Monday, February 23, 2009

TRAA Opens Legal Action Account

In his President's Message in the Jan/Feb edition of the Towing and Recovery Association of America newsletter, President Sam Brewer announced the opening of a Legal Action bank account.

The Board voted to open the account during the Fall meeting in Chattanooga. The fund is to be used for the support of issues that arise and threaten the best interests of the towing and recovery industry. It was opened with $10,000 and member contributions will be added.

Brewer wrote: "With this growing fund we will have the revenue needed to move forward with issues that our Legislative Committee and counsel recommend we pursue, and we can do so without having to consider special assessments or other means to raise the necessary money."

The Legal Action fund is separate from the existing Political Action Fund, which is used to support political entities that support the towing industry.

Support the WTRAA Scholarship Fund

Show your support for the industry while contributing to the Women of the Towing & Recovery Association of America's Scholarship Fund by purchasing a safety green magnetic ribbon from AWDirect. The ribbon has the message "I Support the Towing Community" and $1 from the sale of each ribbon goes to the Scholarship Fund. Visit the AWDirect site at

2008 WTRAA Tow Woman of the Year

Congrats to Mary Weber, the Women of the Towing and Recovery Association of America's 2008 Woman of the Year! Weber was honored during the American Towman's Exposition Captains of the Industry Dinner in Baltimore on Nov. 20.

The award is given annually to a WTRAA member who makes a difference in her community, in her family, her business and for the betterment of the towing industry through her state and national associations.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chimp Killed After Mauling Woman in CT

Sometimes, searching the term "tow truck" brings up some bizarre news. Here's some from the Connecticut Post:

STAMFORD -- A 200-pound pet chimpanzee known for TV commercials and riding around Stamford in a tow truck mauled a 55-year-old city woman Monday in a Rock Rimmon Road driveway.

Injuries to the woman, Charla Nash, are "life-changing, if not life-threatening," Mayor Dannel Malloy said. The chimp brutally attacked her face and hands in particular, police said.

Sandra Herold, 70, owner of the chimpanzee, took a butcher knife from the house when she saw her pet attacking her friend, and stabbed the animal several times.

The 14-year-old chimp, Travis, backed off but returned when police arrived. Officers took cover in their cruiser but, when the chimp tried to open the door, an officer shot him. The chimp retreated to the house and died there.

The chimp attacked Nash near her car, though police said it's not known why. Nash went to Herold's home to help her coax the chimp back into the house, police said.

"It was a very serious attack. She suffered a tremendous loss of blood, terrible facial injuries, body injuries and hand injuries," Capt. Richard Conklin said.

Herold was treated for unknown injuries. A police officer was treated for "shock and trauma," Conklin said.

Travis was known in Stamford for years because he rode around in trucks belonging to Herold's towing company, Desire Me Motors in Stamford.

"This animal was raised as a family member," Malloy said at a news conference Monday night at police headquarters, attended by dozens of reporters. "The owner, if she was here, would be speaking of the chimpanzee as her child."

The attack occurred in the driveway outside Herold's home on Rock Rimmon Road. Police said the chimp became agitated sometime before the attack and the owner gave him tea with Xanax, a prescription drug used to treat panic and anxiety disorders, to calm him.

Instead, Travis grabbed Herold's keys, let himself out of the house and began banging on cars in the driveway, police said.

Herold called Nash, who was attacked when she got out of her car.

"The chimpanzee exited the house and for some reason, we don't know what triggered it, and attacked the visitor," Conklin said. "It was a very extreme attack, a very brutal attack."

Herold saw what was happening, called 911 at 3:44 p.m., and grabbed a butcher knife. She stabbed the chimp a number of times, Conklin said.

After he was stabbed, Travis wandered around the yard, police said.

When police arrived to protect emergency medical workers, Travis reappeared and officers retreated to their vehicles, Conklin said.

Travis, known for liking police officers, tried to open the passenger door of a cruiser, smashing the side-view mirror. When he couldn't get it open, the chimp went around to the driver's-side door and opened it, Conklin said. The officer in the cruiser shot the animal.

"He had no choice but to pull his pistol and fire several rounds," Conklin said.

Conklin said the chimp was shot in the upper torso, then fled. Officers followed a trail of blood into the house to Travis' living quarters, a room filled with ropes and a "zoo-like cage," Conklin said. The chimp was dead there, he said.

