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Close Calls occur more often then we know...

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Is there anything we as an industry can possibly do to avoid this insanity?

 

 

I guess that is one driver that will be working the other side of the truck from now on.

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This video simply highlights what we already know, many motorists do not give a damn about us -or anyone else for that matter. You can see that by their behavior, nearly hitting the disabled vehicle, barely moving into the adjacent lane and then immediately returning back onto the shoulder to speed around slow traffic. All these actions scream "ME FIRST".

 

Sadly, I doubt this close call will change the tower's behavior either. I doubt he will work the non-traffic side due to this close call. Thankfully someone in traffic was paying attention and slowed down to allow the errant motorist on the shoulder an escape route. This could have been fatal and is a prefect example of why all calls on the highway require a shadow vehicle aka blocker or crash attunenator and signage.

 

Even just a few cones and/or a sign placed a hundred feet behind the disabled vehicle would have helped alert the driver of impending danger.

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Myself being a light duty flatbed operator, I see it all the time but will NEVER understand the mis-logic of working that deck from the traffic side!!!

 

I am on traffic side long enough to escort the breakdown veh driver out, release the winch for freespool, and throw the drivers side bridle hook on - of which, there are numerous times I will throw just the psngr side bridle hook and to hell with the other just to get out of danger; I will also walk up the deck to engage the winch, and being a smaller dude I will brake/shift the vehicle to ntrl from the psngr side. We're talking about a matter of a few minutes vs your LIFE to hit the next exit and adjust for protocol.

 

Tumbleweed

Edited by Tumbleweed
Sentence structure

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There are some really creative welders, fabricators and builders of tow equipment and accessories in this industry. LIke Jerr-Dan has the free-spool option for both sides of a carrier's winch, it doesn't take much to retro-fit every carrier with free-spool on both sides. What I teach in my carrier safety classes is this; the process of routinely stowing the winch cable/hook on the non-traffic passenger side situates the carrier's operator on the non-traffic side. In the best interest of survival, a carrier's operator can make the entire hook-up and load from the non-traffic side and move to a safer location to complete a four-point tie-down. It's a matter of changing the old routine hook-up to a survival mode. If you're headed to a call on the highway, set the winch in free-spool mode before heading out to the call   R.    

Non-Traffic side Carrier.jpg

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My call is for all remote control operation of all carriers and wreckers, period. Have manual controls (kept in a closed compartment to restrict temptation to use needlessly) as a backup in case the remote fails so you are not dead in the water. It is very simple and cost effective to have all functions, including free wheel, on a wireless remote these days. Actual cost is a few hundred dollars when factory installed at the time of the build.

 

My call out is to manufacturers and dealer/distributors. Prove that you care and put safety above profit for a moment. This one change, when implemented industry wide will save lives. Which manufacturer will be the first to make full wireless only control standard? Jerr-Dan was the first to make dual side free spool standard, thanks to Shane Coleman and others, so how about wireless standard? How about a dealer/distributor making this standard AT COST? The marketing value would be priceless!

 

My thought process is, with wireless controls standard on a carrier, the operator can free spool the winch, lower the carrier deck and be ready to hookup -all from the relative safety of his cab. Hell, on customer calls we often have direct phone access to the motorist on the highway, a dispatcher could give the motorist a brief explanation of what to expect when the driver arrives -emphasizing they must stay in their car until the tower instructs them otherwise, to prevent the curious and confused from stepping into traffic while watching the carrier deck operate.

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One can employ all of the resources that are available, and have all of the safety equipment in place and on board the responding unit, but it is up to the operator to be responsible for, and mitigate the risks, to allow for a safe workplace. Owners, in general have a poor attitude towards safe roadside operating procedures. Yes, people bitch and moan about the high cost of insurance, but they many times do very little to ensure that safe operating procedures are followed. Some even think it is a laughing matter at how lucky their employees are when there is a serious incident. This industry is unwilling to police itself and set general policies and procedures to ensure operator safety. Not incapable, unwilling.

