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Monday, March 31, 2008

Update on Missing OR Tow Truck Operator

Police have found the tow truck of the Oregon tow truck operator, Dario Rolon-Centeno, who went missing last Thursday. Here are some details from a KATU.com report (read the whole report and view a picture of Rolon-Centeno here):

Police are calling Rolon-Centeno a "missing endangered person" and classified his disappearance as suspicious. However, there was no evidence by mid-Sunday of an actual crime.

He has been married for more than 36 years with no history of going missing or substance abuse, police said.

Rolon-Centeno is described as:

  • Hispanic
  • 5 feet 5 inches tall and 155 pounds
  • Balding on the top of his head with salt and pepper hair on the sides
  • With a small mole on the right side of his face and missing a finger.
  • He was last seen wearing a black raincoat, black jeans, brown cowboy boots and a black cap with a red and white goat on the front.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Missing Tow Truck Operator in Oregon

A Portland, OR tow truck operator, Dario Rolon-Centeno, 61, was last seen on Thursday morning when he left to go to work. His family said that this is unusual for the man who has been married for 36 years and has a heart condition. Here's the description from the FOX 12 news report:
He’s described as 5 feet 5 inches tall and 155 pounds. He is balding on top of his head with salt and pepper hair on the sides. He has a small mole on the right side of his face and is missing a finger.He was last seen in a white 1992 Isuzu tow truck with yellow Oregon license plate TW19196.The word’s “Sam’s Towing” are still visible on the sides of the truck where old logos had been removed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

More news for Texas - TRAA Certification Testing Goes Online For Tow Operators There!


A true milestone for the National Driver Certification Program, TRAA has announced that online application and testing are available for the state of Texas.

In response to legislation passed in Texas late in 2007 requiring Texas towers to take the TRAA exam, TRAA has designed and implemented an online testing program using the testing facilities of LaserGrade, a nationwide testing company.

Applicants for Texas can now go to the TRAA web site, click on the picture of Texas and go straight to the Texas certification page where they will be able to download an application and receive directions via zip code to the nearest LaserGrade testing site.

TRAA will monitor this program closely for the first year and then determine whether it will go nationwide with the process. This is a huge step for TRAA, its National Driver Certification Program and forTexas.

TRAA Education Chair, MikeScott, stated, "This really takes us into the 21st century and we are very proud to have been able to meet this long awaited goal!"

Visit the TRAA web site www.towserver.net.

TRAA is the national towing association serving the towing and recovery industry. Its education and legislative efforts serve its members, the affiliated state associations and the towing industry as a whole.Contact: Harriet Cooley 703-684-7713

Texas Tow Company Receives $100,000 EPA Grant

Interesting press release from the EPA. If you live in North Texas, it might be worth looking into the application process. You'll need to jump on it though. The deadline is April 11.
Read the release here or below:

Denton Businesses Save Over $276,000 While Cleaning the Air

Release date: 03/27/2008

Contact Information: Dave Bary or Tressa Tillman at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov


(Dallas, Texas – March 27, 2008) Three small businesses in Denton County recently received over $276,000 in rebates by participating in the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP). TERP provides rebates and grants to help replace aging diesel engines that consume more fuel and generate more pollution than newer models.

Lewisville-based Pro Tow Wrecker Service, a rebate recipient, received over $106,000 to replace an old haul truck with a new, more efficient model. "At a time when diesel fuel is reaching all time highs of over four dollars per gallon, it makes economic and environmental sense for businesses like Pro Tow Wrecker to participate in TERP," said Leslie Rauscher, EPA Project Manager. “This opportunity won’t last long so we encourage businesses to apply before time runs out.”

Two other Denton County businesses saved over $170,000 by using TERP to replace two older dump trucks. Don Buttress and Joel Estrada are doing their part to clean the air by removing 17 tons of pollutants from our air by operating newer vehicles.

