hiring and training employees. Good practices, in the management of employees and clients, can help avoid these situations.

Keys to Enforceable Non-Compete Agreements

The key to making non-compete agreements enforceable is creating the proper record for later use in court. A lawyer attacking a non-compete for a former employee is going to attack three main things that might be defended with having written documentation on file: 1. First, he is going to tell the court that the employee had no real choice but to sign the non-compete agreement and the employee was not properly compensated for the detriment he took on when he signed it. 2. Second, the lawyer is going to say that the employer is overreaching, greedy, and vindictive—i.e., unduly restricting the employee’s ability to fairly compete in the market. 3. Third, the lawyer may argue that the restrictions—even though otherwise enforceable—are destroying the former employee’s ability to make a living and/or destroying the ability of the community to get a much-needed service.

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • South 71


South 72 • November 2021 | Towman.com


Episode 7

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



Case Closed

Gone But Not Forgotten When an Employee Becomes a Competitor By Josh Brown

T

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

here’s nothing like getting a call, informing you that your customers are leaving your company. Then you find out that your former employee, in whom you invested years and lots of resources—is the one taking them from you. This happens to tow and recovery companies all the time, but there is a way to deal with it. Here’s one example: Ryan, Brutus, and Urban are former employees of Tow & Recovery Inc. (T&R) who recently left the company and started their own companies. T&R is losing business as a result. These three gentlemen were tow and recovery specialists who learned their profession well. T&R had a large contract with the local municipality, which kept this operation very busy and made a good amount of money. T&R had invested heavily in developing this relationship with the municipality, purchasing millions of dollars in the equipment that the municipality needed. T&R also spent large amounts of time developing relationships with local politicos. T&R even paid for Ryan to have

Midwest 68 • November 2021 | Towman.com

an expense account, so he could spend more time with the local officials. Ryan and Brutus were T&R’s top guys. Both started with no experience in the field whatsoever. To better serve their client, T&R paid for Ryan and Brutus to receive additional training and education, in addition to their on-the-job training. The company also paid for them to attend American Towman events. T&R’s owner took his own time to train the two on how to use new equipment, so both could be more valuable to the company. As Ryan and Brutus’ experience and skills grew, so did their relationships with the local municipality. In fact, Ryan and Brutus became the face of the company to the local officials. The city even began calling them directly for tow calls. Urban was a long-time employee of T&R, being hired long before the current ownership took over. Urban had his own clients and largely his own equipment. He simply put the T&R name on his truck, solely because he did not want to handle money and human resources, and all the things that go along with running


a business. Urban worked the same geographic area as T&R, but only did small tow jobs for a few clients. Although T&R could and would do such jobs, it was not T&R’s primary business. Urban was the only one who worked for those clients, and T&R’s ownership never met Urban’s clients. One day, Ryan and the Mayor made a deal—the municipality would move their contract over to Ryan, if he left T&R and do so at a lower price. Without him, the employer would be hardpressed to find someone to take over his responsibilities, given the extensive investment made in his career. Even so, Ryan quit and started his own company. Then the municipality quickly opened up bids for a new contract, which he then provided. The next day, Brutus found a defunct tow and recovery company about 500 miles away in Ann Arbor City. Brutus took out a loan and bought the company. Brutus only served the local Ann Arbor market, which was a market T&R did not serve. The next day after that, Urban found a company, called Bobcat’s Bookkeeping LLC, that would handle money and do human resources work for him. He hired Bobcat’s Bookkeeping company and started his own business. All Urban’s clients immediately fired T&R and hired Urban’s new business. T&R filed lawsuits against all three. All three had signed non-compete agreements. Unfortunately, towrecovery companies often face situations with employees where it is difficult to enforce a contractual agreement. The towing business is very competitive and requires highly skilled specialists, who are good workers, can operate the equipment, and navigate control of a chaotic scene. Companies must invest incredible resources into developing these specialists. It takes time, money, risk, and sacrifice. Meanwhile, employees do not always want to repay your investment. Once they become highly skilled, they Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

