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The Week's Features
As the city is contending with an abandoned car problem, they are tasked with finding new tow lot.
3 rotators rescue a ditched track drill from a narrow roadway.
Using the E-Brake is an overlooked practice that shouldn’t be.
Groze Industries introduces a collection of lights with new features.
Tower threatened in Texas ends in arrest.
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in Towing December 01 - December 07, 2021


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Minnesota Family Celebrates 100 Years in Towing

Four generations of towing began in the 1920’s in Renville, a small town in western Minn. Willard “Bill” Schafer, a machinist and mechanic, built an auto repair shop in their garage. During World War II, Bill provided his heavy-duty equipment to the government to help manufacture war supplies, and upon the war's end, continued to preside over the business until 1956, when his oldest son Dan followed in his father’s footsteps.

In 1959, Dan moved to Granite Falls with his wife Barb and two daughters where they started Dan’s Body Shop and Schafer Towing. The company grew quickly, requiring more space and in 1970, a new shop was added along with more tow trucks. Dan’s son Mark joined his dad in the business at age 18. In 1986, Dan and Barb sold the business in Granite Falls and bought Pulver Towing in Rochester, a company which had been in business since 1945. Since the Pulver name was well known they kept it rather than change it to Schafer Towing.

In 2004, Mark took over the business and oversaw further expansion, erecting a new building in 2016 while adding more tow trucks and purchasing two local tow companies. More family members came aboard and Pulver Towing added locations in Fulda, Minn. Worthington, Minn. and Austin, Minn., becoming one of the largest towing companies in the Midwest, if not the oldest in the U.S.

In 2018 Josh Schafer, Mark's oldest son, was inducted into the Order of Towmen, recognized by American Towman in Baltimore, Md. for his family’s dedication to the community and the Towing Industry. In 2019, Josh was selected by the secretary of transportation to represent the towing and recovery industry at a summit, a step to get towing and recovery providers recognized as incident responders in the United States. In 2020 Mark’s grandson Greg started working part time for Pulver. Greg Schafer is Josh’s son and is the 1st of the 5th generation to work in the towing and recovery industry.

The Schafer family remains proud of their accomplishments in the vital industry as they enter a full century in the towing business.



1st company tow truck from October, 1920

Heart of a Dragon

dragon2 6b217

By George L. Nitti 

Over the years, Cecil Burrowes has showcased his fine airbrushing talents on a slew of award-winning tow trucks with themes as diverse as the Godfather, Batman, Clowns, Tribal Art, the Spirit Ride and much more. His realistic depictions and eye-popping colors vividly bring to life a host of characters and a variety of designs. This year Burrowes is back with yet another thematic, colorful play – a menagerie of dragons that convey intensity, determination and passion. 

“For 3 months or so I stayed in Sarasota, Fla., taking a room at Fastway Towing, as I worked on this project,” said Burrowes. “The owner John wanted me to do the Transformers, but I told him it was going to take too long. There were too many intricate parts.”  

After careful research consulting online sources and magazines, Burrowes came up with a dragon theme. He said, “At first it was going to be several small dragons. But things change as you go along.” 

Visually sizing up the Ford 2020 F550 with a light-duty Chevron, Burrowes said that he “visually placed the artwork on the truck,” asking himself a question like “How much of the door do I want to take up?”  

Fortunately for Burrowes, due to his stellar reputation, he often has carte blanche in executing his designs. He said, “Most people I do work for trust my judgement. Very rarely do I have to do a drawing to show people.” 

One picture of a dragon he used was sitting on a rock, which Burrowes transformed into a jade green, fiery dragon sitting on a bed of skulls. “It was just what the owner wanted.”  

Keeping the truck colorful, Burrowes painted several other dragons on the unit having shades of green, gold and red, each intricately constructed, compositionally balanced against a sky background. Burrowes said, “It was very time consuming.”  

The dragon on the hood is a seething bundle of intensity, sure to scare off any evil thoughts a person might have to thwart a repossession of their vehicle. 

At the American Towman Exposition November of 2021, Burrowes intensity, determination and passion helped him clear several obstacles along the way to make it to the Tow Pageant, a 15-hour ride from Sarasota to Baltimore.  

Sometimes it takes a little dragon breath to get where you are going. Unfortunately, dragons sometimes have their share of misfortune. The outcome of this journey didn’t turn out as intended but there is always next year. 

Brag @ TIW!  

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

Linda Unruh scores Move-Over coverage with major network
By Don Lomax
Click to enlarge


I work the non-traffic side of the wrecker/carrier:
seldom
maybe 30% of the breakdowns
half of the time
most of the time
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Managing Editor: Steve Calitri
ATTV Editor & Anchor: Emily Oz
Advertising Sales (800-732-3869):
Dennie Ortiz x213, Ellen Rosengart x203, Peggy Calabrese x202
Content Management: Henri Calitri
Site Progr., Graphics & Video: Ryan Oser
Wrecks + Recovery Editor: Jim "Buck" Sorrenti
Operations Editor: Randall C. Resch
Tow Business Editor: Brian J. Riker
Tow Illustrated Editor: George L. Nitti
December 01 - December 07, 2021
On The Hook With John Borowski
The damaged building due to an incident returning a Ford Excursion.

Tow Truck Allegedly Backs SUV into Office Building 

A tow company hired to pick up a broken down Ford Excursion on Highway 30A in Santa Rosa, Fla., allegedly backed it into a custom home and then never reported the incident. 

The owners of Aqua Home Builders say AutoWorks was hired to pick up a truck and deliver it to a specific location but were never notified about the incident. The owner says he returned to his office Sunday night and saw the damage. They say the tow truck driver let the Excursion down incorrectly. 

