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Towing company owner makes safety his mission (MI)

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Towing company owner makes safety his mission after another driver hit on side of the road

 

(WXYZ) - Dennis Brewer has been in the towing business for more than a half century. 

 

He has made it his mission to make sure drivers working on the side of the road are safe. He worked with the legislature on the Move Over Law.  

 

Drivers must move over a lane when first responders are on the shoulder.  

 

Brewer made sure tow truck drivers were part of that. It is a $500 fine.

 

His driver, Eric Downs, was hit at 3 am Sunday on State Road.  The impact was so hard, Downs went over the top of a car and landed behind it, but survived.  

 

It was a hit and run.  

 

The only description he could give is an older sedan, possibly coming from Saline.

 

In May, Nader Chedhadi was killed while working on a school bus on the side of I-94 in Pittsfield Township. 

 

Michael Johnson was another driver killed ten years ago, also along I-94 - almost exactly on the opposite side of the freeway.

 

Brewer says distracted drivers and those who don’t move over need to learn this is serious business.  

 

He just got back from Tennessee and a special ceremony for tow truck drivers killed within the last year.  That number this year was 21. Two were from Michigan.  

 

Their names go onto a permanent memorial.  

 

RESOURCE LINK With Video

 

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Words are not enough!

As I have previously posted, and I will continue to post, the leaders of this industry, owners, equipment manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers, motor clubs, and insurance representatives need to collaborate and get to reading on the same sheet of music. Fining drivers who fail to move over has little to offer, except to line the city coffers of municipalities. Ensuring the safety of operators is an industry responsibility. I have yet to see the response from leadership in this industry step up to address the issue. Note I said industry, as in everyone who has a leadership in the subgroups of the industry. 

 

Fundamentally changing the operating protocols on how an incident is completed on the side of the highway needs to be dressed. And an industry wide acceptance that the fundamental changes will cost money. Tonight as I drove home after school, I observed an operator of a deck truck working a breakdown, operating the controls on the traffic side of the highway on an exit ramp. There was room on the guardrail side of the truck to operate the controls. There is no reason for the behavior. Insurance "leaders" do you like paying six figure hospital and doctor bills for operators who are injured  on the roadside? Owners, you must like paying the outlandish insurance premiums to the insurance companies that increase just like the national debt clock. Operators, do you think you are invincible? Do you think it is guaranteed that you are going home today? Do you think it is fair to your spouse, to your parents and family to have to go on without you if you are killed on the side of the road? It has been said that funerals are for the living. Let it be said that memorials are for the living as well. Will your name being on the wall in Tennessee pay for groceries to feed your children? Will it pay the electric and water bill? Will it pay the mortgage? How many of you even have life insurance? You should probably have a million dollars of coverage if you are in this line of work and have a family.

 

Ask yourself today, "Am I doing everything I can to keep myself safe in my everyday practices?" If you are not, then strive to use and develop your experience, knowledge, education, and training, to work in the safest environment possible. Because somewhere today, someone in this industry is going to get hurt of killed today, due to poor decisions, lack of regard for safety, lack of education and or training, or just plain old greed. Hopefully it will not effect you and those close to you, but it will effect someone, somewhere.

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Goodmichael, how much of an inconvenience would it make if the drivers side controls were disabled.  Maybe a couple of pieces of flat bar above and below the controls on the drivers side to keep the controls from being movable ??  Basically forcing the operator to use the curb side controls.

Edited by Flagfixer

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Problem is what is the curb side. limiting the controls to one side can force an operator into the drive lane in some situations. Not always is the disabled vehicle on the right shoulder. A high enough percentage of the time the vehicle is on the left shoulder. In some situations such as entrances and exits vehicles are passing on both sides. I can understand searching for a solution with the equipment, however the equipment is not causing these deaths. Distracted or Impaired Drivers are causing injury and loss of life. We must continue to be vocal and find ways to be Forceful in our affords to raise awareness.

 

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I agree Ron, but we have to fundamentally change the industry practices. Very frustrating to see the senseless suffering, as well as operators continuing to not take steps to mitigate the risk. On a percentage basis, how many law enforcement officers are struck and killed per year. I believe that there needs to be a broader education program for operators to take more of a role in the responsibility for their safety. As well as owners and managers to do more to ensure that the operators under their control are actually implementing best practice solutions.  

