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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingDecember 06 - December 12, 2017
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The Importance of Reflective Value

Reflective NYPD tow truck f06ffBy Randall C. Resch

I track operator fatalities that occur in the industry worldwide. When reviewing traffic accidents and OSHA investigations, I've noticed a common denominator regarding minimal to zero lighting on-scene including lack of cones, flares and/or reflective vests.

Motorists consistently drift onto roadside shoulders, striking the rear of parked tow trucks in many operator fatalities. An educated guess would say that most of those scene's tow trucks didn't have their rear tailboards striped with reflective tape or contrasting striped painting.

The lack of on-scene emergency reflection and visibility in fatalities shouldn't be overlooked. Common sense says towers should employ emergency lighting, triangles, flares and cones, while wearing reflective vests to become more visible.

Are You Reflective?

Are your operators or tow trucks clearly visible and noticeable at night? While there are tons of lighting products available for mounting on tow trucks, effective visibility is gained by adding reflective tape and lettering.

Tow trucks and carriers typically respond to nighttime incidents and accidents where they're most vulnerable of being hit by motorists who repeatedly claim they didn't see the tow truck or the operator.

I don't understand how motorists can't recognize a tow truck that's appropriately lighted and weighing around 26,000 lbs. on average.

Many tow owner's apply murals and other graphics to their trucks. While this is an awesome way to support specialty causes or showcase favorite superheroes, it doesn't necessarily provide a bright, visual wash of reflective lighting. As a long-time judge at American Towman's tow truck pageants, I'll tell you that reflective striping and contrast paint is a safety feature that's rarely seen on today's modern tow trucks.

For obvious reasons, police cruisers, fire trucks, ambulances and other first responder vehicles lack fancy paint schemes, but do employ basic colors, reflective striping and reflective lettering. They concentrate on being visible ... in a defensive manner.

Make it Pop

In a recent business trip to the Big Apple, I ventured downtown with my Christine for a casual dinner and to take in some sights. My eyes fixated upon a New York City tow truck painted totally black, but emblazoned with the city's logo and lettering in reflective tape.

Illustrating my point, my camera's flash captured the reflective lettering and striping to literally pop from the picture. At 10 p.m., and with as much ambient lighting as there is in NYC, the city's tow trucks were nothing less than obvious. Imagine how much more obvious it would have been if the New York tow truck's overhead emergency ambers were turned on.

While at November's American Towman Exposition, we came upon a highway collision entering the Inner Harbor. On the right shoulder was a parked Baltimore City Fire Rescue/Paramedic. Though its strobe pierced the night, it was the reflective tape added to the unit's tailboard that made it stand out. From a distance, the rescue/medic truck looked more like that of a burning vehicle.

A motorist wouldn't convince me they didn't see either unit parked there.

Where to Shop

It's fine to paint your dream wreckers in a favorite scheme, but a reflective safety scheme is also needed to meet the overall safety needs of increased visibility—especially at the rear of wreckers and carriers.

I recommend that wreckers and carrier have their rear decks, wheel lifts, headache racks and under-reaches emblazoned with reflective taping, striping or contrasting paint for the sole purpose of providing eye-catching exposure to the rear.

Adding something reflective provides broader and more effective safety profile that could possibly be the difference of being noticed or not. If the industry should be focused on lessons learned, the value of being reflective is not something to be disregarded.

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, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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