The Week's Features
Towman hit on I-41 in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, Jan. 11.
Homemade wrecker promotes pride of ownership
Dual operating box, other features standout on new carrier
Author of book on towman highway memorials up for Viola Award
Tractor-trailer with an 80,000-lbs. concrete beam rolled-over
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJanuary 16 - January 22, 2019

City, State
Waterford, MI
(Pop. 72,166)
Auburn, AL
(Pop. 56,908)
Terre Haute, IN
(Pop. 60,785)
Loveland, CO
(Pop. 72,651)
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

Don’t Forget to Duck

Maxinum-Clearance-Sign 1e542By Randall C. Resch

Towers who operate unaware of their vehicle's height are bound to inflict extensive damages to the tow truck's roof, lighting and windshield. It's embarrassing to call and tell the boss that you've smashed his wrecker into the ceiling of a concrete parking structure because you've failed to acknowledge the building's height restrictions.

Building standards and height restrictions vary state to state. I'd like to say that 6'9" is standard; however, some structures hang as low as 6'2". That's 74", pavement to rooftop, vs. the tallest item on a low-profile wrecker; a smidge higher with little to no room to spare.

Underground garage entry signs typically identify what the lowest clearance is for that level. Tow operators should be aware and observe posted height restrictions before attempting entry. Keep in mind some structures are tapered: the roofline gets lower deeper into the structure.

You must also consider if the structure can bear the weight of a low-profile tow truck weighing 15,000 lbs. If the structure is old and your gut feeling is the floor won't hold, perhaps Plan B is a wiser choice. Is there another tow company you know you could call for assistance? If you have to obtain special equipment beyond your resources, pay for their services and charge the customer accordingly.

Fold 'em down

Urban tow companies typically have one wrecker dedicated to restricted-height entries or rooftops. Is your wrecker equipped with a fold-down lightbar capable of folding lower than the lowest ceiling height?

A pair of metal, fold-down brackets can be bolted to the top side of the wrecker's headache rack or other flat surface holding any full-size lightbar. Cam locks twist and release, allowing lightbars to fold back, over and down to provide critical clearance before entering low-clearance areas. Fold-down brackets are available from equipment suppliers for around $270 and are a welcome addition to any wrecker.

Carriers are oftentimes too tall to fit, and companies with height-restricted wreckers will lose business. For companies providing services to law enforcement, some RFPs or bid solicitations require tow companies to have wreckers that are underground capable. Read RFPs carefully to see if the underground wrecker must be a primary wrecker or if it's considered special equipment.

Get 'er done

Wreckers with dollies are convenient in extracting vehicles from underground or under-level structures; but, multi-floor structures are problematic when their driving paths require hard-left or -right turns.

Whenever possible, dispatchers and call takers should arrange with customers to bring keys to the tow location. Because most underground scenarios are problematic, it's recommended that responding tow operators have an assistant on these types of calls. Competent tow operator skills are necessary, especially when underground recoveries involve stolen vehicles with no tires and wheels.

Because most tow companies don't have matching tires and wheels lying around, the best recovery solution may be to load the stolen casualty onto a wrecker with dollies. Keep in mind the overall height of a vehicle loaded onto dollies, as ground height changes exponentially when dollies are lifted.

Items such as jacks, jack stands, skates, lumber, Go-Jaks, and more may be necessary in extracting SUV-height vehicles from underground. If a vehicle must be transported over a long distance, a wise choice would be to use a wrecker to extract the casualty first; then load it onto a carrier that's outside and beyond low ceilings.

Be sure to document what it takes to get a vehicle out from underground areas and charge accordingly. Take photos to document your work, including use of equipment and accessories.

Towing from underground structures isn't rocket science, but you're always dealing with minimal clearance. It's to the towman's advantage to carry a measuring tape for these situations. It's also smart to compare a tow truck's roof to the parking structure's roof, and get an accurate feel for overhead clearances. It's better to be safe than sorry before implanting your wrecker into an overhead structure. Remember GOAL: Get Out and Look.

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.

Event Data Recorders

event-data-recorder edr-03 174aaBy Brian J. Riker

Event data recorders are becoming standard equipment in many large fleets, yet they should have a place in every fleet. It isn't that we can't trust our drivers—we can—but we need to be able to defend their actions. Good drivers are valuable assets; as progressive employers, we must do everything we can to mentor, support and keep these folks employed.

Video image is impartial. Video data with reliable GPS location, speed and acceleration data can paint a clear picture of responsibility—a picture that can save you thousands in false liability claims.

How did your driver react? Were they paying attention? Did they do everything they could to avoid the collision? These are all questions that will be raised during an accident investigation. It is better to have concrete evidence on your side to support your position.

What if your driver's performance is not up to par? Event data recorders are excellent coaching devices when paired with a competent, respectful and compassionate mentor.

It costs several thousand dollars to hire and train a new employee, so why wouldn't you want to spend some of that money on retention and coaching? It is far less costly to coach an existing employee than to hire a new one ... who may have the same or even worse behaviors.

Drivers, this technology is not for your boss to spy on you or babysit you. You are a professional; they know that. This technology is intended to make you even better—more professional—and to defend you from wrongful claims. It's "game-day footage:" the professional athletes review film of their actions looking for ways to improve, so should you. I have had a chance to use some of this technology to monitor my own behaviors. It was eye opening and has caused me to make several improvements in my own driving style.

Wouldn't you rather have an employer that has your back rather than one that will fire you on the spot to appease their insurance company or some lawyer that is threatening legal action?

Investing in training and mentoring of your team is a must-do. You will never have the best of the best if you do not coach your team to bring out their strengths. Savings also result from better driving behaviors: fuel use, out-of-route miles and wear items.

Event data recorders and telematic devices can help you recover a stolen truck quickly. A recent news story told a tale of a thief that had all his actions captured on a dash camera as he went from stop to stop selling off tools from a stolen truck. This gave police the evidence they needed to prosecute him and the people that bought the stolen equipment.

How about that customer that falsely accuses you of being rude or worse? What about being pulled over for speeding when you know you were going under the speed limit? A simple review of the video or check of the GPS data can put a stop to those allegations before they even get off the ground.

Technology, when used properly, can save us all money and improve our performance. As we fall into a routine we tend to get sloppy. Event data recorders do not get tired or have a bad day, they are ever vigilant and will quickly remind us to be safe. Many systems have instant coaching capabilities, meaning they will sound an alert in the cab for following distance, cornering, braking or other safety critical events. Often these simple audible cues are all a driver needs to bring them back around to their best driving performance.

Not every driver will be a fit for every company. This technology can help you make that determination long before a crash or series of citations makes the decision for you.

I use this technology in my personal vehicles, both forward facing (out the windshield) and driver facing, complete with audio.

Event data recorders and active driver coaching will give you an advantage over others that chose to keep doing things the old-fashioned way. If you deploy the technology, monitor the results and take action.

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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