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The focus on training is there ... so ... do how do you get towers to work away from traffic? Towers should stop blaming motorists for their actions and take individual responsibility. Fact: A vehicle can be effectively loaded and secured on a carrier without ever having to stand on the traffic side of the shoulder. Note: A large percentage of towers killed in the past many years were carrier operators.   R.

 

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Great input.  First, most of us do things by habit.  Get out of the truck and work from the closest side.  Ask operators why and they give the frequent answer that the truck is set up for driver side operation.  Controls are there, free spool is there and a lot of them have the cable attached to the rear of the carrier on the drivers side.  So, how to break old habits or poorly set up trucks??  I like the idea of the wireless controls. How much would that cost. . . not a whole lot and the training would be pretty simple. 

 

In my day, the old trucks had the levers and throttle on the drivers side so it was just simple to use those.  Maybe it is time to do more training and supervision.  I see haphazard operators all the time that use the winch for the front securement and only one chain on the rear.  Seems they are in a hurry to clear the roadway.

 

Now for TIM training.  I took the training and got the instructor off to the side and we talked about how to get all first responders on the same page.  TIM takes all agencies to be trained.  We have all seen that LE wants to park as close to the scene as possible. . .every LE vehicle.  Fire and EMS usually cover the lane next to the scene to give them a place to work safely.  Now its time for the tow truck to sit and wait.  Fire and EMS clear and the LE wants the roadway open.  TIM falls apart and sometimes the LE leaves for another call before the road is clear.  (All this from personal experience)

 

The best that I can offer would be getting all agencies on the same page.  Probably not gonna happen.

 

As for roadside service, the driver of the disabled vehicle just pulls off the road and calls for service.  Service responds and has to operate in an unprotected status.  Gotta be some solution.

What is the solution and how to implement it is gonna take some dedicated push from the tow industry.

JimB

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Every time I leave the big city I hear the traffic/accident report during rush hour and always thought it was the perfect time to put in a word for slow down move over. I asked before but I still wait to hear it.

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I do not think that equipment is the most important issue. Education and training are going to have to be revamped. Operators are not receptive to safe operating practices. The industry has to adopt "safer " acceptable standards, and ensure that they are implemented. We, as an industry are doing a poor job of mitigating risk.

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I agree with Goodmichael and think he is onto something.  Now. . . how do things get started.  Should it be left to the employer to do it or should there be some sort of prior employment training.  Fire / EMS are getting training and certification prior to employment in some states.  Maybe someone has a thought.

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Dear All

 

My name is Paul

 

I have introduced myself on the new members section! 

I started a UK campaign in June 2016 for the same reasons in the UK. 

Our Website is www.slowdownmoveover.uk and we are on twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram. 

our focus has been on education from the broken down person on what to do when they breakdown!

The people passing a situation (broken down vehicle or road operator ) and the education to working roadside for the VRO (vehicle recovery operator)

 

Last year I got to meet Mr Tom Luciano from Miller Industries who gave me some great encouragement and advise.  This seems to be a world wide problem of people not paying attention on the roads and in my life time of working road side in 28 years here in the UK the road volumes have risen beyond the road capacities to population, and with no investment in the infrastructure and support from authorities. Vehicles are much quieter at 70mph more distractions in the car with the internet on the phones it has become a zombie nation from the life style hand to mouth with society consumption to have the latest gadget or immaterial item but not actually living with in their means.

 

People migrate to their job now! 20 years ago people lived and worked in the same area, but due to no industry here in the UK people have to travel to where ever the job is and because they are travelling long distances they get up early get on the roads early half asleep do there job and then come home again all stressed and worn out! there internal body batteries are worn out from drinking coffee or energy drinks 5 days a week. So when they get on the roads they are on auto pilot! and that broken down vehicle or road operator wasn't there yesterday and the inevitable happens.  

 

Here in the UK it has increased dramatically.

 

I have spent alot of hours working with amazing people to develop our sign and mission to get it right but you can always learn from others! 

I hope joining this forum we can learn from each other and get all of out there working home to our families.

 

Thank you for your time reading this.

 

Regards

 

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

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Keep up the good work Paul......education is really critical  and it will be a huge mountain to climb and is a constant  battle against drunk drivers , texting at the wheel, tiredness and speed....

