Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Heavy Duty Tow Truck Slides On Ice, Crashes Into House In PA

Not a good day... Here's the WFMZ-TV news story:
The ice made for a wild ride for the driver of a heavy duty tow truck in Berks County this afternoon. It happened shortly before 12:30 on Route 73 near Water Street in Earl Township. Police say the truck was approaching the scene of an accident too fast for the road conditions and slid on the ice. They say he crashed into a guardrail, struck a car, slammed into one house, and then came to rest against the corner of another house. The driver of the tow truck was taken to the hospital. We have no word yet on the extent of his injuries. The driver of the car he hit was not hurt.

TowTalk Launches New Blog!

Love him or hate him, Bill Weihrouch (aka "SkyForum") of is bound to have the anti-"predatory towing" crowd in a tizzy with his new blog. Click here to check out his first official post titled "Defense of the Impound Tower."

WI Woman Injured After Vehicles Come Off Tow Truck

Here's the story:
MANITOWOC — A 73-year-old Manitowoc woman was transported to Holy Family
Memorial Medical Center with minor injuries to her knees and jaw after a pickup
truck and 32-foot horse trailer came loose from a tow truck and collided with a
vehicle at 2:45 p.m. today, according to a news release from Manitowoc Police
Department Capt. Larry Zimney.
According to the release:- The accident occurred just south of the
intersection of Custer Street on South Rapids Road.- The tow truck driver, Randy
Schmitz, 24, of Manitowoc, was cited for violating special load limits. Other
citations may be pending from the incident. Koller Towing of Manitowoc owned the
tow truck.- The pickup truck and trailer came loose after the tow truck made a
left-hand turn onto South Rapids Road.- The pickup truck and trailer collided
with a 2005 Dodge Magnum being driven by a 47-year-old Valders woman. The
driver’s mother was the 73-year-old injured passenger.

TX Tower Dead After Roadside Crash

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 48-year old Lawrence Roberts of Odessa, TX. He died Tuesday after he was hit by a vehicle, which was sliding on the icy road. Here's the KWES NewsWest 9 story:

ECTOR COUNTY - An Odessa man is dead after being hit by a sliding car on
Interstate 20.
It happened in Ector County near mile marker 98 close to the Penwell exit around 9:30 a.m.
According to troopers, a tow truck driver, 48-year-old Lawrence Roberts was working a previous wreck and had just secured the wrecked vehicle on his truck when went to get into the cab of his truck.
Roberts was hit from behind by an oncoming car that slid on the
ice. Roberts was taken to the hospital where he later died.
No charges or tickets have been issued in the wreck yet. The accident is under investigation

'Move Over' Law Hopefully In The Future For AZ Tow Truck Operators

Here's the KVOA News 4 story:

Those who work on the side of a highway are always facing constant dangers.
A few years ago the state passed a law which makes drivers switch lanes to give police officers more room. Now they're considering something similar for tow truck drivers and construction workers.

Every day Mike Garcia walks a fine line. It's a white line and is only a few inches wide. But it's the line between life and death. Mike is a tow truck driver who works on the side of the highway.

"You think about your safety. And think about staying out of your lane of traffic, just get what you need done," he says. With traffic whizzing by at 70 miles an hour, too many times it's too close for comfort. "When you feel the mirror hit your back... You think you're done," says Jim Mooney, owner of Frontier Towing.

Up the highway at the statehouse -- later this spring lawmakers will consider a bill to help tow truck

Drivers would have to move over and give them more room to work like
you have to already for police officers on the side of the road.

"You can see some of the traffic slows a little bit, but generally it just goes by as quick as it can," Mooney says. AAA Arizona supports the law-- in Phoenix one of their members and a tow truck driver died when a truck hit them. "It's certainly something we don't want to see happen which is why we're advocating
this law," says spokeswoman Yvette Lopez.

Hoping a change in the law will get drivers to change lanes when they're working on that fine line. "The vehicles are so close, sometimes you wonder how close they are before they hit you," Mooney says.

Snow Keeping Towers Busy & In The News

At least it's good press! Here's a WHSV TV (Harrisonburg, VA) news story:

Jody Collins is a tow truck driver with Drumheller's Towing and Recovery,
serving the Waynesboro and Staunton area. He has been in the business for nearly
15 years and he knows when bad weather comes around, he is in for a busy day.
Collins says, "Usually see fender benders, people sliding into ditches."
It's a time when Collins says he is constantly on-call,
not knowing when he will have to respond to an accident on the icy roads.
He adds, "I work 24 hours a day, 6 days a week."
He says in these conditions, Drumheller's has an extra heavy staff so they won't miss a beat.
Collins says, "When there's snow and ice on the roads, we have 5 or 6
trucks and we usually stay busy during the night and during the day."
Surprisingly, Collins says Tuesday hasn't been busier than most days, but it's later in the night he worries about.
He says, "I rested up because I knew we would be busy tonight."
He says that also means one important thing, adding, "If it's busy tonight...It's going to be busy in the morning."
While Collins will be out and about into the early hours of the morning, he offers his best piece of advice to drivers.
He says, "Try to stay off the roads. Don't come out on the roads early in the morning because it's going to be slick."

Footnotes' Senior Editor Gives His Two-Cents Worth

Towing & Recovery Footnotes' senior editor, Bill Candler, does it all :) He was quoted in a recent story about Brian Bolus of PA's Minuteman Towing. Here's the (Bloomsburg, PA) Press-Enterprise story:

The popular picture of the tow truck operator is dirty and negative, Brian Bolus

But the owner of Minuteman Towing says the millions he has invested in equipment merits a more attractive image.

That includes clean trucks, well−dressed workers and an attractive headquarters, Bolus says.
When clients visit the Minuteman offices just off Interstate 80 in Mifflinville, they may expect a grease−stained garage, Bolus says.

Instead, they find a tidy and modern office that could offer any kind of professional service. But framed articles in the lobby give away the business at hand, since they encase trade magazines like American Towman, Towing & Recovery Footnotes and "Run Hard.

Minuteman is well−regarded in the industry, says Bill Candler, editor of an industry magazine. Candler has talked with Bolus for stories because Minuteman is known for its big fleet and its snappy image, says Candler of Towing and Recovery Footnotes, based in Norfolk, Va. "It has one of the best reputations I've heard of," he said.

Minuteman has never had a serious accident involving its own vehicles.
By Ben Timberlake
Special Editions

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

12th Annual Towing & Recovery Association of America Legislative & Leadership Conference

The TRAA Legislative & Leadership Conference brings the heads of state associations, tow company owners and drivers, supporting businesses, and the industry press together under one roof.

It’s the best opportunity to network with fellow towers and industry leaders, visit your congressional representative on Capitol Hill, share in timely panel discussions, and enjoy good food and fun in the DC area.

This year’s topics include Dispatching Techniques and a National Tower Training standard. New versions of the Vehicle Identification Card (V-ID) also will be available.