The tow company has told the owners they will pay for the damage.  

https://www.wkrg.com

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December 01 - December 07, 2021
The city of Louisville is seeking to find another tow lot as this one is crowded with abandoned cars.

Louisville Awash in Abandoned Cars 

Louisville is struggling with an abandoned car problem, as the streets are littered with cars and their impound lot stuffed full.   

Despite numerous complaints by city residents and the city council putting aside two million as part of the capital budget to buy a tow lot, nothing has materialized. 

“Sometimes I get three or four (resident complaints) a day,” said David James, president of the Louisville Metro Council. 

Across the city there are cars on ramps, on blocks, missing wheels, some missing practically everything. 

“The bottom line is we need a tow lot,” James said.  

James added the Mayor’s administration has shown no urgency to buy a new lot despite compiling a list of 43 locations. Several locations on the list have been ruled out due to asundry reasons. 

What’s left on the list then? Mayor Greg Fischer says not much. 

“The impound lot has been a real bedeviling solution to find a place where neighbors will accept it,” said Fischer. 

Fischer said he’s not giving up. He wasn’t sure if new federal infrastructure money could boost the two million already approved by the council. 

“As soon as we find a property that’s a solution and partners that can help us out, we will be moving on an impound lot because it’s a community wide problem,” Fischer said. 

The impound lot has auctioned over 300 cars in the last month and a half, but with potentially 4,000 cars abandoned throughout the metro the lot just fills right up again. 

https://www.wave3.com/

 

Fire Rescue Training Pays Off

On 11/3/21, Pulver Towing of Rochester, MN received an emergency request involving a trapped person in a car that was sitting underneath a loaded semi-box truck. The incident occurred at MN HWY 274 and US HWY 63 North of Rochester MN.

Pulver responded with specialized equipment, using an ultra-heavy duty rotating crane rescue truck and specialized rigging equipment to lift the box truck off the pinned car. The trained Pulver operators worked extremely fast, having trained for this scenario with Rochester fire in August. The cross training paid off as the victim and unborn child were rescued. 

HONK Launches Partner Performance Dashboard

Honk Technologies, a digital roadside assistance and vehicle transport platform company, announced a new Partner Performance Dashboard designed specifically for tow truck business owners. The new dashboard enables tow business owners to quickly and easily track key performance indicators (KPIs) all in one place. 

The HONK Partner Dashboard gives service providers transparency into how their business is performing on HONK towing and roadside assistance jobs. Partners can view their companies’ completed jobs performance, track their year-to-date revenue and monitor customer ratings for each of their drivers. 

HONK's Partner Performance Dashboard includes five performance-based metrics: Availability to take jobs; Tracking enabled on the HONK Partner App; Job completion rate; On-time (meeting estimated time of arrivals - ETAs); Quality of service.

Corey Brundage, CEO and Founder at HONK, said, “This new dashboard will provide our tow partners with even more transparency about their KPIs, giving them near real-time information so they can better track their quality of service and performance.”

PA Tower Downed

James Corl, the owner and operator of Valley Truck and Trailer in State College, Pa., was killed Saturday about 9:30 p.m. after he was hit by a driver while trying to remove a disabled semi-trailer on I-80, reported state police and the Pennsylvania Towing Association.

A 34-year-old from Illinois slammed his vehicle into Corl’s 2021 Freightliner Columbia in the berm and burst into flames. Corl was outside his vehicle when it was hit, police wrote.

In a Facebook post, the Boalsburg Fire Company said: “Our Thoughts and Prayers are with the Family of Jim Corl. Jim lost his life last evening in a vehicle related accident. Jim and his business, Valley Truck and Trailer have assisted us many times throughout the years providing heavy wrecker service to assist with vehicle accidents and rescues. Jim was known and will be missed by many.”

Pennsylvania’s Move Over Law requires drivers approaching emergency response areas who are unable to safely merge into a lane farther away from the response area to “pass the emergency response area at a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit and reasonable for safely passing.”

Funeral arrangements for Corl have not been announced.

https://www.centredaily.com/

Man on a Mission to Buy Tow Truck Reaches Settlement 

Kermit Warren, who was planning to purchase a tow truck about a year ago, has settled his case with federal authorities. Warren had approximately 28,000 dollars confiscated at an airport. 

About a year ago, he lost his shoeshine job at a hotel in New Orleans and decided to take his life savings and fly to Ohio to get a new tow truck to go into business with his son, a New Orleans police officer. 

"Unfortunately, when we got there the truck was not suitable for our job," he said. So, money in hand, they headed home. "And then everything just went crazy for us," he said of that day. His life savings were seized by federal agents at the airport, as agents had suspicions that the money was connected to illegal drugs. 

"I never expected that would happen to me because there's no law against carrying cash," he said. However, according to one authority, "Unfortunately, both TSA and DEA have a see cash, seize cash policy that they use against travelers, many innocent travelers.” 

As a result of the forfeiture, hardship ensued as Warren said it was hard to pay bills and buy groceries.  

On 10/28, a settlement was signed and the feds say they will return his money by Thanksgiving. 

Warren says he will now keep all of his money in a bank. He plans to share it with his grandchildren, church and community. 

https://www.wwltv.com/

Towing Scandals Escalate in Detroit 

Two Detroit Police Officers were arrested on Oct. 27 for allegedly taking cash and receiving free cars and other bribes while steering work to a towing company, according to an indictment that marked an escalation of a citywide public corruption investigation.  