I have had first hand experience of staff injuries whilst  working at the roadside......my son was hit by a drunk driver and received leg injuries ,  I was hit by a motorcycle and thrown into a ditch with arm and shoulder injuries......one of our tow Truck drivers was hit  by a truck and suffered serious neck and head injuries .....

We lost one of our breakdown mechanics at the roadside after being hit by a drunk driver ...he was killed instantly ......its all the additional trauma placed on the families and loved ones....heartbreaking !!!!

 

John.

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GoodMichael stated, “I do not think that equipment is the most important issue. Education and training are going to have to be revamped. Operators are not receptive to safe operating practices. The industry has to adopt "safer" acceptable standards, and ensure that they are implemented. We, as an industry are doing a poor job of mitigating risk.

 

His comments are accurate and valid. I too don’t believe equipment is the issue. If you review tow operator fatalities, there’s a tiny, tiny percentage where equipment was blames for cause or resulted fatality, but a HUGE percentage where tow operators were standing, walking, working the white-line traffic side, or somewhere in a pinch-zone when a distracted/DUI motorist came onto the shoulder and killed them. Tow education and training is out there, but too many towers think that, not only do they know it all, they’re invincible with that, “It won’t happen to me”, mentality. Many tow owners think that their in-house program is a way to save money and formal training is a waste of time. But, regardless as to how many training certificates an individual achieves, on-scene safety is only as good as ones awareness. I don’t know about you all, but every time I work a highway incident, my level of fear is maxed because pain and the thought of being killed is a powerful motivator … wouldn’t you agree?  If operators aren't receptive to safe operating practices ... how do you make them receptive?

 

So, if the industry were to adopt safer acceptable standards, please chime in here and suggest what those safer standards might be? That leads me to pondering the major question of … who ensures that safer standards are implemented? However, be careful for what’s being asked for for fear of OSHA, state laws and selective enforcement may over-regulate an already over-regulated industry.    R.

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We seem to be getting somewhere with this  input.  I had lunch with a Sheriff and a Capt. today and we talked about not only the tow problems with distraction but how the same distractions affect their officers who make traffic stops.  Drivers are chatting away on the cell while the officer is trying to get the license, reg and insurance.  Officer is sometimes in the "danger zone" for a time while being ignored by the driver.

 

rreschran brings up an interesting situation.  By no means should the OSHA or government be more involved.  The problem has to be resolved and supervised from within the industry.  What about the state towing associations.  Maybe, their open involvement on training could help.

 

Keep the info flowing.  It will make a difference.

JimB

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I hate the government more than anyone, but it seems to be an acceptable fact in this industry, that people are dying in many situations, because they are not implementing basic safety practices. And if getting OSHA involved in this industry prevented one life from being needlessly lost, it would be worth it. It might even assist in getting some of the parasitic towing operations put out of existence as an added benefit. 

 

I have often told people that the speed of the boss is the speed of the team. Think about it for a second. If you are not a good example of proper procedures, do you really believe that your employees will be.

 

Let's start with how many owners require your people to wear PPE on a regular basis. How many of you are aware that you are required to furnish PPE equipment to your employees? If an employee is under a vehicle pulling a driveline, hooking up air, they are supposed to be utilizing eye protection. How many of you provide gloves for use at accident scenes to prevent biological pathogen contamination?

 

How many people have a protocol whereupon an operator is given the autonomy to pull the plug on a situation and say  am out of here, this is not safe. At your next safety meeting, bring a set of dice, and pick out an employee. Tell him or her that you want them to keep rolling the dice until he or she rolls an eight. An eight can be a two and a six, two fours, a five and a three. It generally takes about four rolls to get an eight. It is not a matter of how it will occur, it is a matter of when. You eventually will roll an eight. The same goes for a catastrophic event. If you are not proactive it is a matter of when. It will happen.

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I see we have had only 307 views for a thread that has a wealth of information about operator problems / safety.  Thanks to the participants that have the desire to see things change. . .make the job safer.  You are to be congratulated.  I hope this thread will get people thinking.  The boss, the supervisor and the operator should be exposed to the suggestions here.

