The Week's Features
As the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas”
The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act may be applicable in some cases
Sensors pinpointing whereabouts can then be shared with recovery firms
Features include 37,000 lbs. of rated structural capacity and much more
Tank’s transport was final move to new VFW building
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Las Vegas, NV.
May 8-11, 2019
Dallas, TX.
August 15-17, 2019
Atlantic City, NJ.
Dec. 4-8, 2019

Police Dept. Now Investigating Its Own Impound Yard

An investigation by the Mobile (Alabama) Police Department into allegations of price gouging by towing companies has taken an unexpected twist. Now MPD is investigating its own impound yard, which may have been violating city laws by charging additional fees. Mobile Public Safety Director James Barber said this started about a month ago when police began investigating complaints of fraud against towing companies.
Five search warrants were executed and five companies suspended from the police rotation list, but Barber said that also led to allegations against Mobile Police Impound charging fees not authorized by the city ordinance. MPD conducted a staff inspection of the impound yard, finding there is a fee schedule that is inconsistent with the ordinance. "I can tell you that corrective action was taken immediately,” Barber said, “to make sure, going forward, that there is no inconsistency with the ordinance. But, at the same time, we've got to go back and make sure that anybody that was harmed by that fee schedule is made whole." Source: fox10tv.com.
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Another Record Crowd at [b]Tow Expo-Dallas

An increase in 5% over last year's attendance performance marked Tow Expo this past weekend in Grapevine, Texas at the Gaylord Texan Resort. The event featured exhibits, training and educational seminars for tow bosses, networking events venues, and trademark American Towman hospitality.

Show Manager Tommy Anderson said exhibitors gave thumbs up over traffic flow. Tow equipment exhibitors reported strong sales activity. American Towman Editor Brendan Dooley observed strong attendance at the Academy seminars.
New Mexico Family Takes Wrecker Customization to Next Level

Mangled Mess

0 a6d36By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

Here we are back with Jack and the Gulf Coast crew, putting his workhorse Metro 70-ton ‘tator to the lift and swing again.

On August 13, 2019 Gulf Coast Fleet Towing Inc. were called to respond to a rollover.

Operations manager Jack Edward Kerns informed, “Glenda Crooks, in our Baytown, Texas, dispatch, received a call from the Chambers County Police Department informing us of an accident involving a tractor-trailer.”

The tractor-trailer had been traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 when the truck hit the center jersey wall barrier, jumped it and slid, causing the front and the steer axle of the tractor to be facing westbound in the westbound lane. The drive axles and the trailer remained on the east bound side of the jersey wall.

Dispatched to scene was Jack Kerns, with his 2015 Metro RTR 70 SL 70-ton rotator, operator Shawn Duke with a 2019 Custom Built CB50 50-ton, and operator Tim Sizemore with a 2013 455 Landoll trailer. Kerns added, “We requested Gary Babb of Texas Hazmat to the scene with his skid steer and sweeper to perform any clean-up of debris and/or materials.”

“Arriving on the scene Highway Patrol requested that I proceed up the westbound side going eastbound with my 70-ton rotator along with Texas Hazmat’s clean up equipment,” said Kerns.

Once on scene Kerns found that the barrier had been busted out and that the 1996 Freightliner had twisted itself over the barrier where it lay on its side from the cab forward. The fuel tank, front axle, engine and transmission had all been busted away from their mounts. On the other side of the wall they found that the front drive axle had been broken loose and that the unit would definitely be needing a ride on the Landoll.

“After surveying the scene we decided to chain the engine, transmission and front axle to the frame and also to remove the batteries from in between the frame and cab to prevent fire,” stated Kerns. He positioned his RTR70SL beside the casualty so that the unit could be rotated back around and placed on the other side of the barrier once it was lifted.

Kerns explained, “We rigged the front frame with a half-bridle and rigged the CB50 to the rear of the chassis, which was empty. I then lifted the tractor front end and up righted the front portion while Shawn Duke winched the entire unit back away from the wall, as I rotated and slid my boom back to align the units and place them on the other side of the wall.”

Once the entire unit was securely on the other side of the jersey barrier, Duke winched the tractor out from under the chassis with the CB50 and Sizemore was able to load the unit on the Landoll. Duke could then safely tow the chassis away from the scene.

Jack informed, “Payment was received and we transported the units to the customer's facility.”

Using their equipment, Gary Babb and Texas Hazmat assisted the trucking companies hazmat team, cleaned up and loaded all debris so that they could be transported from the scene and disposed of.

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!

Late to Class

There’s a curious situation that occurs sometimes when I monitor the seminars for our three trade shows: several attendees for the class show up as late as 20 or 30—even 40!—minutes after the session begins.

Why?

Understood that the towing business calls for immediate responses to jobs while away from the business; but it’s not uncommon to see three or four people from the same company stroll into a session long after the instructor has started.

The instructors have spent a lot of time preparing the material, and you the attendee have spent hard-earned money to attend the seminar. Unfortunately, when you show up late, you run the risk of missing some vital information that is designed to help you operate your shop more efficiently.

You’ve made the investment in yourself and your team; and while it’s understood that it’s not always possible to be there at the top of the hour, you owe it to yourself to get the most out of the dollars you’ve spent.

Get there, and get all of that valuable info!