There’s a reception Thursday evening, March 12, and the conference is Friday, March 13 and Saturday morning, March 14. For hotel reservations, call Crystal City Marriott at 800-228-9290 (the room block name is “towing and recovery”). To register, call 800-728-0136 or send an email to

Canadian Tow Truck Driver Charged In Fatal Crash

Here's the story from The Mississauga News:
January 27, 2009 08:35 AM - A Mississauga family is in mourning after a fatal car crash on Hwy. 403 in Ancaster on the weekend.
Jeyakumar Nadarajah was killed early Saturday when his car slammed into the back of a flatbed tow truck that was parked in the highway's eastbound lanes.
Balan Nadarajah, Jeyakumar's cousin who grew up with him in Sri Lanka, said Jeyakumar was married and ran a small transportation business in Mississauga.
The 32-year-old came to Canada in the early 1990s and worked hard to support his parents and siblings.
"Everything is so sad. It is very hard to adjust," Balan said.
The crash occurred after a tow truck, which was responding to help a car that had spun off the road, blocked a portion of the passing lane, police say.
As Nadarajah drove through, he struck the rear of the truck and was killed instantly.
The tow truck driver, believed to be an employee of CRG Towing, has been charged with criminal negligence causing death.
Police have not released the name of the 33-year-old Hamilton man.
The charge provided little consolation to Nadarajah's family, who are now planning his funeral — to take place tomorrow at Scott Funeral Home On Dundas St. E. near Hensall Circle in Mississauga.
Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Dave Woodford said blocking a live lane is against the law and tow trucks are not exempt.
"A lot of them are courteous and help us," he said of tow truck drivers. "But you have to remember safety."
Several tow company operators in Hamilton said it was the driver's responsibility to ensure safety.
Merv McAllister of Bennett's Towing felt the operator should have pulled to the right and waited for the OPP to close the lane.
Another towing company owner said: "You have to be off the highway ... he should have waited for police."
Attempts to contact CRG Towing's owner were unsuccessful.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Everyday Tow Hero

Kudos to CA tow truck driver Peter Sandoval who pulled a woman to safety last week after her car rolled over. Sadly, his name is not mentioned in the news story, though he has a spot in the video report. Here's the OC Register story:

MISSION VIEJO A tow truck driver helped pull a woman out of a car after she was involved in a roll-over crash this morning authorities said.

The crash occurred at 9:02 a.m. near the Crown Valley Parkway offramp of the northbound I-5.

The tow truck driver witnessed the black pick-up crash, ending up on its side. The driver pulled over to help the woman and pulled her out to safety, fire officials at the scene said.

The woman in the solo-crash suffered minor injuries and was transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, said Capt. Greg McKeown of the Orange County Fire Authority.

Two Arrested for Hassling a SD Tow Truck Operator

Here's the story:
Two Sioux Falls residents face disorderly conduct charges after trying to prevent a tow-truck operator from taking their car.

“He was hooking up the car. They yelled at the truck driver, and each of them grabbed him to keep him from doing his job. Eventually they walked away,” said police spokesman Sam Clemens.

The incident occurred at 1:20 a.m. Saturday as the driver was responding to a request to tow a car from a private lot in the 200 block of West Ninth Street.

David R. Lohan, 34, and Breanna M. Doherty, 27, were arrested, booked on misdemeanor charges for a court appearance and released.

The truck driver was not hurt, Clemens said.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Freak Accident In MD Kills Woman

Here's the story:
BELTSVILLE, Md. -- A 21-year-old woman is dead after her car was crushed by
a truck tire on the outer loop of Interstate 495.
Officers said that the crash happened at about 1 p.m. Wednesday along the
Capital Beltway between Kenilworth Avenue and Route 1 in Prince George’s County.
Troopers identified the victim as Channing Quinichett, of Halethorpe, Md.
The tire came from a delivery truck being towed by Roger Smith, 43, of Dale
City, Va., according to state police.
Smith is employed by Waggy’s Towing of
Dumfries, Va. He was towing the flat-bed truck from Arlington, Va., to
Westminster, Md., to have its hydraulic lifting boom repaired.
said that somehow the tire came off from the tow truck’s second axle with the
metal wheel attached.
The tire struck the center guardrail, bounced across
the grassy median and over a second guardrail.
Officers said that it was
then hit by a Freightliner tractor-trailer, which launched the tire into the air
and back across the median, where it landed directly on top of Quinichett’s
Honda Civic. Troopers said that force of the impact crushed the car’s windshield
and roof.
The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Two lanes of the
interstate were closed for hours.
Troopers said that no charges are expected
to be filed until after the investigative findings can be presented to the
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Everyday Towing Hero In IL

Here's the story from The News-Gazette:

URBANA – Fire Wednesday night destroyed a building north of Urbana that was undergoing renovation in hopes of attracting a new business and also displaced an apartment dweller.

David Spillers, owner of the property at 2506 N. Cunningham Ave., said his older brother, Rick Spillers, was living in the upstairs apartment but got out safely. "A tow truck driver saw the flames, beat on his door and said 'Something is on fire.' My brother was calling me," Spillers said.

Carroll Fire Protection District Chief Steve Thuney identified the tow truck driver as Paul Grindley, who was passing by shortly after 9 p.m. and saw heavy smoke. Spillers said his brother is a diabetic who had recently broken his foot and that Grindley helped him out.

Spillers said his brother gets his medication in 90-day supplies from the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System in Danville, so that will have to be replaced. The large machine shed building most recently housed BBA Auto Sales, Spillers said. That business had moved out and he was in the process of cleaning up the 3,000 square feet of retail space in the front and the 3,000 square feet of warehouse space in the back of the steel building. The upstairs apartment, he said, had been remodeled about two years ago. "There was a ton of junk in there from the previous tenant. He was doing auto body work and there was paint and paint thinners in there. We were tearing down drywall," he said.

Thuney said the fire is being investigated as accidental. It started on the first floor and spread upward. About 20 firefighters from Carroll, Eastern Prairie and Edge Scott were there
about three hours. Savoy firefighters stood by at the Carroll station while Carroll firefighters were at the fire.

Spillers and his wife Ginger own Ohana Pools Spas & Billiards and were considering moving their business from East University Avenue in Urbana to the North Lincoln address. "We hadn't really
determined what we were going to do with the business. This has been a rental property and was needing rehabilitation," he said. Spillers said he has insurance. He was unable to give a dollar estimate of the damage.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Man To Serve 30 Months For Fatal Tow Truck Crash

Here's the story from Canada's Winnipeg Sun:

Steve Watkins has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for a drunk driving crash that killed Winnipeg tow truck driver Amanda Frizzley.

Frizzley, 26, was killed Sept. 30, 2007 after her tow truck was struck by a GMC Jimmy driving the wrong way on York Avenue.

Frizzley's parents, both of whom are driving instructors, hailed the sentence as "precedent setting."

"I think the justice system has taken a quantum leap today," said Craig Frizzley outside court. "With this ruling, I think it's up to them to get tougher and tougher and tougher because it's quite obvious the message isn't out there yet."

Watkins, 22, offered a tear-filled apology to Frizzley's family before being escorted out of court in handcuffs.

"I know I can't expect your forgiveness... I do want you to believe from the bottom of my heart I am extremely sorry," he said. "My heart will forever ache for her and her family."

File Under "What NOT To Do": NC Woman Refuses Tow, Kicks Officer In Groin

Here's the Lexington Dispatch story:

A woman allegedly assaulted a Lexington police officer Friday night after being arrested for refusing to have her car towed.

Terri Marie Gaither, 26, of 148 Clay St., No. 4, in Linwood, was charged with assault on a government official and resisting arrest. According to a Lexington Police Department report, officer Johnny Young Jr. pulled Gaither over at South Main Street and Eighth Avenue in Lexington for a revoked license plate. Gaither was also found to have no insurance.

According to the report, after she was given time to have someone tow her car, Gaither was unable to find someone and the officer called Wayne Fine’s Auto Repair & Towing, the wrecker service on top of the LPD’s rotating list of tow trucks they use.

The tow truck arrived to tow Gaither’s 1998 burgundy Plymouth Breeze, but she sat on the hood of her car. Officer Young and Officer K.R. Englund warned her if she didn’t get off the car she would be arrested. She still refused.

Young and Englund then asked Gaither to place her hands behind her back. She got off the car, and the officers grabbed her by each wrist, placing her under arrest. According to the report, a scuffle then broke out and Gaither began to fight the police officers, hitting or kicking Englund in the groin. She was detained and the police brought her to the Davidson County Detention Center under a $4,000 secured bond. Her court date is set for March 17.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

St. Paul, MN Towers Shaken After Assaults, Vandalism

Here's the news story:

Police are investigating the violent reaction to last week’s snow emergency in St. Paul.

The city’s latest snow emergency ended Saturday, resulting in nearly 1,200 vehicles being towed. But while tow truck operators were doing their jobs, officials say someone was trying to stop them.

Clarence Kempke awoke Sunday morning to find his company’s only tow truck vandalized—it’s back and side windows smashed.