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My home A/C went out earlier this week. I am required to have an EPA card to buy parts for the system. Actually, I figured out that it is the condenser fan motor that gave up the ghost. I removed the fan with a 5/16ths nut driver, a quarter inch ratchet, a two inch extension, and a 3/8ths 8 point socket. All American made tools, that cost about 80.00 to purchase. So why does the A/C tech get 150.00 to do this repair, yet we respond with an 80,000.00 vehicle and only get 65.00? There is far more information required to be a wrecker operator than there is to work on A/C systems. My reason for bringing this up, is that there is a standardized test that one must pass to even be eligible to purchase parts. I am of the opinion, and I have an opinion about everything, that there is enough knowledge that is required to be successful in this field, that curriculum for an associates degree could be developed. This industry covers all of the sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, as well as math, writing skills, sociology, psychology, ethics. The list goes on. I believe that having a college degree plan would go a long way to start distinguishing this industry into a profession. It would also go a long way in bringing rates to a level of service that would allow for benefits, livable scheduling, as well as paid vacations, and insurance to be offered. I believe it would assist in recruitment of talented drivers, and assist in giving the industry some push back on high insurance rates. Let me correct that last statement, insurance rates are not high, they are reflective of an industry that does not effectively promote and perpetuate standards that reflect experience, knowledge, education, and safe operating practices.

 

So, what do you think?

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FACT: To fix a problem, one has to recognize there's something's broke. This industry in surely broke and we know, "Why", through years of lessons learned and more than 400-tow operators killed working highway incidents and accidents. The fatality numbers don't lie. And, "Yes", lack of accredited training leads as one component necessary to gain professional recognition.  Based on GoodMichael's location and the flag he sports with his title, Texas has TDLR that sets the tone of training and requires all Texas towers obtain state required training on a continuing basis.  For what it's worth, I wrote and taught a community college, "tow truck operator safety course", for the Grossmont Community College District in San Diego. To teach that course, I had to hold a valid California Teacher's Certificate. As required by California state, the 64-hour course required the successful completion of competencies of a journeyman/journeywoman operator, in the same manner peace officer standards, paramedics and firefighter courses criteria are written. My college course was supported and promoted by the college, but never gained momentum. After two years, the class was discontinued. The same course was approved by the California Highway Patrol's Tow Service Agreement Advisory Committee (TSAAC) and is approved for instruction to tow companies and their operators serving the highway patrol. Like WreckMaster, ITTR, TRAA, Kenny Kay, CIRTs Bobby Tuttle,  Tom Luciano, Wes Wilburn and others, the training is available in varying formats. All of these training programs are exceptional training, but do nothing to standardize our profession like ASE, POST, EMT, paramedic, nursing, and other journeyman, "first responder", trades in the US. (look up the definition of, "Journeyman").  Consideration:  Years ago, the CHP attempted a, "standardized test", for rotation tow operators using an on-line format and a 100-question, "Competency", test. A Beta-test was offered to 800-experienced tow operators allowing for 75-percent (minimum) accuracy to pass. When the test results were counted, approximately 32-percent of the Beta test-takers could pass the relatively simple test. That's a POOR representation of an industry not consider academic, but hands-on. Why such poor scores ... towers typically don't read, write, spell or comprehend well, but those poor schoolhouse inabilities are only an excuse of an industry that doesn't hold its clientele to high-standards. I believe that towers taking the test didn't take the test seriously as it was forced upon them. FACT: Towers don't like change and unfortunately take the path of least resistance. And, that includes tow companies being walked all over by insurance companies, claim agents, and law enforcement entities that don't recognize the towing and recovery industry as a professional entity, but more so ... a necessary evil.  As far as training goes, the programs are there, but, NOT at any level where certification, education and time-in-grade is recognized by outside interests. So ... I'll throw my friend, Cynthia Martineau, director of TRAA, under the bus here and ask, "How can our industry gain statewide accreditation and national certification that raises the bar of the towing and recovery industry?"  The need to reinventing training programs is moving backwards ... what steps can be taken?    R.

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We, as an industry, are our own worst enemy. The skillset required to efficiently, properly, and safely operate and manipulate a wrecker is phenomenal.  I an referring to the recovery and transportation part of the equation. The operator must also mitigate the emotional side of dealing with the public for everything from I locked my keys in the car and my ice cream is melting to a parent coming to see a casualty that involved a fatality accident that took the life of their child.  You have to be physically prepared for anything, and everything.