--Charles Duke

TowMate’s MO37 Wireless Work Light

TowMateMO37 35de0TowMate’s new MO37 unit is a lithium-powered wireless tow light, strobe and work light. The 37” wireless truck bar system provides stop, tail and turn lights with side marker lights on each end and three DOT lights in the center of the bar. Further direct traffic with its sequential traffic control arrows or strobe modes. The unit also features a powerful work light mode. Come see what other products TowMate has to offer at the American Towman Exposition at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Dec. 4-7.

towmate.com
By Don Lomax
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The 2017 Tax Cuts Act has helped my business
a lot
more better than not
marginally
not at all
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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
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August 12 - August 19, 2019
Travis Stacey, owner of Stacey's Towing in Chester County, Pennsylvania, is suing the Reading Parking Authority for $2.8 million alleging the authority owes him for cars he towed and stored for two years. Image - Bill Ulrich, Reading Eagle.

Tow Company Suing Parking Authority for $2.8 Million

A Chester County (Pennsylvania) towing company is suing the Reading Parking Authority for $2.8 million alleging the authority owes him for cars he towed and stored. Travis Stacey, owner of Stacey's Towing, said the authority contracted with him to tow vehicles parked in the city that appeared to be abandoned, or that had been booted after accumulating numerous unpaid parking citations. "We did a contract and they reneged on the contract and left 81 cars on my lot for two years," Stacey said. The authority originally agreed to pay Stacey $150 per vehicle removed plus mileage to and from his salvage yard. However, in March 2015 PennDOT informed Stacey that the procedures and paperwork used by the authority were illegal. Nevertheless, the authority continued to instruct Stacey to impound vehicles at his storage yard until Sept. 18, 2015, even though the authority knew the practice was illegal. As a result, the state police refused to issue salvage permits to Stacey, leaving 81 cars towed under his agreement with the authority sitting on his salvage lot. The suit seeks $12,150 for seizing and storing the 81 cars, plus $2.5 million in storage fees, $300,000 in interest plus Stacey's legal fees. Source: readingeagle.com.

Towman Dies 3 Weeks After Being Hit On I-85

A towman who was struck by a vehicle on Interstate 85 in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 29 has died from his injuries, the Montgomery Police Department confirmed Thursday. Richard Wilson, 53, suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit around 6:45 p.m. that evening. Police and fire medics responded to the area and found a two-vehicle crash involving a 2013 BMW X1 and a 2015 Ford F-650 in the northbound lanes at Forest Avenue. Wilson was apparently trying to load a vehicle on his wrecker when he was struck. He was rushed to an area hospital, then transported to UAB in Birmingham. On Thursday, more than three weeks after the crash, Montgomery police say he died of his injuries. An investigation into the crash is ongoing. Source: wsfa.com.

Man Pleads Guilty to Pointing Gun At Towman

A Hartford, Connecticut, man has pleaded guilty to weapons charges after pointing a firearm at a towman who was towing his car, according to a statement from federal prosecutors. Luis Quintana, 28, pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On July 29, 2018, Quintana pointed a gun at a tow truck operator who had started the process of towing Quintana's car, which had been improperly parked in a private lot on Garden Street, according to the statement. After the tow truck operator removed the car from the tow hitch and Quintana walked away, the victim's partner called police. Police responded to the scene and located Quintana nearby. Police then retrieved a loaded Ruger P95 9mm millimeter handgun that Quintana had discarded as police arrived, according to the statement. Quintana will be sentenced in January and faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. Source: patch.com.


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Don't Miss It!
He’s back and is rarin’ to go with his entertaining theatrical review of air cushion jobs worldwide that’s not “a lot of hot air!” Join Howard “Scooby” Eagan and John Sweezy Jr., as Matjack presents “Scooby’s Mystery Theater,” taking place during the American Towman Exposition at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Dec. 4-7. (Note: Some of this presentation may not be suitable for children.)

atexposition.com
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August 12 - August 19, 2019
Gray’s Towing of Flint, Michigan, provided a tow truck to help VFW 4087 move to its new building in Davison. Image – Gary Gould.

Gray’s Towing Helps [b]VFW Move Tank

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4087 of Davison, Michigan, made the final move to its new building last week when, with a little help from some friends, members moved the old military tank, howitzer gun and flagpole from the original post site.

Gray’s Towing of Flint provided a tow truck, while Bristol Steel sent a flatbed and members of the Local 125 Ironworkers offered manpower to move the non-functioning pieces of military equipment from the post’s old home.

For Gray’s towman Dave Scott, helping with the move turned out to have family connections. Scott said his grandfather, a member of Local Ironworkers 125, used his bulldozer to assist with the unloading of the tank sometime in the 1960s.

In all, the crew loaded the tank, the howitzer and pulled the flagpole out of the ground and loaded it too on the truck—all of which was taken a short distance to the new post at the corner of Court Street and Irish Road.

The move took about two hours to complete. At the post, some members gathered to watch the equipment be unloaded with the tank placed on a cement pad facing out toward Court Street. 

Source: davisonindex.mihomepaper.com.

Urgent.ly Makes Inc. 5000 List

Global mobility and roadside assistance platform company Urgently has been ranked No. 12 on Inc. Magazine’s annual Inc. 5000 list. The list represents a unique look at the most successful independent small businesses.

"Urgently is honored and excited to be recognized by Inc. alongside the fastest-growing private companies in the country,” said Chris Spanos, CEO and cofounder, Urgently. “We are incredibly proud of the hard work our team has put into growing Urgently into the leading global mobility and roadside assistance platform, delivering better experiences for customers and partners across rapidly evolving global automotive, insurance and mobility markets.”