"They had a whole chain out and they just like swung it like a baseball bat. This is just senseless," the owner of CNS Services Towing told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

He was one many drivers who was contracted by the city to tow vehicles during last week’s snow emergency.

"It had to be related to the snow emergency, because this truck has sat here for months. No damage to it. They call a snow emergency and this is what I get," Kempke said. "It’s very frustrating. Now I have to spend excess money…I’m going broke."

Kempke said that until he can get his windows replaced, he’s losing more than $300 a day.

St. Paul Police spokesman Pete Panos said it was even worse for two other tow truck drivers, who were assaulted last week while during their jobs.

"We don't know if it has to do with the economy—people getting a little more upset when they have to pay that $300 to get their car out," Panos explained.

Authorities have made one arrest in the assaults and said they are investigating Kempke’s vandalism case.

TN Tow Truck Driver Killed In Accident

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 57-year old William Bolin of Jackson, TN. He died today after his wrecker rolled into a ditch. Here's the story from The Jackson Sun:
A Jackson man was killed Monday evening in an accident on U.S. 412 in Bells in which his truck rolled into a ditch, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

William Bolin, 57, was driving east in a wrecker truck carrying a vehicle when a 2002 Mercury Sable did not yield while crossing the highway at Walnut Hill Road, the THP said.

Bolin's truck hit the car and began to roll after leaving the roadway. Bolin was not wearing a seat belt, according to an accident report.

The driver of the Sable, Roger Crutchfield, 53, of Bells, was not injured. He was cited for not yielding, but no criminal charges are pending.

The accident was reported about 5:50 p.m.

FL Tow Truck Driver Killed In Accident

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 35-year old Danny Little, who worked for A1Towing. Here's the Clay Today story:

MIDDLEBURG – A man was killed early Tuesday, Jan. 20, when a semi-tractor trailer fell onto him, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said.

The 5 a.m. accident that killed Danny E. Little, 35, of Orange Park occurred at the A1 Towing Company property in the 3000 block of Joe Johns Road, the Sheriff’s Office said. That’s where Little and another tow truck worker had taken the semi-tractor trailer, which was illegally parked at the Orange Park Kennel Club on Park Avenue, the Sheriff's Office said.

The truck had slipped on the tow truck and the two workers were attempting to move it back on when it slipped again and fell onto Little. He was killed instantly, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Little was a Georgia native who moved to Clay County nine months ago, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Here's the WOKV news story:

An accident at a local towing company leaves a man dead.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office was called this morning at 5am to A1Towing Company in Middleburg.

Two employees of A1 Towing had just returned to the property with a semi truck that was towed off the property of the Orange Park Kennel Club because it was illegally parked there.

The towed semi truck had slipped off the tow truck and the two employees were attempting to move it back on.

The semi truck slipped again and rolled onto one of the employees.

Police say 35 year-old Danny LIttle of Orange Park died instantly.

The other worker was not hurt.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Farewell, Friend

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 73-year old Clarence Wiley, a Huntsville, AL tower, who passed away on Jan. 9 after battling cancer. Here's the tribute from The Huntsville Times:

At his memorial service last week, Clarence Wiley's friends wanted to pay him a fitting tribute.

So fellow tow truck driver Jeff Patten rolled Wiley's empty rig onto his own roll-back wrecker and led a procession of more than 20 tow trucks to the grave site, escorted by police officers.

"Even the police got out and stood at attention," Patten said. "He was very, very well respected in the community. Everybody who's in the towing business who was age 25 or over knew him."

Wiley died Jan. 9 after battling cancer. He was 73.

Anyone working in the close-knit towing community in Huntsville had likely gotten advice or help from Wiley, Patten said.

He served as a mentor for many people going into the towing business.

"He taught the fundamentals of how to operate a small business and how to respect people and how to talk to people," he said. "He taught people how to be patient and go with the flow."

Sometimes, going with the flow meant helping stranded motorists, even though they didn't have the money to pay for towing.

That was his way of walking his Christian faith, friends and family said.

"He never turned anybody down. He was always willing to help anybody who came to his door," said granddaughter Brandi Williamson. "If they were stuck on the side of the road but didn't have any money, he didn't charge them anything."

"Mr. Wiley taught every one of us something. His favorite word was 'babydoll.' He'd say 'babydoll, just stay right there - I'll take care of it.'

"He was a real good friend. He'd help anybody."

Wiley played an active role in raising his three grandchildren, who would hang out with him at the Union 76 service station he owned for many years on Governors Drive, where the Bandito Burrito restaurant sits today.

"Even at age 32, I was still calling if I had a problem, asking for Papa's help," Williamson said. "He had me and my mom spoiled. He always called us 'his girls.'"

"He had us in church every Sunday," said grandson Joshua Hargrove. "He was a very strong believer and had very strong faith in the Lord."

Wiley operated the service station for 27 years, winning several industry awards. He closed the store in the 1980s and focused on his tow truck operation. He was a big fan of racing, and supported former NASCAR driver Jimmy Means, Williamson said.

He was head deacon at Believers Fellowship full gospel church.

Wiley's wife, Jewel, died last August. He is survived by his daughter, Janet Wiley, three grandchildren, Brandi Williamson, Joshua Hargrove and Tommy Hargrove, and 10 great-grandchildren.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Everyday Heroes In NY

Kudos to the unnamed tow truck driver who stopped to help this dog and owners and a round of applause to all who helped! Here's the story from the Rush-Henrietta Post:
Henrietta, N.Y. —

During whiteout conditions the day after Christmas, the pickup truck in which Melissa Renwick and her cousin were traveling through Rush skidded into the median and flipped over on its top.

Renwick, 24, and her cousin, Derek Weed, were unharmed, but her biggest concern wasn’t all the Christmas presents in the back of the truck. She was more concerned as to what had happened to Tess — her 15-year-old dog who was riding in the back seat.

Renwick lives in Pennsylvania and was on her way to her aunt’s home in Penfield, where she and Tess had been invited to stay during Renwick’s enrollment at Monroe Community College. The crash left Renwick and her cousin hanging upside-down, held in only by their seatbelts.

“We were very lucky that passers-by stopped and helped us get out of the truck,” said Renwick. “We only had a few cuts and scrapes, but Tess was stuck halfway out of the rear window frame. She was actually more calm than I was.”

When Rush firefighter Robert Faugh arrived on the scene, he could see Tess’ rear end sticking out of the window and she appeared to not be breathing.

Firefighter James Bucci arrived just after Faugh, and he reached in to check on Tess. She was still alive but was having a difficult time breathing because she was stuck.

According to Faugh, a tow truck driver who had happened to be driving by pulled over and hooked up his tow cable to the truck’s frame to help lift it up and get Tess out.

“It took about five or six people to get Tess out, and she barely even cried or whimpered,” Renwick said. “When Tess was free, they wrapped her in a blanket to keep her warm, and she was taken to Avon Animal Hospital.”

At the hospital, Dr. Wayne Warriner examined Tess and, to his surprise, she didn’t have any serious injuries.

“It’s actually quite amazing,” said Warriner. “After the description from the firefighters, I thought she would be in far worse condition. Instead, she only had a few minor cuts and after a few hours didn’t even appear to be phased by what she had just gone through.”

Both Warriner and rescuers agreed that Tess’ “above average weight” probably helped save her life by providing a little extra padding to shield her from being crushed.

“Yes, she likes a to eat a doughnut every once in a while,” joked Renwick. “But those doughnuts did help save her life.”

Renwick said she is just happy that everyone, including Tess, is OK.

“I just want to thank everyone who helped us at the accident scene and everyone who helped Tess at the hospital,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without her. We have been together since she was a puppy, and I’m just glad that I get to enjoy more time with her.”

Might Also Be A Sign of the Times: SC Tower Sets Own Tow Truck On Fire

Here's the Anderson Independent Mail story:

— An Upstate businessman was arrested for arson Thursday after Anderson County officials said the man torched his $15,000 tow truck.

