The Week's Features
Crews find tow truck that crashed in river March 26
Doug Yates Towing responds to fallen concrete beam
New X-Series Dolly offer sealed hubs that never need grease
Masking technique on graphics makes them stand out
Skip-Tracing Certification Course to be released at NARS
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TIM Training in Las Vegas

Just added to the American Towman Academy during Tow Industry Week in Las Vegas is Traffic Incident Management training on Wednesday, May 8, from 1-5 p.m.

This multiagency incident management class is being required all over the U.S. for towing providers that participate in law enforcement tow rotation.

Attendees of this four-hour training will receive a certificate for participating in hands-on training. The TIM training will be facilitated by Jose Norena, operations manager of Big Valley Towing in Las Vegas, Nevada. Representatives from Nevada Highway Patrol, NDOT Maintenance, Las Vegas Fire and Parsons Transportation will be on-hand sharing their expertise as well.

This course will help kick off Tow Industry Week and the American Towman ShowPlace at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 8-11.

Source: AT staff.
How to Spot a Wrecker in Trouble: With AT Operations Editor Randy Resch

Towers Need Law Enforcement On-Scene More

DSCN11634 600x450 0e3beBy Randall C. Resch
Image – Null’s Towing; Cochranville, Pennsylvania

In a perfect world, law enforcement should be on-scene at highway-related tow events; all tow trucks should have red and blue emergency lighting, and traffic breaks or slowed escort of traffic should accompany every load operation—even if only for a few minutes until the tow truck is loaded and safely on its way.

We need help from law enforcement to recognize the need for on-scene highway protection. We agonize over the repeated failures of current highway protocol to protect tow operators working highway shoulders.

I’ve written for American Towman since 1996 and have confirmed as many as 225 highway-related operator fatalities in 22 years. I’ve taught thousands of tow operators and police officers the value of not walking, working, or standing on the white-line side. I’ve arranged and attended numerous funeral processions and written many safety articles on this topic. Unfortunately, towmen still work the white-line side and continue to be killed.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Apply this quote to on-highway response and see how our actions fit the definition.

Why hasn’t the towing and recovery industry not attacked this problem?

Recommendations Still Ignored

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. is the federal agency responsible for researching the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In numerous tow-related investigations, findings recommended need for law enforcement on-scene.

The following two operator fatalities held similar recommendations by NIOSH:

Example One: October 3, 2016, a tow truck driver loaded a disabled pickup onto his flatbed carrier on the southbound shoulder of a four-lane, undivided highway. As the victim was entering the tow truck’s cab on the traffic-facing side of the truck, an oncoming van swerved into the emergency lane and struck him, causing fatal injuries.

Example Two: September 19, 2016, a tow truck owner-operator was loading a disabled vehicle onto his flatbed tow truck on the westbound shoulder of a four-lane controlled access highway. The victim was on the traffic-facing lane side securing the vehicle to his tow truck when the operator of an oncoming car traveling in the same direction failed to move over, veered over the edge-line, striking the tow operator and the side of the tow truck.

NIOSH Recommendations were:

• Tow truck drivers should limit the amount of time spent on the traffic-facing side of the truck.

• High-visibility such as safety vests should be worn at all times while working at roadside.

• Law enforcement should be present to aid in traffic control when vehicles are towed from the roadside.

• There should be increased public awareness of the “Move-Over Law”

• Tow truck operators should utilize portable emergency warning devices such as bi-directional reflective triangles.

• Tow truck operators and owners should consider attending National TIM Training.

The towing and recovery industry would like to see protocol initiated that suggests law enforcement accompany highway related tow scenarios. If red and blue lights are restricted to law enforcement, towmen don’t have the color advantage that red and blue lights solicit.

As law enforcement is tasked with being parked at highway construction zones during day and night construction hours, why are we towers left unprotected?

Having that in-mind, I’ll ask the law enforcement community: Why don’t towmen have the luxury of on-scene police protection in the same manner?” Doesn’t that scream the definition of “insanity”?

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week’s Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.

Prepared for Retirement?

How prepared are you for retirement? How set are you financially? What are your plans for who will succeed you in the business? Do you have a family member to take it over? Perhaps you currently have a trusted, talented employee who’s sharp enough to take it over?

These are very important questions that you need to have in front of you every day that you unlock the gates to your business. Fact is, 71 percent of entrepreneurs plan to retire in the next 10 years, but most are woefully unprepared. According to Northwestern Mutual, a financial services company, nearly half (46%) of adults have taken no steps to prepare for the likelihood that they could outlive their savings.

If it’s your company, TODAY is the day to consider your answers to the questions asked at the top of this column. Procrastination is not an option.

You may want to attend a very, very important seminar being given by Jim Silverman of the Automotive Training Institute at Tow Industry Week in Las Vegas. Titled, “Effective Succession Planning,” Silverman will cover everything you need to consider so that you can ride easily into the sunset when you’re ready. Can’t make it out to Las Vegas? Then be sure to see the Seminar Spotlight article in the May issue of American Towman where Silverman will address these issues.