“The companies on this year’s Inc. 5000 have followed so many different paths to success,” says Inc. editor in chief James Ledbetter. “There’s no single course you can follow or investment you can take that will guarantee this kind of spectacular growth. But what they have in common is persistence and seizing opportunities.”

Source: prweb.com.

Council Denies Appeals [b]by Tow Companies

Mobile (Alabama) City Council members denied appeals from three wrecking companies to lift an additional 30-day suspension for various violations, including overcharging for storage and towing. By a 5-2 vote, councilmembers voted to deny the appeals of SOS Towing, Southport Towing, and A+ Wrecker.

“We have to fix the ordinance, because right now, it appears to be broken,” said council VP Levon Manzie. “I hope we have a committee meeting so we can get the matter resolved.”

SOS, Southport, and A+ were three of five wrecker companies given an additional 30-day suspension because they charged fees not authorized by the city of Mobile and were cited for additional violations. Representatives of the three companies questioned if Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste arbitrarily used the towing ordinance to target those companies.

Battiste said he was only acting according to what was in the city’s ordinance and told Manzie he had received additional complaints regarding overcharging, noting he based it on information provided to his department.

Councilman Joel Daves, who presented motions to approve appeals for all three companies, said he did not believe Battiste acted arbitrarily in giving the companies the additional suspensions.

Harry Satterwhite, who represented SOS Towing, told councilmembers what was going on with the companies was not a good look for the city, and he appealed to the council not to allow SOS Towing to be penalized the additional 30 days.

“You’re going to eventually run these companies out of business,” he said. “It seems like you’re being heavy-handed. The people that are being represented are willing to compromise.”

But MPD attorney Wanda Rahman said after companies were taken out of the rotation for 30 days and after it was publicized by the media, there were customers who called complaining about additional violations. Rahman said of the five companies suspended, only one — Casher’s Towing — had records.

SOS Towing owner Gary Smith said he received e-mails requesting information and denied he overcharged customers.

“I cannot show you an invoice, because MPD has taken my records,” he said. “As far as overcharging, I can’t dispute it, because no one returned my phone calls. I have strike one; I’ve been out for 30 days. If I do it again, then give me an additional 30-day suspension.”

Source: thecallnews.com.

FCC Urged to Preserve [b]Safety Frequency

The leaders of all 50 state departments of transportation, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico this week called upon the Federal Communications Commission to “continue our nation’s commitment to improving transportation safety” by reserving the 5.9 GHz wireless spectrum for transportation use.

In a show of national unity on the important issue of transportation safety, the chief executive of every member of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials signed a letter addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and filed in the FCC docket.

The letter states, “The top priority for the state DOTs and AASHTO has been—and will always remain—the safety of all transportation system users. The loss of 36,750 lives last year on our nation’s highways and streets demands that we act boldly. To this end, connected vehicles (CV) utilizing Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication in the 5.9 GHz spectrum will save lives by creating a seamless, cooperative environment that significantly improves the safety of our transportation system.”

The DOT leaders acknowledged that automakers and device manufacturers will dictate availability of vehicular equipment. However, transportation agencies will control the deployment and operation of roadside infrastructure and the incorporation of CV technologies into infrastructure applications. This collaboration between the public and private sectors has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and deploy lifesaving CV technologies in the 5.9 GHz spectrum.

“State DOTs understand that a CV environment holds the potential to support a fundamental advancement in ensuring the safety of our nation’s surface transportation system. And in order for this promising future to become a reality, the 5.9 GHz spectrum must be preserved for transportation safety purposes.”

Source: AASHTO.

Towman Claims He Was [b]Fired Helping During Floods

A Utica, New York, tower claims he was fired after helping residents during floods that took place Aug. 17.

A local news station spoke with the owner on Johnston's Auto Body on Aug. 19, who says he never fired towman Michael Venettozzi.

The tower's employment status has caused a stir on social media.

The owner said Venettozzi was scheduled to work this week, and he was never fired. He said this was all he could legally state.

According to Venettozzi, he was near BJ's in North Utica helping people with a tow truck. He said he heard from a AAA dispatcher that he had been fired.

AAA had not made a statement at press time.

Venettozzi says he's certain the owner let him go.

"I honestly didn't even consider my own safety or the risk to his equipment which he did explain when he let me go," said Venettozzi. He added "I don't think that he's wrong, I don't think people should be bashing him for his choice, I don't think they should be flooding his Facebook, calling his office."

Source: wktv.com.

Car Burns After Being Loaded

A towman got more than he bargained for after loading a disabled sedan onto the back of his truck in Seal Beach, California, on Aug. 21.

Flames erupted after he had loaded the car on his truck, eventually engulfing the car in a fiery blaze.

At about 7:15 p.m., the tow truck stopped in the middle lane atop the Seal Beach Boulevard overpass at the 405 Freeway. Flames could be seen inside the passenger compartment of the car.

About five minutes later, the tow truck pulled into the parking lot of the Seal Beach Post Office on Westminster Boulevard as flames engulfed the car.

He was soon joined by at least three Seal Beach police cars, racing up with lights and sirens, and eventually an Orange County Fire Authority pumper truck.

The street filled with white smoke after firefighters began dousing the flames.

Source: ocregister.com.
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August 12 - August 19, 2019

Mangled Mess

0 a6d36By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

Here we are back with Jack and the Gulf Coast crew, putting his workhorse Metro 70-ton ‘tator to the lift and swing again.

