Ya' Can't Make 'Em Pay
By Randall C. Resch
Owners, have you checked your state's laws on non-descript deductions without authorization?
I once worked for an owner who'd go "high order" when towers left lock-out tools, flashlights or gloves on top of the truck's custom-painted dashboards. He'd first verbally assault the employee, then take some outlandish amount from their pay. That lasted only a while until the employee sued over withheld pay. The company owner lost in a big way.
Damaged trucks and lost equipment is an ongoing problem. When it happens, right-now remediation is justified and necessary. The violating driver needs to immediately understand that repeated lost equipment or damages is unacceptable and won't be tolerated.
But, how can you as an owner get that point across?
Repeated lost equipment isn't just a one-time, accidental happening; it's a recurring progression that develops into a pattern because, oftentimes, drivers are allowed to do so.
Owners should promote solid written standards including write-ups, suspensions, and disciplinary actions that could mean dismissal.
Defining standards should originate from your company's employee manual that includes wording specific to the care, custody and control of the company's trucks and equipment. If you're providing trucks and equipment to your drivers, requesting that they care for the company's assets is a reasonable and prudent proposition.
If you're forced to dismiss a driver for cause and due to damages or repeated lost equipment, word certainly WILL spread to other drivers quick, fast and in a hurry. As owner, you set the tone. If that tone allows them to continue to damage or lose equipment, you're to blame.
Protect your company's interests by documenting any and all losses via written warnings or disciplinary actions; that includes any counseling you've given them. If the driver's pattern doesn't correct, dismiss them for dereliction of duty—not damages or lost equipment.
Unlike the SAE mechanic working at a dealership who has to provide his own tools of the trade, the company is doing operators a favor so they don't have to provide their own truck and equipment.
If operators had to provide their own tow truck and applicable equipment, they'd no doubt care for it, right? So, why should it be any different for your equipment?
If you've accurately and consistently documented the driver's inability to protect your company's trucks and equipment, dismissal may be the necessary action. At a later time when an administrative judge reviews the driver's file to see repeated company violations previously signed by the employee, you'll have a greater chance of prevailing in unemployment court.
Towing and recovery equipment is expensive. If drivers continue to damage your trucks or lose equipment, you're better off cutting your losses and letting that driver go. But, if the violator is one of your favored drivers who is worth keeping, perhaps it's time for one of those closed-door discussions?
Here's one more point to ponder: Consider the pattern of lost equipment a possibly that suggests your driver may be stockpiling—stealing—your equipment perhaps to go into the towing and recovery business for themselves. Stranger things have happened.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.