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What's Your Company's Cellphone Policy?

tbo2 70b09By Randall C. Resch

While we're quick to climb on the bandwagon and blame distracted drivers failing to move over and cause tow operator fatalities, it's commonplace to see tow operators talking on their cellphones while driving, loading, unloading or recovering vehicles.

Use of personal cellphones in today's workplace is prevalent and interrupts employee focus and efficiency. By the very nature of what tow operators do, the combined use of cellphones with tow truck operations is a dangerous practice.

If reproaching motorists for distracted driving is an ongoing practice by towers, shouldn't there be a demand for towmen not to be distracted in the same way?

The Rules Say

It's simple to accept that when a company's Employee Handbook doesn't address the issue of prohibiting on-duty cellphone use, doing so may not violate a company's rules or procedures. If a company cellphone is provided to a driver and you require your drivers or employees to use it, a different set of guidelines and actions may be necessary.

Some companies supply employees with phones and stipulate that minimum personal use is OK. Some say, "No way!" Others monitor phone records. That's fine; but what designates dangerous use vs. social and untimely, in-the-way, distracting conversations at the wrong time?

I believe social interraction and roadside safety are at opposing ends of the sepctrum.

Towing and recovery businesses should demand that employees focus on the duties and activities of their position at all times. Personal cellphones tend to get in the way of an employee's ability to conduct work. Policy should be directed at limiting cellphone use only during the employee's breaks, on lunch, for emergency purposes and official business.

Employees should not use cellphones for personal business, unless for monitoring children, elderly or sick parents. Calls should be limited when involved in company activities. Much of an employee's use during company hours should be left to an honor system and not abused.

As driving and talking on cellphones proves to be a consistent cause of distracted driving and traffic accidents, tow drivers should be required to pull off the roadway away from traffic to conduct business conversations. Remember, if the ignition's on and you're on the cellphone ... well, you know the drill. Drivers who are cited for talking on cellphones or texting while driving are responsible for the outcome of the citation.

At-fault accidents generate point deductions where determined by the investigating officer on-scene or the DMV. Any accident caused by cellphone or texting use is considered an at-fault accident and chargeable to the driver's motor vehicle report point count. An at-fault accident can result in disciplinary action or dismissal if deemed not insurable by the company's insurance provider.

Using them for on-scene photos could be conisdered a violation of law enforcement contracts when not authorized.

Mechanics and forklift operators should not use cellphones while driving, loading or conducting off-loading activities. If it's necessary to talk with a supervisor or dispatcher related to recovery scenes or customer interractions, recovery actions should remain separate until conversations are completed.

A tow operator's on-scene responsibilities are too important to include cellphone conversation. Sure, cellphones are a necessary evil and I highly doubt that management can control their use 100 percent of the time. However, setting small yet reasonable guidelines and expectations should not be considered excessive.

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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