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Three-time cancer survivor is doing what he loves
App, web-based service provides lien-holder contact information
Digital Recognition Network CEO lays out company's vision
Unit designed to bring greater awareness to Move Over law
Buddy's gets farmer's tractor with corn silage in open field
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingAugust 16 - August 22, 2017

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Weeding Out Toxic Employees

RatesTrade d5073By Don Archer

When responding to calls, I've always asked my guys to make every effort to get out the door as quickly as possible. I ask that they be polite and reassuring when caring for customers and their cars. I do this because I value customers and their time and because I empathize with the individual stranded roadside.

I also do it because habits form easily, and the next call might be the police. Failing to respond within a given time frame may cause law enforcement to call someone else.

But, mainly I ask this of them because I value them and want them to stick around.

Here's a simple equation that explains the necessity of taking care of customers: Business minus customers equals no employees.

Our business fulfills a need, but there are others who compete with us to fulfill that same need. If a customer can have their needs met better (i.e. quicker, cheaper, and nicer) by another company, our usefulness to them decreases.

When our usefulness decreases, we have fewer and fewer customers.

Without customers, there's no need for my business.

Without a need for my business, there's no need for employees.

Along the line, there have been some who didn't care about me or if my business does well. They didn't need this job, didn't care about the other employees and certainly didn't care if the customers were happy. They were like weeds that, if not rooted out, would have choked out the good employees while creating a bad environment for the new people coming in. Sometimes they stayed too long.

But what if you need that person?

Maybe a business owner has talked himself into believing that a toxic employee, one who's been with him for years, is too valuable to let go.

He's willing to put up with his tardiness, infectious negative attitude and an unwillingness to perform basic duties because he believes this person does certain things others won't. The owner fears that should he fire this employee, no one will step up and take his place and the business will suffer—causing some to lose their jobs.

Is it indeed a fact that no one else is willing to do what the employee with the negative attitude does? Or is it just that no one dare encroach upon "his territory," lest they taste his wrath? Maybe the negative employee has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he and only he will take care of the things he's counted on to do—so as to maintain his valued status?

I think this is what happens many times.

However, if the business owner does what needs to be done and removes the toxic employee from the picture, he will find that tensions will ease and equilibrium will be found. When that happens there may be many who are more than willing to do the work of the former employee.

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

Autonomous Vehicles

new b88c4By Don G. Archer

Autonomous vehicles are an emerging technology that's sure to have an enormous impact on not only the safety of the traveling public, but the towing industry as well. Google's self-driving cars have logged more than 2 million miles in the last six years. Tesla's semi-autonomous cars, Autopilot, have traveled more than 222 million miles.

Although it seems like autonomous cars will be here before you know it, there have been a few setbacks. The first-ever AV traffic fatality was last May, and Uber just suspended its autonomous tests in Arizona after an accident in March.

Technology, however, keeps marching forward.

Tesla just announced that all of their cars will be equipped with self-driving capabilities. The onboard software will be updatable just like your cellphone, so you'll always have the latest technology. Volvo is dedicated to placing a fully autonomous vehicle on the road by the end of this year; one so autonomous you could stream HDTV and watch television while the car drives. In addition, Honda just announced that it will have self-driving vehicles on the road by 2020.

Tesla claims that their technology will play a crucial role in improving safety, stating that, "full autonomy will enable a Tesla to be substantially safer than a human driver."

With eight onboard cameras and 360 degrees of visibility at up to 250 meters (0.15 miles), and 12 ultrasonic sensors, a radar system with the ability to see through fog, dust, and the car in front of you—what could go wrong?

With all those moving parts? A lot.

Out of concern for the safety of the traveling public with regard to the dangers associated with AVs but with an eye on the possibilities of curtailing and maybe even eliminating traffic fatalities altogether, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. The policy details a 15-point safety assessment for manufacturers that includes:

• Data recording and sharing.
• Privacy.
• System safety.
• Vehicle cybersecurity.
• Human-machine interface.
• Crashworthiness.
• Consumer education and training.
• Registration and certification.
• Post-crash behavior.
• Federal, state and local laws.
• Ethical considerations.
• Operational design domain.
• Object and event detection and response.
• Fall back (minimal risk condition).
• Validation methods.

The assessment covers concerns such as where the vehicle is designed to operate, what happens if a sensor fails and consumer training. They're doing everything that government does to ensure the safety of the public; but they're also gumming up the works.

While the USDOT has issued a federal policy governing autonomous vehicles, they are leaving the oversight of licensing, traffic laws and enforcement to the individual states. States should maintain as much autonomy as possible; but there may be a few conflicts of interest down the road.

All city and state governments make money when drivers do dumb things. The Los Angeles Times reports that if you're caught driving under the influence in California, you can be fined more than $15,000, and, on average, cities in California annually bring in about $40 million from towing fees.

What happens when that revenue stream dries up? Will state and local governments choose revenue over safety, enacting laws that bar the use of autonomous vehicles? In response to an inevitable shortfall, will your taxes go up? Or will the need for support from law enforcement and other emergency responders diminish accordingly, allowing municipalities to make cuts?

In response to Tesla's first autonomous vehicle death, Founder Elon Musk had to brief the U.S. Senate committee that oversees auto safety issues. Musk had to defend himself against the likes of Consumer Reports and others explaining that, "the autopilot function was not enabled at the time of the crash," and that, "more than 130 million miles had been driven by their customers, resulting in one death per 130 million miles; but among all vehicles in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles."

Many believe that with time, competition and improvements, autonomous vehicles will result in fewer traffic accidents.

As a tow company owner this may seem like bad news, but there is a bright side.

With safety and an eye on remaining solvent top on the list for lawmakers, there's no doubt that there will be more government oversight. Sensors will fail and cameras will break giving reason enough to enact legislation. One possible scenario is that, when AVs have even the slightest problems, these issues will be regarded as system failures and a hazard to other motorists; requiring law enforcement to be notified and the vehicle to shut down after proceeding to the closest safe place.

The vehicle will then need to be towed and, as with any other code violation, the occupant/vehicle owner will be issued a citation.

American Towman Field Editor-Midwest Don G. Archer is also a multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at
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