FBI agents arrested Lt. John F. Kennedy and Officer Daniel Vickers, raiding their homes before unsealing the indictment charging both with multiple counts of bribery and bribery conspiracy. “I’ll take care of you guys and make sure you guys are always under the radar,” Kennedy allegedly told one unidentified towing company official after receiving free car repairs, according to the indictment. 

The arrests are in connection with “Operation Northern Hook," a broader FBI investigation of bribery, extortion and fraud within City Hall and municipal towing operations. Detroit City Councilman André Spivey is facing prison for admitting he received almost $36,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent and informant in exchange for supporting a towing issue pending in front of City Council. The broader corruption investigation also is looking into whether councilmembers Janeé Ayers, Scott Benson or others personally benefited from campaign contributions or donations to social welfare organizations. The last of six Detroit Police officers convicted in an extortion scandal involving the towing industry was sentenced to prison.  

Kennedy and Vickers are each charged with three bribery counts and one count of bribery conspiracy and face up to 10 years in federal prison, if convicted. Both have been suspended with pay from the police department. 

https://www.detroitnews.com/

American Towman Exposition Gallery
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December 01 - December 07, 2021

Track Drill Ditched

By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

On Aug 20, 2021, Bill’s Towing & Auto Service was called to handle a track drill recovery located near Cameron, W.Va.

Bill’s co-owner Chad Coulson informed: “An oversize tractor-trailer hauling a track drill was being escorted to an oil and gas site. The front escort took a wrong road and they ended up on a narrow back road. The truck with the oversize track drill tried to make the turn and the trailer slid over the hill rolling onto its driver's side. The trailer broke free from the fifth wheel and did not roll the truck over with it.”

Bill’s Towing responded with (2) 60-ton and an 85-ton Jerr-Dan rotators. Brothers Chad and Ty Coulson, along with their dad Bill Coulson, surveyed the scene. The track drill, weighing 90,000-pounds itself, stayed on the trailer when it had rolled over. They decided to leave the drill and trailer over the embankment that night while a plan was put in place for the recovery.

The following day, they brought in swamp matting in order to widen the roadway above the rollover to make room for a rotator to be set up. “While coming up with a recovery plan, our good friend Jesse Trgo from Interstate Towing was invited to come with us on the recovery,” explained Chad.

They positioned the 85-ton above the overturned unit while both 60 tons were positioned on the downhill side. Chad said, “We added more 1/2-inch chain and binders to the equipment to help keep from coming off of the trailer as we recovered the drill and trailer as one. Using 5/8 chain and rigging, the 85-ton was rigged to do the most pulling and stand the unit up. Two 3-part lines were running from the 85-ton to the 5/8 rigging that was attached to the lower undercarriage of the drill. One 60-ton was rigged with a 4-part line off the drag winch to pull the unit forward and keep from sliding down the hill. The other 60-ton was rigged with 2-part lines from the boom to assist in the uprighting.

Using Jerr-Dan headsets, Chad, Ty, and Jesse kept communication during the process. Running the 85-ton, Chad began pulling the unit back over as Jesse, running a 60-ton, helped in the rolling of the unit back onto its wheels and Ty, running the other 60-ton, held pressure to keep the unit from sliding down the 200-foot embankment. The unit stood up very smoothly almost perfectly.

“We were kind of worried about it coming over too fast, but with Jesse’s truck we were able to help control the landing,” said Chad. When uprighted, the 85-ton held pressure, keeping the unit from rolling back over or sliding down the hill again. The 60-ton with the four-part lines was used to drag the trailer strait onto the roadway.

Once the entire trailer and drill were back on the roadway, rigging was broken down. Chad stated, “The drill received minor damage. It started up, after all fluids were checked.”

The neck of the lowboy was removed and the drill tracked off the lowboy under its own power. Once the trailer was unloaded, the neck was put back on and hooked to a bobtail. “When the trailer was backed up into the turn, the rotator was used to drag the rear of the trailer around the turn,” said Chad. “Once around the turn, the trailer was backed approximately 1-mile to a wide spot where we could turn around. The drill was tracked up the road where it could be loaded onto another trailer for transport from the scene.”

_______________________

Bill’s Towing & Auto Service of St. Clairsville, Ohio has been providing road service, auto repairs, towing and recovery services to Belmont County, Ohio and the Wheeling, West Virginia Metropolitan area since 1981. Company founder and owner William “Bill” Coulson has added employees and equipment over the years including his sons Chad and Ty. Both have grown up in the family business they now co-own with their dad. Chad and Ty take great pride in carrying on the family towing and recovery tradition of excellence.

Jesse Trgo is the General Manager of Interstate Towing & Transport Specialists Inc. Interstate Towing & Transport Specialist Inc., in business since 1977, has five locations in the Greater Cleveland area, including their Corporate Office in Twinsburg, Ohio.

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!

Wood Chip Trailer Rollover 

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By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti 

At 7:00 a.m. on Nov 5, 2021, Woolard's Automotive Towing & Transport was called for an overturned truck. Mike Woolard informed, “The owner called saying the truck and loaded wood chip trailer were coming out of the woods in Plymouth, NC. The path was a one lane path and muddy but had access from a property on the top side of the trailer.” 

Woolard's dispatched their 2015 Kenworth with a Century 1150 50-ton rotator, 2014 Century 9055 50-ton heavy, 2019 Kenworth with a Century 4024 single axle 20-ton unit, their ERT (Emergency Response Trailer) Support Unit with two operators, and their Air Cushion Recovery unit with two operators. Operators included Mike Woolard, Donnie Woolard, Mason Vick, Felipe Villegas, Chris Lewis, Steven VanStaalduinen, and safety coordinator Janet Woolard. 

