The Week's Features
Seven of the industry’s finest to be inducted to Hall, October 12
Herring Motor Company keeps classic line alive
Recovery management and technology services now one
Delivers Class 6 capability in a Class 5 Super Duty package
Recovery “dance” lifts overturned truck
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Hear how transportation leaders have driven measurable impact through new, easy-to-deploy programs, and how you can use those same strategies to improve the safety of your fleet. Eleanor Horowitz of Samsara will present “Three Proven Ways to Improve Fleet Safety” at the American Towman Academy during Tow Industry Week, taking place May 8-11 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingMay 15 - May 21, 2019

City, State
RATES
Portage, IN
$125
(Pop. 36,828)
Monrovia, CA
$180
(Pop. 36,590)
Bowling Green, OH
$95
(Pop. 30,028)
Panama City, FL
$87.50
(Pop. 36,484)
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.
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Total Safety Compliance is a Process

1 cb03dBy Randall C. Resch

I responded to an email that posed a flurry of safety questions regarding loading or towing from the shoulders of a highway. The writer's questions were, "When a vehicle is on the left-side of the highway and a tow driver has to use controls on the traffic-side because that's where the controls are ... how much time does he or she spend there working the controls? ... What's the total range of minutes for that job? If it's less than one-minute, can the driver wait for no cars coming and work for five seconds at a time, look again to see if it's clear, then hide and waits again until another clearing takes place? Can they do this for 10-minutes if it doesn't take longer than that and until the job gets done?"

These are all great questions and here's my combined response. I believe two of the most obvious reasons that tow trucks or tow operators are struck is because, one, they're working the traffic-side of the tow truck or carrier, and two, when the tow and load process takes too long by increasing their exposure or possibility of being struck. The longer towers remain in the same place, the odds increase that they'll be struck. Although, tow operators can play the "Peek a Boo" game, that's a very dangerous practice that's resulted in numerous operator strikes.

I believe tow operators must use common sense in determining if location scenarios are too dangerous and what techniques should be used. In a perfect world, a typical tow/load scenario shouldn't take more than seven to 10 minutes to be ready to roll.

Where a shoulder location is deemed dangerous, by working quickly towers have a couple of options:

1. For carrier operators, once the vehicle is loaded and the deck is stowed forward for transport, from the non-traffic side, climb up the carrier's deck and attach all top-side chains and ratchet straps. Although it gets the tower off the pavement and away from the traffic-side, this is a dangerous practice as there's literally no place to go if the carrier were to be impacted. Worst scene scenarios suggest the tower would be crushed between the headache rack, by the vehicle atop the carrier's deck, or swept off the side. Tow owners don't like this option as it could minimally lead to slip and fall.

2. Better: Load or attach the disabled vehicle using safe and efficient techniques to avoid working/standing on the traffic side. Next, drive the tow truck or carrier forward and into a clearer, safer area to attach remaining safety chains and ratchet straps. This technique provides additional safety room if there's room to be had, but increases time spent on-scene.

3. Best: Load or attach minimal safety chains and ratchet straps using non-traffic side techniques, place the vehicle in-park and in-gear, and then carefully tow or transport it to the first off-ramp where remaining safety chains and straps can be applied.

Note: Technique No. 3 is where tower's get into trouble when they don't stop to apply remaining straps or chains and continue to drive to their intended destination. This option is only intended to load or tow the vehicle forward to a safer location or off-the-highway, not to disregard applying all safety attachment devices or accessories. Technique No. 3 makes best sense when asking, "Is it reasonable or prudent for a pedestrian worker to stand in a traffic-lane or dangerously close to approaching traffic?"

Tow operators are bound by vehicle code law and industry best practices to employ appropriate four-point tie-downs for carriers, ratchets and hold-down straps, as well as required safety chains in providing for a safe and solid tow or transport. Nowhere in any state vehicle code does it state that tow operators must put themselves in harm's way; however, most vehicle code language was written long before distracted driving was an epidemic. It's my opinion that current vehicle code laws and their specific meaning places tow truck operators in harm's way.

I believe that every tow operator who thinks logically and safely will have an on-scene hookup routine that enables them to prepare a vehicle for load or tow while remaining as safe as reasonably possible. The number of tow operator fatalities or struck-by incidents (for all first responders), suggest that pedestrian, highway workers, or, first responders are most vulnerable when working the traffic-side of the highway.

Accordingly, professional tow operators must be aware of what techniques are necessary to avoid becoming another statistic. Remember, it takes 1 second for distracted motorists to enter the shoulder's workspace. And, when vehicles travel at highway speeds, there's a probable chance that towers can't react.
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Spotters for Rotators, Heavy Wreckers

image7 6a8f2By Randall C. Resch

I taught a California Highway Patrol Operator's safety course recently that included tow operators of all ages and experience levels. At the start of every class, I hold a safety briefing to remind all hands to have their heads on a swivel; especially when tow trucks, carriers and forklifts are on the move during techniques and scenarios.

About mid-way through one class, a young tower wasn't paying attention as a carrier was backing up across the yard. When I saw his actions, I immediately stopped the class. His naïve, but unintentional, movement seemed like the perfect segue to have a discussion regarding the safety and dangers of backing up.

Too Often

Many years ago as a budding tow driver, my dad gave us his version of on-scene, in-the-yard, backing safety. It was simple and to the point, "Don't put your wrecker in any location where you have to back up unnecessarily."

In our line of work, it's not always possible to avoid backing.

At the San Diego Police Department, their own policy says, "If there are two officers in a police vehicle, the passenger officer will exit (the) vehicle and provide a visual, 'second set of eyes' to the backing movement."

If a two-officer police car had an incident while backing, both the vehicle's driver and the second officer would be held accountable. Officers working alone were required to make a full walkaround of their car before travel.

How many of you take a walkaround of your tow trucks and carriers to see if there are any obstacles or other persons before you drive off?

Who's to Help?

Enlisting a spotter is a perfect-world situation if there are others around to become your spotter. Many of the world's tow companies are mom-and-pop operations and spotter availability is not always possible. Still, the truck's operator must be aware of their surroundings at all time.

The same applies when you're on the road. Due to the sheer size, bulk and blind spots, every backing movement can be potentially deadly. A solid set of hand signals is the best way to communicate between the tow truck's driver and the spotter that's behind them.

In this litigious time for accidents and injury, not having written narrative in your company's employee handbook could weigh heavy on the outcome of the lawsuit. When these situations occur, an injured plaintiff or representative of the deceased will assuredly attack your tow operator's driving record, their background and your company's training.

If your company's employee handbook makes no mention of safe-backing protocol, the total price of a lawsuit could be monumentally increased. It may not be not fair, but failing to make any attempt to prevent a backing incident plants the seed of incompetency. It makes perfect sense to include a spotter when big rigs are backing up. Like other dangerous tow-related situations, get people out of harm's way.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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