Quantcast
Jump to content
  • Come join the TowForce community.

    Sign in to get started and to receive Tower Down Notices.

rreschran

Simple Reality: Operator Deaths CAN be Prevented ! !

Recommended Posts

I spent considerable time going over highway related fatality data yesterday as a result of this most recent operator fatality. In a post regarding a recent tow operator's tragic death, Moose commented, “What's It Going to Take, SLOW DOWN MOVE OVER isn't working,” and 5towman wrote, “Very sad. Just no reason this keeps happening. Thoughts and prayers.” Both questions beg an industry-wide focus. Moose is right, Slow-Down Move-Over ISN’T working … we already know that. California’s SDMO law was written into the books in 2007. Other states followed suit, but consistent tow operator and first responder fatalities only re-prove and re-demonstrate that distracted driving continues to kill pedestrian workers.

 

5towman’s observation is correct … it IS quite sad. But, I’m more inclined to argue that tow operators put themselves in harm’s way by choosing to work the white-line side. Of the 13x or so tow operators killed in highway events this year, more than three-quarters of those operator strikes reportedly were BECAUSE towers were standing/working or walking on the white-line side, or, walked into an active lane. And, that includes towers with many, many years of experience. For argument sake, what comes to your mind when news reports say;

 

  • The operator was standing alongside the pickup truck when a car hit him, sending him an unknown distance
  • The tow operator and the customer were standing next to the road on the driver’s side of the car.
  • The operator died on the scene after he was struck while standing outside his tow truck
  • The man’s vehicle then continued “up the bed” of the tow truck and hit the operator, “who was standing adjacent to the flat bed portion of the tow truck,” the state police report said. 

 

News reports like these leave little argument to suggest towers were on the traffic side of their tow trucks or their customer’s vehicles. I’ve got hundreds of other investigative statements just like these. No, I wasn’t there and I don’t know all the details, but these statements are a good indication of what I believe the problem is.

 

So, what’s it gonna’ take? Distracted and DUI driving are here to stay. Cellphones and GPS aren't going away. SDMO laws don’t work suggesting, towers have to take their on-scene safety as a number-one priority by NOT working the white-line side. Towers - GET-OFF THE WHITE-LINE. In another post Grumps wrote; “I’d rather take getting a citation rather than being killed by a wayward motorist.” Is that 4-point tie-down worth being killed over?    

 

Fatality numbers don’t lie suggesting more than 350-operators have been killed on highways since 1954. And, yes, my numbers are an estimate only, but give an idea as to just how dangerous this line-of-work is. I believe towers should completely understand that working the white-line side is the path to a certain death. Instead, from the non-traffic-side, load the vehicle, secure it enough that it’s safe to move to a safer location; then complete securing the vehicle where you’re NOT exposed to dangerous traffic.

 

White-Line safety certainly demands a culture change in operator mentality. That’s what I think it’s going to take. How we get there as an industry is nothing less than an individual effort. It seems so simple, but why doesn’t that message catch-on? How does that message sink and stick to each tower’s mind? To that, I extend a reality that says; "When tow operators work away from the traffic side, perhaps these repeated fatalities will go down."

 

There are other associated factors that lead to tow operators being injured and killed. Some uncontrollable, other's not.  But, working the white-line can be prevented when towers take time to consider their on-scene techniques to work quickly and eliminate time on-scene. Can operator deaths be prevented (?) Not through the actions of the motoring public, but, by towers themselves choosing to work out of harm’s way and on the non-traffic side. Make it a conscious choice and live by your words.        R.


Randall C. Resch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for this well written analysis.  I could never understand working the 'traffic-side' of a tow.  I've heard guys say "I want to see what's coming" but that is simply an incorrect way to view the situation.  By the time you see distracted-motorist-on-cell-phone coming across the white line at 70 mph there's no chance you'll be able to get out of harms way.   When I ran a flatbed, I worked the controls from the passenger side of the truck on EVERY tow just, even in a driveway or parking lot, so that it became a habit to use that side of the truck (unless there was a reason I was not able to such as an obstruction etc on that side). 