Herold's friend, Don Mecca, of Port Chester, N.Y., said he was wary of the chimp.

"They're pretty calm ... but they will get you one way or the other" if they are angered, Mecca said.

Many Stamford residents know Travis for an incident in October 2003, when the chimp jumped out of an SUV in which he was riding with Herold and her late husband, Jerome.

The incident occurred after a young man threw something at the SUV that went through a half-open window and struck Travis while they were stopped at a traffic light. Startled, Travis unbuckled his seat belt, opened the SUV door and went after the man, but did not catch him.

Travis then played at the busy Tresser Boulevard intersection for about two hours. Each time they lured him into the SUV, he got back out by opening the door before they could lock it. The same thing happened when they tried to get Travis into the back of a police cruiser. At one point the chimp chased officers around a police car parked on Tresser Boulevard. Police finally forced him back into the SUV.

It is not illegal to own an exotic pet in Connecticut, but a law requires new owners to have permits. The law was not retroactive and so did not apply to the Herolds.

As The Advocate of Stamford has reported, the chimp was toilet trained, dressed himself, took his own bath, ate at the table and drank wine from a stemmed glass. He brushed his teeth using a Water Pik, logged onto a computer to look at pictures, and watched television using a remote control.

The Herolds got Travis when he was 3 days old.

When he was younger, Travis appeared on TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola, made an appearance on the "Maury Povich Show" and took part in a television pilot.

Through the Herolds' towing business, the chimp got to know several police officers. During the incident at the downtown intersection, Travis thought the officers who tried to contain him were playing, the owner said at the time.

The brutal mauling garnered national attention, drawing dozens of television crews to the Stamford Police Department for a press conference Monday evening. Conklin is slated to appear on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday morning.

Conklin said police will investigate the shooting and possible violation of animal laws.

"We truly hope there's is no violation of laws to compound this tragedy," Chief Brent Larabbee said.

Crazy Wreck and Recovery

From the Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, CO:

Wrecked van pulled from Red Canyon

Lead Image

Christopher Tomlinson

A 260-ton crane from Girardi's Towing set up on Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument pulls a van out of Red Canyon on Thursday. The van went off the road Jan. 21 and landed on a rock ledge 120 feet below the roadway and 180 feet above the canyon floor. Traffic between the east entrance to the monument and the turnoff to DS Road was stopped for about an hour while the crane was en route to the removal site. SLIDE SHOW, VIDEO

Monday, February 16, 2009

Back On The Road Winner To Be Announced At MATS on March 20

Here's part of the press release:

Arrow Truck Sales to Announce Winner of Back On The Road™ 2009 at Mid America Truck Show
Aaron Tippin will hold autograph signing at Arrow booth
KANSAS CITY, MO. – A truck, a job and a new beginning await the winner of Arrow’s Back On The RoadTM 2009 campaign, presented by Volvo Trucks North America. The winner’s journey begins on March 20, at the Mid America Truck Show (MATS) in Louisville, Ky. Arrow Truck Sales will host the winner announcement ceremony at 11:00 a.m. in South Wing Lobby C, booth 45500, of the Kentucky Expo Center.

Country music star Aaron Tippin, radio personality Bill Mack from Sirius XM Radio, Back On The Road™ 2008 winner Don Turkelson and others will join Arrow for the event, which is open to the public.

“Our winner announcement ceremony is the culmination of a long process to find one deserving person in need of a truck and a job,” said Carl Heikel, CEO of Arrow Truck Sales. “It is the beginning of a year-long journey for our winner and we are proud to provide this great opportunity.”

During the ceremony, the winner will receive a 2006 Volvo VNL 670, courtesy of Volvo Trucks North America, a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express and other great products and services.

Tippin, who joined Back On The Road this year after hearing about the campaign, will sign autographs and meet with fans on March 21 at Arrow’s booth (#32320) from 11:00 a.m. to noon. Aaron’s new album, In Overdrive, which is dedicated to truckers, was released in February 2009.

“Participating in Back On The Road has been a very rewarding experience,” said Tippin. “I’ve met some wonderful folks as part of the selection committee and I look forward to meeting more great people at MATS.”

