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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 13 - June 19, 2018

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Auction Day Driver's Safety 1fc34
By Randall C. Resch

Companies holding auctions on lien-sale vehicles must up their level of buyer safety to be ready for auction day.

Auctions are typically a weekly or monthly process; because all the vehicles you deal with have at least an ounce of questionable history, there's need to understand the potential for a runaway vehicle when they go live on auction day.

Don't Stand Here

On auction day, buyers are always seeking what they consider a tactical position to get the best spot in the house. Some buyers get flat-out dangerous and stand in harm's way and have to be reminded repeatedly to stand back in the viewing area. The scare is simple: if an auctioned vehicle were to go out of control for mechanical reasons or if an auction driver was to lose control, they could be injured or killed.

You are liable for their safety. A simple safety disclaimer provided to them when they buy their bidder's number isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Scenarios where an out-of-control auction vehicle careens into the crowd happen more than you'd think. Consider these three examples:

• In August 2000, two people were injured after an SUV went out of control and struck two people before crashing into two propane tanks at a Canada auction facility.

• In February 2010, 27 people were injured when an auction driver lost control of his vehicle at an auction yard in Ellijay, Georgia.

• In May 2017, an SUV that was being shown to prospective buyers near Boston, Massachusetts, suddenly accelerated and crashed through a wall killing three people and injuring another nine.

Making it Safe

Depending on how your auction is set up, tow company or auction company drivers must be safety-briefed before a live auction to make them aware about accidental and preventable runaways. All vehicles before auction day should be started and test driven to ensure they have an operable brake system.

Some companies hand-push running vehicles to the auction podium. While it's there the vehicle is started and its transmission placed into drive and reversed with the driver's foot solidly on the foot brake between vehicle displays.

Auction drivers should have a valid driver's license and motor vehicle report that's approved by your company's insurance provider. Drivers should be familiar with the kind of vehicles they are driving, especially those with stick shifts, clutches and high-RPM capabilities.

Auction viewing areas should be completely separated from live-drive areas where the driving path of auction areas does not include movement where buyers stand. Buyers should stand in a designated area visibly separated from the auction vehicle's drive path. If yours is a drive-through area, buyers should not stand in any curving paths to the auctioneer's booth.

They call them accidents because they're unannounced. To avoid driving incidents altogether at your facility, there are online auction companies that can live-action your vehicles for you. However, with a little pre-auction planning and groundwork, you can be assured that your auction day runs as smooth and safely as possible. Keeping your auction buyers at bay is an important safety consideration for auction day.

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.

Who's Going to Fill Our Shoes?

boots a056fBy Brian J. Riker

Who is going to replace us?

Few millennials, or especially Gen Z'ers, seem interested in our industry. With the lack of respect for vocational trades, recruiting young towers is increasingly difficult. Some of us have children that are interested in stepping up to the task. Others will simply close the business at retirement time.

Have you created a succession plan to assure your operation continues beyond your involvement?

I believe we can successfully recruit the next generation if we grab their attention early enough. I have bounced around the idea of recruiting from high school vo-tech programs for many years. There are insurance and regulatory hurdles to deal with, but they are not insurmountable.

Talk to your local vo-tech school and see if they have the ability to help. Trade schools have a responsibility to help provide employment for their graduates, and towing provides a diverse avenue for them to explore. Partner with a local school to provide job apprenticeship programs, trucks for them to learn how to drive, and more. Vocational education is not limited to just finding tow operators; their business students can become great dispatchers and clerks, even managers.

I suggest grooming the next generation of management through intern programs as well. This is a great way to grab hold of smart young individuals and shape them into great leaders. A word of caution here, they may not think like we do ... and that is a good thing! Be open to learn from them as they learn from you.

Technology is changing our industry and the next generation has a greater grasp on this then we ever will. I was watching my two-year-old grandson play with a smartphone recently and he didn't need any help and seemed to intuitively know what to do. He was able to open the phone app and call his grandma ... at two years old!

Business continuity should be a concern to all owners. Have you surrounded yourself with a team that can carry on without your guidance? Obviously good life insurance and diversified investments will provide income stability for your family, but what about the families that depend on your business to provide their living?

Now would be a good time to create an ICE file (In Case of Emergency). Write down all the key information that is required to keep your business running without you. Account numbers, passwords, key people, insurance information and more.

At least two trusted people, preferably within your business and separate from your immediate family, should know where this information is and be authorized to use it if the need arises. I suggest people outside your immediate family simply because it is less likely a tragedy will strike you and someone outside your family simultaneously.

The business continuity plan should not be a secret; your team deserves to know that you have a plan to take care of them. They also need to understand what will happen, who is responsible for what and any concerns that need to be addressed to prevent anarchy during a crisis.

In the May issue of American Towman Magazine, there is an excellent article written by George Metos about selling your company. If you have not read it yet, please do.

Many of his ideas to increase the value or ready a company for sale also apply to growing your company and transitioning it to the next generation of leadership.

Now is the time to review how much you do daily for your company and figure out who is going to do those tasks should you be incapable. Yes, most of us got into towing because we like being towers and love operating our trucks, however we need to groom our replacements. Prepare for the future and have someone at your company that can lead when you're no longer involved.

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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