 

I got rid of the flatbed.  Too many close call for me.  I use an autoloader now and I get the vehicle lifted, the customer in the cab of my truck as quick as possible, and slow-roll to the next exit or turn-out.  

 

Thanks again for the helpful commentary.

D.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very well written piece Sir. As we all know, There are numerous reasons that Operators are killed or maimed on the roadways. Can MOST of them be prevented with proper training AND SITUATIONAL AWARENESS? 

 

I really believe they can. SDMO Laws don't work. They are not the be-all end-all. Not for nothing, murder, burglary, domestic violence, drunk driving etc... are all against written law yet, they happen EVERYDAY.

 

A big, big part of the problem in my opinion is operator complacency. And I don't mean just white line work per-say. It could be an operator who loads a vehicle on a roll back and doesn't bother to secure a catch strap or safety chain to the front of said vehicle prior to getting behind and under the rear of the vehicle to attach the tie backs. Sure, he has placed his life literally in front of that winch, the line and rigging forever without issue. Then there's that ONE time.... That one time the free spool was not completely engaged, that ONE time your rigging didn't hold, That ONE time the line broke... All it takes is that ONE TIME.

 

Now, What I am about to say may not sit well with everyone out there but it needs to be said, Tow Operators MUST START to take responsibility for their own lives. In every aspect of the job. Your roadside movements and positioning are YOUR responsibility.

 

You must think through your movements, know a way out of where you are should something go awry..  We cannot and should not have ever thought some written law or a bunch of flashing lights and reflective clothing is going to give us some sort of magical shield where we could just go about doing anything we wanted on the side of the road. PROTECT yourselves because no else will. 

 

So many of these horrible deaths could have been prevented if the operator, experienced or new would not allow complacency to play a role in the uncontrollable situation they may have been put in. You have NO control over the 17 year old texting-tweeting driver or the hammered drunk guy running down the shoulder right towards your scene,  But if you are operating on the guardrail side of your truck, you have your head up and NEVER turn your back to traffic, you might just see whats coming and be able to get away via your already scoped out escape route from the imminent collision...Roadside operator deaths will always be a factor. But, i really feel if we all took more time to plan, train and prepare ourselves for the given situation we have to work in, We could drastically reduce the fatalities that plague our industry.  Just my 2 cents.     


PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Grumps, you do not know how many tow drivers I have seen stand or work in a narrow space between the vehicle and the Guardrail when the could have crossed the Guardrail and reached over... Common Sense Practices which could say anyone from death or injury. The primary thought on my my is escape plan I start that exit strategy as I arrive and step out of the truck. It's so easy that it just might make the difference, in fact I know it has, because there have been close calls. So many I can't recall them for long. If I did I likely wouldn't be effective or even do this type of work. It's truly Hazardous Duty!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

These days i find myself looking at my scene the moment I pull up and Just by instinct I start planning my movements, Where I will stand, Where i will go Should the worst happen. In my 24 almost 25 Professional years ( God, I am getting OLD.. LOL ) In this Industry I have had more close calls than I would like to admit. I have had my truck struck twice, One was very serious and injured both me and a police officer on scene pretty good. And of course I have had the occasional but rare equipment failure, bad rig-up etc. But what I feel is different for me is I always take the time to look back at what happened, think it through and LEARNED FROM IT!!!! Whereas I see many other Operators be it on Youtube, in person or whatnot that will take a bad situation like that and basically laugh it off. Its almost like they think "well I didnt get hurt last time it happened so I am not worried about it". This whole "Not gonna happen to me" mentality MUST STOP. It is literally KILLING US...  Even with all the best planning and forward thinking I do I was STILL Injured in that serious accident years back. But I know in my heart of hearts that my thoughts, actions and planning on that terrible day saved my life. My name would be on the wall of the fallen today if I would have just winged it and threw caution to the wind.  


PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...