Part One of Four
This is the first part of a four part series on standards for towing companies.
Training: It's important to have safety training for your employees, particularly those who operate tow vehicles. Safety training can be everything from ensuring they understand the capacity of the wire rope and chains they use each day to the best way to operate a trucks controls. It could encompass safe driving techniques and training or the importance of safety equipment. Training employees in this can include educating them about the differences in reflective gear that needs to be worn when working on the side of the road. Safety is something that can save lives. Our industry loses a large number of operators every year on the side of the road and under vehicles. Some of theses tragedies can be avoided. Anything we can do to help avoid injuries and fatalities to the men and women of our industry is something we should all make a priority.
A standard for safety training can include things as simple as operating controls on the non-traffic side of the vehicle or evaluating whether a vehicle needs to be towed before its tire is changed, regardless of whether you get paid for that tow. Whether you get an additional payment for towing that vehicle several hundred yards to a safe location to change a tire or not is not nearly as important as your driver's safety. Again, we lose too many of our industry's men and women in the line of service. Safety training is a key standard for a more successful industry.
Training can save you money too. The better trained your people are, the more efficient they will be. They will damage less and have to spend less time away from work because they are taking care of themselves. The equipment will be down less because proper procedures are followed. Safety training also sets you apart from the competition and can earn you an account or two because businesses know that if you are sending out trained operators, they will protect their customers and cause less damage.
Apparel: Safety apparel is very important for tow operators. Whether it is the gloves that keep their hands warm and safe or the reflective vest that makes them highly visible to other motorist, safety apparel is absolutely a requirement when working on the side of the road. Not only should our businesses require employees to wear this safety apparel, but it should be provided for those employees. It is absolutely critical to the safety of our operators that they are seen by the public and that we take every precaution to make them safe while doing their jobs. If steel toe boots are required then we should provide them. Maybe the cost is taken out as a payroll deduction over time, but everyone should be furnished with safety apparel and standardized safety apparel in your company can only serve to improve your professional image. Employees should be required to wear this apparel in situations where it is needed with strong penalties if they do not comply. This raises the level of professionalism and certainly can save lives. Incorporate retro-reflective materials into your uniforms, add them to cold and warm weather apparel, to jackets and to vests; even make it a point to include high visibility materials in work shirts. Just make sure your drivers are highly visible when they're working on the side of the road.
Procedures: Develop procedures for your drivers to use when working. Again, this comes back to operating controls on the correct side of the truck or towing a vehicle to a safe location to change its tire, but certainly have documented procedures for your drivers. When should they put out cones or flares? What is mandated in your state? When should they wear reflective garments? What is the proper procedure for re-tensioning a winch cable? When should they call for backup on a tow job because of where it's located? When should they not tow without police assistance? These types of requirements and guidelines that you set in place for your business should be documented and a copy should be provided to employees. Once this is done, explain your company rules to your employees and have them sign off to show they have been trained and have received these documents. Make sure everyone knows what their safety responsibilities are. Not only should they adhere to them, but as a business owner or manager you should measure your employee's success on the job by how well not only do they perform at producing revenue and running calls but how well they adhere to safety guidelines and follow safety procedures.
Lighting: Lighting on your trucks should be designed such that it provides adequate work lighting as an operator is loading a vehicle or even filing out tickets and enough lighting to let other motorist know there is a tow truck working. There is no need to have hundreds of lights running at an accident scene. Often times it's been said that some types of lights attract drunk drivers. Whether this is true or not, lighting is key to how you set up a truck. Set it up for the utmost visibility and safety for your driver and the ability to work properly. Avoid strobes facing on-coming traffic and things that could cause distractions or disoriented motorists as they approach a scene. Look to your public safety groups for guidance. Look to what police or fire vehicles use in your area, particularly the police because they're working on the side of the road. Notice the way the lights work both when in pursuit mode and when they're stopped. It's when they're stopped that is most important. When your driver stops and steps out of the vehicle he is truly in harms way. Take all precautions with lighting to insure that he is able to quickly do his job in an adequately lit environment that also provides safety from other motorists. You can find an article about choosing your truck lighting in the document library at http://www.towpartners.com/library.htm.
Meetings: Have regular safety meetings at your office. Bring all of your employees into these meetings. Whether office staff, maintenance personnel, lot clerks or towing operators, everyone in your operation should be involved in safety training. Look at new ways to add a new level of safety in your business every time you meet. Do these meetings monthly or bi-weekly, but have regularly scheduled safety meetings with your employees. Let your insurance company know that you're doing these meetings and be sure to document who attends and which topics are covered at each meeting. Your insurance company, the publications in our industry or your state association can help provide material for these safety meetings. You may not have a need for a weekly meeting but you should certainly institute a safety training program and have regular safety meetings in your business today. This will create a mind-set that safety is to be considered at all times. Taking short-cuts is not considered something to be bragged about. It also tells your employees you care about their safety.
Overall: It's important that you have standards in how you hire your employees; a standardized employee criteria. Those standards are something from which you should never deviate. Create a hiring standard and document these guidelines for your operation. If you have found qualities in past employees that do not work for your business ensure that those things are avoided when you work through your hiring practice. If you choose to do background checks, drug tests or even call references as a part of your hiring practices, have a standard for how you deal with the results of each. In other areas, maybe your business does not allow employees with facial piercings, maybe your business does not allow employees to have exposed tattoos or maybe your business requires your employees to be neat and well groomed in their appearance on a day to day basis. These are all simply appearance factors and should be considered and documented if a part of your standard. Also a part of your measurement should be an employee's general attitude, not just towards you during an interview or while they're standing in the building, but the employee's general attitude in public. As that employee interacts with consumers and with your commercial accounts, that employee is an extension of you through your business. They represent your brand and as they do so you should ensure, as you would with a logo or how a truck is presented, that the employee is someone that you would choose to represent your brand. Whether your primary concerns are safety, customer service, image related or simply turnover, hiring quality employees is the first step toward a positive outcome. Employees are your first line defenders in these and most other areas. Create hiring guidelines for your company and then adhere to your own standards as you hire.
Training: A key part of the employability of a person is their ability to be trained and a key part of being a professional towing operator in today's market is to have a training program for your employees. Whether you pay for and send your drivers to formal training classes, train them in-house or require them to attend those classes at their own expense, have a standard in how training is performed in your operation and be sure that training is something that continues. For instance, though this method is not the best by far, if someone just does a ride along and some hands-on for a week and now they're able to go out and be a light duty operator for your business, be sure there is additional training that comes later. Get your employees together for meetings; let them learn from one another. Put together an in-house training program or better yet send them to a formal training program that will show them new and safer ways to operate in the industry. Send your key drivers and have them show what they learned to the rest of your operation, but always be training your operators.
The same is true for office personnel. If someone is in the accounting department, send them to advanced training for QuickBooks or whatever product they use for their work. Maybe you have someone in a clerical position that would benefit from learning more about Microsoft Word or Excel. This office suite of products is certainly beneficial for word processing, spreadsheets and account tracking. Formal training will often show even experienced employees new and faster ways to do the work they already perform each day.
There is a lot more to this article and you can find the full article in the online version. Click here to read it.
I hope you all enjoy this issue and I will be posting some more articles soon on Tow411.