On August 13, 2019 Gulf Coast Fleet Towing Inc. were called to respond to a rollover.

Operations manager Jack Edward Kerns informed, “Glenda Crooks, in our Baytown, Texas, dispatch, received a call from the Chambers County Police Department informing us of an accident involving a tractor-trailer.”

The tractor-trailer had been traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 when the truck hit the center jersey wall barrier, jumped it and slid, causing the front and the steer axle of the tractor to be facing westbound in the westbound lane. The drive axles and the trailer remained on the east bound side of the jersey wall.

Dispatched to scene was Jack Kerns, with his 2015 Metro RTR 70 SL 70-ton rotator, operator Shawn Duke with a 2019 Custom Built CB50 50-ton, and operator Tim Sizemore with a 2013 455 Landoll trailer. Kerns added, “We requested Gary Babb of Texas Hazmat to the scene with his skid steer and sweeper to perform any clean-up of debris and/or materials.”

“Arriving on the scene Highway Patrol requested that I proceed up the westbound side going eastbound with my 70-ton rotator along with Texas Hazmat’s clean up equipment,” said Kerns.

Once on scene Kerns found that the barrier had been busted out and that the 1996 Freightliner had twisted itself over the barrier where it lay on its side from the cab forward. The fuel tank, front axle, engine and transmission had all been busted away from their mounts. On the other side of the wall they found that the front drive axle had been broken loose and that the unit would definitely be needing a ride on the Landoll.

“After surveying the scene we decided to chain the engine, transmission and front axle to the frame and also to remove the batteries from in between the frame and cab to prevent fire,” stated Kerns. He positioned his RTR70SL beside the casualty so that the unit could be rotated back around and placed on the other side of the barrier once it was lifted.

Kerns explained, “We rigged the front frame with a half-bridle and rigged the CB50 to the rear of the chassis, which was empty. I then lifted the tractor front end and up righted the front portion while Shawn Duke winched the entire unit back away from the wall, as I rotated and slid my boom back to align the units and place them on the other side of the wall.”

Once the entire unit was securely on the other side of the jersey barrier, Duke winched the tractor out from under the chassis with the CB50 and Sizemore was able to load the unit on the Landoll. Duke could then safely tow the chassis away from the scene.

Jack informed, “Payment was received and we transported the units to the customer's facility.”

Using their equipment, Gary Babb and Texas Hazmat assisted the trucking companies hazmat team, cleaned up and loaded all debris so that they could be transported from the scene and disposed of.

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!

A Little Mornin’ Mixer Mayhem

0 69871By Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

Located in Pasadena, Texas, Gulf Coast Fleet Towing (aka, Ron’s Towing & Recovery) has been serving the heavy-duty truck industry in Houston, Harris County, Fort Bend County, and the surrounding areas for more than 40 years.

Mike Weingart owns Gulf Coast and Ron’s and has an experienced and trained staff of towing and recovery professionals with a unique fleet of the latest specialized recovery equipment.

“We were contacted by the Houston Police Department on Saturday, August 10 2019, at 8:30 a.m. to respond to a rollover on I-610 and Highway 225,” said Jack Edward Kerns, operations manager. “Interstate 610 (I-610) is a freeway that forms a 38-mile-long loop around the downtown sector of city of Houston.”

Heavy-duty recovery specialist Richard “Dudalbug” Edward Harrison received the call and responded with his 2018 Custom Built CB 50-ton. Once on scene, Harrison discovered that it was a rolled-over mixer weighing in at approximately 54,000-pounds.

Kerns arrived on the scene with a 2015 Metro RTR-70 SL 70. The RTR-70 is a 70-ton rotator designed for extreme recovery operations and comes with a Metro full-proportional remote system. 

“The mixer was rigged with a front axle pull down performed by the CB 50-ton with a 1/2-inch chain bridle attached to two points of the frame cradling the drum,” Kerns said. “The chain bridle was also attached to a snatch block using 3/4-inch wire rope with a catch line rigged to the opposite side of the frame.”

The casualty was uprighted without any incident and towed away from the scene by operator Dennis Hassebroch with his 2018 Custom Built CB 35-ton. The mixer was transported to the customer’s facility. 

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!

Rocked & Rolled in North Jersey

0 Rocked Rolled TIW 8 copy d441aBy Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

William "Bill" R. Rempfer Sr. and his wife, Cheryl, opened DeFalco's Automotive and Towing in Chatham, New Jersey, in 1994. Bill passed away in 2016, but Cheryl and sons, William “Bill” Jr. and Adam carry on the family owned and operated business.

At 4 a.m. on July 23, 2017, DeFalco’s received a call from the New Jersey State Police requesting they respond to Route 287 N. in Mahwah to deal with a rolled over sleeper tractor.

DeFalco’s responded with its recovery team and equipment. Bill Jr. served as the scene supervisor on this job. Adam responded with their 2016 Kenworth T800/50-ton NRC 4050 CSR rotator. Operator Ryan Condit was in the 2019 Ford F-550/19’ Chevron flatbed; operator Rolando Ramirez in a 2014 Kenworth T800 tandem/NRC 40-ton CSR; and operator Hector Ramirez was in the 1994 International 4300 Emergency Response Unit.

The sleeper tractor had rolled over several times, creating a large debris field with a large fluid spill.