The towing business is very competitive and requires highly skilled specialists, who are good workers, can operate the equipment, and navigate control of a chaotic scene. Companies must invest incredible resources into developing these specialists. may want to start their own tow-recovery company—using the skills you gave them. To protect their investment, many companies use non-compete agreements. So the question is: who

wins on each of these lawsuits noted above? The first answer is (as always with lawyers) “it depends.” How well did T&R write its non-compete agreement? Under what circumstances

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • Midwest 69


did the employee sign it? Did T&R include a condition for continued employment on the signature? Did T&R offer a bonus for signing the contract? Each of these questions, and others, could influence the enforceability of the non-compete agreement right out of the gate. The second answer is again, “it depends.” Let’s say the contract was signed under conditions that would not be a problem for T&R. The next question is whether the contract protects more than the company is allowed to protect. The company is allowed to protect its own products and its own investments. It is not allowed, however, to protect things it did not create and did not invest in. This is called the company’s “protectable interest.” The third question is yet again, “it depends.” Let’s say there are no problems in how the agreement was executed and the agreement only covers the employer’s protectable interest. The next question the court will ask is if the agreement is unduly harmful to the former employee or the community. Court generally will not enforce contracts that put people completely out of work or deprive communities of highly-needed skilled workers. For example, courts rarely enforce non-compete agreements against medical doctors, because it would harm society to do so. Here, Ryan’s contract is clearly more enforceable than Brutus’. Ryan is directly competing with his former employer. Ryan is taking business from the former employer. Ryan is using investment made by T&R to his own advantage, which is essentially stealing the investment T&R made, both in

Ryan’s professional development and the relationship with the municipality. Before enforcing the contract, the court will generally look at whether the employee is profiting from something Ryan did not make the investment to create. Certainly, Ryan’s good work and relationship management was partially a product of his own investment, not just T&R’s. Even so, Ryan was being paid to make that investment, whereas T&R was paying for it. In other words, arguably, Ryan was already compensated for his part of the investment. Meanwhile, Ryan is free to practice his business elsewhere and get his own clients. It is unlikely the court will see limitations on direct competition as undue. Next, Ryan and T&R are in a highly competitive business with lots of players. The court will likely not see a non-compete agreement as being unduly harmful to society. Brutus, on the other hand, is not competing with T&R in any way. T&R’s lawsuit against Brutus is weaker, because now, it just looks like T&R just doesn’t want Brutus to make a living at all for himself and wants to deprive the public of his services. Courts will rarely enable this kind of vindictive attitude. The trickier situation is Urban. Urban is competing with T&R and taking its customers. Part of Urban’s new business arises from investments from the former employer. However, the former employer did not really make investments to attain and retain Urban’s clients. Urban developed these relationships entirely on his own, just simply under the banner of T&R. How much T&R’s banner contributed to those relationships

Midwest 70 • November 2021 | Towman.com

Keys to Enforceable Non-Compete Agreements

The key to making non-compete agreements enforceable is creating the proper record for later use in court. A lawyer attacking a non-compete for a former employee is going to attack three main things that might be defended with having written documentation on file: 1. First, he is going to tell the court that the employee had no real choice but to sign the non-compete agreement and the employee was not properly compensated for the detriment he took on when he signed it. 2. Second, the lawyer is going to say that the employer is overreaching, greedy, and vindictive—i.e., unduly restricting the employee’s ability to fairly compete in the market. 3. Third, the lawyer may argue that the restrictions—even though otherwise enforceable— are destroying the former employee’s ability to make a living and/or destroying the ability of the community to get a much-needed service.

is a matter of debate. This situation would need more detail before a court could make a determination, and it may vary state-to-state. Generally speaking, tow companies should engage in practices that minimize these situations (note sidebar). Consult with an experienced lawyer before hiring and training employees. Good practices, in the management of employees and clients, can help avoid these situations.

