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Towing company owner makes safety his mission (MI)

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I might be the cause of such low numbers of participation.  I sorta hijacked the thread.  Maybe Ron could move the conversation to another post and give it a title that would draw more participants. 

 

Brian mentioned the Road Ranger type responders and we have that here in Florida.  In SW  FL  we also have a company that does maintenance on the interstates called DBI.  On major wrecks, DBI responds at the request of FHP and brings some trucks with fold over arrow signage and a ton of orange cones.  These guys do an outstanding job of lane control  / closure.  That type response is what I had in mind if the insurance companies would pay the bill for the service.  I could be another profit center as Brian says, for tow and road service companies.  To me it would be a win - win for the insurance companies.  Lower the injuries and deaths on the roadway.  Maybe use it as advertising somehow.

 

I really want to thank the participants thus far.  We know there are others that would join in.  You are a great bunch of guys !!

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Gentlemen.....I am not blessed with the ability to put together narratives like yours ...but I do have the ability to understand them ..

 

What you are saying is word PERFECT  to our fears and concerns in the UK....

 

During the past few days I have been a part of the organising team at the Professional Recovery Tow Show.....the UK 's   largest  show for Recovery  and towing ... 

The industry seminars were well attended and a they were totally dominated with initiatives to improve safety and operational standards at the roadside ....including the announcement to engage professional parlamentry experts to bring the concerns and initiatives of the rescue and recovery industry directly to governmental advisors and senior polititions ........and I think for the first time ever....there were no dissenters from the floor ....amazing !!

The deaths and injuries in the UK  are nowhere near the scale that is being experienced stateside .....but nevertheless the end outcome is equally distressing for the families and co workers....

The very latest  trucks, equipment, safety signage, clothing, and software  on the show floor was very impressive ......again, big emphasis on safety .....

The Recovery display team organised by  my good friend Nick Ovenden and myself   presented a series of live demonstrations  and scenarios using the very latest products available from Boniface Engineering  the UK part of Miller Industries ......again, our main emphasis was on the safety and safe operating practices....I will post some pictures in the UK forum later 

The Tow Show was without doubt the best for many years ...though sadly overshadowed by the recent passing of its main founder and organiser Dave Gregory...  his son Paul, wife Lynn and the whole tow show team set aside their grief  and produced a superb show in Dave's memory.

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Earlier this week, I received the magazine, I believe it is called Tow Professional. There was an article on the inside cover where the editor stated that he had interviewed a driver who seemed to be boasting with bravado that he tows vehicles in 112 degree heat with cars whipping by at highway speeds. This attitude as well as total disregard for the risk that you put yourself in, your employers equipment as well as livelihood, the livelihood of your family, the livelihood of your employer as well as your co workers are totally ignored. And most important of all, your family, friends, and loved ones outside the circle of this "job."

 

It is painfully obvious that this industry is unwilling, not incapable, unwilling to raise the bar to ensure the health, safety. and welfare of the front line operators. Many are afraid to spend the extra money that would be required to ensure that operators perform their duties under optimum conditions. It costs money to run a safe operation. If that is reflected in rates, then maybe the mindset of some in this industry, which is that of a prostitute who is only concerned with what the competition is charging, and who are they doing will change. Maybe if safety is the number one focus rather than volume with no regard for profit, and industry standards reflect a safe culture it will be reflected in huge savings in insurance. Insurance rates are reflective of the sloppy, antiquated, cowboy attitude and engrained mindset of this industry. If there were industry wide standards on safe operations, that were collaboratively agreed upon by owners, insurance companies, motor clubs the bleeding and suffering could be slowed down. And maybe the motoring public would get their head out of their ass when they realized that they were going to have to pay some big bucks to have somebody bring them gas on the side of the road, and they will pay closer attention to their gas gauge rather than finger f___ing their smart phone. Maybe people will start paying closer attention to the condition of their fluids, belts, and hoses if they had a copay on their motor club assist. Maybe the motor clubs would stop being the tail that is wagging the dog when nobody will drive twenty miles one way to change a tire for fifty dollars, but instead demand that a blocker vehicle be utilized due to the casualty being on the side of the road and require that it be paid for as part of the incident, rightfully so. If insurance refuses to insure policies for those who fail to abide by industry safe operating standards, they will assist greatly in ridding the industry of parasites, bottom feeders, ticks, whatever you call the bottom of the barrel. And the insurance companies will still net the same returns they currently generate.