“Upon arrival we discovered that the bobtail tractor had spun out and overturned into the woods coming to rest on an embankment,” Adam said. “The right-side diesel tank was ruptured and leaking fuel onto the roadway.”

Members of DeFalco’s recovery team contained the spill and proceeded to pump out the diesel tanks to ensure no more spillage.

“We rigged the tractor with two rim slings through the rims, lifted and slid controlled down embankment to the rear of the tow truck in order to be hooked and prepared for a tow from the rear,” said Adam. “Once the casualty was moved, all debris and fluid were cleaned and inspected by Hazmat.”

The casualty was towed from the rear by the NRC 40 CSR to DeFalco’s towing yard in Chatham.


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

Plantsville, CT
$88
(Pop. 10,387)

Beeville, TX
$175
(Pop. 13,290)

Lake Station, IN
$130
(Pop. 12,572)

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

Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.
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August 12 - August 19, 2019

Is Your Compensation Plan Legal?

Wages 104f7By Brian J Riker

Is your compensation plan legal? This is an oft-debated subject in the transportation industry with some unique issues to consider as towers, especially those with light-duty service vehicles.

Being that towers often engage in interstate commerce it can be argued that the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is applicable as it clearly indicates that it is the controlling law for anyone engaging in interstate commerce.

Section 13 (b)(1) of the Federal FLSA exempts from overtime pay, in part, employees of motor carriers that directly affect the safety of commercial motor vehicles used in interstate commerce. This includes drivers, loaders, mechanics and others that have a direct responsibility for the safety of these vehicles.

Since most tow drivers engage in interstate commerce at least once during their work week, they are exempt from overtime pay.
These covered employees still must be paid in a manner that provides at least minimum wage for every hour worked. Piece work, flat rate and commission must also equal at least the equivalent of minimum wage when all hours worked are calculated. Only certain management or sales level employees are exempt from minimum wage standards.

To further complicate matters, if at anytime during their work week your otherwise exempt employees operate, or affect the safety of, a vehicle with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or less used in interstate commerce they lose the exemption from overtime pay. All hours worked in that week in excess of 40 hours become subject to overtime pay at time-and-a-half , even when operating larger commercial vehicles. This is to be calculated at least at minimum wage if paid piece work, commission or some other method beside hourly, or their prevailing wage if they are hourly.

If you have drivers that normally operate a larger truck but also use a light-duty service van or other type of vehicle to support interstate commerce (such as roadside repair and/or parts delivery) their pay must include overtime under the FLSA.

Another often confusing issue regarding minimum wage revolves around on-call and over the road drivers. In an opinion issued on July 22, the Department of Labor now contends that over the road truckers do not need to be paid minimum wage for all hours away from home. Time spent resting and waiting for dispatch can be excluded from the total work week calculation.

This conflicts with several court decisions stating that on-call or resting away from home in a truck should be included in working hours for compensation purposes.

My interpretation: If a tow driver is waiting for dispatch from suitable resting facilities and is free to engage in activities of their choosing, then those hours spent waiting are off the clock. However, if you require your on-call driver to be in a constant state of readiness or have them wait staged in their truck somewhere, then those hours are to be included in the minimum wage calculation.

Disclaimer: This article is written with a Federal Labor Law focus; some states may have differing requirements. It is not intended to be legal advice, simply provoke discussion and thought among towers. If in doubt which rules apply, please seek competent legal council.

Also, do not interpret this article as advocating for not paying towers a fair wage; it is exactly the opposite. It is my intent to assure that towers are paid fairly and in compliance with the law. We all know this job deserves so much more than minimum wage.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC and is a contributing writer to American Towman Magazine and Tow Industry Week. 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

Let Me In!

345678 b4de0By Randall C. Resch


In January 2019, a Florida motorist crashed into the rear of a slow moving carrier and was killed as the carrier attempted to merge from the highway’s shoulder into the traffic flow.

Having read about this incident, I pondered the forthcoming wrongful death case that was bound to happen, when, regardless as to fact that the motorist ran into the carrier, the deceased motorist’s family would ultimately sue for a wrongful death.

Slow Down, Move Over

All states across America, Canada, and other countries have slow down/move over laws that serve the purpose of requiring approaching motorists to do just that. For obvious reasons, slow down/move over always comes into play because of the worldwide pandemic of DUI and distracted driving that’s been responsible for the untimely death of hundreds of tow operators and first responders around the world.

On the other side of that coin, data posted by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that approximately 12 percent of all interstate highway deaths resulted from crashes occurring on emergency shoulders. This suggests that an estimated 600 people each year are killed and thousands more are injured while making emergency stops on a highway’s shoulder. 

As in the case of the motorist crashing into the tow truck, it was the approaching motorist who failed to slow down and move over. But, in many states there’s a negative catch to the legality of slow down/move over, especially when tow trucks aren’t authorized by law to drive in live traffic lanes with overhead amber strobe/rotor lights activated.

How It’s Done

Because these kinds of crashes are frequent these suggestions are specific to tow trucks and carriers typical to highway and inner-city operations from either the slow side of traffic (curbside) or from the center median. Consider the following:

For motorists to consider slow down/move over, tow trucks and flatbed carriers should be parked with overhead amber strobe/rotor lights on.

From the parked/idle position, look to the tow truck’s mirrors for approaching traffic. Begin your forward movement when there’s a substantial gap between the tow truck and approaching vehicles.

At that moment of forward movement, activate the tow truck’s turn signal to indicate the direction you intend to travel and the lane you’re about to occupy.

