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Join American Towman Field Editor Randall Resch as he shows how to avoid sloppy actions on-scene, questionable vehicle operations and chances that tower’s repeatedly take with his “Wreckers in Trouble” seminar, taking place Friday Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. during the American Towman Exposition at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Auction Day Driver's Safety

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By Randall C. Resch

Companies holding auctions on lien-sale vehicles must up their level of buyer safety to be ready for auction day.

Auctions are typically a weekly or monthly process; because all the vehicles you deal with have at least an ounce of questionable history, there's need to understand the potential for a runaway vehicle when they go live on auction day.

Don't Stand Here

On auction day, buyers are always seeking what they consider a tactical position to get the best spot in the house. Some buyers get flat-out dangerous and stand in harm's way and have to be reminded repeatedly to stand back in the viewing area. The scare is simple: if an auctioned vehicle were to go out of control for mechanical reasons or if an auction driver was to lose control, they could be injured or killed.

You are liable for their safety. A simple safety disclaimer provided to them when they buy their bidder's number isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Scenarios where an out-of-control auction vehicle careens into the crowd happen more than you'd think. Consider these three examples:

• In August 2000, two people were injured after an SUV went out of control and struck two people before crashing into two propane tanks at a Canada auction facility.

• In February 2010, 27 people were injured when an auction driver lost control of his vehicle at an auction yard in Ellijay, Georgia.

• In May 2017, an SUV that was being shown to prospective buyers near Boston, Massachusetts, suddenly accelerated and crashed through a wall killing three people and injuring another nine.

Making it Safe

Depending on how your auction is set up, tow company or auction company drivers must be safety-briefed before a live auction to make them aware about accidental and preventable runaways. All vehicles before auction day should be started and test driven to ensure they have an operable brake system.

Some companies hand-push running vehicles to the auction podium. While it's there the vehicle is started and its transmission placed into drive and reversed with the driver's foot solidly on the foot brake between vehicle displays.

Auction drivers should have a valid driver's license and motor vehicle report that's approved by your company's insurance provider. Drivers should be familiar with the kind of vehicles they are driving, especially those with stick shifts, clutches and high-RPM capabilities.

Auction viewing areas should be completely separated from live-drive areas where the driving path of auction areas does not include movement where buyers stand. Buyers should stand in a designated area visibly separated from the auction vehicle's drive path. If yours is a drive-through area, buyers should not stand in any curving paths to the auctioneer's booth.

They call them accidents because they're unannounced. To avoid driving incidents altogether at your facility, there are online auction companies that can live-action your vehicles for you. However, with a little pre-auction planning and groundwork, you can be assured that your auction day runs as smooth and safely as possible. Keeping your auction buyers at bay is an important safety consideration for auction day.

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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