Charged with third-degree arson, Ray Carson Smith Jr., 32, of Cater Drive in Easley was in custody as of Thursday afternoon at the Anderson County Detention Center. Bond had not been set as of that time.

Arson investigator Ken Blakely said the 2001 Dodge 3500 rollback wrecker was reduced to scrap metal worth $100 after Smith’s financial troubles and a damaged motor on the wrecker caused Smith to burn the vehicle.

According to the incident report from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, the fire was reported around 11 p.m. Jan. 11 on Hembree Road in Williamston.

Smith told deputies that he was responding to a tow call when his truck “made a loud pop, and he pulled to the side of the road and opened the hood, and that’s when he saw the fire,” according to Blakely’s report.

Investigators turned their attention to Smith when it was discovered that the tow truck had no light bar, no fire extinguishers and no tools, according to the report.

Strange, Sad News From MO

Here's the Kansas City Star story:

After his vehicle rear-ended a tow truck on a Missouri River bridge Thursday, a man reportedly bolted from the crash scene and jumped off the bridge to his death.

“I need to get to Independence now,” the frantic man said as he got out of his wrecked vehicle and took off on foot, the tow truck driver told Kansas City police.

The man had been driving south on Interstate 435 in Clay County when he hit the tow truck at the north end of the bridge, Police Sgt. Bill Mahoney said.

Both vehicles stopped and the drivers got out.

An off-duty police officer driving home from a training session spotted the man — who was acting strangely, possibly impaired — running from the crash. The officer followed.

When the officer got out of his car and told the man to stop, the man jumped off the edge of the bridge. He fell about 50 feet onto a gravel access road just south of the river, Mahoney said.

Firefighters made their way to the man, who had multiple apparent injuries, and carried him on a spine board to an awaiting ambulance, Kansas City Fire Battalion Chief Joe Vitale said.

He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

The man, thought to be in his 30s, was an Independence resident, police said. His name was not released Thursday afternoon, pending the notification of relatives.

Mahoney said the off-duty officer went to a hospital for treatment of cuts to his hands suffered while trying to reach the victim on the ground.

The tow truck driver was not hurt.

To reach Sara Shepherd, call 816-234-4366 or send e-mail to

Update On MI Tow Boss Who Was Critically-Injured on Wednesday

Here's today's story from the Battle Creek Enquirer:
MARSHALL — A tow company owner and president of the Marshall school board remained in critical condition Thursday after he was hit Wednesday on I-69 in Calhoun County.

Victor Potter, 55, owner of Bud's Towing in Marshall and president since 2006 of the Board of Education of Marshall Public Schools, was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo after he was hit by a car about 12:10 p.m. on I-69 near Garfield Road in Convis Township.

"We are competitors in business but also friends," said Danny Ure, owner of Professional Towing Co. in Battle Creek. "This just scares me."

Potter was injured while preparing to tow a vehicle damaged in an earlier accident, according to Capt. Matt Saxton of the Calhoun County Sheriff Department.

"He was just finishing hooking up the vehicle," Saxton said. "A northbound vehicle lost control and did a one-eighty and slid backwards and sideswiped the other car and hit Mr. Potter."

Saxton said Potter was kneeling next to the front of the damaged car which was on the left side of the passing lane near the median. A sheriff's department patrol car was parked behind the damaged car and both the patrol car and the wrecker had emergency lights turned on.

Saxton said the Saturn VUE which hit Potter was driven by an 83-year-old Flushing man who was not injured. He was driving the car from a dealership in Battle Creek to one in Flint. His name was not released while the investigation continues.

Saxton said the Saturn was in the right lane and traveling about 50 to 55 miles per hour when it slid out of control on slippery pavement. Snow was falling at the time.

The northbound lanes were closed about 40 minutes, Saxton said. Potter suffered several broken bones and possible internal injuries. The accident reconstruction is being done by Detective Steve Hinkley.

"I worry about these guys on the highway all the time," said Ure, owner of his towing company for nine years. "We put lights on the trucks and wear lime green clothes but people won't move over and it scares you to death especially when the roads are slick. It's so darn dangerous."

Ure said weather and speed contribute to accidents but "driver courtesy is the biggest factor. They don't give you any room. You think they will move over and they won't."

Tow truck operators are frequently injured on the job, said William Byers of Byers Wrecker Service in Rochester and president of the 160-member Michigan Towing Association.

"It happens very frequently," he said Thursday afternoon. "We had three just in the last 24 hours and that is just what I have heard about.

"People just don't give us the respect we deserve. They just don't move over."

Byers said federal regulations require wrecker drivers to wear reflective vests or clothing and operators are experimenting with emergency lights that are not so distracting to other motorists.

"It keeps people from gawking because you go where you look," he said.

Saxton said patrol officers know about the dangers in traffic.

Three weeks ago, a deputy stopped to check a vehicle which had slid off I-69 near Tekonsha, Saxton said. As the deputy was checking the car, a pick-up slid out of control and struck the patrol car, destroying it.

Saxton said he was helping with traffic at an accident last week and saw a tractor-trailer approaching and began to jackknife while slowing.

"I put it into gear and I was moving to the median to get out of the way," he said. "It's nerve-wracking to be on the freeway in these types of conditions."

"People need to slow down and give as wide a berth as possible," he said. "Typically you see the emergency lights well in advance, so don't wait to slow down until you are on top of it. Slow down well in advance."

Trace Christenson can be reached at 966-0685 or

Shooting At IL Repo Team Is Sign of the Times, Industry Expert Says

Interesting story from the Chicago Tribune. Thankfully, no one was injured or killed.
A repossession team hooking a sport-utility vehicle in Hoffman Estates told police that a man opened fire on them as they sped away with the vehicle in tow, authorities said Thursday.

No one was wounded, but the shooting is a sure sign, some say, that a tough job is getting a lot tougher as the nation's financial crisis deepens.

"It cranks up the emotions of these people," said Edwin Pavel, a director of the trade group Illinois Recovery Association and the president of a repossession company in Cary. "They're angry. And we're the ones who bear the brunt of their emotions when we come to their door."

Pavel said there has been "a frenzy of repossessions since June of last year. With the current recession, it's not going to get better."

Three employees from Palatine-based Professional Recovery Services—two men and a woman—went to the 1900 block of Brighton Lane about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday to repossess the Isuzu SUV and a Cadillac, Hoffman Estates police said.

They found the SUV in the driveway, but did not see the Cadillac, police Lt. Rich Russo said.

The employees told police that after hitching up the Isuzu to their tow truck, one of them went to the door. When no one answered, he left and then a man came out of the house and slipped on ice, the employees told police.

When the employee asked if the man was OK, he got up and pointed a chrome revolver at the employee, Russo said. The man told them to unhook the SUV, Russo said.

"The repo guy says, 'Sure. Relax. I will,' " Russo said. "He walks toward the Isuzu, presumably to unhook it. But decides to jump in the tow truck and hit the gas. As they drive away, they hear five or six shots."

Police responded after the team reported the shooting, but officers determined that the owner of the car had left the area.

Investigators were seeking to interview him Thursday, Russo said.

"There were people in the house," Russo said. "But it was determined that person who may or may not have fired the shots fled the scene."

Officials from Professional Recovery Services could not be reached for comment.

Officers later learned that the Cadillac the repo team was looking for had been parked in the garage at the time. It was gone when police arrived, Russo said.

Pavel said that as the number of tense situations has increased, some companies, including his, have begun mounting video cameras in their trucks.

Another trade group official said the economic downturn has made repossessions easier because people are more willing to admit they can't make payments.

"In some instances, it's become easier because people realize they're at the end of their rope," said Kevin McGivern, also a director of Illinois Recovery Association, who runs a repossession business in Chicago.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Still Time to Register for Extrication Fest 2008!

What: Extrication Fest Presented By The Emergency Services Training Institute of the Texas Engineering Extension Services (a member of the Texas A&M University System) and Midsouth Rescue Technologies.