Arriving on scene, the team found the unit was laying on its side. When the unit had come out of the woods and around a corner, the driver didn't make the curve, dropping the trailer in a ditch where it overturned. The truck was partly in the road and the loaded trailer half across a ditch laying on a chain link fence.  

Mike informed, “This was a closed top chip trailer loaded with 90,000-pounds of wood chips that were not being supported because part was over a ditch. We had two options: one was to use air bags and set it up loaded; or to cut the top out and bring in excavators to unload. Unloading it was not an option unless the top was cut off or by shovel. We decided to use the bags in conjunction with the wreckers to upright. This would do no more damage to trailer and less cleanup of load.” 

The roadway was a very narrow path wide enough for one truck only. Luckily they had the property inside the fence to work from. With the okay given by the property owner/manager, the team removed part of the fence for better access to the trailer. 

The team put two on the top of the trailer with a third in the path in front. The Century 1150 rotator was set up on the front of the trailer on top side with two straps lifting and a 3rd for a catch line. The Century 9055 50-ton was set on the rear of trailer with two lifting straps. Both wreckers had to work on the ends of the trailer for there was a storage building in between only a few feet from the trailer. 

Air cushions were placed under the trailer in places where the ditch bank allowed. Mike explained, “We were able to get five bags total under trailer. Air cushions were also used, for this was an almost new trailer and minimum damage was done. The third wrecker, our Century 4024 20-ton, was set up in the path directly in front of the unit running two lines from the wrecker to two perfectly placed trees then back to the steer axle and rear drive axle to pull down on.” 

With everything rigged and the bags placed, the upright began. Once uprighted, the trailer wheels were still over the ditch and was held up by wreckers. The 1150 rotator held while 9055 re-rigged to a tree across the ditch/path and winched the back of the trailer over into path. Then the 4024 winched the whole unit forward in the path to access for tow. 

“All rigging was put away and the 9055 was hooked to the loaded unit. We towed it to the mill and had the load dumped then towed the complete unit back to our shop in Washington,” stated Mike. “Truck and trailer were uprighted, the load was delivered, and no extra damage was done. Thanks to all of my team for doing a great job!” 
 
___________________________________

Donnie Woolard started Woolard's Automotive Towing & Transport, located in Washington, N.C., in 1976. Operated by Donnie’s son Mike and his wife Janet, Woolard’s provides 24-hour accident recovery and clean-up, 24-hour towing, and a diesel truck repair center with an 8-bay service garage. They have an assortment of trailers capable of hauling any equipment (forklifts, dozers, cranes, etc), a well-trained staff of operators and mechanics with a fleet of heavy- and medium-duty wreckers that can tow and/or recover any size vehicle.  

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! 

 
 

Stuck in Muck

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by Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

At around 9 a.m. early November, Orcas Towing received a call by the driver of a box truck who stated he was stuck in mud approximately 50-feet off a paved roadway and needed a short pull just north of Killabrew Lake Road, Orcas Island.

Orcas owner Uzek Susol responded with his Truck #1, a 2001 Ford F550 4x4 with a 8-ton Chevron 408 twin line integrated boom wrecker on the business end. He stated, “My Chevron 408 has never let me down, two 9000-pound planetary winches, scotch blocks and snatch blocks can do some amazing things. It's my Little Monster!”

Uzek informed, “I went out with my son Joey Susol, who is a professional woodsman and a wiz with a saw. When we arrived on scene, I found the box truck 100-plus feet off the roadway. Following GPS, the driver ended up on a swamp goat trail buried in the mud, about two feet from Killabrew Lake on Fish & Wildlife land with trees on top of the box roof and more trees blocking the path out.”

In order to remove the stuck box truck from the front they would need to remove some trees. Uzek explained, “There was no way to get him out the way he came in as it was around a curve and too swampy for any of my trucks to access without getting stuck myself.”

Uzek advised the driver he would need to trim a few trees to get him out and contacted Fish & Game for permission. He said, “There are no Fish & Game representative on Orcas Island so after two hours and many phone calls I got their blessing. They advised I needed to leave it looking as natural as possible when finished.”

Uzek returned with his Truck #7, the Big Girl, a 1981 Kenworth W900A with a 1962 Holmes split-boom 750. The Big Girl has hydraulic spades and a Z-30 30,000-pound Zacklift. Uzek restrung the 200' pair of 5/8" wire ropes on the drums and also replaced the wire rope for the booms. He had gone over all the moving parts, inspecting, greasing, flushing fluids, adjusting PTO chain, replacing boom cables, etc and updated the unit from top to bottom before putting it to work.

Joey went to work cutting trees on and in front of the truck. Uzek said, “Joey fell two trees, cut the tree from the top of the box, and trimmed some limbs to allow clear path for extraction.

Once they had the trees cut and out of the way, Uzek backed the old girl into position, lowered the hydraulic spades and started to pull cable. He explained, “I rigged a single line from the 750, hooked on to the box truck with the Big Girl and pulled the truck to the roadway with no damage.”

After inspecting the undercarriage and clearing the mud and debris from the box truck, it was able to drive away under its own power.

“Tom Tom and GPS are my best customer creators,” jested Uzek.

In 1991 Uzek Susol established Orcas Auto Tech DBA Orcas Towing in Eastsound, on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Besides being a tower, Uzek is an ace mechanic and fabricator who builds rods and bikes and has transported pretty much everything. Over the years he has handled a variety of situations and developed a reputation for his technically difficult recoveries using some creative rigging.