Now in its second year, Arrow’s Back On The Road™ is an initiative designed to benefit a deserving trucker in need of a truck and a job. People were encouraged to submit stories about deserving friends, family members, associates and even themselves for this opportunity of a lifetime.

In addition to the truck and work agreement, the winner of Back On The RoadTM receives:

  • TriPac auxiliary power unit courtesy of Thermo King
  • X One® tires courtesy of Michelin
  • Business consulting tools courtesy of ATBS
  • Insurance provided by the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA)
  • A 3-year / 300K mile warranty from National Truck Protection, Inc.
  • Monthly $500 fuel cards courtesy of Pilot Travel Centers
  • One year’s worth of filter products courtesy of Genuine Volvo Parts
  • Truck accessories and fenders courtesy of Minimizer products
  • One year’s worth of oil changes courtesy of Chevron
For more information on Back On The RoadTM 2009, please visit

Couldn't Resist A Little Winter Humor...

Hundreds attend global warming protest

Compiled Logic Announces General Availability of LTRS Owner Notification Service

Here's the press release from Business Wire:

New Service outsources electronic approach for towing operators to meet state guidelines for registered owner and lien holder notification

HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Compiled Logic (C:LOGIC), the leading provider of Towing Lifecycle Management solutions, today announced the general availability of LTRS, the first end-to-end, electronic approach for towing operators to meet state guidelines for registered owner and lien holder notification.

“Integration of LTRS into our systems and processes has allowed us to outsource all owner notification,” states S. Page Porter, CEO, A Tow, Inc. “The end result is a huge savings in time, money and I was able to refocus two full-time employees away from pushing stacks of paper around and back to the issues of my core business.”

Replacing manual processes, paper letters, faxes and stamps, LTRS is a fully outsourced, turnkey approach for owner notification. LTRS covers the entire notification process, including electronic retrieval of registered owner and lien holder information from state repositories (DMV/DOR). This information is then automatically merged into customized notification letters, mailed, electronically tracked through the USPS and available in a searchable online database. LTRS eliminates cumbersome paper storage and lowers the potential for legal challenges that result in lost storage revenue, exorbitant fines and license suspensions.

LTRS consists of two services that can be purchased together or independently.

  • LTRS Electronic Owner Retrieval Service – Provides electronic retrieval of owner and lien holder information from state Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)/Department of Revenue sources. LTRS will provide online access to up to 22 state DMV/DOR repositories.
  • LTRS Automated Mailing Service – merges, prints and mails customized owner notification letters through the United States Postal System. Delivery information is tracked electronically and archived in a searchable, online database to meet state document retention requirements.

“LTRS is the result of our efforts to enact state laws like Georgia House Bill 945,” states Lawrence Estes, CEO of Compiled Logic. “The towing industry and general public have a right to simple, timely method of notification and LTRS delivers for 10% of the cost of today’s process.”

LTRS is available directly from Compiled Logic or through a network of nationwide resellers, including state towing & storage associations, and directly through leading storage lot management software packages.

About Compiled Logic

C:LOGIC provides Vehicle Information-Sharing and Notification Services to people impacted by towing issues, including law enforcement agencies, state and local municipalities, the towing and storage, automotive, and insurance industries, and private citizens. As the leader in Towing Lifecycle Management solutions, C:LOGIC’s multi-jurisdictional solutions are used by major US metropolitan areas such as Houston, Atlanta, and Bernalillo County to provide the least disruptive, lowest risk answer to lowering towing management costs, providing effective industry compliance oversight and helping citizens locate missing or stolen vehicles. For more information, please contact us at 888-876-VINS (8476) or visit


Compiled Logic Corporation
Ron Smith, 281-451-0766

Congrats to CA's Doc's Towing on 50th Anniversary

Here's the Sierra Star story:

The men at Doc's have towed a boatload of vehicles over the 50 years the company has been in business. It started in 1959 when Leon Ginn, who had a Texaco station in Salinas, bought out the original Doc's.

"He had a truck with a blown engine and a vision," said Clifton Ginn, the second generation to run the company, which also has offices in Salinas and Los Banos. It was Clifton who brought Doc's Towing and Transport to the Mountain Area about three years ago.

He said, with tongue in cheek, "being the great outdoorsman that I am, I came to Bass Lake to do some camping and fell in love with the area."