To date North Texas businesses have saved over $3.3 million while reducing nearly 353 tons of pollution. The $30 million allocated to the rebate grants under this funding cycle has been awarded, but there is still time to apply for grants. The application deadline is April 11, 2008. Individual application assistance is available at local TERP Community Help Desks. For information visit www.terpgrants.org or call (800) 919-8377.

The TERP serves as a national model for replacing and retrofitting older diesel engines and is managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports local efforts to encourage participation in TERP as a way to improve air quality in DFW.

More about activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/region6

EPA audio file is available at http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/audio.htm#audio032708_terp5

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Win Some Fuel Starting Today!

“Progressive Pumps Up the Savings Free Fuel Giveaway”

It’s no secret that rising fuel costs are a big stress for tow truck drivers, truckers and business owners. In fact a recent survey by auto insurer, Progressive, found that 69 percent of truckers say fuel costs are their most concerning business expense.

To relieve some of that stress, Progressive is giving away more than $150,000 in free fuel.

There are two ways to win:
In person - Progressive will give away thousands of $25 fuel cards at commercial auto tradeshows throughout the year, including the Mid America Truck Show, Great American Truck Show, Great West Truck Show and American Towman Exposition. For a complete list of shows, go to www.progressivecommercial.com.

Online - Beginning March 27, small business owners and truckers can register at www.progressivecommercial.com to win one of three $25,000 grand prizes.
In addition, two $50 fuel cards will be awarded daily throughout 2008. Visitors can enter daily for the $25,000 grand prizes and the $50 fuel cards.

“The average trucker or small business owner can easily spend thousands of dollars a year in fuel, so a $25,000 grand prize would help with a giant business expense. Even $25 can help with that next fill-up,” said Tom Corpus, with Progressive’s commercial lines group. “That’s why we’re giving away more than $150,000 in free fuel online and at more than 20 tradeshows around the country this year.”

To find an agent or to get a quote, go to www.progressive.com.

A Rash of Not-So-Bright Decision-Making...

Third place goes to an Illinois man who nearly mowed someone over as he stole his car back from the impound lot where it had been towed. Read the story here.

Second place goes to an Ohio man who drove his 1996 Chevrolet off a moving tow truck after it been towed. (I can only imagine that the damage to his car was probably more than the tow itself!) Read the story here.

Grand Prize goes to a 22-year old tow truck driver in the South Jersey city of Pleasantville for
a) going around a stopped car while
b) ignoring the flashing lights at the railroad crossing to
c) drive over the tracks in his flatbed truck with
d) a passenger to
e) get hit by the slow-moving freight train, which
f) caused him to spin out and
g) hit and injure three pedestrians on the roadside.

Thankfully, no one was critically-injured. Read one story here and another here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

IL Tow Truck Driver Hit

The tow truck operator was attempting to pull a car from a ditch alongside a snow-covered road on Friday evening when he was struck. Thankfully, the tow truck operator was not killed. Read the story here.

TX Wrecker Driver Found Shot

Baldemar Fuentes, 35, was found shot and lying facedown in a ditch on Saturday. An employee of Eastside Wrecker, Fuentes was reported missing earlier in the day. He is listed in critical condition.
Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SPEED TV Summer Series "Wrecked"

Features O'Hare Towing of Illinois and owners Bill & Marci Gratzianna.
I had the pleasure of meeting Marci at the TRAA's Legislative & Leadership Conference in early March. She is the Women of theTRAA's First Vice-President and one of the creators of the TRAA's second and newest DVD, Dress For Success.

Here's the release found at BusinessWire.com.

SPEED™ Shines Light on One of Nation’s Most Dangerous Jobs – Tow Truck Operator – with New Summer Series ‘Wrecked’
Chicago’s O’Hare Towing & Recovery Responds to More Than 200 Calls a Day

CHARLOTTE , N.C.-- (BUSINESS WIRE)--SPEED, the definitive network for motor sports and automotive lifestyle programming, will focus its cameras on one of the most dangerous professions in the nation, when the summer-scheduled Wrecked

“It’s probably safe to say that just about anyone who’s ever driven a car has come in contact with a tow truck driver at least once or twice, and most likely not under happy circumstances,” said SPEED VP of Programming Robert Ecker.