--Charles Duke

Tow Eye Strap from Zip’s AW Direct

Eye Straps 3a88bZip’s AW Direct Tow Eye Strap fits most OEM tow eyes. It’s PVB-coated to protect against water, dirt and sun, this and its finished edges is designed to resist tears, cuts and abrasions. Reflective striping adds visibility and increases safety. See all that Zip’s AW Direct has to offer at the American Towman Showplace, taking place at the South Point Hotel & Casino, May 8-11, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

zips.com
By Don Lomax
Click to enlarge
I get most of my tow industry news via:
my phone
my laptop/desktop computer
local newspaper
radio/television
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Editor: Charles Duke
Managing Editor: Brendan Dooley
ATTV Editor & Anchor: Emily Oz
Advertising Sales (800-732-3869):
Dennie Ortiz x213, Ellen Rosengart x203,
William Burwell x208, Peggy Calabrese x202
Content Management: Henri Calitri
Site Progr., Graphics & Video: Ryan Oser
ATTV Technical Production: OMG National
Wrecks + Recovery Editor: Jim "Buck" Sorrenti
Operations Editor: Randall C. Resch
Tow Business Editor: Brian J. Riker
Tow Illustrated Editor: George L. Nitti
American Towman Wire • 04-21-2019

It Only Takes 10 Robot Dogs to Tow a Truck

Boston Dynamics has been producing impressive yet unsettling robots, often in vaguely humanoid or animalistic forms. One of their robots, a canine-like machine called SpotMini, will be available for sale later this year. If you want to use these robots to tow trucks but aren’t sure how many you’ll need, Boston Dynamics has tested that. You’ll need to buy 10 of these dogbots to tow a truck, specifically a medium-sized box truck, up a 1-degree slope, with the truck in neutral. Cost of the SpotMinis hasn’t been determined yet; however you can almost guarantee that 10 of them will be more than finding a used tow truck on Craigslist, and the tow truck will likely be faster. Source: jalopnik.com.

Detroit City Council Upholds Tow Company Bans

The Detroit (Michigan) City Council voted Tuesday to uphold bans on several local towing companies and their owners from doing business with the city. City officials in May 2018 suspended Detroit tow companies Javion & Sam’s, Gene’s Towing and B&G Towing from the tow rotation after former Detroit Inspector General James Heath wrote a letter to Mayor Mike Duggan alleging the firms were secretly owned by towing magnate Gasper Fiore. Heath barred Fiore and Boulevard & Trumbull from doing business with the city for 20 years. He also barred Fiore's ex-wife Joan Fiore, listed owner for Javion & Sons, and daughter Jennifer Fiore for 15 years each. Also barred by Heath: Gasper and Joan Fiore's other daughter, Jessica Lucas, for 10 years; Paul Ott, Gene’s Towing Inc. and City Wide Towing Inc. for seven years; and Anthony Thomas and B&G Towing for seven years. Source: detroitnews.com.

New Class 5 Models Planned by Isuzu

Isuzu Commercial Truck of America announced production plans for its 2019 and 2020 model-year lineup. Two new Class 5 models are planned: the NQR Gas (with a target GVWR of 17,950 lbs.) and the NRR Gas (with a target GVWR of 19,500 lbs.) Both will be powered by a General Motors 6.0L Vortec V-8 supplied by PSI, and will be mated to an Allison 1000 RDS transmission with PTO gear. “We’re thrilled to bring the convenience and low cost of ownership of our N-Series gasoline truck to Class 5 and a whole new group of customers,” said Shaun C. Skinner, president of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America and Isuzu Commercial Truck of Canada. Production is expected to begin in mid-2020. Source: isuzucv.com.


Don't Miss It!
Learn how recent changes to mobile web architecture, quick-load content creation, click to call ads and customer review requests will affect how you get found online. Dennis Wencel of Lift Marketing Group will conduct a seminar on “Keep Pace With Google Changes,” taking place during Tow Industry Week at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 9, 10 a.m.

atshowplace.com
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April 08 - April 15, 2019
The tow truck that crashed into the Sacramento River on March 26 carrying Shalvinesh and Roselyn Sharma, owners of Justin’s Towing of Sacramento, California, is brought up by a crane working with tugboat and barge crews. The body of Roselyn (left, inset) was inside; Shalvinesh’s (right) body was discovered April 11. Images: fox40.com.

Sacramento Tow Truck Recovered; Body Inside

With a crane and a team of divers, crews pulled a tow truck out of the Sacramento River in West Sacramento, California, April 14 and found the body of Roselyn Sharma inside.

"Now we can do the service but at the same time, we lost our loved ones," said Roselyn Sharma's brother, Donald Singh.

Nearly three weeks ago, the California Highway Patrol says Sharma and her husband, Shalvinesh, were inside of the tow truck when it crashed with a semi, sending the tow truck over the Pioneer Bridge and into the water.