We as an industry, do not command respect for, nor do we instill confidence in the value of the services rendered. Look how far the concepts that RBU as well as Wreckmaster have enhanced the knowledge base of the industry. Knowledge is meaningless if it is not put into practice. When OSHA is brought up as a possible solution, in an attempt to end some of the needless injuries as well as deaths that occur on a weekly basis, many react as if they were hit n the ass with a lightning bolt because it will effect their pocketbook. How much is a human life that is needlessly lost worth to some of you?   When I say you I am not just addressing owners and managers. I an addressing the motor clubs, insurance corporations, law enforcement agencies, politicians, and vehicle manufacturers. A "Well" is a hole in the ground not a solution to the issue at hand.

If OSHA were to become involved in this industry and mandate that operators are no longer completing their duties in a safe, prudent, manner that promotes the safety of the operator as well as the public at large when they are engaged in any activity next to a lane of traffic that contains vehicular traffic operating over speeds of over thirty five miles an hour. Violations of this mandate are subject to a 50000.00 fine per incident.

When that lightning bolt hits you in the ass, HOW will you react then?

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Guys....it is very interesting to read your comments and analysis regarding the constant amount of  deaths and injuries of Tow workers at the roadside in the USA...

We have the almost identical issues in the UK and most countries in Europe …...Whilst there is legislation is in place in various states and countries to Slow Down Move Over, when approaching incidents …. in a lot of cases this is proving difficult to enforce and costly to promote public awareness.

Only when after the event and people have been killed or injured and in the courtroom the full force of the law is applied to the offenders and the penalties paid ….

THAT IS TOO LATE for the victims and their loved ones !!!

In the UK, there is a group of very dedicated Recovery  operators headed up by Paul Anstee,  Ben Johnson,  Baz Cooper, Andy Lambert  ( apologies to several others I have forgotten to name) and supported by the trade associations,  currently running a vigorous campaign to raise public awareness and lobby the Government to introduce legislation to make it mandatory to Slowdown Move Over...

However ….for the last 2 years  the Government have been and are so pre occupied with Brexit and the impending divorce from Europe it is almost impossible to talk to anyone of any importance.....I could go on and blow hot air  for hours over this !! 

What I am getting from the infinite wisdom of the other contributors of this thread …...Is the need for more in depth training and a  consistent training syllabus for personnel,   The need for good quality PPE to be worn at all times.....it is all very well having a big shiny truck with lots of flashing lights ….but ... being operated by a guy wearing a tee shirt shorts and trainers …..how many times have we  all seen that ????    Hard Hats, High Visibility Reflective clothing, Protective Work Boots, Gloves etc  is a MUST ….try going on most Job sites without them !!

Gentlemen... you are absolutely correct in what you say and the sad thing is....it will take a major disaster to make the legislators pay attention then they will do it their way without proper consultation with the people at the sharp end...

I utterly commend Dennis Brewer in his campaign  and all the countless other people constantly working to improve safety and reduce injuries at the roadside ….even if it saves one life then it is all worthwhile !!

 John.

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This may not be doable but, would insurance pay for a "safety responder" type support vehicle to respond to accident scenes to add additional safety for the operator??  Equipment with lights, cones, flares, vests and maybe scene lighting etc.  LE seems to leave the scene and the towers are left to clean up with no additional safety support.  Just a thought. . .

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Outstanding! FlagFixer presents a very doable process if he’s asking about insurance company support?  Sure, law enforcement should be part of the process specifically because their presence and lighting does have an effect on approaching traffic, albeit minimally, but, they too have other things to do while experiencing the same excuses of low personnel and lack of budget. I believe a solution is already in-place and it comes down to whom and how much? I’m currently writing a similar request to address what Flagfixer is asking.

 

California and other states like Texas, Georgia, and Florida that have programs like California’s Freeway Service Patrol, HERO, Ranger, Minuteman and Champ, funded by federal grant monies and State Farm Insurance to provide roadside assistance to motorists in America’s big city highways. New Jersey’s DOT has a program, Hawaii has their own version of the Freeway Service Patrol, Arizona has the Roadside Motorist Assistance (RMA) program, and Nevada’s NDOT, also sponsored by State Farm, conducts roving patrol to provide roadside assistance, signage and blocking to America’s motorists. All working components are there; federal funding provides trucks, professionally trained operators, signage, fleet availability and GPS dispatching … so why reinvent the wheel?