“Whether they are called upon to fix a flat tire, tow an illegally parked vehicle or clean up the remnants of a major wreck, the people who work in this inherently dangerous industry touch the lives of all of us in some way large or small, yet they remain otherwise virtually unnoticed."

"With this series, we intend to showcase the inner workings of one of the largest and busiest such companies in one of the largest and busiest metropolitan areas in the country. The fact that the shop is owned and operated as a multi-generational family business and populated by a large and colorful group of employees certainly doesn’t hurt either. "

“This is a world similar in many respects to that of a major urban firehouse,” Ecker continued. “Until the phone rings and that emergency call comes in, there’s simply no way of knowing what any given day will bring and when it does come, lives can literally hang in the balance."

According to the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame in Tennessee, nearly 100 tow truck drivers lose their lives on the job every year, and O’Hare responds to more than 200 calls a day in a city that reports nearly a quarter of a million traffic accidents a year.

“This is a very dangerous job,” said O’Hare’s Bill Gratzianna, who runs the family owned business in the Chicago suburb of Northlake. “We lose a lot of towing operators on a regular basis … every response is delicate and can be volatile.”

Wrecked, scheduled for 10 one-hour episodes premiering in HD in July, will tell the stories behind the daily life of this major operation, accompanying drivers on high-risk calls as well as recording the daily stresses in the shop and in the family.

“We are out there with people when they are at their most vulnerable,” said Bill’s wife Marci Gratzianna, who also works in the business. “They are broken down … they are scared.”

Wrecked joins new 2008 SPEED originals Livin’ The Low Life with Vida Guerra, Super Cars Exposed, Drag Race High and the daily game show Pass Time, as SPEED continues its most ambitious prime time program development effort in network history.

“This is a unique reality programming initiative for SPEED and it will be a wild ride for viewers,” said SPEED Senior VP of Programming Steve Craddock. “The colorful characters at O’Hare Towing face more adversity and danger every day than most people experience in a lifetime.”

In addition, exclusive Wrecked short-form content will be made available all season through www.SPEEDtv.com, VOD cable, iTunes video podcasts, mobile phones, cable broadband sites and viral distribution.

On the mobile front, long-form episodes will be available on Sprint wireless handsets via Sprint TV. SPEED clips and original short-form content will be made available to Sprint, Cingular, MobiTV and others.

Wrecked full-length episodes, advanced screenings and free clips also will be available for electronic download via iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy and other electronic download distributors.

SPEED is the nation's first and foremost cable television network dedicated to motor sports and the passion for everything automotive. From racing to restoration, motorcycles to movies, SPEED delivers quality programming from the track to the garage. Now available in more than 78 million homes in North America , SPEED is among the fastest-growing sports cable networks in the country and, the home to NASCAR on SPEED and an industry leader in interactive TV, video on demand, mobile initiatives and broadband services.

For more information, please visit www.SPEEDtv.com, the online motor sports authority.
shadows O’Hare Towing & Recovery as it services one of the busiest transportation hubs in the United States .

New Website for Troubleshooting Car Problems

According to a press release about the new website called AutomotiveExpertsOnline.com, most all car repair questions can now be answered online.

"AutomotiveExpertsOnline.com is designated for safe and reliable auto advice that's cheap and fast," owner Derrick O'Gorman says. He created the site for amateurs and pros alike, who don't have time and money to waste for answers to common car repair questions.

For those who have a specific model in mind AutomotiveExpertsOnline.com also is categorized by make and model. The site is free to register and join, all questions can be seen for free, registered users bid on answers written by real certified experts who are waiting to assist users. Experts usually answer within hours. The site also guarantees your satisfaction by refunding your deposit 100% if you are not satisfied.

New Alliance for Beacon Software; New Offering for Beacon Customers

Beacon Software Company, which offers dispatching and towing software, has announced their exclusive partnership with Link It Software Corporation.