Husband Shalvinesh Sharma's body was found in the river April 11 near Garcia Bend Park. The CHP is still investigating what exactly caused the initial crash.

The family can now prepare a funeral for Roselyn and Shalvinesh.

"We think that this could have been done better, faster, an easier way," Singh said.

The CHP said recovery was delayed by dangerous river conditions. Crews also had to wait on money from the family’s insurance company.

"This is a city of rivers, two rivers combined in the same city," Singh said. "They should have something like an emergency barge just to be prepared to be here all the time."

Source: fox40.com.

Spirit Ride Hiatus for 2019

The American Towman Spirit Ride is taking a hiatus in 2019 after a successful two-year campaign in 2017-’18 that relayed the Spirit casket in 308 towns and cities across America.

The processions included approximately 10,000 tow trucks and other emergency service vehicles in a groundbreaking campaign promoting Move Over laws.

The Ride generated 700 news articles and television news stories covering its ceremonies and processions and the Move Over message.

The non-profit project hopes to raise the funds necessary to re-launch in 2020.

Source: AT staff.

Towman Died Changing Bus Tire

Kevin Raasch, owner of TransMasters Towing and Roadside Recovery in Lawrence, Kansas, was crushed to death while changing a tire on a college baseball team’s bus.

Police said Raasch died April 7 on the Baker University campus.

A local newspaper said that Raasch was trying to release the jack after changing the tire when he was pinned under the back of the large motor coach.

Several players and coaches lifted the bus and pulled Raasch out, but he died at the scene.

Source: fox4kc.com.

Companies Call Flat Rate Ordinance Unfair

The city of Orange, Texas, recently reviewed its tow truck ordinance after concerns for its rotation list were questioned. After the ordinance was presented to the council in March for the council to review, it stirred up more than the rotation list policy as one change affected fees.

Fees for towing non-consent vehicles would now allow up to a maximum of $175, according to the changes.

Robbie Rider, with Gilbeaux’s Towing, presented the council with pictures of wrecks in which the company had been on the scene.

“It took three wreckers to clean the mess up,” Rider said about one photo. “This is one of an 18-wheeler on top of an Accord. What you don’t see is the victim is still inside the vehicle. It took seven hours on this one. It can’t be done for $175.”

Another picture presented was of a vehicle in the water in which the tow company had to swim out to the car in order to be able to retrieve it.

“You can’t put a flat rate on recovery,” Rider said. “It’s not feasible.”

In a previous meeting on the matter, Richard Gilbeaux said the ordinance is not fair and tow truck owners should have been included in the process.

Council member Annette Pernell thanked Rider for speaking during Citizen Comments at the meeting.

“This does help,” Pernell said. “A limit should not be our decision. What you do may not be glamorous but is done to help somebody.”

Council member Terrie Salter pointed out caps are there to protect citizens from abuse but agreed the ordinance needs to be looked at again.

Council member Paul Burch, also a business owner, said, “In my opinion, the city does not have the place to tell someone how much to charge. Not in my salon. Not in Brad’s repair shop.”

Source: orangeleader.com.

Tow Company Accused of Theft, Fraud

A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, towing company has been charged with racketeer influence and corrupt organization, theft by deception, deceptive practices and insurance fraud.

Police said the owners of Hooked Inc., Joseph Moreno and Dwight Williamsm, surrendered to police last month.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office argues Hooked would essentially hold victims’ cars for ransom money. Its operators allegedly did whatever it took to get the victim of a crash to sign the dotted line that would allow Hooked to tow their car.

Hooked’s attorney William Brennan plans to fight every charge.

Source: philadelphia.cbslocal.com.

Hino Launches New Accessories Website

Hino Trucks line of chrome accessories, HinoStyle, now has its own website.

The new dedicated site, hinostyle.com, features an interactive experience that allows customers to quickly navigate and view the accessories needed to add a custom look to their truck and is designed to make locating and ordering these parts effortless.

For a limited time Hino owners can register for an opportunity to win $3,000 in HinoStyle accessories when visiting the new site.

Source: hinostyle.com.
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April 08 - April 15, 2019

The Catch of the Day

0 Crippled Creek ea070By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

Jae Jones started Jae’s Towing & Recovery in 1992 in Heath, Ohio. Jae’s son Nick Jones is the Operations Manager and rotator operator for the family business.

On February 25 Jae’s was called by the local sheriff’s office asking them to respond with a heavy unit to recover a pickup truck in the creek.

“It was an early Sunday morning fishing trip in the creek for dad, Jacob and me,” Nick said.

Nick responded with his 2016 Kenworth T880 Century 1150 50-ton rotator. Jae and Jacob headed to the scene in their Century flatbed.

“The incident happened in Licking County on Licking Trails Road,” Nick informed. “The pick-up driver had been drinking and speeding, lost control and went into the water.”