Use amber emergency lights when allowed by law.

Begin forward acceleration, gaining speed while remaining on the shoulder and right of the white fog line. Be aware of parked vehicles or other obstacles that may be on the shoulder. Watch for locations where the shoulder’s lane runs out or pinches to a point.

While gaining speed and with your head on a swivel, watch approaching traffic in the mirrors while continuing forward.

As the tow truck accelerates, constantly eye back and forth, rearward and forward while estimating a realistic gap that appears open.

Anticipate that a vehicle from center lanes may attempt the dangerous move to change lanes left or right at the same time you’re entering traffic lanes.

While on the shoulder and still driving straight, increase the truck’s speed up to approximately 50 miles per hour while again looking at both mirrors and approaching traffic. To merge from either center median or slow side shoulder requires the truck’s speed to be reasonably fast enough to equal traffic flow.

For reasons of safety, don’t use arm signals with your arm outside the truck’s window for fear someone will crash into the tow truck.

When a substantial gap in traffic is clear and with the truck’s turn signal still on, carefully merge into the first lane of traffic as you continue to bring the truck’s speed up to a reasonable and prudent speed for vehicle’s being towed or transported.

Merge only when safe to do so. Once you’ve safely made way into traffic lanes, turn off overhead emergency lights, unless the tow or load means your forward speed may be slower for safety reasons.

Re-entering traffic lanes from a stopped, slow rolling position requires total attention and perfect depth perception. This may seem basic, but distracted driving is here to say and I’ll guarantee that another unfortunate traffic collision like the one mentioned will happen again.

Consider it a great topic for your company’s next safety meeting.

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.

Employee or Contractor?

W2 1099 c6144By Brian J Riker

Employee or contractor? Often a hotly debated subject in the port drayage segment of the trucking industry, it also arises in the towing industry. Recently under attack by several states, the owner-operator and independent contractor model deserves a closer look.

Read through a few truck drivers job postings and you will see terms like W2 or 1099 position, indicating bona fide employee vs. independent contractor.

We must ask ourselves as business owners before deciding to use the independent contractor model to source drivers, do we want to give up enough control over the work to legally qualify our drivers as contractors?

I see this used in large cities often, borrowing from the taxi cab model where a driver “leases” their vehicle for the day, covers fuel and keeps a percentage of the daily revenue generated. In theory this makes them an independent contractor; but does it really?

Most states, with California and New York as the most notable exceptions, use the Internal Revenue Service contractor test to make this determination. (Basically the contractor must have a significant enough investment into the business to potentially suffer a loss, be free to set their own hours, work independently from company oversight and perform the task as they see fit.)

The IRS does not require the contractor to own their own vehicle, although it is difficult to comply without owning or leasing their own truck and tools.

Where towing has issue with complying with the IRS test is the fully independent portion. To be effective and efficient, tow drivers must be controlled by a dispatch center and usually do not know what their day or week will look like in advance, meaning they can’t effectively plan their own work free of supervision.

California’s Supreme Court recently adopted the position that all workers are employees unless very strict conditions, known as the ABC Test, are met. The controlling factor for towers is that contractors must be free to work for other businesses and provide services that are outside the ordinary course of business for the company they are contracting with.

I am following the California decision closely as it has implications far beyond the single driver independent contractor model. Even large companies such as FedEx Ground have failed to comply and have been cited for violations of wage and hour laws, misclassifying employees and more using the ABC Test.

I see this as an attack on independent trucking providers, and perhaps even contractors to motor clubs that also run their own fleet. Given the rulings against companies such as XPO and FedEx Ground, even when they are contracting with bona fide transportation businesses, the employees of those other businesses must be treated as employees of theirs, creating a very expensive and complicated relationship.

On the other coast, New York has attacked the independent driver contractor model for years. New York expands upon the IRS “Common Law Test,” requiring the same basic qualifications as well as meeting 11 other specific conditions.

Additionally, New York specifically requires transportation-related businesses contracting with independent drivers to be liable for workers compensation. Even in cases where a single truck contractor cannot collect on a workers compensation claim they still must carry the insurance.

New York also has restrictions on who can provide and pay for job-specific training, tools and other unique restrictions. Like California, their position presumes that all workers are employees unless all of the controlling conditions can be met.

Bottom line: With the increase in “gig economy” jobs, more and more folks are looking for independence and often desire to work for multiple companies simultaneously. This may be a good source of labor, if done correctly and with the best interests of the contractor in mind.

In an effort to protect workers from abuse, some states are enacting laws that make this almost impossible. If you choose to use workers in a manner other than as traditional employees please seek the advice of a wage and labor law expert to ensure your plan does not violate and state or federal laws. The penalties for non-compliance can be severe.
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August 12 - August 19, 2019

A “Real” Texan Showpiece

0 249e9By George Nitti

As the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas.”

Perhaps nothing reinforces this point more than a rotator from the Lone Star state featured at the TowExpo--Dallas.

It was a 2018 Peterbilt 389 with a Jerr Dan 50/60 Rotator owned by Action Towing of Marshall, Texas, that stood out as a real Texan showpiece. The unit features a double-framed steer axle, a five-winch option that can pull 120,000 pounds and a powerful 6500 Cummings engine.

Owner Bubba Oney, who calls himself a “cowboy hat-wearing Texan,” said, “Our rotator is Texas-themed because everything is bigger here.”

