The Week's Features
MDOT holds media event highlighting first responder safety
Creativity and eccentricity are the themes of this unit
Are you holding your own against the industry changes?
Towman gets ’em to the church on time
Capacities of 16-20,000 lbs. allow lifts to service most trucks
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingNovember 14 - November 20, 2018

City, State
Independence, MO
(Pop. 116,830)
Arvada, CO
(Pop. 111,707)
Providence, RI
(Pop. 179,154)
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

Proprietary Information

tradesecretsYou work hard every day to ensure that your business survives during the slow times and thrives when your services are in high demand.

You’re pulled one way by employees who constantly want more without providing more value, and another by bureaucratic requirements that lessen your ability to increase employee compensation. The last thing you need is to alienate your customers … the glue holding the whole thing together.

Monday morning: The phones start ringing, it’s the usual organized chaos and during it all a nice man calls asking about an invoice. He has the invoice number but says he can’t quite decipher the scribbled dollar amount at the bottom.

I’ve talked to the guys and stressed the importance of providing a clean, clearly written invoice but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

So no problem, I punch the invoice number into the computer and give him what he’s asking for and go back to work.

Three days later: This time the phone call is from one of my repair shop customers, it’s the owner and he’s not happy.

He says that someone at my place of business gave one of his customers information about an invoice that was charged to him … it was the original dollar amount from that invoice. As usual he’d added a modest mark-up to the invoice and his customer was calling to ask, “Why was the repair shop trying to rip him off?”

If you’re in business you don’t stay in business long if you don’t charge more than what you pay for your products and services. But some customers don’t understand that … maybe they don’t get the math or just don’t care.

Whatever it was, this guy wasn’t interested in building relationships; he wanted to squeeze every last dime he could get from the transaction.

I assured the repair-shop owner that no one here would ever do that.

“We don’t give out that type of information. It’s proprietary,” I said, and told him that I would ask everyone to be sure it didn’t happen.

The next 30 minutes were spent talking to the employees. I was on a quest to learn if anyone had given out information they shouldn’t have. I grilled everyone with no success. They didn’t know what the heck I was talking about.

So I decided to go to the source; I called the guy who claimed we gave out the information. One of two things was going to happen: I was either going to find out who leaked the information, or I was going to expose this guy as a liar.

Neither one happened. Instead, you guessed it—I had been taken, duped from the get-go.

As the conversation began, I recognized his voice and realized that I was the dolt who had given him the information. The nice man I’d spoken to earlier in the week was actually the cheapskate trying to get a deal. Somehow he’d gotten a copy of the invoice and deceived me into giving him the information he wanted.

Hanging my head in shame, I first apologized to everyone at our place and then called the repair shop to apologize, saying, “I wouldn’t blame you if you never call us again.”

This time it wasn’t an employee, or a bureaucrat causing the problem. It was me.

But how do you solve this problem? How do you stop something like this from happening again? Do you ask for a photo ID before you’ll release any information? Require a retina scan and a copy of their dental records before they get the info they’re looking for?

No I don’t think that’s necessary; I’ll just be a little more careful next time and learn some tricks of my own.

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.

Market Disruption: Are You Ready?

disruption 0fdb3By Brian J Riker

Market disruption is defined as a rapid change in market performance, usually due to external forces or a new entrant with a radically different way of doing business.

It has already begun in the towing industry with the increase of towing apps that function as dispatching services and other third-party intermediaries that now control a significant portion of the towing market. Gone are the days where a half-page ad in the phone book with an easy to remember phone number were all you needed to market your company.

What have you done to prepare for the days when it is not business as usual? Are you prepared for when the cash calls stop coming in directly to your call center and the majority of your work is routed through a third party? What would happen if you lost your police towing contract tomorrow?

These are difficult questions, yet they must be answered.

These questions lead to some of the reasons why it is vitally important to be active in your industry. Being active positions you to be in a much better place for success. Being active in your state and national associations will keep you up to date with potential issues as they arise. Being legislatively active will allow you to influence decisions that will change your way of doing business. Trade show attendance will allow you to network with towers from around the world and identify potential issues during their infancy.

Perhaps through these activities you will even help create regulations that will prevent some of the less favorable disruptions from occurring, or at least minimize their impact.

Disruptions in our industry are not new; in fact many disruptive technologies that were once fought have become commonplace today. The wheel lift and hydraulic wreckers were viewed as unnecessary expenses by many towers in the 70's; yet today they are indispensable. I believe the more technologically-advanced towers, those that embrace modern techniques, will be in a much better position to thrive in the coming years.

The industry is in a transition phase where our customers and our team have different needs, wants and ideas than they did a few years ago. Today is all about convivence and simplicity. Make it easy for someone to engage you using a smart phone, and they are more likely to use your service than if they have to make a phone call to your dispatch center.

So, how do you become a market disruptor? Offer new and innovative ways for your customers and potential customers to engage with your brand. Think beyond social media and traditional advertising. It sounds difficult, but really it is not.

Look around the communities you service and see where there are underserved markets. These areas are ripe with opportunities to dominate. Perhaps there are clients that need lower end services, just the basics that can be provided at a lower price point while maintaining profitability.

Maybe there are high end clients that are not getting the "white glove" treatment they desire. These clients will typically pay a hefty premium to have the perception of importance combined with service excellence.

If your competition doesn't have a professional call center, you can excel simply by having the best call takers, maybe even use novel methods such as text message communication. There are already many apps on the market that allow for this type of interaction, even going as far as providing the customer with real time tracking of the dispatched tow truck.

Innovation and disruption also occurs behind the scenes. Do you have the latest software and task automation? Not only can this make your company more efficient, which translates into greater profits, but it also can make offering technology solutions such as vehicle tracking, automated payment and electronic invoicing simple.
Being prepared for innovation rather than resisting it places you in a better position to serve the changing needs of your clients.

Safety can be innovative too! Look at the recent advancements in flexible low-voltage lighting used in safety garments, the explosion of high quality cameras used to protect many drivers and owners or the automated technology used to monitor and report safety critical events.

Some compliance assurance software programs can automatically assign training based on a team member's unique responsibilities or deficient areas. Proactive fleets are using these technologies to their advantage to reduce claims, provide remedial coaching and reduce overall cost of goods sold, again leading to greater profits even in the face of reduced gross revenues.

Bottom line, be prepared to adapt and overcome or be prepared to be replaced by those that do.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at
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WreckMaster President Justin Cruse said that the WreckMaster Convention will bring together towers from all over North America to provide a unique and beneficial opportunity to broaden knowledge.
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