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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MIDWESTERN – Nacogdoches, TX
$500
(pop. 34,047)

SOUTHERN – Lake City, FL
$250
(pop. 12,099)

EASTERN - King George, VA
$145
(pop. 4,457)

WESTERN - Brentwood, CA
$276.25
(pop. 53,673)

Heavy-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.
December 01 - December 07, 2021

Roll-Away Incidents Are Preventable 

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By Randall C. Resch               

As many as one-half tow operators attending a safety course were newly hired with three to four months total experience. On Day-2 skills, several new towers hustled to get things done. While moving tow trucks or carriers into position, there were four instances where operators didn't set the tow truck's emergency brakes. Although it’s a requirement of vehicle operations and safety, it’s also law that E-Brakes are applied when drivers exit their vehicles.  

Not setting the tow truck’s E-Brake or shifting to park is a common “preventable” situation. Because it’s preventable, I don’t call it an “Accident.” Does your company’s handbook include written policy that demands use of E-Brakes at the onset of each tow and parking scenario?” 

Preventing Rollaway 

While I appreciated their hustle, not setting an E-Brake, or shifting to park is a driver’s behavior that must be corrected. Once we returned to the classroom, discussion focused on what happens when towers hurry to get things done. I noted that as many as 46-towers were killed having failed to set E-brakes or shifting transmissions to park. In seven-months of 2019 into 2020, five operators were run-over by their tow trucks having failed to set the truck’s emergency brakes. In two additional fatality scenarios, transmissions weren’t shifted to park.  

What’s the Problem? 

During classroom conversation, I asked if company’s had policy requiring operators to use emergency brakes when trucks were parked. With twenty-two operators participating, only two confirmed that their company’s handbook mentioned E-Brake’s must be used.   

While it’s common sense that E-Brakes should be applied, most tow companies don’t include written policy to demand their operator’s set the tow truck’s E-Brake upon exiting the truck. A properly set E-Brake helps to safeguard against a roll-away truck. 

Where E-Brake policy is lacking, so is the use of “Chock-Blocks.” I asked towers if their companies had a policy requiring using chock-blocks, but no-hands were raised to answer the question. 

While there aren’t federal or OSHA regulations mandating tow trucks carry or employ chock-blocks, using the truck’s E-Brake must become part of the operator’s responsibility. For safety’s sake, owners should know all dangers and deadly potential of not requiring use of E-Brakes.  

Slow Your Roll 

As the parking process takes place, look to ensure the truck's transmission is in-park or neutral (stick) with transmissions and E-Brake’s fully applied. Complete all steps carefully and completely. And, once you've exited the tow truck, position a chock-block on the downhill side of the truck's rear dual’s as part of your parking routine. 

Though tow operators shouldn’t have to be reminded about “roll-way safety,” it demands repeated reminders. Note: Roll-away data suggests most roll-away (fatality) victims are middle-aged towers. Is age a factor due to not remembering? I don’t think so. Using tow truck E-Brake’s and setting transmissions to park should be ingrained in every vehicle operator’s mind regardless as to the size and configuration (vehicle) being driven. 

There’s huge importance for tow operator’s to practice roll-way safety. If there’s no mention in the company’s handbook, and no requirement for E-Brake and parking safety, operator’s openly risk injury or death as the result of a preventable, roll-away situation.     

     

Tips for Effective Communication

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By Brian J Riker

Communication is key to any successful interaction. I am not talking about giving your driver the latest cell phone or having the best digital dispatch terminal in your truck, but rather effectively getting your message across. How many times have you had something go wrong simply because the other person did not fully understand what you wanted or needed?

There are several types of messages tow bosses need to communicate to a diverse group of people. We take for granted that the public, or even our employees, understand industry terms or concepts. To the experienced tow boss, towable means the vehicle can be hauled by a wheel lift type truck with one set of wheels on the ground, but to the average person it just means their car can be transported somewhere. Use of industry jargon can be ineffective with the general public; instead, try to explain it as if you were talking to a friend from outside the industry. Use of simple language, but not in a condescending manner, with frequent pauses to be sure they are understanding you, works well.

Teach your team to listen to understand rather than listening to simply reply. This one change in behavior will make everyone more effective at communication. We are all guilty of it, already forming our reply before the other person is even done speaking. In doing, so we don’t hear what they are really saying. This has been hard for me to practice and I still mess it up occasionally. I can say without doubt that when I do listen properly I give much better advice.

Managing customer expectations is another area many struggle with. As a consumer, I would rather be told upfront that I will be waiting an hour instead of being promised a thirty minute response, only to be disappointed when the truck arrives in 45 minutes instead. Sure, you may lose a few jobs to impatient customers, but in the long run you will be ahead because you will have less negative opinions about your company on social media reviews.

Your dispatchers and drivers should be taught to be transparent with the customers. When you are late, telling them the truth is the best option. Don’t make up a story about being delayed by traffic or some other excuse. Most of the time they will appreciate the honesty.

Effective and open communication is not just customer focused. As tow bosses, it is vitally important to be upfront with your team about job expectations, hard times and unpleasant decisions that you have to make. One of the most difficult discussions I ever had with an employee involved his behavior towards another driver and a great client, one that he had brought to the company, ultimately resulting in his immediate termination. While uncomfortable in the immediate moment, we since have become very close friends and he has thanked me for opening his eyes to a pattern of behavior that was self-destructive. It ended with him changing careers and leading a better life today.