 

Why can’t these highway assistance programs add a component of, “Blocker Truck Availability”, where tow companies can call to request a blocker truck to come to their location and remain on-scene only for the short amount of time it takes for a requesting tow company to load and depart? Should blocker truck assistance be free to requesting tow companies because freeway assistance programs are already in-place, working and available, or, would the requesting tow company pay a fee for a blocker truck to respond, and, then charge the motorist or club for the service?  Isn't that a proactive approach to tow operator survival, best practices and a way to approach a tow company's risk management?

 

For example ... The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations and the Office of Traffic Safety have grants that could be approached in consideration of more than 300-tow operators killed working America’s highways. What are your state tow associations doing to address this ongoing slaughter?

 

Click on these links to see what these programs are about and agree or not that providing blocker truck assistance on highway shoulders isn’t a possibility?

 

https://www.nhtsa.gov/highway-safety-grants-program/resources-guide

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_Emergency_Response_Operators

 

Liability can’t be a defining issue here, because, under their current operations, roadside assistance entities park on a highway’s shoulder, emergency lights on, using a service or tow truck, to block for their own personnel as they provide service, gas, or tire changes anyway. I could go on and on with a list of highway assistance and state DOT programs that assist the motoring public.

 

So, I respectfully ask, why can’t roadside assistance programs, or big-box insurance providers, step-up to help provide blocker/signage assistance (upon request) when it’s needed? While I realize that these kinds of programs aren’t available in all locations and at all hours around the clock, doesn't it makes sense to utilize the resources that are already in place, funded, and doing the same kind of work? If their goal is to assist the motoring public in the safest manner possible, shouldn't that extend to tow operators working America's highways?

 

Ideas? Comments?

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Randy, you and FlagFixer have a very valid option on the table, one that I myself have been promoting. These motorist assist programs are all part of effective managed traffic programs currently operated by almost every state DOT agency in the US. I see no difference in permitting, even mandating a blocker truck for towing operations when compared to the requirements to use a shadow vehicle (block truck) for roadway maintenance. Is removing wrecked or disabled vehicles not required maintenance of the road system?

 

Another point about the free service patrol operations, in many areas these are operated under the direction of the state DOT agency by independent contractors. Many of these contract operators are also area towers, so I want the industry to see this as a viable solution and not just another power grab by a governmental agency. What is stopping towers in areas not serviced by service patrols from petitioning their DOT to develop a program. Further, it can become a profit center for the business -not that this is the goal of this discussion, but we are capitalists and right or wrong business drives demand.

 

I have long been an advocate for professional development training, not just one and done classes or classes designed so everyone passes. As Randy pointed out earlier, our training standards industry wide are not up to the same standards as the other first responders that we long to be. In this case we are way behind the eight ball. As an industry we must call for proper professional development ourselves BEFORE it is forced upon us by the likes of OSHA and FMCSA. Randy makes mention of ASE, for those that don't know, ASE certification is the gold standard for automotive and truck repair technicians, similar to i-CAR in the collision industry. While we do have outstanding training options available to us they fall short of meeting the gold standard of certification. They also leave out many important topics. It seems that towing training today focuses on below the hook techniques such as rigging and calculating loads -all important but not all inclusive. 

 

Answer these next questions honestly. How much of your day is spent performing recoveries vs. traditional load and go tow jobs? Do you see the disproportionate amount of focus on recovery training compared to how to efficiently and effectively load and go? How about scene safety? All of this is more important to operator safety than the potential to overload rigging on a recovery. Yes, that will kill you also but the statistics simply don't make that as likely as a struck-by or other injury as a result of improper loading procedures or poor scene safety discipline.

 

It is sad when a truck stop chain, actually all 4 of the major truck stop chains do a better job of on scene safety discipline with $12-$14 per hour technicians that only respond to a few calls a week than we as "professional" towers do. Pay attention the next time you see a Road Squad or Pilot road service vehicle on a job, they have advance warning, cones, proper truck placement as well as proper PPE. If they can get the same guy that cleans the shower at the truck stop to comply with proper procedures why can't we get a career towing operator to do the same?