This partnership enables Beacon to immediately offer Link It’s Web-based vehicle and equipment maintenance tracking software, called EZM Web, to all Beacon customers.

Todd Althouse, Managing Partner at Beacon Software, noted, “Our partnership with Link It makes terrific, user friendly maintenance software available to all of our customers at special, very affordable pricing obtainable only through Beacon. Training is included so our customers can begin using EZM Web immediately.”

Since releasing its premier tow management solutions, Dispatch Anywhere®, Beacon now services over 9000 towing companies in 30 countries with a multitude of products, including the industry’s leading vehicle towing instruction website, TowSpec®.

EZM Web tracks and controls all maintenance for any type of equipment and any type of vehicle plus inventory control via the Web. Among its many features, EZM Web allows businesses of any size to track and sustain maintenance schedules for all their equipment and vehicles and utilize special alerting features when maintenance is due coupled with numerous costing and history reports. Users may also select maintenance tracking by time span or mileage, and manage inventory with level alerts.

EZM Web is accessible from anywhere in the world there is an Internet connection making this a turnkey association for Beacon Software, which is also Web based.

“We have had many inquiries for equipment and vehicle maintenance software over the years,” Althouse continued, “but we did not want to create maintenance software from scratch as we are very focused on our dispatch and towing software. Then we found EZM Web.”

“The features of Link It’s EZM Web fit right in with our model,” said Althouse. “It’s a perfect match in price and design. The price is very right for our customers, and every feature they need is there. Best of all, the maintenance software is ready to use immediately.”

Product information found at www.beaconsoftco.com or contact: 440-237-6653.


Quick Clearance is Good... Part 2

Just don't drive recklessly to do it!

Two TX wrecker operators responding to a police scene were arrested for reckless driving themselves. Below is an excerpt from the story. Read the whole story here.

Police arrested two wrecker drivers, accusing them of reckless driving while getting to the scene.

Christopher Glenn Hermis, 21, and Jose Atruro Herrera, 30, were both taken into custody.

Herrera has a criminal record.

Both of the drivers’ towing licenses were suspended and could be revoked for a year after a special hearing.

“Something like this puts us 100 miles back to where we started,” Jeanette Rash of the Texas Towing and Storage Association said.

Rash applauded the arrests.

“It sends a signal to drivers to stay out of what’s not your business,” she said.

Recovering the Long Lost

After an August fire cleared the brush from a canyon in Whittier, CA, nine abandoned VW Bugs were uncovered. It was estimated that the cars had been there for over a decade.

Haddick's Tow of Industry was called in for the recovery. Check out the story and video here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Quick Clearance is Good...

Just don't speed to do it!

A Canadian tow truck driver lost his license for seven days, had his truck towed and impounded and faces steep fines for speeding on the way to pick up the vehicle of another motorist who had been caught speeding. Read the whole story here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Check Out These Videos!

I was pretty impressed by these six commercials by AAA Ohio. View them here.

TRAA's 11th Annual Legislative & Leadership Conference

Hey! I was there! Where were you????

Left to right, Sam Brewer (TRAA President), Me, Ruth Landau (PWOF)

Me, of course, and Al Gregg of Dakota Service & Repair

From left to right, Joe Haines (Haines Towing, Inc & 5th VP of Garden State Towman's Assoc.),
Me, and John Glass (President, GSTA)


From the Towing & Recovery Association of America:

TRAA held its 11th Annual Legislative and Leadership Conference on March 7th and 8th, 2008,
at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, VA. The conference began with the keynote speaker, James F. Ports, Jr., Deputy Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who stated that our theme of responder safety is the single most priority of Department of Transportation Secretary, Mary Peters.

Panels discussing the towing issues of the National Unified Goal (NUG), Hazardous Recoveries and practical advice for getting paid for heavy recoveries filled the early portion of the conference agenda.