 

Chrome does not get you home, you go home by using your dome.

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As I write this I am attending the Mid West Regional Tow Show in Mason, Ohio. The vibe I get from the attendees is that safety is something out of their control. Sad.

 

Bill Giorgis of Mike's Wrecker in Saginaw, Mi. presented a well attended seminar yesterday on OSHA and the towing industry, a subject I will be speaking about during the American Towman Expo in Baltimore, MD on Sunday, Nov. 18th. Although well attended, probably the best attended of all the seminars so far this weekend, the audience had a less than enthusiastic feel. No one likes regulations, however voluntary compliance -no, voluntarily exceeding the minimum standards and innovating new standards is what will help make us safer. Admittedly, no amount of PPE or advanced warning will stop all injuries and deaths, but the routine use of it, embracing the culture of safety always, not safety first but ALWAYS, will improve our mental state so that our safest actions become second nature.

 

Ultimately, we can not place a price tag on safety. We are not the airline industry that declares a human life when lost in a plane crash is worth $XXX. We are better than that. So will not like my next statement, so be it as it is how I feel. A focus on safety, accountability and professionalism will cost the industry, as well as individual towers, money but it is necessary. If we raise the bar to entry, the level at which we allow companies to operate within our industry, it will cost money.

 

That is good as it will price out the one chain Charlies and wanna be wrecker drivers. It is time to step up, invoice appropriately for our services and stand up for those rates. Where else but the transportation industry do you go that the customer decides what they will pay regardless of the invoiced amount? Try that at the grocery store this week, so how it goes for you. I was in a legal seminar on invoice collections early yesterday and I have to give props to Schaffer's Towing for hiring a lawyer to challenge these invoices that were not paid in full. They lost money in the process, the lawyer doesn't work for free and taking something to court is costly -but they stood up multiple time for what was right and in the process created case law or precedents that other towers can use to collect what is due them without the hassle and expense.

 

More of us need to have the brass to stand up for our rights, including the right to work safely!

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Over the years, towers have commented on just how pathetic and lethargic the industry is … and I’m one to agree. The topic of tow operator safety doesn’t count on Slow-Down Move-Over laws. When law enfo4cement and insurance companies see that SDMO laws are initiated and Spirit Ride supports tow operator safety, they step back and ignore the industry’s plea for help because they’re not CHALLENGED to step-up. Our problem of on-scene survival is mostly in-house and we already know what gets tower’s killed, so trying to re-invent the wheel is futile. When tow operators fail to recognize the need for highway safety, they ARE their own worst enemy where no training program, supervision, type of equipment, or best practices can overcome. May I ask what you consider the root problem in why towers are repeatedly killed? Many of these past comments are accurate, so let me kick it off by naming some reasons and not necessarily by order of importance:

 

1.     The industry lacks cooperation, apathy, aggression and involvement

2.     The industry doesn’t engage

3.     Operators work without a proper safety/survival mentality …”It won’t happen to me”.

4.     Owners won’t spend money to set tone of safety

5.     State Associations have DROPPED the ball in demanding assistance from LE

6.     Lack of QUALITY tow operator training

7.     Lack of partnership or cooperation with/from LE

8.     No LE on-scene to provide traffic breaks (slowing) 

9.     Lack of Blocker Trucks

10.   The Insurance Industry is leading towers by the nose

 

As in any plan of approach, there has to be a direction of travel that isn’t backwards or headed in an eschewed direction. I personally am interested in the current and immediate topics of safety and survival that are reasonable and approachable. These topics are ideas only while keeping in-mind there may be more to add … “To eat an elephant, you take one bite at a time.” Note: These topics aren’t meant to start a personality battle or chastise any one company, entity, or individual, but intended to direct mental assets towards those tougher battles.     R.