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


News Flash

Roadside Assistance Co. Employs New Technology

HONK, a digital assistance platform and vehicle transport company, plans to deploy its accident-scene information services solution, FirstOnScene. With this service, insurance carriers can receive photos, video and information detailing vehicle damage while the vehicle is still on scene. HONK claims that as a result, carriers can reduce the claim cycle time by three to five days, cutting the time required to settle roughly in half. Tow operators from the HONK network capture photos and video via HONK’s platform, which optimizes them for analysis by third-party AI platforms. Images and video are also available to claims adjusters for viewing via their preferred claims management software. Insurance carriers receive the data points required to settle a claim while the customer’s vehicle is still at the

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

scene of an accident. Customers can receive a settlement or their repaired vehicles back faster. Also, insurers save up to $800 per claim by reducing costly delays such as vehicle storage, impound fees, secondary tows and rental car days. “HONK’s nationwide network of tow providers and our technology platform create a powerful combination that’s ideally suited to accelerate the accident scene claims process,” said Rochelle Thielen, Chief Revenue Officer at HONK. Source: wfxrtv.com

Used Car Market Heats Up

The used-vehicle market is heating up again, spiking 5.3 percent in

September, after three months of declines. The report comes from Manheim, the largest auto auction operator in the U.S. Several factors are causing an increase in demand of used vehicles and the spike in prices. First, there are tight supplies of new vehicles due to chip shortages and factory closures resulting from the covid crisis. The low supply is also a result of a sharp decline in sales at auctions by the three largest categories of sellers in the wholesale market: rental vehicles, offlease vehicles and repo companies selling repos. Since rental companies are having a harder time getting their hands on new vehicles, they are holding their rental cars longer. For the repo business, low lending rates and a moratorium on repos during the covid crisis have reduced the numbers of cars at used-vehicle auctions. Source: wolfstreet.com

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • Midwest 71


Midwest 72 • November 2021 | Towman.com


Episode 7

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



Case Closed

Gone But Not Forgotten When an Employee Becomes a Competitor By Josh Brown

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

here’s nothing like getting a call, informing you that your customers are leaving your company. Then you find out that your former employee, in whom you invested years and lots of resources—is the one taking them from you. This happens to tow and recovery companies all the time, but there is a way to deal with it. Here’s one example: Ryan, Brutus, and Urban are former employees of Tow & Recovery Inc. (T&R) who recently left the company and started their own companies. T&R is losing business as a result. These three gentlemen were tow and recovery specialists who learned their profession well. T&R had a large contract with the local municipality, which kept this operation very busy and made a good amount of money. T&R had invested heavily in developing this relationship with the municipality, purchasing millions of dollars in the equipment that the municipality needed. T&R also spent large amounts of time developing relationships with local politicos. T&R even paid for Ryan to have an expense account, so he could spend more time with the local officials. Ryan and Brutus were T&R’s top guys. Both started with no experience in the field whatsoever. To better serve their client, T&R paid for Ryan and Brutus to

West 68 • November 2021 | Towman.com

receive additional training and education, in addition to their on-the-job training. The company also paid for them to attend American Towman events. T&R’s owner took his own time to train the two on how to use new equipment, so both could be more valuable to the company. As Ryan and Brutus’ experience and skills grew, so did their relationships with the local municipality. In fact, Ryan and Brutus became the face of the company to the local officials. The city even began calling them directly for tow calls. Urban was a long-time employee of T&R, being hired long before the current ownership took over. Urban had his own clients and largely his own equipment. He simply put the T&R name on his truck, solely because he did not want to handle money and human resources, and all the things that go along with running a business. Urban worked the same geographic area as T&R, but only did small tow jobs for a few clients. Although T&R could and would do such jobs, it was not T&R’s primary business. Urban was the only one who worked for those clients, and T&R’s ownership never met Urban’s clients. One day, Ryan and the Mayor made a deal—the municipality would move their contract over to Ryan, if he left T&R and do so at a lower price. Without him, the employer would be hard-pressed to find someone to take over his responsibilities, given the extensive investment made in his career. Even so, Ryan quit and started his own company. Then the municipality quickly opened up bids for a new contract, which he then provided. The next day, Brutus found a defunct tow and recovery company about 500 miles away in Ann Arbor City. Brutus took out a loan and bought the company. Brutus only served the local Ann Arbor market, which was a market T&R did not serve.