When: March 14-16, 2008

Where: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX

Fee: Courses Range from $125 to $150 (see website for details)


* Three levels of Auto Extrication Training
* Big Rig Rescue
* Patient Care
* Scene Management
* Supplemental Restraint System Technology
* Hybrid Vehicle Anatomy and Extrication
* Expo includes live demos, training exhibits, and free classes

For more information and registration, visit

Wall of the Fallen: A Special Request from the Chairman

This letter is to appeal to you to help us remember the men and women who have lost their lives in the line of service within the towing and recovery industry and have had their name placed honourably upon “The Wall Of The Fallen”.

We unveiled the beautiful statue and Memorial Wall on September 9th of 2006. In September 15th 2007 we placed 94 names on the wall, and then again on September 20th of 2008 we placed another 61 names on the wall. I have proudly been placed in the seat of being the Chairman of the committee for The Wall Of The Fallen. Our committee has multiple duties but, first and foremost, we need your assistance in obtaining the names of the men and women in your area who have been killed in the line of service.

The name unveiling for 2009 is presently scheduled on Saturday, September 19th, 2009 and in an effort to ensure timely delivery of the bronze nameplates we request that you submit any names you might have prior to our cutoff date of July 1st. We do not want to exclude anyone from the wall so we are respectfully requesting your assistance in remembering your fallen comrades. Please try to notify your fellow towers of this honour and submit anyone who has died doing the job they loved so that he or she can be remembered on The Wall of the Fallen - a tribute to our deceased comrades.

Please remember that there is no cost to anyone for submitting the name on the wall. Just download the application and fill it out as completely as you can and return it directly to the museum at the address listed below. You may be contacted by one of the committee members to help assist with the approval process should there be any pertinent information missing from the application.

Please go to our web site and download the forms, fill it out and send it to the museum at:
ITRHFM (International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame Museum ) 3315 Broad Street Chattanooga TN USA 37408 Phone 423 267 3132
Kenneth Cruse, Chairman, Wall Of The Fallen

Second Annual USAC/MD Charity Golf Classic at the Florida Tow Show

Here's the Miller Industries press release:

This year USAC will again be holding their second annual USAC/MD Charity Golf Classic April 2nd in Orlando, Florida. Last years golf outing held in conjunction with the Florida Tow Show was a huge success raising $10,000 that benefited the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum's Survivor Fund. Miller Industries is proud to once again sponsor the Hole-In-One competition with the prize being a new Vulcan Intruder. So dig out your golf clubs and start practicing up and maybe you could be driving home from Florida in the new Vulcan Intruder. For more information visit

Wes Wilburn Consulting Offers Hybrid Vehicle Jump Start/Towing & High Voltage Shut Down Procedure Guides

Here's the press release from

Wes Wilburn Consulting is proud to announce that we now offer a full
line of Hybrid vehicle towing-road service and shutdown manuals. The
first edition 2008 manual contains over 25 hybrid models including the
Enova School bus. These quick reference guides are specifically
designed for the Towing and Rescue personnel with clear step by step
for each model. The topics covered are Jumpstarting,
towing and recovery including general recovery or submerged vehicles
when the information is available. By far this is the most
professionally produced, complete and concise manual we have
Wes Wilburn a Towing and Recovery Trainer with over 25 years experience
in the towing industry said "There is no doubt that a hybrid vehicle
can provide significant dangers, injury or even death if the person
dealing with one involved in an accident does not understand the
correct procedures of the model they are presented with. This manual is
a must for any operator or rescue personnel which may come in contact
with a disabled or wrecked hybrid vehicle. Whether you buy this from us
or any of the other quality retailers who offer the "Hybrid hazards" Co
manual I cannot suggest strongly enough to get one"
Complete manuals start at $ 39.00* for a travel size or $ 49.00* for an
8 C2 x 11 inch version. There are significant discounts for multiple
manual orders. For more information contact Wes Wilburn @ 910 486 8928
- or to purchase a manual visit

Wes Wilburn Consulting
P.O. Box 007 Wade, NC 28395-0007
910 486 8928 or fax 486 8930

Please see the other side for Quantity Pricing / Breakdown
Quantity Pricing / Breakdown

LARGE 8 1/2" x 11" Size - Hybrid Vehicle Jump Start / Towing + High
Shut Down Procedure Guides Retail at $49.00 ea.

Purchase 50 to 199 guides to receive 10% off
- You pay $44.10 per/guide for a savings of $4.90 per/guide

Purchase 200 to 399 guides to receive 20% off
- You pay $39.20 per/guide for a savings of $9.80 per/guide

Purchase 400 to 999 guides to receive 30% off
- You pay $34.30 per/guide for a savings of $14.70 per/guide

Purchase 1000 or more guides to receive 40% off
- You pay $29.40 per/guide for a savings of $19.60 per/guide

SMALL 6" x 9" Size - Hybrid Vehicle Jump Start / Towing + High Voltage
Shut Down Procedure Guides Retail at $39.00 ea.

Purchase 50 to 199 guides to receive 10% off
- You pay $35.10 per/guide for a savings of $3.90 per/guide

Purchase 200 to 399 guides to receive 20% off
- You pay $31.20 per/guide for a savings of $7.80 per/guide

Purchase 400 to 999 guides to receive 30% off
- You pay $27.30 per/guide for a savings=2
0of $11.70 per/guide

Purchase 1000 or more guides to receive 40% off
- You pay $23.40 per/guide at a profit of $15.60 per/guide

*prices do not include shipping and handling

MI Tower Critically Injured

Our thoughts and prayers go to Vic Potter, owner of Bud's Towing in Marshall, MI. The 55-year old was struck on the side of the road while hooking up to a vehicle and was critically injured.
Here's the story from the Battle Creek Enquirer:
MARSHALL — Marshall Board of Education President Vic Potter was critically injured in an accident Wednesday afternoon on I-69 near N Drive North, the Calhoun County sheriff's office reported.

Potter, 55, owner of Bud's Towing of Marshall, was out of his tow truck, attempting to hook up a disabled vehicle, when a passing motorist struck him, said Sgt. Dan Latta of the Calhoun County sheriff's office.

The accident occurred shortly before 1 p.m., when roads were slickened by snowfall across the area.

Potter was taken to Oaklawn Hospital in Marshall and transferred to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Latta said.

No details about the driver and the vehicle involved in the accident were immediately available.

Potter, a Marshall native, has served on the school board since 2003. He first was elected board president in 2006.

Potter has served as chairman of the Marshall Township Planning Commission, chairman of the Marshall Township Zoning Board of Appeals, and is a member of the Marshall Exchange Club.

Recovery Shots

Click here to view a couple nice photos of a recovery. They were taken by Max Gersh, a photo intern for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

SouthWest Tow Operators' Leaders Recognized

Congrats to Dan and Joann Messina of SouthWest Tow Operators! They were named American Towman's Tow Man and Tow Woman of 2009. Here's the press release:
Dallas, TX - January 12, 2009- The American Towman, a national magazine for professional towers, has announced that their choice for the 2009 "Towman Of The Year" award, an annual national award presented to recognized leaders of the towing industry, to Dan Messina, and, the very first ever, 2009 "Tow Woman Of The Year" award will go to Joann Messina.

Dan and Joann Messina, married for almost 15 years, are owners of Southwest Auto Tow of Dallas, TX. Southwest Auto Tow has over 900 customers within a 50 mile radius in the Dallas metro area. They are both Executive and Founding Board members of the Southwest Tow Operators. Dan serves as President and Joann serves as Treasurer of the association. Southwest Tow Operators is a professional towing association serving the towing and vehicle storage industry in Texas and with partnerships with other associations in surrounding states. They have been instrumental in the phenomenal growth of the association from 40 members to currently over 700 strong. Joann also serves on the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation Towing and Storage Advisory Board.

