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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingSeptember 19 - September 25, 2018

Gate Runners and Crashers

auto 13981By Randall C. Resch

According to police reports, a mid-afternoon incident happened when a female walked into an open tow yard, got into a car and started to drive away. A lot employee tried to stop her, but was struck as she sped past him. Soon after, fellow employees located him nearby disoriented and dazed.

Police and EMS responded and the employee was taken to the hospital. Police quickly obtained a warrant charging the female with failing to stop after a crash resulting in injury.

This problem's been around forever. Vehicle owners or their caretakers don't like having their vehicle's impounded. When their car is towed by the police or during private-property impound, their right to free movement is taken away. For some people, once their vehicle gets towed away, they start thinking about how can they get their vehicle back without paying.

As a tow company employee, you know that when a car leaves the yard unauthorized, heads are gonna roll. In addition, agencies generally become upset that the tow yard's security was less than acceptable when the car was initially impounded for law enforcement actions.

Companies should have solid, written employee guidelines for scenarios like these to prevent them being injured or killed.

Here is my written policy: "By contract, we are a secured facility. Employees will NOT allow unauthorized persons to enter the Company's facility at any time. When approved customers enter any Company storage facility to conduct vehicle releases or obtain personal property, an employee will escort them to the yard and then back out.

"When Tow Operators return to a Company storage yard to drop-off impounded or towed vehicles, the main gate WILL immediately be closed and locked behind them to prevent potential robbery, un-authrorized removal of impounded vehicles, or physical harm to the Operator. Do not stand in-front of an escaping vehicle or attempt to stop them."

It's also good practice to not leave keys in the ignitions of stored vehicles. However, when a vehicle's owner or caretaker is bent on liberating their vehicles, they may have spare keys with them. For those individuals who lurk in the darkness and then decide to crash through a tow yard's gate or cut the fence with bolt cutters, there's really not too much you can do to stop it.

As mentioned above, companies should have solid policy and procedure that if someone wants to emancipate their car from the tow yard ... let 'em go. By letting them go, vehicle owners will eventually have to defend their ignorant actions down the line. Why get killed over someone trying to drive their car out from the tow yard?

Facilities that have questionable care, custody and control issues may face subsequent disciplinary action that may include removal from a contract. Security begins before things happen. Take a look at your employee guidelines and be sure everyone knows what to do to limit these kinds of unfortunate incidents.

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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