 

I attended a safety seminal for an electrical trades trade show last week. A field inspection team was present at the seminar who presented a seminar on workplace safety as well as the new rates that OSHA is fining business entities who do not provide a safe work environment. The fines are huge. Huge enough to put many people out of business. In attending the seminar, I have reinforced my belief that it will take OSHA stepping in to oversee this industry to stop the loss of life. It will take OSHA hitting people in the ass pocket for people to implement policies and procedures that allow for a safer workplace. And that is what it is going to take, because we will not do it ourselves.  If we wanted to, it would already have been accomplished. As an industry, we need to stop putting the blame on distracted, impaired, and irresponsible drivers. We need to start putting the blame on our own work habits, policies, procedures, attitudes, and indifference towards a safe work environment. Take a set of dice and keep rolling them until you roll an eight. You generally will hit an eight within five rolls if not less. If is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

 

As the numbers and trends show, fifty more people will die in this industry by the end of the year. Many more will be permanently injured, some to the point that they will never work again. This is a dangerous profession, but safe practices could possibly reduce that number to less than twenty.

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Absolutely correct goodmichael. The safety of our industry rests squarely on our shoulders, and until more owners take a proactive rather than reactive stance nothing will change. Sadly safety is looked at as an unnecessary expense by many, yet you are correct that a culture of safety affects all aspects of an operation -including the insurance rates we all bitch so much about.

 

OSHA already has jurisdiction over the towing industry, always has, however their enforcement is insignificant and selective because of how our industry works. We have far too many "employers" that skate below the radar, so until there is a fatality OSHA doesn't even know they exist. Others simply refuse to believe that OSHA, or their state plan equivalent, actually applies to their operation. Further complicating things is the principle of "joint jurisdiction" between Federal Agencies, so there are overlapping areas of responsibility for workplace safety since towers are also regulated motor carriers.

 

This is why I would love to see a towing industry regulatory body, something similar to NFPA (the board that develops the National Electrical Code and many other fire safety policies). In my mind, this national board would create policy recommendations that would then be adopted by reference into local, state and even federal regulations. Another component of this board would be voluntary compliance like the ISO 9000 certification. Simply put, if your tow company wants to bid on or participate in certain types of work you would have to agreed to abide by the board standards, and have compliance documented with routine audits of your facilities and files. This is how we as an industry would police ourselves and hold our brother towers accountable for their actions. I truly believe it would result in a more professional industry, and a safer one at that.

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GoodMichael and Brian991219 both post articulate, well-thought comments that ARE spot on. Thank you both for saying it like it is and has been for a really long time. When compared to law enforcement and fire professions, the towing and recovery industry as a whole is a joke. I make no disrespect to those professional tow owners and companies who run a tight ship, but, without total industry involvement, focus, and the solid aid of tow associations to back safety efforts of this industry, the fatality numbers will continue to rise. And, what got my attention as a precursor to the future, GoodMichael's last paragraph should be an eye-opener for us all. Simply put, just line up a bunch of your fellow towers, stand shoulder to shoulder and say good-bye to each other because reality says, one of those in your group may not be there at the end of the year. I personally have grown tired of 25-years of archiving tow operators death. Note: My comments typicall don't refer to the words of, "we", and, "us", because the industry historically has proved that we and us can't come together on the issues that are important to professionalism, respect, and survival. Reality has a  funny way of presenting self and sometimes the truth hurts.     R. 

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Randy, the truth does hurt but still needs to be addressed. The towing industry will never reach their desired status as primary incident responder if we do not first address our own shortcomings. This will require industry consensus and definitive action that will affect many business owners, however that does not make it any less necessary.

 

Absent this the industry will continue to decline and I firmly believe will be replaced by municipal operated towing services, at least for the vast majority of on-highway calls. The choice is ours to make, the future of the towing industry can only be decided by the members of the industry and their actions, or lack thereof.

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3 hours ago, goodmichael said:

Brian, and Randy, Thank you for your support. You two are industry leaders with vision. If there are standards, there will be a higher level of profit as well.

BINGO! For the life of me I can't understand why more owners do not understand this concept. Look at the most professionally run companies across North America, generally they are also the most profitable operations. The cost of compliance will be worked into the pricing model, and the hacks that simply will not comply will be forced into other segments of the industry, leaving the work for the companies that take safety seriously.

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Brian, the most prevalent issue is the difference between a leader compared to a manager. A manager counts pencils, pays bills, and is involved and consumed by the day to day struggles of running a company. A leader, while he or she may be tasked with these incidentals, also sees the big picture. He or she has a one, two, five, and ten year plan on where they want to take the business. A leader is also highly concerned with the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. A leader trusts his employees as well as their judgement to make decisions in the field. If a bad decision is made, the leader is willing to learn from the experience and become a better, stronger, faster entity as a result. Leaders are born, managers are developed. And a true leader wants their staff to be safe.