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A few years ago a company approached the Sheriff's office in Bexar County and offered to pay for a number of Ford Crown Victoria police interceptors, brand new, if they could place advertising on the vehicles, just as many transit lines do with their busses. Just a thought on how to fund blocker vehicles. State Farm and Geico spend multi millions on advertising on television as well as having stadiums named in their likeness. It would be a nice gesture if they were to step up in an advertising capacity to fund blocker vehicles in a similar fashion.

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Brian, by doing the bare minimum, the leadership of this industry is sending a message loud and clear that there is a point, a plateau, a bar, where your life as an operator is not worth the cost, effort, or attention requited to adopt industry wide standards. You are correct in stating that there will always be fatality incidents in this industry. I feel that seventy five percent of these incidents can be prevented by staff development in knowledge, education, training, and safe culture experience.

Unfortunately, as evidenced by only seven participants in this post, one being out of country, the leadership of this industry, to include owners, motor clubs, vehicle manufacturers, insurance companies, law enforcement, and politicians, are just kicking the can down the road. It really means nothing to a surviving family who has to struggle with not only the emotional loss of a loved one, but also has to pay bills, put food on the table, pay rent or a mortgage, as well as deal as best they can with the emotional trauma of losing a spouse compounded exponentially if their are children who have to process with losing a parent. You "leaders"  are doing a great job taking care of people in the field. Actually, some companies do things the right way. Unfortunately, many companies, by their inaction, sent the message that their employees are expendable.

Many of you piss, moan and complain that you can not find operators. Do you even comprehend why? Very few companies offer benefits. The hours suck. The pay is very low as a return on investment for the skillset required to properly complete the job requirements. Many companies treat operators as second class citizens. Many companies have the mindset of grinding employees down to a stump, then just throw them on the scrap heap and recruit another boot. Oh, did I mention the investment many make on training? I worked for a company here locally where just about everyone was quick to criticize and talk behind people's back, but I never once saw or heard anyone make even the slightest attempt to develop or mentor someone who was just starting out in their career. The person I was assigned to ride with was a total prick. I finally asked him if he wanted to pull over next to some railroad tracks so that we could beat each other senseless with the Vulcan spoons. He was a shitty trainer as well, as I knew considerably more about the equipment than he did. My punishment was to ride with the night supervisor and assist on heavy calls. He was a pretty decent person, and we got along pretty well. My point is that this industry is in crisis, it is on fire, and the leadership just watches from the sideline as it burns.  

I love this industry, it is a job like no other. After a difficult day, and they are the norm rather than the exception, one has the capacity to look back and know that they made a difference. One of my brightest moments was returning a wedding band that was knocked off the finger of a vehicle occupant during a crash. I kept the band in the console of my truck, because I did not trust any of the people I worked with to safeguard it. I would not recommend it as a career choice to my worst enemy. Not because of the inherent dangers, the low pay, the lack of benefits, or the brutal hours, but because of the culture. A culture of greed, envy, inattention, and a lack of respect and reverence for the lives of the people who are on the front lines.  

If this industry were to adopt unilateral standards that moved forward to a culture of safer operator procedures, and those standards were to cost lets just say 20 million dollars to implement, across the country, and they saved just one life, just one life, they would be worth every gram of zinc in a shiny penny. If OSHA becomes your new best friend and begins regulating this industry, or should I say over regulating this industry just remember that you had your chance to get it right, and you fumbled in the red zone over and over again. When you receive the letter stating that you owe 25000.00 for a fine because your employee was observed actively demonstrating an unsafe practice I would love to be a fly on the wall to hear you complain. Because you have the opportunity in the now to make things right, but as an industry you are unmotivated. When you all in the motor club side of the industry have to pay rates reflective of the professional services you pander to your client base, rather than the pennies on the real time dollar value that you currently pay, you will have no choice but to pay the band after the dance. When you in the industry that are involved in police towing can no longer get 30 minute response times, mark up tow tickets a certain percentage as part of your contracts in order to pad your municipal budgets, and are no longer afforded the opportunity to pad your budgets via towers low bidding municipal contracts. Just remember you had the opportunity to develop a safety rich culture, and you refused to act. 