Through "a friend of a friend of a friend," he found out that a local company was for sale, so he bought it, AAA contract and all.

The Oakhurst operation is huge, the third largest AAA territory in the state: it runs from Highway 41 at Road 200 to Yosemite to Highway 49 at the county line to Mammoth Pools and down in to Raymond.

So when AAA members call for emergency service in that territory, Doc's responds.

The local headquarters is on Highway 41 just before the Houndstooth Inn sign and is known for its waterfall out front. Out back, the trucks (with their rabbit logo and snazzy flame-decorated paint jobs) are ready and waiting. "We can tow everything from the smallest car to the largest truck," Ginn said, "there's nothing we can't do."

Doc's even does mobile battery testing and replacement.

The Oakhurst has eight full-time and one part-time driver, all of them certified by a company called WreckMaster that does training for the profession. In turn, Doc's is certified to do training for other companies, law enforcement and fire agencies on the best way to right propane trucks.

When a call comes in, Clifton said, he makes a judgment on sending out the appropriate truck and driver whether it's a jump start or a car over a cliff. He also goes out on calls.

When asked why the company has lasted so long, he said the reason is customer service and great employees. He has employees who have been with him for 20 years -- unusual in the business that takes its toll on families because of the 24/7 nature of the job.

Ginn said customer-appreciation events are in the planning stages to celebrate 50 years in business.

Doc's Towing and Transport, Oakhurst, (559) 683-7676 or (800) 449 DOCS.

CA Tow Case Defendant Asks For Continuance

Here's the story from the Morgan Hill Times:

A San Jose judge continued a case involving scores of criminal charges stemming from a tow truck scam so that one of the defendants can have an attorney present when the judge rules on his most recent motion for co-counsel.

Vincent Cardinalli Sr., 65, scrapped his defense attorney months ago to take up the effort himself. However, he submitted a motion to the court requesting advisory counsel, then changed him mind and requested co-counsel. At a Wednesday morning hearing, he then asked the presiding judge to grant a continuance so that one of his previous attorneys could be present in case the motion was granted. Though Superior Court Judge Vincent Chiarello gave a tentative ruling that would deny Cardinalli's request for co-counsel, advisory counsel or standby counsel, he postponed the case for six weeks until 11 a.m. March 25 in Department 43 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose, Deputy District Attorney Dale Lohman said.

"We just lost another six weeks," Lohman said, "only to have Mr. Cardinalli's attorney be told he's not going to be in the case."

If Chiarello does, in fact, deny the motion for co-counsel, Cardinalli will either represent himself as he initially chose or he will be assigned an attorney by the courts.

At a second hearing Wednesday afternoon, Cardinalli filed a request for a copy of a court file in excess of 1,000 pages, Lohman said. Since he gave her no notice, she did not know what the file contained or its relevance to the case.

A judge will rule on that request and another motion filed by Cardinalli petitioning for access to discovery items from another one of his former lawyers, 1:30 p.m. March 4 in Department 23 at the Hall of Justice.

A third hearing will be held 2 p.m. March 11 in Department 23 to set a date for the case's preliminary hearing. However, until the other issues are resolved, Lohman didn't think it likely that a date could be set.

"I'm still hoping we'll be assigned one judge," Lohman said. "We have all sorts of dates in front of all sorts of judges. When one of them is confronted with this ever-mounting pile of court dates and information, they throw up their hands and continue it."

Cardinalli, his son Paul Greer, 31 - formerly Vincent Cardinalli, Jr. - Greer's sister, Rosemary Ball, and her husband, Michael Ball, face 169 counts of conspiracy, perjury, forgery, attempted grand theft and other felony charges stemming from hundreds of lawsu its filed by Cardinalli and Greer in hopes of collecting towing and storage fees for their now defunct towing businesses.

The family is accused of knowingly suing motorists who previously had sold or donated cars years before they were towed, and in some cases they sued people who had never owned the vehicle at all, court documents allege.

Sheriff's Patrol Car & Tow Truck Collide in NY

MATTYDALE, N.Y. -- Multiple people are taken to the hospital after a sheriff's patrol car and tow-truck collide in Mattydale. Onondaga County 911 said it happened just before midnight at the intersection of Route 11 and Elbow Road.

Investigators are looking into how the crash happened.