TRAA’s second safety DVD, Dress For Success, was released for its first viewing and was very well received. Wrap up topics included an overview of all the current towing initiatives and a report from the TRAA Heavy Recovery Advisory Committee.

A quote from Sam Brewer, TRAA President, sums up the TRAA L&L Conference very well. Said President Brewer, “This is the first year we have ever had to call for more chairs to be added on the second day of the conference.”

Executive Director, Harriet Cooley, stated, “A hit out of the park! Every year this conference gets better and better. We are very grateful for all of our sponsors, participants and attendees without whom we could not produce this conference.”

Held in March annually, the L&L Conference is the only meeting that brings together the heads of state associations, other industry leaders and interested constituents into a forum where virtually any and every topic regarding towing, recovery and related issues can be discussed. Captured under the same roof where there are no other enticing displays to distract their attention, these attendees explore, discuss and debate the issues the towing and recovery industry faces on a daily basis.

TRAA thanks the sponsors for the 2008 conference:
American Towing Alliance, Miller Industries, Propane Education Council, Travis Barlow Insurance , United States Auto Club, Motoring Division

Many thanks, as well, to our presenters who informed, infused, incited and excited the conference attendees.

Information regarding the 2009 Legislative and Leadership Conference will be available on the TRAA web site, www.towserver.net, in early April. TRAA membership and product listings including Dress For Success are available on the site as well.

Feelin' the sting...

This would definitely be classified as a bad day in my book! Read the full story here.

Bees Swarm in CA After Truck Flips Over
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Millions of swarming honey bees are on the loose after a truck carrying crates of the insects flipped over on a California highway.The California Highway Patrol says 8-to-12 million bees escaped Sunday from the crates in which they were stored and swarmed over an area of Highway 99 and stung officers, firefighters and tow truck drivers trying to clear the accident.CHP Officer Michael Bradley says a tractor trailer flipped over while entering the highway on its way to Yakima, Wash. The flatbed was carrying bee crates each filled with up to 30,000 bees.Bradley says several beekeepers driving by the accident stopped to assist in the bee wrangling.The bees had been used in the San Joaquin Valley to pollinate crops.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Day's Headlines

From Kingston, Jamaica: Mayor suspends towing in Kingston for two weeks

An Everday Hero

A round of applause goes to James Sorenson, the owner of John's Towing in Utah, for his quick actions to lift a truck off a man who had been run over and dragged. Here's the story from the Deseret Morning News:

AMERICAN FORK — A couple are in critical condition after being hit in a crosswalk in American Fork Friday afternoon.

Just after 1:40 p.m. a man and woman were crossing in the crosswalk at Main Street and Center Street in American Fork, when a Texas man turned left on a green light and struck the couple.

The 53-year-old male victim was wedged under the truck, but a tow truck driver just happened to be driving by when the accident occurred, said Lt. Sam Liddiard with American Fork Police.

"It's kind of amazing he was there," Liddiard said of James Sorenson, owner of John's Towing.

Sorenson has 30 years of towing experience and has been involved with 30 to 50 fatal accidents, but this one, he says, was the worst.

"I just broke down and bawled afterword," he said. "I don't know why, but for some reason this one really bothered me. He was in bad shape."

The woman dropped where she was hit, but the man was dragged 30 to 50 feet under the truck, Sorenson said.

"It probably took about 45 seconds to a minute" to drop the car he was already towing and hook and lift the truck, he said. "I've just been doing this for so long, and adrenaline kicks in, too."

After Sorenson's lift, paramedics attended to the man, then he was flown via medical helicopter to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in critical condition, Liddiard said.

The man's wife was taken via ambulance to American Fork Hospital, also in critical condition.

The couple are from Utah, though not from American Fork, Liddiard said.