When the recovery crew arrived on scene they saw the pickup over the guardrail lying on its belly with its driver’s side leaning under water. The front-end, hood, windshield and roof were crushed.

Jae and Jacob went into the creek with two rim slings and rigged to the rear axle of the pickup. Rim slings are rigging/recovery product that are for attaching to aluminum rim hand holes when traditional round slings won't fit. It’s made from a high-quality synthetic rope with a cordura protective sleeve to prevent premature wear. It maintains a high working load limit and has a greater lifespan then a round sling.

Once it was rigged Nick fished the casualty out of the water by its rear axle. Hanging from both lines, it was the catch of the day. He lifted it up over the guardrail and set it onto the roadway. The rigging was disconnected from the pickup and it was winched onto their Century flatbed and Jacob towed the truck back to their lot.

Nick jested, “High water and vehicles don’t mix, I didn’t get wet and dad didn’t even mess his hair up.”

(Note: this article originally ran in the March 7, 2018 edition of Tow Industry Week)
Show Yours @ TIW
Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim “Buck” Sorrenti at jimchaos69@yahoo.com; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!

I-75 Bridge Collapse

0 IMG 1817 copy c8f20By Brendan Dooley

On April 1, 2019, a chunk of concrete beam fell from a bridge over Interstate 75 South in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the Interstate 24 split. It hit a car and injured the driver, who was extracted and taken to hospital.

The large beam however was blocking the interstate as it leaned against the bridge above. Officials called on nearby Doug Yates Towing & Recovery to respond to the scene and help get the road clear.

Shannon Yates, VP of Doug Yates Towing 7 Recovery, said they sent two rotators to the scene, expecting to rig and lift the concrete beam off the structure it was leaning on and out of the way.

“They called us immediately because they knew we could respond more quickly respond than a crane getting there,” Yates said. “First we had to get the beam off the bridge where it was still hanging.”

Officials on-scene decided it was too dangerous for anyone to try and rig the top of the beam, so the Yates crew was instructed to drag the concrete off the bridge. They used their Peterbilt twin-steer/Century 1075 75-ton rotator to do the work.

“We hooked it from the bottom and winched it until it fell and hit the roadway; once it did that it broke in two and we went in with torches to cut the rebar loose,” Yates said. “When the concrete was one big chunk, it was about 83,000 lbs., but it broke in two pieces. We used torches to cut through the rebar.”

Yates said the big piece weighed 50,000 lbs. and the little chunk weighed about 33,000 lbs.

“When the two pieces were free of each other, we picked each one up and set it over the guardrail and out of the way,” Yates said.
There was lots of media coverage of the event.

“It seemed like we had everyone from the city of Chattanooga out there, from the mayor to state engineers and anyone else,” Yates said. “It was like five hours for total of us on scene getting it cleaned up doing what we had to do as those other people did what they needed doing like investigation and pictures and documentation on what they thought caused the bridge to fail.

“We’d move it a little bit, and then they’d go back and do more investigations and check things over again. … Originally we just thought we were going out to lift the beam off and set it down.”

Other than that winch-and-drop development, it was just a heavy-lift scenario, said Yates.

“It was just basic heavy lifting; we used our 75-ton Miller rotator to pick up the chunks and pieces and rotate them over the guardrail and set ’em down out of the way,” Yates said.

“Then they brought in an excavator with a big hammer and broke it up into pieces and buried it.”

Brendan Dooley has been the editor of American Towman since 2011after serving as the editor of two magazines covering the auto repair industry for shop owners, techs and tool distributors.His experience includes hard news on daily newspapers and editorial leadership at vintage motorcycle and car magazines. Brendan is WreckMaster 6/7A certified.

Old Iron Warrior to the Rescue

0 Old Iron Warrior TIW 4 copy 6c518By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

Established in 1994, Mountain Towing & Recovery in Cedar City, Utah, is owned and operated by Wayne Hall. They handle light, medium, and heavy towing, 4×4 off-road recovery, and FAA-licensed A&P aircraft recovery and also utilize owner/operator drivers to get any job done.

At 8:30 a.m. on March 10, 2019, Wayne received a call for a stuck semi.

“I got called from the truck driver that he had pulled into a vacant lot and became mired in clay,” Hall said. “We had been getting a considerable amount of rain and the ground was already saturated by snow melt. The tractor was a 2019 Volvo with a loaded 53’ trailer.

“I got consent from the truck driver,” he said, “to come down to Exit 42, off of I-15 in New Harmony, Utah. There is a lone gas station off the exit and motorists frequent there due to it being the only services between Cedar City and St. George.”

Wayne responded with a Holmes 1701 35-ton heavy mounted on a 1982 Peterbilt 359. This old iron warrior is powered by a Cummins 400 Big Cam 3 and has a 10-speed trans with an auxiliary four-speed double overdrive. The old 1701 Holmes heavies had an upright mast, which allowed operators to do side pulls at that time.

Wayne said, “I called Dale Smith, long time mechanic and tow operator to assist me on this call.”