The injuries suffered are only believed to be minor.

Seven of Nine Columbus, OH City Tow Truck Drivers Laid Off

Here's the NBC4i story:

By Denise Yost
Managing Editor,
Published: February 13, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio—City budget cuts continued Friday with another round of layoffs.

Seven of nine tow truck drivers with Columbus police have been laid off. Could their pink slips impact public safety?

The tow truck drivers are trained police drivers who are key to keeping evidence secure.

Columbus police tow truck drivers are trained to treat vehicles involved or around a crime scene as evidence. Now that seven of nine drivers will be cut, private tow truck drivers will have to be escorted by police officers to and from impound lots because of the vehicle evidence value.

The absence of the drivers also ties up officers who should be patrolling the streets, not escorting an empty vehicle.

In fact, according to Fraternal Order of Police President Jim Gilbert, there are five to ten vehicles a day involved in serious crimes that need police tow truck drivers.

In addition to the cuts, Sgt. Rich Weiner with Columbus police said city money will be lost because when a police cruiser breaks down, the division will have to pay a private tow truck company to pick them up.

Accused Shooter's Fate in GA Jury's Hands

Here's the story from the Gwinnett Daily Post:
LAWRENCEVILLE - Despite several hours of deliberation Friday afternoon, a jury couldn't decide whether Joe Lee Farris was the triggerman in a tow-truck driver's death two years ago in Norcross.

Superior Court Judge Ronnie Bachelor dismissed jurors for the weekend at

5 p.m. Friday. Deliberations are expected to resume Tuesday morning, following Presidents Day.

Farris, 43, of Carrollton, is accused of fatally shooting Olugbenga "Ken" Ikuesan, 47, in the driver's seat of his wrecker on May 9, 2007, near Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.

In closing statements Friday, lead prosecutor John Warr, Assistant District Attorney, told jurors Farris' alibi is "ridiculous" and shouldn't be taken seriously. Farris has claimed he knew the victim only in passing and wasn't in the area the night of the slaying.

Expert witnesses have testified that a bullet found lodged in Ikuesan's skull matched that of a 9mm found under Farris' porch in Carrollton. Following the shooting, Farris suddenly moved to the Carroll County city after 18 years in metro Atlanta, Warr said.

"I don't know what happened out there that night," Warr said. "We may never know ... only the defendant knows now."

Farris testified this week that Ikuesan wished to die - and was contracting his own killer - because he had terminal cancer. The victim's family called that preposterous, in that Ikuesan was never diagnosed with the disease, as an autopsy later proved.

Farris said the victim approached him about the paid killing but claimed he backed out.

Ikuesan, a Nigerian immigrant, had booked an itinerary for a trip home that was to start two days after his death, Warr said. Police found Nigerian currency in Farris' possession, which defense attorneys claim may have belonged to Farris' wife, who is also of Nigerian descent.

The motive for the killing, prosecutors say, was robbery.

Here's another story on this case.

Farewell, Friend.

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of Lou Fava who passed away on Friday, February 13. Here's the news release from the Garden State Towman's Association:

Towing & Recovery Legend Lou Fava passed away this morning. Lou was in the Towing & Recovery Industry for more than 55 years; he’s was known as the “Dean of Tow Men”, a cornerstone in the industry. Please join the GSTA Executive Board in extending your condolences to his family and friends. We’ll keep you updated with information as it comes into us; below is a copy of the obituary listing dates, times and locations of the service.

Fava, Louis G. Sr., of Ridge, formerly of North Bellmore, passed away on February 13, 2009 at the age of 83. Beloved husband of Amelia. Loving father of Teresa (William) Rouse, Philip (Rosemarie) and Louis, Jr. (Ellen). Cherished grandfather of Philip, Brianna, Joseph, Louis. Dear brother of Anna Urizzo and Mary Ferrigno and the late Elizabeth Forte and Charles Fava. Louis was a successful leader in the towing & recovery industry since 1954. He has gained worldwide recognition for his expertise with towing and equipment sales. Lou was often referred to as “Dean of Tow Men.” He has conducted towing clinics throughout the nation, traveling more than a million air miles. He was inducted into the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame in 1989. His admiration and respect for his industry and peers spoke in volumes to the type of man he was, with a helping hand and a smile, Lou was a cornerstone in his industry. Friends may call at the Bryant Funeral Home, Inc. 411 Old Town Rd. Setauket, LI. Visiting hours Sunday and Monday, 2-4 & 7-9 PM. Funeral mass Tuesday, 11 AM at St. Mark R.C. Church, Shoreham. Interment to follow at Calverton National Cemetery. Memorial donations, to Good Shepherd Hospice, 245 Old Country Rd., Melville, NY 11747, would be appreciated.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Remember: Wall of the Fallen Needs Your Help