The Southwest Tow Operators is very proud of Dan and Joann Messina of receiving this major award and would like to compliment them on their deserved recognition for their exhausting work they have done on behalf of the towing and vehicle storage industry. Their leadership is to be commended.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rewards Increased to $20,000 for Information on NY Tow Owner's Homicide

Kudos to the anonymous towing company that put up $10,000 of the reward. Here's the story from The Journal News:

GARRISON - New York State Crime Stoppers has increased its reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the Dec. 31 shooting death of tow-truck driver John Marcinak, who was found on the side of Route 9 in front of his business, the Garrison Garage.

Robert Keller, program director of the Yorktown-based New York State Crime Stoppers, said today that his organization has increased its reward to $10,000. Combined with a $10,000 reward put up by a Tarrytown towing company that wishes to remain anonymous, it brings the total reward money to $20,000.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-866-313-8477. All callers may remain anonymous. Tips may also be given to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 845-225-4300, and callers can also remain anonymous, police said.

Marcinak. a 49-year-old father of three, was found unresponsive in front of his Garrison Garage at 1627 Route 9 around 12:15 p.m. on Dec. 31. It snowed that morning and he had returned from an accident on Route 9 in Westchester County with a small silver sedan on the back of his flatbed tow truck when passing motorists called police to report seeing a man on the ground.

Emergency responders, including Marcinak's fellow members of the Garrison Fire Department, initially believed he was struck by a hit-and-run motorist. They rushed him to the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt, where he died. Doctors determined that he was shot several times, launching an intensive investigation by the Putnam County Sheriff's Office that continued today.

Sheriff Donald B. Smith said his investigators are being assisted by the Putnam County District Attorney's Office as well as several surrounding police agencies.

"Every tip is being checked out and every possible lead or clue is being investigated," Smith said.

Crime Stoppers is a not-for-profit organization formed to assist law enforcement throughout the state by offering rewards for information about particular crimes, Keller said. It works closely with law enforcement. The $10,000 Crime Stoppers is offered was made in cooperation with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.

New York State Crime Stoppers policy allows for a reward limit of up to $2,500. But the reward in the Marcinak case was increased thanks to anonymous private donations, Keller said.

"We would like to publicly that those responsible for the donations that made this reward offering increase possible," he said.

Marcinak was a beloved member of the Garrison community known for doing favors for others and being involved in the lives of his three children.

Monday, January 12, 2009

NJ's "Move Over" Rule Advances to the Governor

Here's the story from Land Line Magazine:

A practice followed by professional truck drivers for decades could soon become law for all drivers in New Jersey. The legislation is designed to protect emergency personnel during roadside stops.

New Jersey law already requires motorists to yield the right-of-way when an ambulance, police vehicle or fire truck is approaching with lights and sirens activated. A bill on its way to Gov. Jon Corzine’s desk is designed to protect emergency personnel and certain other vehicles that are alongside the road with their lights flashing.

The Assembly and Senate endorsed the measure, which would require drivers to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles, tow trucks or highway maintenance vehicles that are parked by the road with their lights flashing.

Dubbed the “Move Over Act,” the bill – S180 – would require drivers to merge into a lane farther away from emergency vehicles, tow trucks or highway maintenance vehicles, if practical. On two-lane highways, drivers would be required to reduce speed before passing.

Failure to obey the rule would result in up to $500 fines.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 40 states have implemented similar safety zone rules.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

S. African Tow Truck Operators' Good Deed For Kids

Interesting story about an event in support of abandoned and abused South African children that was organized by tow truck business owners in and around Soweto. Here's the story from the Sowetan-News:

Children from the Orlando Children’s Home in Soweto had a warm start to the new year this week, as they took to the skies in a microlight aircraft.

The event was organised by tow truck business owners in and around Soweto with the aim of showing support to abandoned and abused children of South Africa.

Phillip Tsoaela, event organiser and spokesperson for the Bambanani Towing Association, said: "The reason we’re doing this today is that we realize that kids need our support".

He said another important aim was to make the children understand that the key to success is education. He said: "We must encourage them and make them aware that education is something that no one will ever take from their hands".

The day began quite early in the morning for the children as they drove to the Johannesburg Microlight Academy in Alberton in a convoy of tow trucks of all shapes and sizes.

The lucky kids, ranging in age from 6 to 18, were treated to breath-taking flights in a microlight aircraft by renowned instructor, Marc Gregson.

Although many of the kids were initially scared as they had never been in or even seen a microlight aircraft close-up before, they couldn’t contain their excitement and exhilaration as they climbed off the aircraft.

Still trembling from excitement, Mpho Tshabalala admitted to being petrified before taking to flight, but says she thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would do it again if she could. She says: "You know, I was scared in the beginning but it was nice".

Bongani Motlounyane’s pre-flight jitters were especially present when the aircraft took off from the ground, but says the experience was worth it.

A care worker at Orlando Children’s Home, Thandeka Hlakula, commented: "The kids are very happy because many have never been on anything of this sort. They are quite excited and I wish that what has been done for these children would be done for others as well".

Hlakula said they were very happy because the kids have seen that there are people who love them.

"It’s not that because they are in a place of safety they have been abandoned. So they have hope that one day they will be taken in by the society and become ordinary members of the community," she said.

Mofolo central tow truck business owner Charlie said: "I’m very proud of what is happening here today and am glad I could contribute to making the kids dreams come true".

Phillip Tsoaela, who originally came up with the idea, said he is looking to expand the initiative to bring other kids and vulnerable groups in the community some sunshine.

He says: "We’re looking at taking this initiative further by bringing another group of kids to the academy to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity, but also to visit some old age homes and take the grannies and grandpa’s to the zoo for picnic."

Tsoaele says: "When I came up with the idea others couldn’t believe it, and at least now they can believe it. They were all happy. The kids were happy, the [business owners] were happy, I’m very happy also".

IL Man Charged With Felony For Attacking Tow Truck

Here's the Aurora Beacon News story:

Michael Sauber, 42, of the 200 block of Hidden Creek Lane, North Aurora, was charged with felony criminal damage to property and misdemeanor aggravated assault after he went after a tow truck driver who was hauling his car away from the 200 block of Hidden Creek Lane at 5:25 p.m. Tuesday, the Kane County state's attorney's office said.

The truck driver said he saw the car parked for 10 to 20 minutes so he hooked it up to the tow truck, prosecutors said. Sauber came out and threatened to kill the driver if he towed the car, prosecutors said. Sauber then came out with a shovel and hit the side of the tow truck, causing $1,000 in damage, before the tow truck sped away, prosecutors said.

Canadian Tow Truck Driver Rescues Elderly Man

Round of applause for tow truck driver Brad Bath! Here's the story:

A 75-year-old man is lucky to be alive following a brave early morning rescue by a tow truck driver.

The elderly gentleman, who suffers from Alzheimer's, was reported missing from his home near Van Horne and Warden at about 2:30am Thursday. His wife woke up to find her husband gone, the front door open, and his coat still in the closet. Frightened for his safety, and having no idea where he was, she contacted police.

Four hours later, after travelling about four kilometres along Warden, he had managed to make his way onto Highway 401 and was about to dash across the live lanes, a prospect that could have resulted in him being struck and possibly killed.

However, the tow truck driver saw what the man was about to do and came to his aid, preventing him from crossing Canada's busiest highway.

"He was about to dart into a live lane of traffic," driver Brad Bath reveals in a CityNews exclusive interview. "I blocked him with the truck and kept talking to him until the police got there."

The driver added, "If I wasnt there he could have run into a tractor trailer. Traffic (was) still pretty heavy at the time."

His heroic actions likely saved the man's life. The driver also managed to keep the senior from travelling any farther away from home, and stayed on the line with 911 operators to ensure the man was going to be okay.

On a very chilly winter night, he wasn't even wearing a coat, just his pajamas and coveralls.

"Walking out here I was very cold, can just imagine how cold he was," said one officer at the scene.

Police escorted him back home to his relieved family, and he's now doing fine.

This isn't the first time this kind of situation has cropped up.