After Wayne and Dale arrived on scene they walked around the stuck tractor-trailer, then got busy digging out the tires. Their first pull was limited to pulling from the rear of the trailer.

“We carefully double rigged off the trailer with two 1/2" chains and pulled from the New Harmony highway at a distance of 250 feet,” Wayne said.

They used both winches simultaneously until they had the truck and trailer out of the holes. The truck driver was able to back up and swing the trailer in an effort to turn around, but he wound up becoming stuck in the soft ground again.

Wayne relocated the old 1701 to the utility easement where the truck driver had originally entered. It was drier and had some rock, where they could pull from another direction.

“We were able to line the semi up so he could drive back out of the narrow entrance. It all worked well,” Hall said. “The Denver company was happy and we got to stretch the old warrior a bit.”

Show Yours @ TIW
Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim “Buck” Sorrenti at jimchaos69@yahoo.com; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
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City, State
RATES

Hanover, MA
$90
(Pop. 13,879)

Lake City, FL
$120
(Pop. 12,046)

Yankton, SD
$80
(Pop. 14,454)

Centralia, WA
$178
(Pop. 16,336)

Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.
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April 08 - April 15, 2019

Towers Need Law Enforcement On-Scene More

DSCN11634 600x450 0e3beBy Randall C. Resch
Image – Null’s Towing; Cochranville, Pennsylvania

In a perfect world, law enforcement should be on-scene at highway-related tow events; all tow trucks should have red and blue emergency lighting, and traffic breaks or slowed escort of traffic should accompany every load operation—even if only for a few minutes until the tow truck is loaded and safely on its way.

We need help from law enforcement to recognize the need for on-scene highway protection. We agonize over the repeated failures of current highway protocol to protect tow operators working highway shoulders.

I’ve written for American Towman since 1996 and have confirmed as many as 225 highway-related operator fatalities in 22 years. I’ve taught thousands of tow operators and police officers the value of not walking, working, or standing on the white-line side. I’ve arranged and attended numerous funeral processions and written many safety articles on this topic. Unfortunately, towmen still work the white-line side and continue to be killed.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Apply this quote to on-highway response and see how our actions fit the definition.

Why hasn’t the towing and recovery industry not attacked this problem?

Recommendations Still Ignored

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. is the federal agency responsible for researching the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In numerous tow-related investigations, findings recommended need for law enforcement on-scene.

The following two operator fatalities held similar recommendations by NIOSH:

Example One: October 3, 2016, a tow truck driver loaded a disabled pickup onto his flatbed carrier on the southbound shoulder of a four-lane, undivided highway. As the victim was entering the tow truck’s cab on the traffic-facing side of the truck, an oncoming van swerved into the emergency lane and struck him, causing fatal injuries.

Example Two: September 19, 2016, a tow truck owner-operator was loading a disabled vehicle onto his flatbed tow truck on the westbound shoulder of a four-lane controlled access highway. The victim was on the traffic-facing lane side securing the vehicle to his tow truck when the operator of an oncoming car traveling in the same direction failed to move over, veered over the edge-line, striking the tow operator and the side of the tow truck.

NIOSH Recommendations were:

• Tow truck drivers should limit the amount of time spent on the traffic-facing side of the truck.

• High-visibility such as safety vests should be worn at all times while working at roadside.

• Law enforcement should be present to aid in traffic control when vehicles are towed from the roadside.

• There should be increased public awareness of the “Move-Over Law”

• Tow truck operators should utilize portable emergency warning devices such as bi-directional reflective triangles.

• Tow truck operators and owners should consider attending National TIM Training.

The towing and recovery industry would like to see protocol initiated that suggests law enforcement accompany highway related tow scenarios. If red and blue lights are restricted to law enforcement, towmen don’t have the color advantage that red and blue lights solicit.

As law enforcement is tasked with being parked at highway construction zones during day and night construction hours, why are we towers left unprotected?

Having that in-mind, I’ll ask the law enforcement community: Why don’t towmen have the luxury of on-scene police protection in the same manner?” Doesn’t that scream the definition of “insanity”?

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week’s Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.

Taxes: Are You in Trouble?

tax money 6b396Brian J. Riker

No matter if you are an owner or an employee, it is easy to fall behind on your tax obligations.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Mike Allbright, an enrolled agent who specializes in helping small businesses and employees in the transportation industry with their tax issues. An enrolled agent is a highly trained specialist who is authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS. This is important if you are facing IRS collections or other tax liens, as not every tax preparer is authorized to negotiate on your behalf.

Our discussion revealed that when most folks unintentionally get in trouble with their taxes, it usually is due to a failure to keep accurate records. It is also very common for the self-employed to not put aside enough of their income to make their quarterly or even annual tax payments.

“Maintaining records does not need to be complicated, and while software helps, a simple spreadsheet with the receipts for the month attached is just as effective,” said Allbright. “Make sure you put a note on each receipt to indicate what business purpose it was for, and be sure to scan or otherwise preserve the thermal receipts before they fade.”