I do see OSHA becoming an active proctor of this industry in the near future. Their involvement will force rates to dramatically increase due to the costs of ensuring operator safety. These costs will be reflective in the rates that will be required to operate equipment. Motor club calls will likely triple in cost. Customer pay requests will likely double. Law enforcement rotation calls will be the least impacted, but will none the less also be affected. Motor clubs will likely require a copay at the time of service. There will be no more free smokescreens and mirrors on anything. But for that one operator who arrives home alive, the one who never knows he was impacted by the implemented safety standards, the one who will not have his or her name added to the wall in Tennessee, it will be worth all the effort to make things right, and safe.

If I offended anyone, please let me know. I operate under the guise of aggravating everyone I can, and those who listen twice. I have plenty more to speak about.

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Now ... two month's later ... it appears this thread lost its momentum. And, have you noticed that three tow operators were killed in November only four days apart,and all three in that 51-year's-old range. Is age an associated factor? I don't think so, and GoodMichael mentions the, "safe culture experience", suggesting tower's are individually responsible for their own safety or early demise.  With all of these lessons learned. why isn't the message of white-line safety reaching the forefront of every tower's existance?    R. 

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On 9/26/2018 at 11:20 AM, Flagfixer said:

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. . .

Insurance companies will pay.  They will complain about it, as they complain about everything else when it comes to them paying out.  But if it does come down to it, they will pay.   Where I see the issue is when it is a customer pay/out of pocket job- as customers already don't understand the cost of doing business and the recovery rates, etc.  They complain now, so what happens when I add charges for a traffic control unit, etc.  Then they go to police, or board of supervisors, etc and complain they are being charged unfairly.  Those sorts of people are quick to say choose a different towing company, or that price is too much etc.   I also dont agree with charging one price to an insurance company and then not charging a customer the same rates if it doesnt have insurance.  I am all for a traffic control unit and would love to do it.  But, I dont have the crash volume here to employ another traffic control operator to be on standby 24/7.  Currently when called for a single vehicle crash, I send a wrecker and a bed... and I do charge for it when it is needed.  Waynes Towing (a member here) has put together a very nice traffic control unit that they use and bill for.  I love it, I just cant afford to make it work for us just yet.  

 

On another note- Last month we bought our entire crew new Work King jackets and snow bibs that are HiVis.... we are trying to do everything we can to keep them safe.  That was a huge hit with the guys... and Zips had a nice sale along with the tow show discount.

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Nice ... will you show us a copy of your invoice so towers' can see how it's listed in billable services? Perhaps tow companies should consider this a billing practice for the future as long as the service is provided (take pictures of the blocker truck or traffic control unit) that are enclosed with the bill as evidence of on-scene coverage. It makes sense to me as long as towers don't use it as a means to pad their bill. I like the concept.    R.

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58 minutes ago, rreschran said:

Nice ... will you show us a copy of your invoice so towers' can see how it's listed in billable services? Perhaps tow companies should consider this a billing practice for the future as long as the service is provided (take pictures of the blocker truck or traffic control unit) that are enclosed with the bill as evidence of on-scene coverage. It makes sense to me as long as towers don't use it as a means to pad their bill. I like the concept.    R.

I dont have a traffic control unit as of yet... i would like to... at some point.   But I use quickbooks for invoicing.  I write a description of the situation and what was done.  I put in all important vehicle info. Then I itemize equipment and labor.  2 hours light duty wrect @$.... per hour, 2 hours labor @$.... per hour...  If i ran a traffic unit i would add another line for traffic control unit @ $...... per hour just as I do any other equipment on scene.   Right now most insurance companies dont complain too much.  I get them complaining about this and that, like admin fees here and there.   Sometimes on a messy job if our gear is damaged or ruined, I add a line item to replace it.  Gloves, boots, etc.  Insurance companies usually will complain that it is a cost of doing business.  Then I show them pictures of the battery acid from their clients car that eats up my gloves, or something like that.  They agree to pay and I move on.

 

I think this needs to become a more common standard practice and it will help us all in getting paid.