The next day after that, Urban found a company, called Bobcat’s Bookkeeping LLC, that would handle money and do human resources work for him. He hired Bobcat’s Bookkeeping company and started his own business. All Urban’s clients immediately fired T&R and hired Urban’s new business. T&R filed lawsuits against all three. All three had signed noncompete agreements. Unfortunately, tow-recovery companies often face situations with employees where it is difficult to enforce a contractual agreement. The towing business is very competitive and requires highly skilled specialists, who are good workers, can operate the equipment, and navigate control of a chaotic scene. Companies must invest incredible resources into developing these specialists. It takes time, money, risk, and sacrifice.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

Meanwhile, employees do not always want to repay your investment. Once they become highly skilled, they may want to start their own tow-recovery company—using the skills you gave them. To protect their investment, many companies use non-compete agreements. So the question is: who wins on each of these lawsuits noted above? The first answer is (as always with lawyers) “it depends.” How well did T&R write its non-compete agreement? Under what circumstances did the employee sign it? Did T&R include a condition for continued employment on the signature? Did T&R offer a bonus for signing the contract? Each of these questions, and others, could influence the enforceability of the non-compete agreement right out of the gate. The second answer is again, “it

depends.” Let’s say the contract was signed under conditions that would not be a problem for T&R. The next question is whether the contract protects more than the company is allowed to protect. The company is allowed to protect its own products and its own investments. It is not allowed, however, to protect things it did not create and did not invest in. This is called the company’s “protectable interest.” The third question is yet again, “it depends.” Let’s say there are no problems in how the agreement was executed and the agreement only covers the employer’s protectable interest. The next question the court will ask is if the agreement is unduly harmful to the former employee or the community. Court generally will not enforce contracts that put people completely out of work or deprive communities of highly-needed skilled

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • West 69


workers. For example, courts rarely enforce non-compete agreements against medical doctors, because it would harm society to do so. Here, Ryan’s contract is clearly more enforceable than Brutus’. Ryan is directly competing with his former employer. Ryan is taking business from the former employer. Ryan is using investment made by T&R to his own advantage, which is essentially stealing the investment T&R made, both in Ryan’s professional development and the relationship with the municipality. Before enforcing the contract, the court will generally look at whether the employee is profiting from something Ryan did not make the investment to create. Certainly, Ryan’s good work and relationship management was partially a product of his own investment, not just T&R’s. Even so, Ryan was

being paid to make that investment, whereas T&R was paying for it. In other words, arguably, Ryan was already compensated for his part of the investment. Meanwhile, Ryan is free to practice his business elsewhere and get his own clients. It is unlikely the court will see limitations on direct competition as undue. Next, Ryan and T&R are in a highly competitive business with lots of players. The court will likely not see a non-compete agreement as being unduly harmful to society. Brutus, on the other hand, is not competing with T&R in any way. T&R’s lawsuit against Brutus is weaker, because now, it just looks like T&R just doesn’t want Brutus to make a living at all for himself and wants to deprive the public of his services. Courts will rarely enable this kind of vindictive attitude. The trickier situation is Urban.

West 70 • November 2021 | Towman.com

Urban is competing with T&R and taking its customers. Part of Urban’s new business arises from investments from the former employer. However, the former employer did not really make investments to attain and retain Urban’s clients. Urban developed these relationships entirely on his own, just simply under the banner of T&R. How much T&R’s banner contributed to those relationships is a matter of debate. This situation would need more detail before a court could make a determination, and it may vary state-to-state. Generally speaking, tow companies should engage in practices that minimize these situations (note sidebar). Consult with an experienced lawyer before hiring and training employees. Good practices, in the management of employees and clients, can help avoid these situations.


Keys to Enforceable Non-Compete Agreements

The key to making non-compete agreements enforceable is creating the proper record for later use in court. A lawyer attacking a non-compete for a former employee is going to attack three main things that might be defended with having written documentation on file: 1. First, he is going to tell the court that the employee had no real choice but to sign the non-compete agreement and the employee was not properly compensated for the detriment he took on when he signed it. 2. Second, the lawyer is going to say that the employer is overreaching, greedy, and vindictive—i.e., unduly restricting the employee’s ability to fairly compete in the market. 3. Third, the lawyer may argue that the restrictions—even though otherwise enforceable—are destroying the former employee’s ability to make a living and/or destroying the ability of the community to get a much-needed service.

Work the non-traffic side - Stay Safe!

AmericanTowman.com | November 2021 • West 71


West 72 • November 2021 | Towman.com


Episode 7

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