The Week's Features
Three body manufacturers will give live demos in Las Vegas
Recovering over 50,000-lbs. from a 70-percent grade driveway
Markets Class 8 chassis in U.S. for first time
Tow company says contract was arbitrarily cancelled
SDR Towing has interesting design of decals on trucks
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingApril 25 - May 01, 2018

City, State
Hanover, MA
(Pop. 13,879)
Lake City, FL
(Pop. 12,046)
Yankton, SD
(Pop. 14,454)
Centralia, WA
(Pop. 16,336)
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.

Lane Blocking: Is it Really a Good Idea?

garbage c4fd3By Brian J. Riker

I have noticed a trend lately of towers using their equipment to block traffic for fellow operators. While I applaud their intent and truly appreciate the camaraderie that is developing among towers (it is about time we start acting like a brotherhood), there are risks associated. The choice to block or not is solely yours to make.

I am aware of several incidents where the blocking truck was struck, likely saving the other tower from injury, but in the process creating a huge liability issue for the tower that was just doing a good deed.

In most states, towers are not authorized to close a lane and can be liable for any accident or injury that results from doing so.

I was involved in a lawsuit last year where a tower that was simply loading a disabled vehicle on the side of a limited access highway was sued for injuries to the occupants of the vehicle that hit his tow truck because he did not have the legal authority to encroach upon the travel lane of the highway. This settled out of court for an undisclosed sum and resulted in the tow company having great difficulty affording insurance to continue operating.

Should you decide to permit your employees to block for a fellow tower what will happen if your truck is struck? Most likely your insurance company will deny the damage claim because you had no business reason to be in harm's way; same for your worker compensation insurance should your employee get hurt.

The person that struck you will sue your company, your employee and your insurance company as well as the company you were blocking for in an attempt to recover a large monetary reward. It is even possible the police will cite your driver for causing the crash, which will lead to insurance and continued employment issues for all involved.

If you are fortunate enough to work in a state that does recognize towers as emergency responders and gives towers the right to close lanes as needed, make sure the drivers that are blocking have had the required traffic control training. It is simply not enough to place a tow truck with some emergency lighting along the fog line and call that traffic control.

Check with your state and local transportation agencies to see what the exact training, licensing and insurance requirements are to close a lane. Then see about providing traffic control as an ancillary service and generate some revenue from it. If you are legally permitted to provide traffic control and are billing for doing so, it will be much harder for your insurance company to dodge their liability for your company's actions.

Your company should have a formal policy regarding blocking for fellow towers. This policy should cover when it is permissible to do so, if you can do so for competitors or just company trucks and what procedures must be followed should you decide to allow lane blocking.

Again, I applaud the sentiment and appreciate the risk my fellow towers are taking. I simply would not be doing my job if I did not point out the risks associated with this trend. The choice is yours to make.

Bottom line: While we all feel a civic duty to protect our brothers and sisters on the highway, we must do so in a safe and legal fashion. It does not help our case for better traffic control if we become part of the problem.

I know we all feel helpless to stop the devastating loss of life on the roadside within our industry. Sadly, I do not see a quick or simple solution to this problem as distracted driving is at an all time high. Stay safe, wear appropriate safety gear and watch your back ... that's the best advice I can give.

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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