He further advised that small business owners maintain two separate bank accounts, one personal and one business. Make all your purchases out of the proper account, even if it means making the cashier at Wal-Mart or Costco split your order into two transactions.

As a self-employed person or business owner, it is best to make your quarterly estimated tax payments on time. By making your estimated tax payments, you have already pre-paid a large chunk of your tax liability and are much less likely to fall behind or be unable to pay your taxes in full each year.

Employees can get in tax trouble as well. For employees, the most common issues Allbright sees are a failure to keep receipts to support itemized deductions or trying to claim expenses they are not entitled to.

“If you are going to itemize your tax return you must keep receipts and other proof to support the claim,” Allbright stated.
There is also great confusion over being a true employee vs. contractor, commonly referred to as a 1099 employee.

Unless your contract meets all the points of the IRS test to determine true independent contractor status, it is most likely inappropriate to be paid as a contractor and receive a Form 1099 at the end of the year. If you are working as an employee under this arrangement; you are fully responsible for all your own taxes—including the employer’s share.

For tax year 2018 many employees will notice a difference in their actual tax liability. Many will see much smaller refunds, if any refund at all. This is due to a change in the tax withholding tables combined with modification of a few standard deductions.

OTR drivers have lost the ability to claim a blanket per-diem rate for each day away from home while subject to hours of service regulations. Instead, the standard deduction has been doubled, although this does not fully make up for the per diem deduction that full time OTR drivers previously were entitled to.

Many work-related deductions such as gloves, shoes and other tools will no longer make sense to claim, as many towers will opt instead for the higher standard deduction. With the 2018 tax code changes, if you normally complete and file your own taxes it may be the right time to have a professional tax preparer look over your return. The few hundred dollars in fees may very well be offset by the discovery of extra deductions or mistakes that could result in high IRS penalties.

Tax professionals are the experts in their field. A good consultant will always save you more than their fees are. It is a great feeling to be at peace with taxes, knowing that even if Uncle Sam comes knocking you have nothing to worry about.

This column is not intended to be financial or tax advice; I am not a professional tax preparer. Please consult a tax professional of your choosing before making any changes to your situation.

Brian J. Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at brian.riker@fleetcompliancesolutions.net

Spotters for Rotators, Heavy Wreckers

image7 6a8f2By Randall C. Resch

I taught a California Highway Patrol Operator's safety course recently that included tow operators of all ages and experience levels. At the start of every class, I hold a safety briefing to remind all hands to have their heads on a swivel; especially when tow trucks, carriers and forklifts are on the move during techniques and scenarios.

About mid-way through one class, a young tower wasn't paying attention as a carrier was backing up across the yard. When I saw his actions, I immediately stopped the class. His naïve, but unintentional, movement seemed like the perfect segue to have a discussion regarding the safety and dangers of backing up.

Too Often

Many years ago as a budding tow driver, my dad gave us his version of on-scene, in-the-yard, backing safety. It was simple and to the point, "Don't put your wrecker in any location where you have to back up unnecessarily."

In our line of work, it's not always possible to avoid backing.

At the San Diego Police Department, their own policy says, "If there are two officers in a police vehicle, the passenger officer will exit (the) vehicle and provide a visual, 'second set of eyes' to the backing movement."

If a two-officer police car had an incident while backing, both the vehicle's driver and the second officer would be held accountable. Officers working alone were required to make a full walkaround of their car before travel.

How many of you take a walkaround of your tow trucks and carriers to see if there are any obstacles or other persons before you drive off?

Who's to Help?

Enlisting a spotter is a perfect-world situation if there are others around to become your spotter. Many of the world's tow companies are mom-and-pop operations and spotter availability is not always possible. Still, the truck's operator must be aware of their surroundings at all time.

The same applies when you're on the road. Due to the sheer size, bulk and blind spots, every backing movement can be potentially deadly. A solid set of hand signals is the best way to communicate between the tow truck's driver and the spotter that's behind them.

In this litigious time for accidents and injury, not having written narrative in your company's employee handbook could weigh heavy on the outcome of the lawsuit. When these situations occur, an injured plaintiff or representative of the deceased will assuredly attack your tow operator's driving record, their background and your company's training.

If your company's employee handbook makes no mention of safe-backing protocol, the total price of a lawsuit could be monumentally increased. It may not be not fair, but failing to make any attempt to prevent a backing incident plants the seed of incompetency. It makes perfect sense to include a spotter when big rigs are backing up. Like other dangerous tow-related situations, get people out of harm's way.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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April 08 - April 15, 2019

Merging Image to Letters

0 jandmtowing 11f9eBy George L. Nitti

J&M Towing of Wayne, New Jersey, has graphics on their tow trucks that stand out because of a very simple masking technique they have been using for years. The technique is to insert images inside its lettering, then have those images conform to the shape of the letters.