 

Another thought that came to mind on the billing for traffic control.  Look to OSHA rules about providing a safe work environment for your employees.  If an insurance company wants to say its safe to load a crash on the highway without traffic control, I bet they wont put it in writing for you.   You have to provide that service to keep your operators safe, so you need to be paid to provide that service.

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Good to see more input.  What would you have to invest to make a traffic control vehicle.  I assume an arrow board, amber lights  (maybe red to the rear) cones and flares, vests etc.  With the investment, a billable fee should be determined and just bill the insurance company as equipment necessary for the job.  Include pics and a written description of the use of the traffic control vehicle.  A reference to the OSHA in the written description of the requirement for the vehicle to be on scene for the recovery should suffice and you get paid.

 

Here,the LEO usually leaves as soon as possible because of the calls that are backing up as clean-up takes a while at times.  On scene traffic control leaves with the LEO.  Insurance companies should be informed in the description of the services and equipment you used. 

 

Thanks to everyone that input information and suggestions to this thread.  Something has got to b e done to make the scene safer.  Any work on the side of the highway has just gotten too dangerous to stand by and do nothing.

 

JimB

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Here is my ideal traffic control truck. Something with enough size and weight to handle a possible impact. A large arrow board and a fold down style crash protector. We are lucky enough to have a neighboring business that manufactures these less than a half mile from us. I still can’t work it into our budget with the cost of an added operator on standby. We are busy, but I don’t get enough crashes that I could afford the added equipment and labor etc. For us to bill what it would take to make it work would make my pricing outrageous. But the added safety and all would be huge.

The local company that builds them is called JTech if anyone wants to check them out.

5760ada522551dc3450cadf8460afb80.jpg


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I was in Sarasota today and was sitting in traffic waiting to get through a construction project.  A contractor was installing LED street lights on the newly rebuilt section of the road.  He had his bucket truck working on the lamp poles and behind it was a flatbed truck with a lift gate on the back.  The lift gate was modified to hold those blue plastic barrels in an upright position.  They were supported by some heavy looking racks on the truck side of the lift gate.  The truck had a bunch of cones, an arrow board that folded down and amber LEDs on the rear.  It looked like it had been whacked a few times but was doing the job.  Now, I  got to thinking that all the stuff could be made on a subframe and fitted to a cab and chassis of some kind.  If the truck died, take it off and put it on another chassis. Lift gates are easy to get used, You could make an arrow board from scratch.  Might be worth spending some time drawing.  Drums with sand shouldn't be a problem.  ( I am cheap !!)

 

JimB

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On ‎12‎/‎5‎/‎2018 at 9:05 PM, ESC said:

Here is my ideal traffic control truck. Something with enough size and weight to handle a possible impact. A large arrow board and a fold down style crash protector. We are lucky enough to have a neighboring business that manufactures these less than a half mile from us. I still can’t work it into our budget with the cost of an added operator on standby. We are busy, but I don’t get enough crashes that I could afford the added equipment and labor etc. For us to bill what it would take to make it work would make my pricing outrageous. But the added safety and all would be huge.

The local company that builds them is called JTech if anyone wants to check them out.

5760ada522551dc3450cadf8460afb80.jpg


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

It should not be considered outrageous to spend the extra time, effort, and money to protect your employees. Again, I am calling out the leadership that sets policies in this industry, as well as the employees themselves. Stop putting yourself at risk of serious bodily injury and death by spending even one second on the side of the road more than is absolutely necessary. Stop putting your employees in harms way because you do not want to, or are afraid to,  bill for, and spend the extra money to mitigate the risk of death or injury to your staff. It is your business, it does not belong to the motor club, the insurance company, or the client, it belongs to you. Provide the mechanism of a safe working environment for your employees, and bill for it as a line item just as you would if you used dollies, or go jacks. It is a part of doing business. Are you afraid the insurance companies are going to yell at you, call you mean things, or not want to talk to you or give you any business? The insurance companies need towing companies, it is not the other way around. Instead of caving into the mandates of motor clubs and insurance companies, there are a vast number of people who need to grow a pair, stand your ground, and push back those who have been pushing you around. Being a professional means doing the right thing for the right reason at the right time, and not having to be told what to do. A professional does what is right because it is the right thing to do. Not because they have to be told what to do.

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