On this ‘tator one will find much to marvel at. The sunset-filled Houston skyline; the large lettering, the state flag, an enormous-sized image of a tow chain and an assortment of other Texas imagery.

The unit’s superb wrap was executed by Scott Peck Fleet Graphics of West Valley City, Utah, with much input from Oney himself. Their exchange took a couple of months before settling on a design.

The Houston skyline imagery found on the front of unit was inspired and lifted from a photo that Oney took when he was riding on his motorcycle.

He said, “I was going into Houston and there was little traffic on the road. It was a perfect skyline. I got my phone and snapped a picture of it. I’ve always been a big fan of the Houston skyline.”

That image would serve to fill out the rest of the wrap, according to Oney.

He said, “We didn’t know how to transition from the flag to the back of the body and Scott was doubtful that it would work, but I said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ I think it made the transition well.”

The large red block lettering in a western-style font, with specialized effects and a textured background, elicits a “wow” factor. It gives the company name and phone number prominence.

Also scattered around are more images, among which include a white tail deer, drilling rigs, a Texas sunset, and a cowboy on a bucking horse.

Oney said, “You can walk around it and find something new all of the time.”

Other showpieces include fenders painted red with customized matching headlights and a dazzling interior featuring a hardwood floor and specialized seats emblazoned with the company name.

Oney concluded, “This truck is a symbol of what Texas is: big! And it has everything incorporated that we are known for.”

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 Rare Breed

0 e7046
By George L. Nitti

It’s been said that the difference between something good and something great is attention to detail. Compelling tow trucks are no exception, including the stellar fleet of 13 trucks owned by F&S Automotive in Mantua, Ohio.

It’s the cumulative effect of many details that make for a rare breed and great visual showcase, which is exemplified on their now-retired 1969 Peterbilt/Hubbard Wrecker 30-ton, a classic truck that’s won many awards over the years.

“It was originally bought brand new as a road tractor,” said owner Dean Stebbins Sr., who founded the company in 1967. “It hauled sand for a couple of years and then was parked. I was told that, ‘You ought to build a wrecker out of it.’ After buying it, I sent it to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and had a 750 Holmes put on it. Then I sent it to Farmland, Indiana, where they custom-built wreckers and added a custom-built boom and underlift.”

Color is one critical detail that can’t be overlooked. No color stands out like red, particularly when coordinated with gold.

“At one time, all of our trucks were yellow,” Stebbins said. “Then we went to red. I liked red better.”

Both doors of the unit display Old English lettering with decorative pinstriping within an encased white plaque that spells out the company name and location. A medallion on the front passenger side instills company trust with the words “F&S Incorporated. Since 1967.”

The unit includes a tribute to Stebbins’ mother, Hazel, who passed in 1990.

“She was a driving force for me to excel in whatever I wanted to do,” Stebbins said. “I grew up on a farm and was surrounded by machinery. She encouraged me to always follow my dreams. I thought I wanted to be a farmer, but when I got around tow trucks, I was fascinated with them.”

Above the front grill is a bug shield that says “Drag-n-Wagon.”

Stebbins said, “At one time, it was called ‘The Dragon’ because it was the monster in northeast Ohio. When you tow something you’ve got to drag it so I said, ‘Let’s call it drag-n-wagon.’ ”

The lady figure found on the front of the truck is a symbol of Stebbins close relationship he has with it.

He said, “You might say the truck is my love. It’s my girl.”

One longstanding practice the company adheres to is keeping their trucks meticulously clean, washing them upon every return.

“They call me ‘Mr. Meticulous,’ ” Stebbins said. “Even our shops you can eat off the floor. Cleanliness is the best way to go. I want people to feel good about where they work and what they are driving.”

All little details adding up to make a great difference.

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!

Mr. C’s Camouflage Design

mrcsowing f4f05George L. Nitti

Although camouflage is meant to conceal, when displayed in the open, like on a tow truck, you can bet it catches the eye.

In the case of Mr. C’s Towing in Los Alamitos, California, that is good news, as their latest wrap, done in a blue, gray and white patterned camouflage, turns heads and leaves a memorable impression.

According to Mr. C’s general manager Ricky Northcutt, a 17-year veteran of the company, Mr. C’s tow trucks are uniquely wrapped, including their 2019 Chevy 6500HD with a Vulcan wrecker.

“The inspiration behind the wrap came from a YouTuber called Daily Driven Exotics that drives around in a Lamborghini,” said Northcutt. “We copied the design. He goes to shows and does documentaries on his adventures. When his car breaks down we come to pick him up. He has an audience in the millions.”

Like the wrap on the Lamborghini, Mr. C’s new Vulcan was wrapped by the same company; Protective Film Solutions of Costa Mesa.

Outside of the highly immersive, camouflaged pattern, the white lettering is easy to read, clearly presenting the company name on the side of the unit, large lettering spelling out 24 hour service, several of its other locations, it’s phone number and the purpose that it serves: official police towing.

For Mr. C’s, this is the third time they have switched out their recovery truck, keeping the same Vulcan wrecker originally purchased in the ’90s.

“Although Ford commands about 85 percent of the light-duty market, we are ‘Chevy Guys.’ For awhile, Chevy was out of the towing market but now they are back in,” Northcutt said.

With approximately 50 units in their fleet, the bulk of Mr. C’s work includes police impounds, recoveries, and high-end towing, where they transport as far as Santa Barbara and Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Orange County, California, is the exotic car county of California,” Northcutt said. “We do about 20 cars a day transporting cars to and from car shows and old vintage Porsches to people like Jay Leno.

