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News reports note uptick in tower activity downtown
Motorist awareness of the law touted on truck
Roadside steps to increased safety awareness
New design makes down-driveway hookups easier
Puts cap on assets; forces four off board by end of year
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Hours of Service, ELD Compliance

PeopleNet TABLET InCab HomeScreen 061913 eeae9By Brian J. Riker

Log books and electronic logging devices are only for the big companies right?

Wrong. It could cost you big time if you are not prepared by Dec. 18.

Many tow bosses incorrectly assume they are exempt from Hours of Service, and many other trucking industry regulations, because of the emergency and unscheduled nature of the business. The feds, as well as many states, make exceptions for emergency towing, but those exceptions do not give you free rein to run the same drivers 24/7.

Several states have exemptions for tow trucks, but those are only for state-regulated activities. As soon as you enter the realm of interstate commerce, you become federally regulated and all your state exemptions are null.

A basic summary of the HOS requirements for drivers that are required to complete a log book are:

• You can only drive 11 hours in any 14 consecutive hour period; then you must have 10 consecutive hours off-duty before driving again.
• Once your day starts, your 14-hour clock also starts and nothing will pause that clock, even going off-duty for meal or rest breaks.
• You may not drive after being on-duty for more than eight hours without showing a 30-minute break.
• You can't drive after exceeding a total of 60 hours in any seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days. To reset this 60/70-hour clock, you must take 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

In a nutshell, if you operate trucks model year 2000 and newer in interstate commerce, and are currently required to complete a logbook more than eight out of any 30 consecutive days, you are required to install, maintain and use an automatic electronic logging device on or before December 18.

Currently there are no exemptions for tow trucks regarding use of a compliant ELD. Since many states mirror federal regulations pertaining to HOS, or adopt the federal rules by default, you also may be required to install and use an ELD even if you do not engage in interstate commerce.

GVWR Compliance

This only affects the heavy-duty companies; my light-duty trucks are exempt, right? Wrong.

The definition of interstate commerce involves any truck with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,001-lbs. used in the movement of goods for-hire across state lines, international borders or between two places within the same state when the goods originated or are destined for a place out of the state or country.

This can include an out-of-state registered car that broke down, was towed in but not fixed, and now you are towing it to another shop or back to the customer's home state. This could also include a medium- or heavy-duty tow of a delivery truck where you finish the route for the company. It also includes, without question, any transportation work such as moving construction equipment, containers or even cars to/from an auction facility.

(It can be argued that towing a wreck to the local salvage auction is interstate commerce since that vehicle could have come from out of state or be sold to an out-of-state buyer.)

The only way you do not have to complete a logbook in interstate commerce is if you can claim the local exemption. This allows local drivers to not complete a log page if they start and finish their tour of duty at the same exact location each day, record their time on a time sheet or time clock, are on-duty no more than 12 consecutive hours, and stay within a 100-air-mile radius of their work reporting location (150-mile radius if in a non-CDL vehicle).

This is the rule many tow companies should be operating under. It will allow you to avoid ELD use since the regulation allows for up to eight days in any 30-day period where you can use a paper log entry if you fail to comply with the local exemption on any given day.

There are several options on the market today to bring your company into full compliance, yet still allow the flexibility required to operate a successful towing company. The key things to look for in an ELD solution include determining if the device is listed on the FMCSA registry, if it allows for multiple drivers, multiple rule sets (to accommodate the towing-specific state exemptions), and any recurring monthly fees.

There are simple devices on the market today that have no monthly fee and meet all the basic legal requirements as well as devices that can integrate with your dispatch software, vehicle telematics, automated vehicle inspections, etc. If you do not currently have a GPS-tracking solution or a computer-dispatch solution, now may be the time to consider implementing both along with the ELD to ensure full compliance with the regulations while improving your office efficiency.

A longer version of this article appeared in the April 2017 issue of American Towman Magazine.

Brian J. Riker is a third-generation towman—with 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tower.

Total Safety Compliance is a Process

1 cb03dBy Randall C. Resch

I responded to an email that posed a flurry of safety questions regarding loading or towing from the shoulders of a highway. The writer's questions were, "When a vehicle is on the left-side of the highway and a tow driver has to use controls on the traffic-side because that's where the controls are ... how much time does he or she spend there working the controls? ... What's the total range of minutes for that job? If it's less than one-minute, can the driver wait for no cars coming and work for five seconds at a time, look again to see if it's clear, then hide and waits again until another clearing takes place? Can they do this for 10-minutes if it doesn't take longer than that and until the job gets done?"

These are all great questions and here's my combined response. I believe two of the most obvious reasons that tow trucks or tow operators are struck is because, one, they're working the traffic-side of the tow truck or carrier, and two, when the tow and load process takes too long by increasing their exposure or possibility of being struck. The longer towers remain in the same place, the odds increase that they'll be struck. Although, tow operators can play the "Peek a Boo" game, that's a very dangerous practice that's resulted in numerous operator strikes.

I believe tow operators must use common sense in determining if location scenarios are too dangerous and what techniques should be used. In a perfect world, a typical tow/load scenario shouldn't take more than seven to 10 minutes to be ready to roll.

Where a shoulder location is deemed dangerous, by working quickly towers have a couple of options:

1. For carrier operators, once the vehicle is loaded and the deck is stowed forward for transport, from the non-traffic side, climb up the carrier's deck and attach all top-side chains and ratchet straps. Although it gets the tower off the pavement and away from the traffic-side, this is a dangerous practice as there's literally no place to go if the carrier were to be impacted. Worst scene scenarios suggest the tower would be crushed between the headache rack, by the vehicle atop the carrier's deck, or swept off the side. Tow owners don't like this option as it could minimally lead to slip and fall.

2. Better: Load or attach the disabled vehicle using safe and efficient techniques to avoid working/standing on the traffic side. Next, drive the tow truck or carrier forward and into a clearer, safer area to attach remaining safety chains and ratchet straps. This technique provides additional safety room if there's room to be had, but increases time spent on-scene.

3. Best: Load or attach minimal safety chains and ratchet straps using non-traffic side techniques, place the vehicle in-park and in-gear, and then carefully tow or transport it to the first off-ramp where remaining safety chains and straps can be applied.

Note: Technique No. 3 is where tower's get into trouble when they don't stop to apply remaining straps or chains and continue to drive to their intended destination. This option is only intended to load or tow the vehicle forward to a safer location or off-the-highway, not to disregard applying all safety attachment devices or accessories. Technique No. 3 makes best sense when asking, "Is it reasonable or prudent for a pedestrian worker to stand in a traffic-lane or dangerously close to approaching traffic?"

Tow operators are bound by vehicle code law and industry best practices to employ appropriate four-point tie-downs for carriers, ratchets and hold-down straps, as well as required safety chains in providing for a safe and solid tow or transport. Nowhere in any state vehicle code does it state that tow operators must put themselves in harm's way; however, most vehicle code language was written long before distracted driving was an epidemic. It's my opinion that current vehicle code laws and their specific meaning places tow truck operators in harm's way.

I believe that every tow operator who thinks logically and safely will have an on-scene hookup routine that enables them to prepare a vehicle for load or tow while remaining as safe as reasonably possible. The number of tow operator fatalities or struck-by incidents (for all first responders), suggest that pedestrian, highway workers, or, first responders are most vulnerable when working the traffic-side of the highway.

Accordingly, professional tow operators must be aware of what techniques are necessary to avoid becoming another statistic. Remember, it takes 1 second for distracted motorists to enter the shoulder's workspace. And, when vehicles travel at highway speeds, there's a probable chance that towers can't react.
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