Funny how honesty without mal-intent works isn’t it? I am not suggesting you share every detail of your business with the team; however major changes should not blindside anyone. If an employee is surprised about being terminated, then you are as much at fault for their failure as they are.

Bottom line, be aware of how the public sees your behavior. What we think is acceptable may be turning potential customers away. This is particularly true with political and social justice messaging. Not all of your customers will be of the same mindset and it is often best to take a neutral position from a business point of view, especially when you are in a smaller community or tight market.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, take the time to truly understand each caller’s unique problem when they ask about service - don’t assume you know what they need. Keep everyone in the loop to reduce surprises and tension when things do go wrong, and they will. Clear and frequent communication can resolve most problems before they become major issues.

Making It a Clean Sweep  

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By Randall C. Resch         

The chimney sweep’s history goes back as far as 17th century England. “Sweeps” provided a service, not so much just brushing a chimney’s insides; their mission was to bring clean air into the home. Sweeps were associated with good health, but their work was dirty and sooty, much like that of towing where it’s easy to get one’s uniform filthy when cleanliness and good work habits aren’t practiced.  

Have you ever watched an old-timey chimney sweep “do-their-thing” cleaning a chimney? Sweeps would wear old-style uniforms that oftentimes included a top-hat and white, parade-style gloves. When dealing with Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Roll's owners, you know how difficult and finicky they can be? If you're business serves the "exotic and custom" car niche, I'll pass you a gimmick that I've used for years in-serving these difficult personalities. Unlike sweeps of old, maintaining a clean and professional appearance is a solid requirement when serving high-end owners.  

Sharing their Interests 

At one time in my towing career, I was the preferred transport for Beverly Hills Rolls Royce and Corne’s Motors, both high-end exotic (motorcar) dealers and service centers in southern Calif. My belief in providing exemplary service to owners demanded that my services were better than my competitors. I made it my priority to handle costly, sometimes priceless vehicles, with care going beyond-the-norm using best practices in-handling their vehicles to create repeat customers who knew and appreciated my work. 

Having arrived to load someone's expensive exotic or custom, I’d bounce from my carrier carrying a briefcase. I’d walk to the customer, shake their hand and extend a warm greeting. I’d always include a bit of complementary chit-chat about how awesome their car was.  

If you know anything about high-end owners, they’re persnickety about their vehicles, yet they’ll talk your leg off if you let them get a roll on. To me, a large part of providing quality services to owners was getting to learn their stories and know the history behind their treasured vehicles. 

When it was time to get to work, I developed a process that included industry theatrics and intentional hocus pocus. First, I placed six cones to the side and rear of the vehicle being loaded; only for added on-scene bling. I intentionally took my time so they’d see my actions were calculated and practiced. I’d carefully demonstrate precise techniques, and most importantly, they'd watch me handle their vehicle with "kid's gloves.”  

Gimmicks for a Reason 

My dad told us to create some kind of gimmick and add it to our personas. My sister wore different socks, one brother wore suspenders. For me, my gimmick was the moustache I wore. A vehicle’s owner may not remember me by name, but chances are they’d remember me as the tow-guy with the huge moustache. Accordingly, I came prepared to intentionally “Wow” my customer through actions and the specialty equipment I employed.  

Although it’s my policy to never start vintage vehicles, I’d carefully enter their exotic to shift to neutral or release emergency brakes. Before goin’ in, from the briefcase I removed a pair of clean, bright white, cotton, parade-gloves. If there ever was a reason to be seated in a specialty vehicle’s seats, I’d first remove anything that could potentially poke holes in the car’s fine Corinthian leather. I’d lovingly cover the vehicle’s seat with a clean, soft blanket that was neatly stored inside the briefcase.   

Do note that, the bright, white-gloves weren't for pulling cable or grabbing chain, more so, only for going inside or when it was time to open and close doors. I’d never touch the vehicle's painted surfaces with bare hands. And, when closing a vehicle's door, I'd use only my white-gloved index-finger in the lower corner of the vehicle's window. There's no better way to "Wow" a customer than treat their vehicle with care ... and, “Let em’ see you do it.”  

White, parade gloves are available on-line for as little as ten bucks for five pair (plus shipping). To include wearing white-gloves and to cover vehicle seats with a clean blanket; they’re neat gimmicks intended to tug the heart-strings of specialty owners.  

Both are simple and cost little, but the results are noticeable and oftentimes lead to very satisfied customers.  I'm pretty sure your competitor doesn't include white-gloves as part of their services. And don’t forget, like a magician, this all works when combined with your well-orchestrated moves.        

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December 01 - December 07, 2021

Heart of a Dragon

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By George L. Nitti 

Over the years, Cecil Burrowes has showcased his fine airbrushing talents on a slew of award-winning tow trucks with themes as diverse as the Godfather, Batman, Clowns, Tribal Art, the Spirit Ride and much more. His realistic depictions and eye-popping colors vividly bring to life a host of characters and a variety of designs. This year Burrowes is back with yet another thematic, colorful play – a menagerie of dragons that convey intensity, determination and passion. 

“For 3 months or so I stayed in Sarasota, Fla., taking a room at Fastway Towing, as I worked on this project,” said Burrowes. “The owner John wanted me to do the Transformers, but I told him it was going to take too long. There were too many intricate parts.”  

After careful research consulting online sources and magazines, Burrowes came up with a dragon theme. He said, “At first it was going to be several small dragons. But things change as you go along.” 

Visually sizing up the Ford 2020 F550 with a light-duty Chevron, Burrowes said that he “visually placed the artwork on the truck,” asking himself a question like “How much of the door do I want to take up?”  

