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Towman Eric Luchini seeks to raise esteem for profession

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Eric Luchini has an infectious smile that comes over him at certain times: when he gives a tour of the fleet at Luchini’s Towing and Recovery on W. Picacho Avenue; sometimes when he is listening to his wife, Crystal, tell a story; and when he shows a collection of professional awards including some of the highest honors of his profession.


Luchini’s Towing and Recovery serves an area extending the length of Interstate 10 from Lordsburg to the Texas line, and from Las Cruces to Truth or Consequences on Interstate 25 — about a 150-mile radius. The business handles towing and roadside assistance, extending to heavy truck recovery and assisting emergency agencies. The business is on call around the clock, and the work is grueling, often dangerous.

The second-generation owner of his company, Luchini has twice been honored with the Order of the Towman award, the industry’s recognition of service “above and beyond” for local police and emergency agencies. Among its activities, Luchini’s Towing participates in training programs with federal and local agencies, donating hundreds of vehicles over the years to programs training law enforcement officers as well as participating in demonstrations for young people about the consequences of driving while intoxicated. He was also recognized for helping the Doña Ana County Fire Department acquire its first “jaws of life” rescue equipment and for donating bullet-proof vests to police.


20240103-151255-Eric Luchini Awards.jpg


Luchini takes evident pride in his work, reportedly returning to his shop the day after coming home from prostate surgery in 2013 so as not to miss a day at work. The towing and recovery businesses is a 24/7 operation and Luchini said he figured he could recover at the office just as well as at home. At other times, he still drives tow trucks himself as needed.


The business was co-founded in 1950 by his father, Ray Luchini, a former White Sands Missile Range engineer who served as a Doña Ana County Commissioner from 1976 to 1992.


As the story goes, the elder Luchini, talented with his hands and with a love for cars, started with a salvage yard, bought his first tow truck in order to move wrecks around and soon picked up requests from local police when the “wrecker on call” was not available. The enterprise he started with his brother, Leo,  naturally progressed to an operation that today employs five people and several engines.


When the business began operations, Eric was a year old. At 64, he and his wife, Crystal, live on a quiet street, named for his father, in the Fairacres community a short drive to the shop.


The elder Luchini, a strong figure in Eric’s life, is quoted as saying, “You will never regret helping those in your community,” and it is an example the son extolls, saying in an interview, “It’s all about people, in every aspect.” He has also been active with the New Mexico Southern State Fair, the Better Business Bureau of Las Cruces and numerous professional organizations, and has regularly sponsored local youth sports.

Luchini has also lobbied New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission to increase tariff rates available to towing and recovery operators like him. It’s a topic he takes seriously: Towing and recovery personnel are first responders, though not recognized as such by every state, often working under dangerous conditions at traumatic events at the side of busy roadways. He said the rates towing companies are allowed to recoup for emergency service have not kept pace with rising costs.


“Our insurance goes up, fuel, maintenance goes up, everything goes up, but our rates don’t go up,” he said. He has lobbied for rates to be indexed according to operating costs, but he said the last increase of any kind was years ago, while he estimates his costs have gone up 20 percent in five years. A relatively modest flatbed truck he purchased recently cost $189,000, he said.


Across the country, the industry has advocated not only for fair rates but also statutes recognizing tow drivers as emergency responders for insurance purposes and spreading “move over laws” requiring motorists to move over one lane when approaching tow trucks at a recovery site.


In 2016, Luchini received the American Towman Silver Star award, and last spring came the highest honor yet, when the International Towing Museum in Chattanooga, Tenn. (considered the birthplace of the worldwide towing industry) inducted him into its Hall of Fame. Luchini was the 361st inductee among figures who made history within the profession for innovation, advocacy and moral example. Luchini likened the honor to “sitting among my idols.” It also came with a memento bottle of special edition whiskey and a ring as handsome as any Super Bowl ring.


“I think most people don’t understand a lot about the towing industry,” Luchini said. After all, most members of the public encounter tow drivers under miserable circumstances, and some have had experiences with less ethical operators, he acknowledged. “We are looked at as bad people,” he continued, the smile fading.


“I want people to understand us as first responders. … Unfortunately, we’ve got to charge to tow your car. It’s a bad day. You’ve got to pay me to tow your car. Or go ahead, push it down the street … but you could pay me, a professional, to go pick it up, take it and deliver it safely.”


Luchini’s Towing and Recovery is located at 3621 W. Picacho Avenue, but the location is not easily accessible to the public. Contact 575-524-2201 or visit online at LuchinisTowing.com.



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