The Week's Features
Company borne from owner’s motorcycle that wouldn’t run
Associatio nwants to pay drivers $100 more per tow
New line of decals and T-shirts now available
Absorbents help clean up the mess on Route 24
New space increases capacity more than 50-percent
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingOctober 18 - October 24, 2017

City, State
Harriman, NY
(Pop. 2,487)
Lucedale, MS
(Pop. 3,004)
Rush City, MN
(Pop. 3,065)
Eastsound, WA
(Pop. 4,500)
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

Burning Bridges for $70

burnabridge 797e7By DON ARCHER

The sink in the basement had a leak. I'd put up with it for months, twisting the handle until my knuckles went white. Over time the leak turned into a constant flow, so I called a plumber I'd used before. I could have done it myself but probably would've ended up waist-deep in water, since I'm not a plumber.

I was hoping a plumber could just work some magic and replace a rubber washer or a valve or something. No luck. The house was built in 1987 and the fixture pre-dated the house by a decade, which meant he couldn't find parts. So he was forced to put in a new one.

The fixture was only $75, but the total was quite a bit more as he had to bring the connecting piping up to code before he could install it. I was shocked at the $528 invoice. But I paid the bill and was happy to have the problem resolved. You never know when you're going to have an emergency and it's nice to know someone you can trust.

Last week I received a call from a guy who had his own problem. He had a single-axle dump truck that needed some engine work. It was 40 miles away from the repair shop and he needed it towed.

My first clue to walk away should have been when he asked me to do the job for almost a third less than our standard rates. I told him I couldn't and he agreed to have us tow it.

I gathered the information needed, asking what was wrong with the truck and about ease of access to it. We just had a big snow melt and the ground was soft.

He assured me it was easy to get to, "Just back right up to it and go."

I explained the rates in detail, laying out the charges for hookup and mileage. I said, "barring any unforeseen difficulties, and if everything is as you're telling me, it should be within our regular rates." He guaranteed me it was an easy job and quickly got off the phone.

I sent Rick out in our single-axle Peterbilt. He called back about an hour later with the real story: the truck was blocked in by a trailer, out in a field, with no road. And the ground was the consistency of a newly plowed garden after a spring rain. The customer was two hours away and the only help on hand was the customer's grandmother and a guy with two broken arms.

Rick went on to explain, "If I back up to this thing, I'm gonna get stuck."

I called the customer and told him the situation. "If I have to send another truck down there to get my guy out it's going to cost more."

"I ain't paying for that," he railed.

I told him I understood and said, "I won't charge you anything for going down there today, just call us back when it dries out."

Still upset he wanted us to "go check it out after a couple of days" and "if it's dry—tow it." I suggested that, because of the distance (40 miles), it would probably be best if he called us back when it dried out.

The lack of communication and understanding should have sufficed as my second clue to cut my losses, but the following Monday he called back. The temperature had dropped substantially and he promised the ground was completely frozen.

"We drove our big dump truck across it," he insisted.

Once again we drove the 40 miles to his truck.

This time the ground seemed firm, but once Rick hooked it and tried to move, the wrecker tires sunk six inches. He was stuck. Now he'd been stuck before and was able to disconnect from the dump truck and get himself unstuck. But to be able to leave there loaded he had to take a different tack.

Instead of picking it up from the rear, as was the initial plan, he decided to pull the driveshaft and tow it from the front. But the driveshaft would only give up three of its bolts. The fourth was stubborn and became stripped.

The plan had to change once more.

Being forced to load it from the rear while attempting to stay out of the mess he'd freed himself from earlier, Rick had to grab the truck from a different angle. To get that angle he had to first move the trailer blocking his access. He asked the grandmother to borrow the farm tractor to move it (it was in a shed across another "frozen" field), but the battery was down.

A call to the customer yielded no help as he was over two hours away and busy.

It was settled Rick would have to use his winch and snatch block to pull the trailer out of the way. But the brakes on the trailer were locked up. Frozen or seized, he wasn't sure but to get the job done, today, the trailer must be moved.

Another call ... and with the consent of the owner, we moved it aside.

Almost three hours after Rick arrived, he was finally hooked up and headed to the repair shop.