 

Goodmichael, I have always liked to read your opinions and we are usually of the same mind set. I agree with your call for insurance, call providers, equipment manufacturers and other industry leaders to step up and do something. Each has a chance to make a difference in their own arena. It is well known that I represent the Jerr-Dan brand of equipment as a salesman, but putting that aside, they are the first manufacturer to step up and make dual side free wheel standard on their carrier decks. It is a simple mechanical solution to an age old problem, one that all carrier makers should have implemented by now. They also have an inexpensive wireless remote option that can control 1 to all 5 functions on a carrier, allowing the tower to remotely lower his deck into position before even leaving the safety of his cab. How is that for doing their part?

 

The days of manual L-arm wheel lifts are over, self loaders are so much faster and can be safer since most of them are remotely controlled from inside the cab thereby limiting exposure time. Dynamic makes a self-loader medium duty wheel lift (16 ton). Why is this not an option on more medium or even heavy duty trucks? Also, as a former heavy tower I ask -why do we still use axle forks as the preferred method of front hookups on heavy tows? I had NRC wheel grids on my trucks in early 2000's, prefer them over forks any day. Quicker, easier and I am not under the truck in the pinch zone for nearly as long as I am with forks. 

 

It was mentioned by Todd Menzel during the Tennessee Tow Show about redesigning our standard hookup process. Why don't we take the lead from the refuse industry and use automation more in our industry? How about compelling OEM makers of heavy trucks to install air, brake and electrical connections on the front of their trucks like the military does? Even better, designing a industry standard pin attachment? Many coach bus makers already do, making the hookup process much easier and therefore safer? How about using dual side drive truck chassis to build our wreckers on, again like the waste industry. We could easily exit from the non-traffic side and reduce exposure.

 

In conclusion, this has opened a great discussion on a topic of vital importance to the industry. I have long called for increasing the bar to entry in this industry and holding ourselves more accountable for professional standards and continuing education. I have to take continuing education classes to practice as a safety and compliance consultant, hell even my hairdresser has to take C.E. credits to keep her beauticians license. We as an industry have done a hell of a job of memorializing our fallen, with due respect, however if we put the same effort into changing our industry we would not have the same need to memorialize the fallen because there would not be so many!

 

It is time for professional towers to demand their place on the vehicle design committees of OEMs, highway management committees with DOT, even on regulatory bodies governing the trucking industry. We need to contribute to the regulations and ideas that are being developed to be sure our point of view is taken into consideration. When highway safety initiatives are designed the tower is often an afterthought, or the designer believes we have access to the same resources as the other governmental response agencies do.

 

Bottom line, either we as an industry take charge of our future or the government will do it for us. I assure you their solutions will not benefit us at all, in fact the effort has already begun to replace private towers with public agency responders in many areas. Be forewarned that it is up to all of us as a collective to effect change.

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Outstanding narrative Brian. Thanks for your input and it's about time you jumped in to this discussion. Your use of the words, "must", "compelled", "we as an industry", "we need to contribute", and, "why don't we take the lead", are all admirable when written in a sentence. But, how do we take words and put them into actions? In Brian's words, Jerrdan s ... "the first manufacturer to step up and make dual side free-wheel standard on their carrier decks." It got that way because concerned individuals identified a problem and jumped on a band-wagon to make corrections, i.e., year's ago, Shane Coleman and I spoke about repeated tow operator fatalities on the white line side. Shane took our conversation before his superiors and JerrDan's engineering departments, introducing the idea to get tow operators off the white-line. And, guess what ... free-spool handles are now available on BOTH sides. To me ...that's forward thinking where money isn't the issue, but how to make it safer for tow operators and getting them off the white-line side. The science of making change means identifying the root problem, rally and challenge industry professionals and activists to the cause, create excitement and momentum, and ultimately seek, stimulate, or discover ways that make corrections. FACT: Actions do speak louder than words and I'd like to start a board of forward thinkers who will help start a slow-burn in this industry. Who's up for the task? I see only nine participants in this thread, and I know there are plenty of deep-thinkers in this industry who have something to say.  Common ladies and gentlemen ... let's get fired up ... jump in any time.                                   R.

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