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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJanuary 16 - January 22, 2019

Continuing Education Pays

DSCN0744 a8f39By Brian J Riker

With the American Towman Expo XXX just over two weeks away, I can feel the excitement building. Excitement to see old friends, make new friends and indulge in some of the finest hospitality anywhere. Personally, though, I am more excited about the learning opportunities available to the industry.

I am always on a quest to learn and better myself. Nearly three decades into this industry, I learn something new every day. Technology, regulations, best practices—all change over time and we can either learn, grow and adapt ... or fade like the paint on my dad's old Ortiz wrecker.
Just last weekend I gave up a Saturday, getting up at 3 a.m. to drive to Baltimore for a Safety Symposium presented by the Maryland State Police and Department of Transportation. This was a chance to learn directly from the regulators, enforcement officers and policy makers that govern the transportation industry.

It was worth it! I learned several new things and developed better understanding of other regulations that I deal with daily.

Continuing education is not just self-improvement; it is survival. With the constant pressure to cut rates or add extra value to our services we must constantly strive to learn new, perhaps more efficient, ways of performing our jobs. Our financial future depends upon it, as does our personal safety.

Speaking of safety, I will be presenting a seminar on OSHA and the towing industry on exploring its broad scope and reach. This is designed to bring awareness to workplace safety in general, as well as how OSHA applies to the towing industry. As employers it is our duty to provide a safe place for our team, and a large part of safety is awareness. Awareness comes from training and continuing education.

We expect our shop technicians to stay current on the latest models of vehicles; after all, they can't be effective servicing them if they don't fully understand them. So why don't we apply that same thought process to our towing and recovery operators?

There are many awesome sources for training available to our industry. Most of it is hands-on in a classroom setting, although some is self-paced online training. There is no bad training. The more sources you have for information the more tools in your toolbox.

My current favorite method of learning is by listening to podcasts. There are thousands of great podcasts available for free, even a few that are towing-focused. I listen to them while on long trips or in an airplane; you could listen while driving to a call. There are some nuggets of wisdom to recommend to your team, and they also can listen and learn while waiting for their next dispatch. Same thing with short-form video training: content that can be viewed on mobile devices during otherwise idle or non-productive periods of time.

The cost of training is not an expense; it's an investment—in future earnings, in your people and in professionalism. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar put it best: "What's worse than training your workers and losing them? Not training them and keeping them." More than 250 years ago, Ben Franklin said, "An investment in education always pays the highest returns." Both men are absolutely correct. Without education we cannot grow and without growth we die.

By the time I was old enough to legally drive, I took a job driving a light-duty wrecker for a local guy: a one-chain wonder, someone that wouldn't know safety or industry standards if they bit him. I knew his practices were wrong, even dangerous, so I took it upon myself to seek out better training.

Ultimately, the chance to learn from others is what led me to Baltimore back in 1992. I was seeking out something better for myself.

I firmly believe without attending trade shows I would have never become as passionate about education and teaching as I am today.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at
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WreckMaster President Justin Cruse said that the WreckMaster Convention will bring together towers from all over North America to provide a unique and beneficial opportunity to broaden knowledge.
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