The driver, 72, who was not injured, was not cited but is cooperating with law enforcement and the investigation, Liddiard said.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Update on MI Tow Truck Driver Killed by Drunk Driver

Update on 3/16/08 from the Detroit Free Press: Insurance agent charged in death of tow truck driver

ANN ARBOR — A AAA Michigan insurance agent has been charged in the death of a 46-year-old tow truck driver from Ann Arbor.Washtenaw County authorities say William Lyle was behind the wheel when Michael Johnston was struck and killed while pulling a vehicle out of a ditch along Interstate 94 on Sunday. Lyle was arraigned on Tuesday on charges of operating while intoxicated causing death to emergency personnel and operating while intoxicated causing death.His attorney, John Shea, tells The Ann Arbor News his client feels horrible about the incident.Police say tests show Lyle’s blood alcohol content was nearly twice above the state’s legal limit. Johnston worked for Sakstrup’s Towing, one of Lyle’s clients.

Yesterday, I posted the story of a MI tow truck operator, Michael Johnston, who was killed by a drunk driver early Sunday. Here's an updated story on the crash.

One additional story.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sometimes you just have to shake your head...

In this story from snow-covered Cincinnati, OH, more than 30 cars were found to be parked illegally on the snow emergency route. Instead of just having them towed away, a police officer and a tow truck operator went DOOR-TO-DOOR asking people to move their cars. Only two were towed... to another street, not an impound lot and, yet, people were still unhappy...

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Some motorists weren't too happy about getting a nighttime "wake up call."

Car owner Gerald Mohammed said, "It's a complete inconvenience. But I guess if my car were to get rammed in the back by a snow plow, that could be even worse."

"They were kind enough to warn me," said Mohammed. "So I was told to move it and so I'm moving it."

Read the whole story here.

Let 'em know what you can do!

Kudos to Stanley's Wrecker Service of OK for getting involved with firefighter training in Enid. Read the story here.

Are these really the wrecker fees in Jamaica???

In a story titled "Haphazard Wrecker Fees Irk Transport Boss" from the Jamaica Gleaner News, here are the listed towing fees:

Tow-away charges

Transport Authority: $2,750 plus $500 per additional day vehicle is impounded.

KSAC: $4,000 plus $200 per additional day vehicle is impounded.

Police: Fee varies according to the wrecker operator.
Can I just say 'wow!'? I had no idea...
Here's the whole story.

MI tow truck driver killed in crash

Another sad day for the towing industry.

A 46-year old tow truck driver working for Sakstrup's Towing Service was hit and killed by a suspected drunk driver near Ann Arbor, MI early this morning. The tower, whose name has not yet been released, was on-scene with a Michigan State Police vehicle and in the process of pulling a vehicle from a ditch. Read the story here.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cargo, General Liability now available from Progressive

The new coverages, now available in Colorado , Missouri , Ohio , Tennessee , Texas and Wisconsin, are expected to be available countrywide by the end of the year.

Cargo
Up to $100,000 in coverage for damage or loss due to theft, fire, collision and hitting or running over cargo.Fewer exclusions, including no co-insurance penalty, no exclusion of coverage if a vehicle is left unattended, and no reduction in coverage limits for items such as electronic equipment.

General Liability
Up to $1 million in coverage for each occurrence and $2 million aggregate coverage available for losses including people slipping and falling next to a parked truck or a trucker causing damage at a customer’s warehouse.

Forr more information on Progressive’s truck program or to find a local independent agent, please go to the all-new www.progressivecommercial.com.

Jerr-Dan Adds Two Distributers; Parent Company Amends Name

Jerr-Dan has added two new distributors, River City Wrecker Sales of West Sacramento, CA and Diamond Wrecker LLC of Jacksonville, FL.

Jerr-Dan's parent corporation, Oshkosh Truck Corporation, received a shareholders' vote of approval to change the company's name to Oshkosh Corporation.

Read the story here.

Headlines From The Week

From Gainesville, FL: Towing companies must give refunds

From Honolulu, HI: Bill to Ban Tow Charges if Driver Shows Up In Time

From Wadena, MN: Verndale man hurt in tow truck crash

From Dunn, NC: Truck Rolls Into Angier Home

From Moscow, Russia: Russian driver gives chase as tow truck hauls away car - and son