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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingOctober 18 - October 24, 2017
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Do You See the Light?

Flare 0 9d3b7By Randall C. Resch

Part of tow operator survival says that training isn't necessarily the key issue why towers are being killed, but how tow company owners and towers themselves approach survival and safety with blindfolded eyes. It wasn't until I was struck while outside my tow truck on a recovery during an El Nino rainstorm that I gained a mentality of tow operator survival. I guess pain sometimes is a powerful motivator.

In light of several tow operators killed on dark rural highways, many towmen feel that more should be done to eliminate them. However, adding streetlights to millions of miles of darkened stretches of America's highways will never happen.

Since data proves that a high-percentage of tow operator crashes and fatalities happen during night hours, brightly identifying the scene with flares make most sense and is very simple to deploy. What fascinates me is flares are hardly, if ever, used. Making the excuse that it takes too long to set up or they're too expensive is crap reasoning as far as I'm concerned. The investment in a case of flares is chump-change vs. losing a driver.

While I like the idea of having a blocker truck on-scene, look at the history of having either a blocker truck or other police vehicle on-scene. Somehow, distracted motorists continuously crash into the blocker truck or police vehicles.

Let these lessons lead us to a smarter way of defending our actions other than doing nothing at all.

You're not going to eliminate distracted or intoxicated drivers, but a proactive stance may save your company's hide somewhere down the road. If you look at the majority of tow operator fatalities, there are a gigantic number of reported fatalities where NO flares, cones or traffic controls were present. This isn't rocket science, but it requires a change in survival mentality.

At the very minimum, do something to illuminate your presence and STOP THINKING that the motoring public is going to move over for you. Flares, cones, ANSI III vests, blocker trucks, colored lightbars, police on-scene—they're nothing more than a false sense of security. Why should you trust your lives to nothing more than a placebo to distracted motorists?

I honestly don't understand a tow company owner that says, "It's gonna cost me more dollars to staff that tow truck with extra flares,"—but isn't that something owners should be doing in the first place to save lives? Owners, aren't you responsible to provide all necessary safety equipment to protect the wellbeing of your employees?

What safety-specific directions do you mandate that you're tow operators follow? Should you not be directing and leading your operators to smarter techniques and methods? I believe you owe your tow operators the ability to go home safely to their families every single night; not die in some unfortunate accident on some dark rural highway. Even going as far as wearing a $15 red, strobe LED light provides some additional level of safety beyond nothing at all.

I'm convinced that towers across America don't prepare themselves to take on a defensive state-of-mind, and they settle with a, "Ho-hum, it's never happened to me before," attitude. If you're not aware of what's going on in the towing and recovery industry, we ARE under fire from America's motorists ... and it's a battle that we're certainly losing.

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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