On Sept. 9, 2006, the “Wall of the Fallen” statue and memorial wall were unveiled at the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 2007, the names of 94 men and women who lost their lives in the line of service in the towing and recovery industry were placed on the wall. Another 61 bronze name plaques were added in 2008.

This year, the ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 19. In order to gather a comprehensive list of towers who have died doing the job they loved, Ken Cruse, chairman of the Wall of the Fallen committee, has requested the help of the towing community.

Names of fallen towers should be submitted to the ITRHFM (International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame Museum), 3315 Broad Street, Chattanooga TN USA

37408. In order to ensure timely delivery of the bronze nameplates for the wall, please send in all names before July 1. Forms may be downloaded from the website There is no charge for this tribute.

For more information, please call 423-267-3132.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

One Month to 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

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dick's Gets Hip To Rt. 66

From IL's Herald News:
JOLIET -- Dick's wants kicks, too.

Dick Bartel, owner of Dick's Towing at 900 N. Broadway, saw the city commemorating the historic Route 66 with a special park across the street. And the adjacent Dairy Delite has Blues Brothers statues on its roof.

So Bartel decided to get into the act. He pulled two vintage vehicles from storage and had them hoisted to the top of a block building he owns on the southeastern edge of his property on the 900 block of Broadway, which was part of Route 66.

A 1949 Pontiac Chieftan and a 1941 International pickup truck are now perched on the roof with their tires hanging over the edge. Both vehicles were repainted, and the pickup was tricked out to look like a tow truck that is pulling the Chieftan.

"It really looks kind of cool," Bartel said.

The vehicles were lifted Tuesday by a rotator truck Bartel owns that can lift 50 tons. The Chieftan and the pickup were tied down Wednesday morning so there will be no mishaps on windy days.

Bartel, 68, is a lifelong resident of Joliet, and he grew up in and around the Route 66 corridor. He went to school at St. Mary's, ate snacks at the Donut Hut and bought Lionel trains at Emil and Ed's Hobby Shop. He said he loves the old history of the route and is happy to add to the hoopla.

Bartel said city officials, who are pushing a new tourism theme this year, were ecstatic when he told them about his plan.

This summer, Bartel said he will add to the building vintage signs and photos that his son, Dick K. Bartel, has collected through the years.

But the roadside attraction won't be complete until Bartel can locate some mannequins to drive the rooftop vehicles and a stuffed dog to hang its head out of the car window.

"We still have quite a bit we're going to do," Bartel said.

UT Tow Truck Operators Incensed Over Mandatory Notification

Here's the story from Standard.NET:
SALT LAKE CITY -- A room full of angry tow truck drivers hoped they put the boot on a bill that would require them to inform insurance companies when they have a vehicle on their lot.

There are two kinds of tows in the state. Public tows include vehicles from accidents or other police calls. Private tows include vehicles illegally parked at apartments or abandoned in parking lots.

House Bill 112, discussed Thursday in the House Transportation Committee, would require the companies to enter the vehicle information from a private tow into an existing state database already used when vehicles are publicly towed.

The problem is that, while towing companies are required to tell the title-owner they have the car, often an insurance company takes ownership of a vehicle during that time.

The insurance company then never gets notified and the vehicle stays on the tow lot for an extended period of time. The holding fees can get so high that they then are more than the value of vehicle.

"We're just saying, allow us the opportunity to find our cars," said Chris Purcell with State Farm Insurance. "If we don't find it, it's our problem for not looking on the database."

But tow truck owners took issue with not being brought in on the bill before it was presented.

"This has kind of blindsided us," said Steve Russell of Salt Lake Valley Towing.

Even if it takes just 5-10 minutes to enter, a few of those a day will start adding up. Towing representatives suggested perhaps being allowed to charge a fee to cover the cost of their time and members of the House Transportation Committee tended to agree.