"Wandering is very common. With someone with Alzheimer's disease, and that's because of what changes happen in the brain. It is something that is very common, but very distressing, and it can be upsetting for the person, but also of course for the family," explains Mary Schulz of the Alzheimer Society.

But patients and their families now have a resource to prepare for these kinds of emergencies. They can sign up for a service called Safely Home.

For a one-time fee of $35, the person will be registered in a database with relevant information to help authorities find them sooner if they wander off.

Schulz explains, "They register to wear a bracelet and the bracelet helps us to put information about them in a database, that the RCMP and police across the country can access if someone becomes lost."

Find out more here.

The Other Side Of The Predatory Towing Story: Too Much Illegal Parking in Asheville, NC

Now here's an opinion column not likely to make it to the blogs about "predatory towing." Kudos to author Karen Ramshaw for her well-written story in the Asheville Citizen-Times:
We can all agree that it is miserable to be towed. The stories and letters featured in this paper amply illustrate the frustration and anger of folks who have had this experience. One piece of the story seems to be missing, however. The vast majority of vehicles that get towed were parked illegally – on private property – that was properly signed. The criminals who illegally towed vehicles are the exception, not the rule. We tow because you are either trespassing in a residential lot or you are parked in a space that someone else is paying for.

As much as I dislike responding to angry people who disregarded the signs and were towed, it is much better than taking a call from a hysterical young tenant who had to park a few blocks away one night because her lot was full of hockey fans who didn’t want to pay for parking. She was accosted by a drunk on her walk back to her apartment. I had been reluctant to tow, but that changed. I now manage two residential lots – one used primarily by handicapped elderly people and the other by apartment residents. They have rights, too. You don’t want to come home and find strangers in your driveway; neither do they.

Plainly marked signs

We also manage two lots which combine monthly reserved parking for permit holders and daily parking. We spend thousands on signage each year in an attempt to keep people from being towed. In our large lot across from Barley’s, if you accidentally park in a monthly space and try to pay at the machine, the screen states “Stall Reserved, Tow Away Zone, Move Your Car Now.” It is difficult to get much clearer. We offer monthly spaces because employees need a place to park. These are the folks who work in the businesses that brought you downtown and they cannot afford to pay for parking they can’t access. When a line cook pulls into the lot at 3:45p.m., he is entitled to the space he pays for. We make a lot more money from our daily spaces than our monthly spaces and have considered getting rid of monthly parking entirely, but as members of the downtown community, we feel some obligation to the people who make downtown worth visiting.

City’s failings

Local government has not kept up with parking demand and there are parking deficits in many areas of our downtown. The lack of parking contributes to the towing problem as people get frustrated searching for a legal space to park and then “take a chance” and hope they won’t get towed. We call this parking roulette – do you feel lucky?

There are a lot of complaints about the high cost of being towed. It is very expensive to be towed in Asheville and the city’s own actions raised the towing fees. Prior to the city’s ordinance, the towing company I use charged $80. The ordinance increased the cost of doing business for tow companies and the fee almost doubled. We do not receive any part of the tow fee, but depend on the tow company to ensure that downtown residents and employees have access to the parking they pay for. Most downtown tow drivers are just doing their job, albeit an unpleasant one. The city passed its new ordinance without getting input from private lot owners, tow companies, their own parking director or downtown residents and employees. In one of the lots I manage, I was actually forced to decrease the size of my signs.

Time for change

The parking situation in downtown Asheville is not good and more needs to be done. Perhaps one positive result from the press on this situation will be that those long-promised meetings with the city will finally happen and a more workable solution to the parking and towing problems can be found. In the meantime, please look before you park. The space you take may belong to an elderly downtown resident on oxygen or a young woman in her first apartment or a guy making $7 an hour trying to get to his night job so he can pay rent. If the sign next to that oddly empty but very convenient parking space says “Towing Enforced,”expect your car to be gone and have your money ready. It would be better to take a few minutes and park legally – there are much better ways to spend $150.

Karen Ramshaw is the vice president of Public Interest Projects, a local investment/development company. She grew up in Asheville, lives in a downtown apartment and has a parking space in a surface lot two blocks from her home.

Child Towed Away With Van in CO

Here's the 1/8/09 report from MyFox Colorado:
JEFFERSON COUNTY - Lakewood police are considering charges against the parents of a 5-year-old girl who was left sleeping in their van Tuesday night.

That van was then towed to Denver with the child inside.

Skyline Towing took the van from the Harlan Hills Apartments at 1679 Harlan St. to its impound lot at 3800 Wynkoop St.

The family had been visiting a cousin and parked in the lot--which requires a parking permit. They didn't want to wake their 5-year-old daughter, so they left her sleeping inside the van.

"They went to get bread for coffee," says David Meraz, cousin of the girl's mother.

The husband had left for a few minutes. And when his wife looked outside-- she didn't see the van. But she figured her husband took it. It wasn't until he got back that their hearts dropped.

"She ‘asked here is the van?’ Her husband said, 'I don't know. Did someone move it?' It wasn't there. The mom got so scared," says Meraz.

"We received a phone call from the parents, telling us their vehicle was gone and their daughter had been inside the vehicle when it was taken. They had no idea it had been towed," says Steve Davis with Lakewood Police.

"I've never had this happen to me. I've been towing cars since 1976," says the tow truck driver Mike Weihrouch.

He did a cursory check at the apartments, flashing a light through the windows, which he says have an extreme tint. But he didn't see the girl. She was laying down under a blanket in the last row of the minivan.

It wasn't until he got back to Denver he found the stowaway.

"All of a sudden out of the backseat, her head pops up. And I had to look at it 3 times before I realized it was a small child. I just freaked out," says Weihrouch. Police say all ended well. But it might not have.

"It is never a good idea to leave a child unattended in a car, whether it's running or not, whether it's hot or cold out, whether it's daytime or nighttime. It makes no difference," says Davis. He says the child was in the van for over an hour by the time the family was reunited at the Lakewood Police Department.

"We could have had a totally different ending to this story and the good news is she's okay. She's back home with mom and dad. We can go on from here," he says.

Police say the parents face potential child abuse or child neglect charges.

The family's cousin says they are good parents and they deeply regret what happened.

Man Charged In AL Repo Man's Shooting Death

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of repo manJason McClendon, who was shoot and killed on Thursday, Jan. 8. According to comments following the Birmingham News story, there is a memorial fund that has been set up for his wife and daughter.

The Jason McClendon Memorial Fund
HomeTown Bank
P.O. Box 1104
Pinson AL 35126

for walk-ins, it's HomeTown Bank, 6840 Hwy 79, Pinson AL 35126

Here's the Birmingham News story:

Birmingham police today identified the suspect charged in Thursday's slaying of a man while he tried to repossess a car.

Reginald Jackson, 27, of Birmingham, is charged with capital murder. He is being held without bond in the Jefferson County Jail.

Authorities say Jackson fatally shot Jason Lee McLendon after McLendon had attempted to tow a car parked at an apartment complex on 19th Court North.

McLendon went to the apartment with a co-worker about 1:40 a.m. and backed a tow truck up to the car, police said. The car owner, along with Jackson, his brother, confronted McLendon. A gun was pulled, and McLendon and his co-worker left. As they drove off, Jackson fired a single shot, striking McLendon in the back of the head, police said. He was pronounced dead at 2:05 a.m.,

Jackson later turned himself into police, saying he thought he fired into the air and didn't mean to hurt McClendon.

Jackson is charged with capital murder because he killed someone while firing into an occupied vehicle.

"No Insurance" Towing Filling Dallas, TX Impound Lots

Here's the CBS 11 TV story:

Drivers be warned! Dallas police are on the lookout for a different kind of offender – those driving without insurance.

A new city ordinance mandates that cars be towed as a consequence for no coverage. The ordinance has been in effect for nine days and police are already calling it successful.

Among the cars in the City of Dallas impound lots are those that were brought in because the driver didn't have insurance. In fact, in just the first nine days of the New Year, Dallas police said they towed 256 cars and that another 56 we're towed from accident sites.