Fortunately for Burrowes, due to his stellar reputation, he often has carte blanche in executing his designs. He said, “Most people I do work for trust my judgement. Very rarely do I have to do a drawing to show people.” 

One picture of a dragon he used was sitting on a rock, which Burrowes transformed into a jade green, fiery dragon sitting on a bed of skulls. “It was just what the owner wanted.”  

Keeping the truck colorful, Burrowes painted several other dragons on the unit having shades of green, gold and red, each intricately constructed, compositionally balanced against a sky background. Burrowes said, “It was very time consuming.”  

The dragon on the hood is a seething bundle of intensity, sure to scare off any evil thoughts a person might have to thwart a repossession of their vehicle. 

At the American Towman Exposition November of 2021, Burrowes intensity, determination and passion helped him clear several obstacles along the way to make it to the Tow Pageant, a 15-hour ride from Sarasota to Baltimore.  

Sometimes it takes a little dragon breath to get where you are going. Unfortunately, dragons sometimes have their share of misfortune. The outcome of this journey didn’t turn out as intended but there is always next year. 

Brag @ TIW!  

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

Colorful, Fanciful and Fun

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By George L. Nitti

At Chicago based tow company Priority Wrecker Service, owner John Maye and family are minion fans and display those characters on their colorful 2021 Kenworth T880 Century 1135 Rotator with a knee boom. He said, “They are our little buddies.”

With 39 trucks, Maye prides himself on each unit being graphically different from one another. This newly acquired unit scored big at The Towman Games in Cleveland, Ohio, where it won first prize in the Rotator class of 2021 at the Pageant of Champions.

“We really like colorful, fancy and fun things,” said Maye.

Designed by an in-house team of graphic designers, the rotator’s striking array of vivacious colors include black, green, purple, yellow and red. Wrapped together, the colors explode in a rainbow formation, contrasting against its painted black base and green fenders. The Priority name, largely written on the side door and rotator body, also stands out in vibrant green, with its name exuding the company mission.

Maye said, “When people need things, they need it now and thus are a priority.”

Not only is the rotator bursting with delicious colors, but includes fancy hand-painted decorative work such as its black and red pinstriping found on the hood, fenders and cab. Fanciful too is the elegant “P” standing for Priority and the year of the company establishment together found at the top of the cab packaged like a logo.

Beyond fancy though is the fun that this truck conveys, that includes a couple of cartoons of minions, their arms wide open. One graphic next to a minion states, “Dirty Hands Clean Money.”

Another slogan written large on the front though succinctly sums it up. “You Call, We Haul, That’s All.”

Simplicity’s Complexity

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By George L. Nitti

Company branding is a critical component to starting and managing any business, and includes such elements as a strong logo, consistent colors that blend nicely, and fonts that are applied across the business. Strong branding leaves a lasting impression, helping a company stand out to customers who associate its product or service with the brand while attracting new customers with the clarity of that image.

At Chaz Towing in Watsonville, Cal., established in 1987, the company has developed a strong brand with a “less is more” identity that exudes a professional image in its simplicity.

According to Kevin Chavez, operating manager and son of owner Eduardo Chavez, “We wanted something subtle that would stand out. Something that was not overstated but with some complexity.”

Fine tow truck graphics, like mid-coast California wines, harbor intensity wrapped in subtlety as illustrated on their 2014 Peterbilt389 with a 35-ton Vulcan.

“This unit is a perfect for our company and the perfect application for any fleet. It’s easy to use and maneuver,” Chavez said. “The capabilities of the winches and its pulling power are incredible.”

At the heart of the design is the company name which is the primary element that stands out because of its large size, scripted/elegant lettering and contrasting colors that blend subtlety against its yellow and white background.

Adding further distinction, the company name is applied in several key locations, including the side doors, the hood, and the large real estate across the wrecker body. Going the extra yard, however, lies in the fact that even their customized mud flaps restate the company name, not the wrecker company or dealership, a fine point that is often overlooked in branding.

The company name is easy to remember as well. “Chaz.” Chavez said, “We wanted to be unique. Many tow companies go with their last name but we wanted a more memorable marking.”

Which includes their colors of yellow and white. Chavez said, “Yellow grabs everybody’s attention. It represents emergency personnel and catches your attention, making it hard to miss.” Reflective lettering and an array of lights give further enhancement.

Their brand, like their family heritage, was forged over time and proliferates on other company memorabilia, such as pens, backpacks, customized coffee cups, vests and rain gear.

“My father, who started the company with his brothers, immigrated to the states in 1978, first living in Minnesota before moving to the Monterrey Bay area. He came with empty pockets with a dream to succeed,” said Chavez. “He saw the need and demand for towing.”

Now with 11 trucks and family members entwined in the business, with a single-minded focus, company professionalism has become a prevailing theme wrapped in precise branding that strikes notes of simple tastes.
December 01 - December 07, 2021

LED Work Lamp

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Grote Industries has expanded their BriteZone™family of products by broadening the current offering, adding eight new part numbers to the lineup to fit a range of needs and applications.

The new rigid-mount handheld light (BZ421-5) features a digital readout that lets you know precisely what battery charge level is left. The gooseneck lamp (BZ131-5) is a great option for work trucks and includes an integrated body switch for local on/off function. The round flood-pattern work lamp (BZ121-5) features an integrated switch to make operation and installation easier.

As the first spot-pattern work lamp in the BriteZone lineup, BZ221-5 is a valuable addition for many different applications, while the popular BZ301 is now joined by a recess-mount version (BZ321-5). Additionally, three smaller, brighter, more budget-friendly work lamp options have been added to the family, specifically targeting commercial fleet customers (BZ141-5, BZ211-5, BZ331-5).