 

When these discussions are brought up, there are generally very few responses. Many are willing to just keep trudging forward, head in the sand, hoping and believing that one of the fifty fatalities that WILL occur by New Years Day, will be somebody else, thus not my problem.  I see OSHA becoming involved in this industry in the near future. As I have said before, if their becoming involved in this industry saves just one life, saves one family from having to bury a loved one, save one family from having an empty seat at their child's graduation, Christmas program, Thanksgiving dinner, it will be well worth the millions of dollars in fines that will be dispensed.

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10 hours ago, goodmichael said:

Brian, the most prevalent issue is the difference between a leader compared to a manager. A manager counts pencils, pays bills, and is involved and consumed by the day to day struggles of running a company. A leader, while he or she may be tasked with these incidentals, also sees the big picture. He or she has a one, two, five, and ten year plan on where they want to take the business. A leader is also highly concerned with the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. A leader trusts his employees as well as their judgement to make decisions in the field. If a bad decision is made, the leader is willing to learn from the experience and become a better, stronger, faster entity as a result. Leaders are born, managers are developed. And a true leader wants their staff to be safe.

 

When these discussions are brought up, there are generally very few responses. Many are willing to just keep trudging forward, head in the sand, hoping and believing that one of the fifty fatalities that WILL occur by New Years Day, will be somebody else, thus not my problem.  I see OSHA becoming involved in this industry in the near future. As I have said before, if their becoming involved in this industry saves just one life, saves one family from having to bury a loved one, save one family from having an empty seat at their child's graduation, Christmas program, Thanksgiving dinner, it will be well worth the millions of dollars in fines that will be dispensed.

Again you are correct and right on point as usual. The response to critical issues within this industry is pathetic, as evidenced by the 197 views vs. 11 replies to this thread, the 230 views with zero replies to the precedent setting invoice collection case underway in Maine and many more posts on this forum board.

 

I am not holding my breath waiting for OSHA to save the day, their Agency only has a total budget for all industry enforcement of $550 million and they are so short staffed, understaffed by over 100 inspectors, that they barely can keep up with incoming complaints and active incident investigations. Out of all of industry they only performed a total of approx. 22,000 inspections in 2017 with less than 50 focused on the towing industry. By comparison, CalOSHA, the California State Plan for occupational safety leads the nation in enforcement actions and performed almost as many inspections on towing companies within their state as the Federal Agency did nationwide.

 

Until our industry stops being so fragmented and worried about strengthening our competition we will never overcome these shortfalls. The excellent leaders in this industry are occupied with growing their own empires and few give assistance to the industry as a whole. For those that do, I extend a heartfelt thank you. We need more leaders to step up and help move us forward.

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@Brian

 

"....... The response to critical issues within this industry is pathetic, as evidenced by the 197 views vs . 11 replies to this thread ...........

 

That may well just be the reader thought of "what more to say?", considering how well articulated the thread has been presented. Would seem unproductive if all posted an obligatory "me too".

 

Is this site capable of an in-thread poll? That would at least give some reference to how many companies/operators would like to see the tow industry truely become "industry". I, as is the small company i work for, are all for SOMETHING being done to evolve the tow world to a more professional surrounding, instead of the proverbial "hangin' beer-gut cigar smoking butt-crack loudmouth tow truck driver".

 

 

Tumbleweed

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29 minutes ago, Tumbleweed said:

@Brian

 

"....... The response to critical issues within this industry is pathetic, as evidenced by the 197 views vs . 11 replies to this thread ...........

 

That may well just be the reader thought of "what more to say?", considering how well articulated the thread has been presented. Would seem unproductive if all posted an obligatory "me too".

 

Is this site capable of an in-thread poll? That would at least give some reference to how many companies/operators would like to see the tow industry truely become "industry". I, as is the small company i work for, are all for SOMETHING being done to evolve the tow world to a more professional surrounding, instead of the proverbial "hangin' beer-gut cigar smoking butt-crack loudmouth tow truck driver".

 

 

Tumbleweed

Perhaps you are correct, and sure I would love to have the ability to create polls. 

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Polls are oftentimes lop-sided as they don't represent the whole of the industry. I personally would like to see a great response of tow owners and drivers alike.    R 

 

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