Saturday was another busy day at the impound lots, where there was no shortage of people coming to claim their cars.

The new uninsured motorist ordinance makes it mandatory to at least have liability auto coverage. If uninsured drivers in Dallas are pulled over, or get into an accident, their cars can be impounded with no questions asked.

Most drivers who spoke to CBS 11 News said it's an expensive lesson learned and one they wish they could have avoided. "I didn't know it [the ordinance] was going to be enforced like that," said driver Demond Graves. "I heard it a couple times on the news but I didn't know it's was gonna be all like that."

Andrew Delara was among those busted for driving without insurance. "I was going to get insurance today, but they beat me to it!" he said.

Enforcement of the new ordinance has caught many off guard. "I'm sure some are still surprised when it happens to them, because it is something new," explained Lt. Andy Harvey with the Dallas Police Department.

Drivers are not only responsible for the cost of the tow, but also receive a $350 fine and are charged $20 a day, for every day their car is kept at the impound lot. The average cost of basic liability coverage is $36 a month.

The new ordinance could be making a difference. One North Texas insurance agent said she has seen an increase in the number of drivers getting policies since the end of last year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

And While We're On The Subject Of Predatory Towing... Gun Pulled On TN Tow Truck Driver

Here's the WRCB Channel 3 story: Click the link to watch the video at

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - A Brainerd business owner says he was rattled when he saw a man pull a gun on a tow truck operator.

Jeff and Beverly Whitley own business property on Brainerd Road. They hired a towing company to remove cars parked illegally on their property. They say a man tried to stop the truck driver from towing a car. They say the man told the driver to stop, pulled a gun, then told him he was a police officer. Whitley's wife called 911.

"It was apparent to those on the scene who got near the officer that he had been drinking he smelled of alcohol," said Beverly Whitley.

The Whitleys say when police arrived, the man they called the off-duty police officer left the scene and the officers handling the matter told them if they needed him they knew where to find him.

Chattanooga Police wouldn't say anything about the matter, but did confirm that they're doing a fact finding investigation involving officer Phillip McClain.

The Christian Science Monitor Weighs In on Predatory Towing

Kudos to Christian Science Monitor staff writer Patrik Jonsson for one of the better, more-balanced stories about the so-called issue of "predatory towing." Though his creative use of adjectives in the lead paragraph seems to start the story off with a bias against private property towers, I was glad to read that Jonsson did go further than most writers. In addition to industry expert Tom Luciano, Jonsson interviewed a professor from the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago who pointed out other factors, including people who like to try to "beat the system."

Here's the story:

In Orlando, Fla., one brazen tow truck driver openly flaunts his aggressive towing style, using proceeds from questionable yanks to fund a personal fleet of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

On Christmas Eve in Palm Desert, Calif., police arrested three tow truck drivers after an investigation "revealed that the towing service was committing auto thefts and extortion under the guise of legitimate tows," according to the arrest report.

And in late December, Asheville, N.C., police caught two drivers red-handed when they yanked a decoy vehicle from a pay-to-park lot as cameras rolled in a nearby police surveillance van.

Hitching onto the insular, cash-driven and lightly regulated tow truck industry, dozens of communities from Asheville to Davenport, Iowa to Fairview Ore., are exposing a shadowy and controversial front in the parking wars.

Taken together, recent headlines from around the country offer a glimpse into the nebulous underworld of "predatory towing" where risk-taking parking scofflaws share some of the blame with wildcatting tow truck drivers.

But the tension is building as downtown congestion grows, the troubled economy puts pressure on tow companies' cash flow, and what drivers see as their rights increasingly conflict – all summed up by that sinking feeling of perusing a parking lot for a car that is no longer there.

"There are tow companies out there that are becoming more and more visible, out there hijacking cars," says Ron Smith, of Houston-based Compiled Logic, which tracks "non-consensual tows." "Space gets short, communities expand, parking becomes premium, and people ... set up places and try to pull vehicles."

After largely deregulating the towing industry in 1996, Congress tried to address the excesses starting in 2005, when a clause in the federal highway bill gave states and municipalities greater authority to oversee local towing practices.

That led to a tough new law in California that mandates large signage, no cash-only requirements, and no fee if a driver reaches the lot before the tow truck driver has left. A similar New York law went into effect in October, outlawing "kickbacks" from towing companies to property owners for allowing them to tow cars at will from their lots.

Now, with some 30,000 nonconsensual tows taking place in the US each day – most legal, but many not – dozens of communities are also taking advantage of the 2005 law. New ordinances address the chief complaints from drivers: lack of reliable signage, egregious towing and impound fees, and cash-only policies.

"We know that there are some illegal and unethical practices going on," says Captain Tim Splain of the Asheville Police Department. "If you can yank 12 or 14 cars a night at $150 a pop, that's a pretty lucrative proposition."

A growing issue in many cities

Indeed, predatory towing – or "private lot towing," as the towing industry prefers to call it – has become a huge issue in destination cities like Asheville and Davenport, Iowa, detailed in lengthy letters to the editor and debated, often hotly, on Internet comment boards.

"In today's marketing world, wary customers rely on word of mouth more than any other medium, and if we become known as a city that is tow-happy it could greatly affect our visitation numbers," says Kelly Miller, the president of the local Chamber of Commerce and a recently appointed city councilor in Asheville. "There's got to be a better mousetrap to handle all this stuff."

Moreover, critics say tow truck operators tend to focus on areas where there are lots of students and immigrants – people less likely to squawk and more likely to pay up. John Hoff, a Minneapolis author and chief blogger at the TowingUtopia web site, says the trend is worrisome because it tends to affect the poor more than the rich. Equally disturbing to many drivers: A quarter of all towed cars are never claimed – often because they can't be found because of jurisdictional issues and a lack of transparency in the system.

"A couple of days in jail in some ways is less harmful, less of an intrusion on your liberty, than taking your car away," says Mr. Hoff. "There's this huge lack of regulation and really anybody with a hook and a truck can try their hand at this kind of thing and get away with it."

Just ask Dean Middleton. A dental assistant in Asheville, Mr. Middleton recently left his 1987 Ford Ranger at a downtown lot after, he says, receiving permission from the property owner. When he returned, the car was gone. A week later, he found his truck parked at the back of a field. He suspects the truck operator was waiting to take possession of it under state forfeiture laws and sell it either at auction or for scrap. "I felt like someone was trying to steal something from me," says Middleton.

But if industry deregulation has played a role in this cat and mouse game, so have social forces and lack of preparation for an onslaught of vehicles into smaller cities trying to become residential and business hubs, says Siim Soot, of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Often, the only way to minimize the congestion problem is to tow vehicles," says Professor Soot. "And there's a little bit of gamesmanship here where you can try to park and sort of beat the system by being there long enough so that you can conduct business, but not so long so someone can tow the vehicle. Some people are just willing to take the risk."

Tow drivers say they're scapegoats

Indeed, many tow truck operators say they're simply scapegoats for a more insidious problem caused by city officials failing to anticipate public parking needs – or trying to profit from high parking fees. Already beset by rising insurance premiums, high equipment costs, and low motor club reimbursement rates, they sometimes have to literally fight to make a living. That's one reason why the number of tow truck operations has gone from 130,000 to 30,000 in the last two decades.

"What makes a lot of operators so hard to deal with and so tough is because people want to fight all the time – nobody is happy to get their car towed," says Tom Luciano, a towing industry consultant in Pottersville, New York.

In Davenport, tow truck company owner Dan Wallace has been called a jackal and a vulture on TV – by the mayor of the city, no less. His crime? Aggressively patrolling an apartment building parking lot managed by Susan Graham, who says Mr. Wallace is "doing an awesome job" protecting her tenants' parking spaces.

"The city has issued too many business licenses and too much residential occupancy for the amount of parking available," says Wallace. "So people take a chance."

Defending his practice of stationing a tow truck downtown to patrol the parking lot, Wallace says, "It's no different than a speed trap or a red light camera."