BriteZone LED work lights are designed to work when you need them – rain or shine, day or night, wet or dry – no excuses.

Additional information is available at grote.com.

Dual Fork Holders for Heavy-Duty Towing

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Miller Industries Towing Equipment Inc. introduces dual fork holders for heavy-duty towing. Traditional single fork holders have been used for many years, with an optional bolt on extender for adding a wider stance for the towing fork. With these new innovative dual fork holder towers no longer need the additional wider-stance extender. This helps to reduce cost for tow companies and more than doubles the efficiency when on the roadside.

Miller Industries dual fork holders fit all standard heavy-duty 5-inch cross bars. The dual hole design provides added versatility with an inside and outside position to receive towing forks on both sides of the crossbar. This allows towers multiple options for different truck axle and towing configurations. These dual fork holders are now available exclusively at Miller Industries distributors.

To learn more about this product, https://vimeo.com/595375552/5ea4f7c6bf or visit millerind.com.

Steck Easy-Wedge

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The Steck Easy Wedge is an accessory for the BigEasy lockout kit. The Easy Wedge is inserted in the door or window frame to create a controlled opening for a vehicle door. Once inserted the wedge is inflated to the desired size so you can insert your BigEasy Lockout Tool to safely unlock the vehicle.

• The Easy Wedge is made out of ballistic nylon preventing slippage in extreme weather.
• Easy Wedge Dimensions: 7″ x 7″
• PN 32922-Bulb Easy Wedge Replacement Bulb (only)

For more information, go to https://steckmfg.com/product/32922_easy-wedge/
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December 01 - December 07, 2021
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December 01 - December 07, 2021

Man Arrested for Assaulting Tower

An 18-year-old man was arrested in Denton, Tx. on Nov. 26  after he allegedly yelled at a tow truck driver during an attempted repossession of his vehicle. The man eventually punched the driver and shattered a window, according to a police report. 

The tow truck driver originally called police to report the 18-year-old had assaulted him and was threatening to bust out his windows, updating officers while they were on the way that the man had followed through on the threat. 

Officers spoke to both men involved and a witness, learning the tow truck driver had begun to lift the man’s vehicle off the ground during a repossession when he started to yell at the driver. 

The man told the driver to put the car down and a verbal altercation started, during which he punched the driver twice, the report states. The man then allegedly pulled out a wooden mallet, threatening to hit the driver with it and bust out the windows of his truck, at which point he got into his truck and called police. While he was on the call, the man allegedly threw the mallet, breaking the back window of the truck and causing glass shards to hit the driver’s head. 

The driver had no serious injuries and police determined all three parties — both men and a witness — had the same account of the incident. The 18-year-old man was arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, assault causes bodily injury and criminal mischief between $750 and $2,500. 

https://dentonrc.com/

Two Charged with Murder of Repo Man 

Two men have been arrested and charged with murdering a repossession driver in Oakland, Calif. during an attempted robbery last June, court records show. 

Aaron Hein and Marco Dragula have been charged with murder and attempted second-degree robbery in the June 14 killing of 43-year-old Tim Nielsen, who was on a repossession assignment. He was found dead about 4:13 a.m. inside his 2019 Ford F450 tow truck that had crashed into a building. 

Dragula, who had been charged with felony gun possession in two other cases, is charged with shooting into an occupied car and personally discharging the gun that killed Nielsen, an indication that police believe him to be the shooter. Hein is charged as a “major participant” to the homicide who acted “with reckless disregard for human life,” the criminal complaint says. 

Both men are in jail on no-bail holds, having been arrested Sept. 28, court records show. 

https://www.mercurynews.com/

Used Car Market on Fire

The used vehicle market is on fire again, spiking 5.3% in September, after 3 months of declines. The report comes from Manheim, the largest auto auction operator in the U.S.

Several factors are a play causing an increase in demand of used vehicles and the spike in prices. First, tight supplies of new vehicles due to chip shortages and factory closures resulting from the covid crisis. Normal supply for used retail is about 44 days of sales. In September used retail supply was 37 days. Wholesales supply, which normally is 23 days, was 18 days.

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, off-lease 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 car auctions.

Further augmenting used car sales is the federal stimulus money disbursed over the last year and a half. The covid crisis has created a “wealth effect” leading people to be flush with cash and willing to pay whatever price for a used vehicle as dealers make record gross profits along the way.

In a telling sign, although it is often assumed that resale value of a new car plummets once sold, resale value of a 1-year old car is up 25%, over $7,759 according to Cox Automotive.

https://wolfstreet.com/

Repo Agent Killed in Oakland, Ca.

 Tim Nielsen, a repossession agent for Any Capital Recovery Inc., was shot and killed in Oakland, Ca., on 6/14 while working on assignment.  

According to Nielsen’s boss and friend Lerron Payne, he was shot at an intersection writing a report in his truck. He then managed to drive away, but crashed into a building in East Oakland, a couple of blocks away.  

Payne said, “He wasn’t even hooking a car. Everything went south. It’s a rough industry, don’t get me wrong but this is pretty much the extreme.” 

Family and friends described Tim Nielsen, a father to four, as their rock and their hero. 

“This is a man that I can say gave unconditional love to everyone and all he ever wanted to do was help people. That was his dream, his purpose in life,” said Jennifer Huff-Wensmann, the victim’s girlfriend. 

Oakland police said no one has been arrested in the case. They are looking at all possibilities, from a random attack to the possibility it was related to a repo assignment. 

https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com

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