On the way there, the owner called for an update. I explained that we were finally in tow, but that we'd experienced much more difficulty than expected and spent quite a bit more time on the job than was anticipated. Before I could finish he became argumentative, saying that Rick didn't know what he was doing and that we'd agreed on a price.

His tone remained combative as I explained that the price he was given was good (and this was the point I'd emphasized before we agreed to go out there) barring any unforeseen difficulties.

Nothing I said made a dent. His continued use of loud abusive language told me that he must have been accustomed to getting his own way.

But when the vulgar, loud language did no good against reason, he resorted to threats of suits and gouging. He promised that as soon as he hung up he was going to tell everyone he knew that we were ripping him off, and not to use us.

Bridges were burnt, ashes collected, and burnt once more, only to be hastened away, in all directions, to be buried in undisclosed locations throughout the county ... there was no going back.

All over $70?

Don Archer lives and works in Jefferson City, Mo., where he and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker, a 12-truck operation that's been in business since the 1950s. Email him at

Downtime for Wrecked Trucks

131 a3a27By Randall C. Resch

Tow companies that've been around awhile likely have experienced one of their trucks or carriers being struck by others. When someone else causes an accident, it creates a world of headaches and hassles with the other party's insurance carrier.

Insurance companies are famous for playing dodgeball when it comes time to handle your claim. When the other party is at-fault, your downed tow truck simply isn't their priority and you'll be at the mercy of the other party's claims agent.

Thankful that you or your driver wasn't injured in the crash, having one of your wreckers or carriers severely damaged brings five questions to mind:

1) How long will the truck be down for repairs?
2) Will you lose customers due to its loss of use?
3) Can you rent a loaner truck right away?
4) What's the approximate cost per day allowance I can recover for each day my truck sits in repair?
5) Will the truck be fixed or salvaged?

What's Your Proof?

The claim process is much more complicated than face value. For companies to claim accurate reimbursement, it has to prove what their truck's earnings average is as it relates to per-day earnings. Don't expect the other party's insurance to pay the single highest earning day you worked during some snow day emergency for the highway patrol. Instead, compare a similar period of six months by averaging per-day earnings.

Proof of daily earnings comes from dispatch records, fuel costs, tax payments, bank statements or whatever other documentation you're able to muster to prove consistent activity of recorded call response. Another bit of helpful data includes five years of past data for the same month in which the accident occurred.

Today's modern dispatch software programs are most valuable in providing "per truck accounting" for work accomplished in a specific reporting period. Be sure to include all work performed by the damaged truck if your business is a 24/7 operation, and emphasize that your business isn't a "Monday-Friday only" operation if that's the case.

Rent Another Truck?

There aren't too many available resources that rent tow trucks or carriers for short-time use. Even though you could successfully locate a rental truck, typically they aren't acceptable for law enforcement or government contracts where agency-approved permits and ownership becomes questionable. Rented trucks are different than one that are leased; and if they're not contractually permitted to respond to rotation calls, that limits the truck's daily earning potential.

I won't guess a solid per day figure; it's all based on the accident's repair claim and your company's per day accounting. From my research, insurance companies reluctantly agree on approximate reimbursement costs typically differing from $300 to $600 per day. This amount reflects an approximate amount it would cost per day to rent a like-size tow truck or carrier.

Rental rates estimated herein have nothing to do with the cost of repairs to your tow truck or other settlement conditions. If tow truck or carrier repairs exceed reasonable value, the process of salvage becomes another level of negotiation.

Stand Your Ground

Having a tow truck or carrier hit simply means you're in for a fight. Question five brings the hard consideration of repairing the truck or accepting the insurance company's decision that it's totaled. Tow trucks must be repaired with 100-percent accuracy to make them workable again.

You can also consider purchasing the wrecked tow truck after a settlement is agreed upon if there's possibility of rebuilding the truck or using spare parts. Unless the truck is new or only a couple of years old, body components aren't typically replaced with brand-new parts.

No matter what the consideration, stand strong in your negotiations with the insurance process. I think it's smart to estimate your cost-per-day accounting before an accident occurs. Savvy tow owners know that it's only a matter of time before one of their trucks gets plowed. Make your cost per-day compilation a rainy-day project, or assign it to your company's operations or office manager.

If negotiations take too long, or, the other party's insurance offers you the short-end of the proverbial stick, perhaps it's time to consult your attorney

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, and is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame.
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