“We always put pictures inside our lettering,” said manager Joey Laborda, son of owner Joe Laborda. “When I was younger I always liked to draw. I drew pictures inside the lettering. We’ve been doing it for many years.”

This technique is illustrated on a couple of their units: their 2005 Peterbilt/Century 5130 and their 1988 Chevy/Hackney service truck specifically designed for heavy-duty clean-up.

The most prominent element of the design is the J&M name. On the 30-ton wrecker, inside the lettering is a military-themed tribute. It depicts a graveyard scene where a soldier is visiting fallen troops, a helicopter skying upward and soldiers pushing up the flag at Iwo Jima.

Laborda, who has been driving for the company since the day he got his license, said, “With the images we used as part of a tribute to veterans, we wanted to tell a story.”

On the service truck the J&M Logo hosts heavy-duty recovery scenes, mirroring the work the company does on a day-in/day-out basis.
“The service truck, like a beverage vehicle, was built for a fire department,” Laborda said. “When we purchased it, it had only 100,000 miles. We stripped it and put new style lights on it and painted and lettered it up.”

The service vehicle carries all of their extra equipment, including air cushions, saws, safety cones, clean-up materials, torches, roll-up cords, gas cans and more.

“It has everything that you possibly need,” Laborda said.

On the tribute along the Century body, a scene of a row of helmets hanging on guns are shown positioned inside boots, honoring fallen veterans.
The back of the service vehicle shows imagery of a fleet of trucks, showcasing the depth and power of the company, while a metal-textured design highlights the J&M name.

Helping to enhance the design is blue and pink neon striping and retro lettering.

On both units their slogan boasts, “If we can’t do it … It can’t be done.”

Brag @ TIW!
Should your truck be featured here? Send a few pics and your contact information to the editor at bdooley@towman.com. You might even be selected to go in print, too, in American Towman magazine.

Clean Simplicity

0 IMG 2340 a3478By George L. Nitti

One key element that helps any tow truck stand out is its complementary colors. Two colors that blend well are orange and black, which are the colors of Topel Truck Center’s fleet.

Located in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, Topel’s heavy-duty unit was taken over by Sean Topel in April of 2000.

“It was part of a family business,” said Michelle Topel, co-owner and wife of Sean. “Sean grew up in it with his uncle, who owned a service center. Then he bought the heavy-duty portion.”

According to Michelle, the colors of the units at the time were orange, but that they added black.

“Black made the orange stand out and we wanted our trucks to pop,” she said.

The company chose to stick with a simple and clean design, minimizing the graphic elements while accentuating the complementary colors of black and orange.

Their 2008 Kenworth/Century 60-ton rotator highlights this concept, with simplicity of design the goal.

The Topel name is written in orange on the side against a black background, with the top portion of the letter “T” elongated over the other letters of the name, instantly giving it brand recognition.

The company name also is written large in black on the orange boom and on the back of the unit. The stainless steel ‘T’ on the grille adds character.
What Topel calls “the old school stripes” are found along the sides, in blue and orange. The blue adds another complementary color to the mix while the stripes add to its simplicity.

“Simple is good. It keeps it clean and easy to read,” Michelle said.

Brag @ TIW!
Should your truck be featured here? Send a few pics and your contact information to the editor at bdooley@towman.com. You might even be selected to go in print, too, in American Towman magazine.

A Classic with Outstanding Pinstripes

0 7203fBy George L. Nitti

Herring Motor Co. of Somerset, Pennsylvania, has been in business a very long time, operating several trucking-related businesses spanning four generations.

At one point in time, the company served as a distributor/dealership of the Marmon Motor Co., which was a low-production, handmade truck sometimes referred to as "the Rolls-Royce of trucks." However, due to an overcrowded American truck industry and the lack of a nationwide sales network, the last Marmon was made in 1997.

Fortunately, Herring collected a number of Marmons over the life of the motor company and is still using them in their towing and recovery units, including their sprawling, classic 1989 Marmon/Century 5230.

"Over the years we sold a lot of glider kits," said owner Pat Herring, "which included the truck frame, the hood, cab and the sleeper while the other components were added later."

In the vein of their other trucks, this one is painted red, and carries a couple of distinctive features: the classic Herring Motor lettering on the side of the sleeper and the superlative pinstriping done by Casey Kennel of nearby Paint Chops.

On the sleeper, the company name stands out in super-large white lettering like on a billboard. The lettering itself recalls another era, further distinguishing it while its phone number and address sit underneath.

As for the pinstriping, Kennel prides himself as a master pinstriper of East and West Coast new and old school style ... since 1974.

"We have always used pinstriping on our trucks," Herring Manager Ernie Devine said. "The way he (Kennel) sponges it on is old school. He puts paint on a sponge and sponges it on. The paint is real thick."

The lines are done in colorful pink around the unit for a pleasing aesthetic with a timeless feel.

In the world of design, it's the little things that matter next to a name that is bold.

