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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 26 - July 02, 2019

Damaged Bikes: Drag and Slide?

Crashed motorcycle in Gdansk 98821By Randall C. Resch

If you're like me, you probably favor high-end cars, classic rides, tow trucks and motorcycles. If your favorite is a coveted rocket bike, street cruiser or full-dress touring bike, you'll understand the nature of this narrative.

Scenario: A motorcyclist is out-and-about riding the county's back roads and experiences an unfortunate crash. The rider goes off the pavement and is thrown from the cycle. Luckily the rider survives the crash, but is transported to a local hospital to mend a severe case of road rash and a bruised ego. Because the rider is transported to the hospital, an arriving highway patrol officer generates an accident report and the motorcycle is towed for safekeeping. A rotation tow company arrives, loads the cycle upright and transports the cycle to their tow yard.

A few days later, the cycle's owner limps into the tow yard to inspect his motorcycle. Typically, his attitude isn't the best; obviously he's mad at the tow company because of his own inability to safely operate his cycle at reasonable speeds and with due caution. Fast-forward to having the motorcycle towed out as the cyclist's insurance company arranges for the motorcycle to be delivered to a repair facility for evaluation, possible repair or total loss. The owner is seething mad because his cycle was lying in the tow yard on its side and in the dirt.

A competitor tow company arrives at the tow yard for second tow out, charges get paid and the tower prepares for load. The carrier's deck is lowered to the ground, and the operator simply snags a V-bridle to the cycle's forks and drag's it onto the carrier's deck.

So, here are three reasonable questions to ask regarding best practices:

1. When a cycle has considerable damage to its plastics, frame or front end, how many towers would load the already damaged motorcycle by dragging it lying down and onto the carrier's deck?

2. If a motorcycle is still on the pavement at a crash scene, should it be stood upright or left lying in the manner it was found?

3. Does it really even matter if the motorcycle appears to be marginally damaged or totaled?

Because the second company was loading the motorcycle, an employee of the initial tow company felt the second operator wasn't using best care practices and video-recorded the questionable process. However, if you're the second (tow out) operator and you see the cycle has considerable damage and it's found lying on its side in the tow yard, is it considered best practices to first stand the cycle upright prior to load? If the motorcycle was already damaged and it's lying on the ground of the storing tow company, who's to blame for additional damages beyond the crash itself?

While I see the value of taking video for liability purposes, the video I watched didn't clearly determine how the motorcycle was parked (stored) in the first place because the video didn't record an entire process.

What's the Problem?

Although a video seems to give the original tow company favor, one could question its validity if the storing tow company parked the broken cycle on its side due to crash damages. When it comes to protecting a company's interests, blame always is certain to shift from one side to the other in a "he said-she said" manner.

As a topic for your company's future safety meetings, a good point of focus might be: "When towers load motorcycles that can't roll/don't roll, is it OK to simply drag a damaged cycle (from a crash site) onto a carrier's deck?" Tow owners oftentimes cite potential slip and fall from a tilted deck, or the tower is trying to avoid a painful back blow-out by attempting to load an already damaged motorcycle. What's your best technique?

Loading casualty motorcycles found lying on their sides looks questionable, but so does transporting rolled-over cars upside down. We towers have jobs to do and sometimes on-scene considerations and safety dictates how tow and transport is conducted; nothing should be ruled out. We towers defend ourselves by saying there might be reasons for either technique, but, when vehicle owners or cycle riders see their treasured cars or cycles treated in that manner (damaged or not), hurt feelings and false claims are certain to occur.

While loading and transporting crashed motorcycles isn't overly challenging, if you're the owner of the damaged motorcycle, seeing a picture or viewing a video like the one explained suggests only one thing in the owner's mind—"Someone's gonna pay."
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