"There ought to be some kind of adequate compensation for it," said Rep. Brent Wallis, R-Ogden.

The committee declined to take action on the bill, effectively allowing all sides to take a swing at a compromise.

Two Too Many Close Calls While Towing

Thankfully, these two tow truck drivers survived their incidents.
Here's the first from MN's Fergus Falls Daily Journal:

Until this past Saturday, Mitch Bock of A1 Anytime Towing and Recovery had never been involved in an accident in his 22 years as an emergency road service operator. His luck changed about 7 p.m. on Jan. 31.

“I’m fortunate that I wasn’t killed,” said Bock while recalling his AT truck being hit by the driver of a Mitsubishi Lancer along Interstate 94, north of WalMart. He’s been driving for A1 Anytime Towing for close to a year.

The driver struck Bock’s tow truck after just missing a state patrol vehicle that was stopped, with flashing lights, between WalMart and the railway overpass along the interstate and near the ethanol plant northwest of Fergus Falls.

Bock had been dispatched to the scene after a vehicle, experiencing icy roads, slid off the road and entered the median. The experienced Bock has often assisted in cases of breakdowns or collisions.

The driver of the Mitsubishi Lancer, an 18-year-old student of Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and native of Two Harbors, was cited by the State Highway Patrol with reckless driving. That driver, as with Bock, escaped injury.

Both the Lancer and tow truck were totaled. Visually, the Lancer took a real hit. Most of the damage to the tow truck took place to the underside of the emergency road service vehicle.

When Bock arrived at the scene, another vehicle had just been pulled from the ditch by Wayne’s Towing. The driver that struck Bock’s tow truck was eastbound, traveling from Moorhead toward Fergus Falls, along Interstate 94.

After the collision, a subsequent crash took place — with one car rear-ending another. The interstate was closed by the state highway patrol for two hours, with vehicles forced to take detours.

“People simply drive too fast and don’t slow down enough when they see flashing lights,” said Bock. Jon Opatz, who with his wife, Debra, owns A1 Anytime Towing and Recovery, agrees.

“Mitch is to be commended for the way he handled this incident, and we’re so very thankful that he wasn’t injured,” Opatz said. Opatz drives tow trucks along with Bock and a part-time employee, John Hanson.

Bock said he feels no ill will toward the driver of the Lancer, but feels the entire incident should be a wake-up call for Minnesota drivers. He commends the State Highway Patrol and other organizations who deliver safety presentations on a regular basis across the state.

Both Opatz and Bock feel that stiffer fines, and getting the word out about these new fines, might make drivers think twice about slowing down when they approach flashing lights along roadways.

Opatz said he’s appreciative of Beyer Towing, a competitor, coming to the assistance of Bock and the A1 Anytime Towing business following the accident along Interstate 94. Support from other towing businesses came to Opatz, in addition to Beyer Towing.

“Safety for everyone can and should be number one,” Bock said.

Tom Hintgen/Daily Journal

And the other from SC's WSOC TV:
On the ground, dazed, his head spinning, Chris Davidson could only think about his 2-year-old son."That's the only thought that was in my mind, what if something happened to me? What would that mean for him?" Davidson said.Davidson is a tow truck driver in Lancaster County. Thursday night, he was trying to tow a broken-down phone company truck on Doc Garris Road south of Lancaster.The Comporium Communications truck had stalled in the road. Two employees had placed orange warning cones nearby and were waving flags to alert passing drivers.As Davidson was under the stalled truck trying to attach his tow cable, he heard a frightening sound."Within a matter of second, I heard a bunch of screaming," he said.Then there was an impact."I felt something hit me on top of the head and just got slammed to the ground. At that point, it became just survival, just trying to get out from that truck as fast as I could," he said.Troopers said 76-year-old John Curry never hit the brakes but drove his pickup truck into the back of a trailer that was attached to the broken-down truck. He was thrown from his pickup and killed.Investigators don't believe Curry had a medical emergency. It's not clear why he never saw the truck in the road in front of him or the cones or the flagmen. The deputy coroner said it's possible the bright late afternoon sun was in his eyes, but officials just aren't sure."He was a loving father. He would do anything to help anyone," said Darrell Curry, John's son.He said his father drove those same back roads his whole life and would've seen the truck and the people in the road ahead of him. He can't understand how this happened."If you've got cones sitting out there, you've got a man with a flag, anybody could see that," Curry said.Moments after the crash, Davidson crawled from beneath the stalled truck. He suffered only a mild concussion.Now he's grateful to be alive but also hurts for Curry’s family."I think that's something I'll carry with me for the rest of my life," he said. "It takes a toll on you."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tow Truck Industry Rep Being Sought in Eastern MT

