The Week's Features
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 23 - August 29, 2017

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Who Should Pay for Damages?

Unknown 100c8By Don Archer

A tower recently emailed me who thought he was being treated unfairly by his boss. He asked, "If you have a company phone and drop it and the screen cracks—and the company is paying the insurance—should you, the tow truck operator, be required to pay the deductible?"

I get this question all the time: Who should pay?

Some say the tow operator should "man up" and pay for his mistakes. Others suggest that the towing company has budgeted for certain losses and expects things to happen, so they should pay.

There's no easy answer. Even company owners are all over the map on this. Some feel that placing too much burden on their drivers will make it difficult to retain quality help. Others say that quality drivers don't continually cause damage; and that requiring those who do to pay something will weed out the bad drivers.

Most drivers feel horrible when they cause damage and wish there was something, other than paying the deductible, that they could do to make things right. Others think damages are a cost of doing business, and that rates should be adjusted to allow the company to absorb damages more easily.

Neither group believes that damages should affect compensation.

So the question remains ... who should pay?

I ask, "What does your company policy say?"

The question continues to come up because most towing companies don't have a written policy in place that spells out exactly who pays for what when damages occur. Not having a written policy in place is a problem for more than a few reasons.

First, when you don't have a set policy for dealing with damages, you must then rely on your own judgement.

Of course it's your business and I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with your judgement. You probably have a good idea for who is careful and who's not.

But imposing unwritten rules can be risky. When you rely only on your judgement and choose to impose unwritten rules on the fly it might be considered arbitrary punishment. If a disgruntled driver feels like you've singled him out, this could be considered discrimination and you could be setting yourself up for a lawsuit.

On the other hand, if it's written and made clear to everyone that this policy applies to all equally, there's no ambiguity.

Besides the obvious benefit of shielding yourself from being sued, having a damages policy in place does something else: it sets expectations. When drivers know that you expect them to care for company property and understand that there are real-life consequences for not doing so, they will come up to the task.

Lastly, it's good for business. Disregard for company property can lead to maltreatment of a customer's property. Nothing can harm your business more than the negative "press" you get when you damage someone's car. Having a damages policy that includes a progressive discipline policy can help to not only deter damages, but it also helps weed out offenders before the problem is exacerbated.

So who should pay? It's up to you. You built your business, and only you know what's acceptable. But whatever you decide, put it in writing, assure all will be bound by it, know it, and sign-off on it.

Don G. Archer and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, MO. Don is also multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country. E-mail him direct at

Sometimes Are We Towers to Blame?

Screen2 cb8a3By Randall C. Resch

The recent victory for Canadian towers to use red and blue lighting brings with it huge on-scene responsibilities. Red and blue lighting is simply a small issue on a much bigger problem.

Watch the video at: Evaluate what you'd consider obvious on-scene safety errors. Was on-scene safety effectively set up to provide adequate advanced emergency notice before traffic reached the recovery locations? How and where would you have set up to protect an approaching dangerous curve or other night-lighted scenarios; especially where there's snow and ice?

Look closely to see towers working traffic-side controls and towers walking with their backs to traffic. Then see a highly reflective, uniformed traffic controller move intentionally and directly in front of an approaching semi with expectations the semi will stop immediately at his enthusiastic instructions.

I believe the traffic controller's actions caused the semi's driver to lock the brakes resulting in an uncontrollable skid. (Note: The semi appears in-control until the controller/pedestrian jumped in front.)

From the same video, one tower's words were, "I've been clipped four times over the last six months. In each instance, the circumstances were more or less the same. I was just walking back to my truck and I turned my back for a split second and the car mirror hit my back."
I see his anxiety and I know his apprehension. We know there are better ways.

Motorists don't control a tower's movement; tower's do. This video is a great example of what NOT to do all in one segment. Look to see towers placing themselves in harm's way. Realize that it's not always a motorist's fault because the scene may not have provided adequate traffic control necessary to slow the motoring public down and properly direct their actions.

It's a mathematical certainty that cars and semis can't slow and steer safely when they're not provided ample time to do so. Remember, not all motorists are distracted. If on-scene cones, flares, signage, lighting or traffic direction is problematic and doesn't indicate a clear and obvious path, confusion takes over and it's just as deadly as distracted driving.

Had TIM and industry techniques been employed during these scenarios, perhaps one tower (interviewed) wouldn't have been struck because he would have and should have been on the non-traffic side. That's a perfect-world mentality, but not all towers think that way. These techniques aren't new, but they're especially important and directed to experienced towers still locked in old-school mentalities. Complacency is a tower's worst enemy; what about 1 million plus one scenario that proves to be the fatal mistake?

Tow operator safety and survival crosses all boundaries and may someday have an impact on every tower who goes boots to the ground. This isn't a Canada thing or specific to U.S. highways; my comments are confirmed by hundreds of tow operator fatalities in the history of the industry.

It's easy to blame tow operator strikes on distracted motorists. Haven't we learned by now that working, walking or standing on the white-line side is the fast-track to being killed? The history of operator strikes suggests a change in tower mentality is warranted.

This video demonstrates that our industry needs drastic change in safety and survival tactics. I use this video in my safety courses and safety meetings as an opening visual aide. At pure minimum, it generates great discussion towards safety and survival.

Isn't there room for tow operator improvement?
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