“To do this kind of work, you have to gain trust with the customer. In Orange County, everyone knows who we are.”
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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August 12 - August 19, 2019

Jerr-Dan‘s SS70 Stabilizer

product 5017cJerr-Dan recently debuted its new Jerr-Dan Side Stabilization (SS70) for heavy-duty wrecker units. Features of the new SS70 include: 37,000 lbs. of rated structural capacity; hydraulic legs that can be controlled from the driver- and passenger-side controls; side-to-side leveling up to 5.5 degrees; pivoting feet; four D-rings for rigging; and two mounting options: a forward position behind the cab and a rear mounting position in front of the pedestal. Remote control upgrades include an added winch engagement and two-speed functionality, along with color-coordinated winch-function paddles and a brightly colored housing for improved visibility. The remote features also include two rechargeable batteries, a charger and tether cable for wired control and trickle-charging.

jerrdan.com

Crankenstein 12V/24V Jump Pack

product 7e86eWeego recently launched its Crankenstein jump-starting 12V/24V Power Pack designed for towing professionals. Crankenstein includes industry-first features built into a compact power pack that is just 9 lbs. It provides 1,200 cranking amps and 5,000 peak amps for 12-volt systems and 600 cranking amps and 5,000 peak amps for 24-volt systems; it will jump start 0-volt batteries safely and automatically. An OLED screen clearly walks the tower through the jump and communicates warning messages, light brightness level and connection quality.

myweegopro.com
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August 12 - August 19, 2019
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August 12 - August 19, 2019
Mercedes-Benz has been fitting sensors inside new and used vehicles to pinpoint their exact whereabouts in the event of repossession.

Mercedes-Benz Using [b]Sensors for Car Repos

Mercedes-Benz is using sensors to track a vehicle’s location in the event it needs to be repossessed.

According to UK newspaper The Sun, Mercedes-Benz has been fitting sensors inside new and used vehicles to pinpoint their exact whereabouts. That information can then be shared with bailiffs and third-party recovery firms.

The automaker said tracking can occur in rare circumstances after a customer agrees to finance a car through Mercedes-Benz's financial services.

"In this case, they sign a contract and agree to the use of the car's location in the event they default or breach their finance agreement," a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson told PCMag. In addition, all customers are made aware of the repossession process and how location tracking can be involved.

"This repossession process is used in a few exceptional cases and only as a last resort, when customers default or breach their finance agreement and repeatedly fail requests to return their vehicle," the spokesperson said.

"We also want to emphasize that this does not mean constant tracking."

Still, it raises some questions about potential surveillance of customers. So far, Mercedes-Benz hasn't elaborated on whether all company cars have been fitted with the tracking technology. But the automaker's spokesperson and the brand's privacy policies do note that Mercedes-Benz will collect customers' vehicle location to power certain features like navigation or emergency services.

Source: pcmag.com.

$3M Cash Settlement for Troops over Repos

Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp., the financial services arm for Nissan North America, settled a federal lawsuit Aug. 1 alleging violations of a law that helps members of the military by suspending certain financial obligations during active duty.

The $3 million settlement was reached the same day the government’s complaint was filed; the investigation, however, began at least in December 2016 when the government first notified Nissan that it was looking into the alleged misconduct.

The lawsuit alleged that Nissan repossessed at least 113 service members’ vehicles without a court order and failed to refund certain upfront payments after many service members terminated their leases, as required by law. Nissan did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

The settlement covers conduct alleged to have occurred from 2008 through November of 2018. The agreement specifies that over $2.9 million of the $3 million settlement will be put in a fund to compensate the 113 service members whose vehicles were repossessed, as well as those who didn’t get their CCR refunds; the rest will go to the Treasury.

It is the 10th settlement reached between the government and an auto finance provider for violations of the law protecting service members since 2015, according to the Justice Department.

Source: militarytimes.com.

SUV Breaks Loose [b]from Repo Truck

An SUV being repossessed nearly slammed into a home in Asheville, North Carolina, and caused an outage that left more than 60 people without power on July 25.

Asheville police said the driver of a repo truck was adjusting the position of the vehicle when it came loose.

"It came down through the grass, knocked over this sign, knocked all the bamboo over, and hit my car, and knocked it over there,” resident Sonya Fair said.

Representatives of the agent’s company, Associates Asset Recovery, said the vehicle had transmission issues, and the driver was in the process of strapping it down when it rolled off the truck bed.

Police said the runaway car also hit two people walking along Hanover Street. Both were taken to the hospital. There was no word on their condition at press time.

The repo company disputes that two pedestrians were hit by the runaway vehicle, despite it being in the police report.

Associates Asset Recovery officials said the driver of the tow truck did nothing wrong and is still employed.

Source: krcgtv.com.

Repo Agent’s Truck [b]Stolen at Gas Station

A repo agent had his own tow truck, and a repossessed car it was carrying, stolen from a gas station in Memphis, Tennessee, on July 25.

The agent said he stopped at the gas station at 4 a.m. He went inside to pick up a pack of cigarettes, but left his truck running. Moments later, he looked out of a window and saw a man driving off with his truck.

The agent said there was a repossessed Nissan Maxima on the back.

The tow truck was tracked to a location, where it was found abandoned. The man who took it also took the keys and vandalized the computer system that costs $1,500. The repossessed car wasn't damaged.

At press time, the suspect is still wanted.

Source: wreg.com.
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