Brag @ TIW!
Should your truck be featured here? Send a few pics and your contact information to the editor at bdooley@towman.com . You might even be selected to go in print, too, in American Towman magazine.
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April 08 - April 15, 2019

Maintenance-Free Dollies from In The Ditch

In the Ditch a00a1In The Ditch recently released its all-new X-Series Dolly, the XL. The XL models offer eXtended Life automotive sealed hubs that never need grease. The X-Series Dolly sets come in two sizes: standard SD and larger XD. Ergonomic and lightweight, both SD and XD models include bolt-on, easily replaceable spindles with high-wear bushinngs.

intheditch.com

New Side Stabilization Feature from Jerr-Dan

Jerr Dan SS70 a7e18Jerr-Dan Corporation will exhibit a new Jerr-Dan Side Stabilization (SS70) for heavy-duty wrecker units at the 2019 Florida Tow Show. The company also announced remote control enhancements in conjunction with the SS70 launch.

The new SS70 features 37,000 pounds of rated structural capacity, hydraulic legs that can be controlled from the driver and passenger side control stations, a side-to-side leveling capability of up to 5.5 degrees, pivoting feet and 4 D-Rings for rigging. With two mounting options, a forward position behind the cab and a rear mounting position in front of the pedestal, the SS70 provides more stability to the truck during recovery and improves performance during towing, when operated within product guidelines.

Source: jerrdan.com.
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April 08 - April 15, 2019
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April 08 - April 15, 2019
Alex Price, director of risk solutions at Digital Recognition Network, has authored an updated version of the Skip-Tracing Certification Course that will be released at the upcoming North American Repossessors Summit, April 18-19, in Irving, Texas.

RISC Taps ‘Skip Guru’ Price for Training

Recovery Industry Services Co., a provider of compliance education and training services, is releasing an updated version of the Skip-Tracing Certification Course at the North American Repossessors Summit. The event is set begin Thursday in Irving, Texas.

The new course is authored by Alex Price, who is the director of risk solutions at Digital Recognition Network and also known as “The Skip Guru.” Price delves into the methodologies and practices of skip-tracing to teach how to effectively locate skips while staying in compliance with state and federal regulations.

The course will be available in RISC’s online learning management system and covers all aspects of modern skip-tracing, communication tactics, human nature insights, applicable federal law, data security and the “big three” of skip-tracing.

The updated course will be available as a standalone certification program for skip-tracers and to recovery agents as part of continuing education for the CARS program.

Source: autoremarketing.com.

Man Alleges Repo Company Breached Peace

A Bradley, West Virginia, man alleges a repossession company breached the peace when it repossessed his vehicle.

Christopher Ryan Quesenberry filed a complaint in Raleigh Circuit Court against Wells Fargo Dealer Services and F-5 Investigation Inc.

The suit stated that on March 1, 2017, at 11:15 p.m., F-5 Investigation was attempting to repossess a vehicle that had been financed by Wells Fargo and was located at Quesenberry's home. He alleged F-5's agents/employees "pounded" on his door, woke him up and failed to identify themselves, and that employees then started a verbal altercation, intimidated him and refused to tell him where they were taking his vehicle.

Quesenberry also alleged Wells Fargo breached its duty by failing to ensure F-5 did not breach the peace when it repossessed the vehicle.

Source: wvrecord.com.

LPRs Dealt a Blow in Virginia

A Virginia circuit court this week ruled that police can no longer scan license plates and record them in a database unless they're related to an ongoing and specific investigation. The ACLU won the injunction against the police department of Fairfax County this week, in a case filed back in 2015 on behalf of a single motorist. 

As of this week, police within the area surrounding Washington, D.C., cannot use LPRs at will. 

But in most every other place in America, license plates can be scanned.
According to the ACLU, pro bono lawyers accepted the Virginia case after the group pushed for legislation in 2015 that would have prohibited police from using license-plate readers on everyday citizens and would have limited data storage to seven days. The legislation to prohibit this kind of LPR use failed, and the ACLU went to court, arguing such use of LPRs violated the state's Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act. The circuit court first sided with the police department, then the Virginia Supreme Court sided with the ACLU. 

Source: caranddriver.com.

Man Steals Back Car after 2nd Repo

A Vernon, Connecticut, man is facing two criminal charges after breaking into a storage lot and taking back his car after its second repossession, an arrest warrant indicates.

Keishon Dullivan, 41, was arrested on April 4 and charged with third-degree criminal trespass and second-degree criminal mischief, according to a warrant. He claimed he had a payment arrangement with his creditor and the creditor was uncooperative with police so no theft charges were filed, police said.

But Dullivan was still charged with breaking into Complete Auto Recovery and Transport to take back a 2017 Hyundai Sonata that had been repossessed for the second time on Oct. 21, according to a warrant. 
He had confronted two owners of the company about their actions previously, according to a warrant. 

Dullivan is accused of scaling a 6’ fence and then backing the Hyundai through the fence to take it back, according to a warrant. 

Source: patch.com.
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