Here's the Great Falls Tribune story:
The state Department of Justice is seeking a representative of the tow truck industry from eastern Montana to serve on the Tow Truck Complaint Resolution Committee.

The Tow Truck Complaint Resolution Committee is made up of six representatives: two members from the tow truck industry, one member from the commercial motor carrier industry, one member from the insurance industry, one member from the public and one member from the Montana Highway Patrol.

The Committee reviews and resolves complaints involving tow truck issues. The term of membership on the committee will be three years.

Interested applicants should send their letters of application to: Montana Highway Patrol, Attn: Tow Truck Complaint Resolution Committee, 3615 Wynne Ave., Butte, MT 59701.

Letters of application should include the applicant's name, address and any qualifications the applicant believes are relevant to his or her ability to serve as a committee member. The deadline for applications is Feb. 6. Once the deadline for application has passed, Attorney General Steve Bullock will review the applications and make a final decision on committee membership.

For more information, call Montana Highway Patrol Captain Gary Becker at 406-533-6620 or assistant attorney general Kelley Hubbard at 406-444-2026.

Proposed OR Bill Would Ban "Patrol Towing" Statewide

Here's the AP news story from

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — State Rep. Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro, says he will introduce a bill this legislative session banning "patrol towing" contracts, which let towing companies cruise privately owned parking lots and tow vehicles they judge to be improperly parked.

It also would eliminate commissions for drivers based on how many cars they tow in favor of salary or hourly wages and require drivers to contact a property owner or manager before towing a vehicle from private property.

In Oregon towing companies can sign contracts with property owners for the exclusive right to patrol private lots and haul off improperly parked vehicles. Most drivers are paid on commission.

In Portland alone, tow-truck drivers seized 10,864 vehicles from private property last year and collected a minimum of $161 each time, not including storage fees.

A federal appeals court recently upheld the right of state and local governments in nine Western states to regulate towing. The ruling frees Washington state to enforce a ban that had been on the books but under a legal cloud since 1985.

Last month, the city of Fairview, north of Gresham, became the first jurisdiction in Oregon to outlaw patrol towing.

"To me, having drivers work on commission creates a conflict of interest," said Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby. "The person who decides whether to make a tow stands to gain financially if they do it or miss out financially if they don't. I don't see how you can get a good impartial decision that way."

Fairview Police Chief Ken Johnson supported the ban, noting that patrol towing sometimes produced dangerous confrontations, including one in which a car owner threatened a tow-truck driver with a shotgun.

Fairview now operates on a complaint-driven system.

Riley says he has heard so many patrol-towing horror stories that he wants a statewide solution.

"If there is a car they want to tow, they wouldn't just be able to hook up and go," said Riley, vice chairman of the House Consumer Protection Committee. "There may be reasons a car is in a place for a few minutes. If the management knows about it, OK."

The bill is being drafted by legislative counsel.

The last session passed bills letting local governments enact ordinances controlling towing practices and designating the attorney general's office to take complaints.

Gary Coe, who owns Portland-based Retriever Towing, said banning commissions for drivers would reduce efficiency.

"What right does the government have to tell me how I pay my people, whether hourly, salary or commission?" asked Coe, whose company has been in business for 33 years. "I pay my salespeople on commission. I pay my managers on commission. And I pay my drivers on commission. It creates an incentive-based system to perform."

Larry McFarland, manager of a company that manages 119 rental units on four properties, agreed.

"We're not a big company," said McFarland. "If we didn't have automatic service, we'd have to patrol the parking lots ourselves -- and that would be a lot of work."

Towing fees are rarely challenged.

But in the past year virtually all of the 75 that were in Portland alone were resolved in favor of the car owner, said Marian Gaylord, the city's tow coordinator. Those who win challenges say their cases illustrate how a bounty system can lead to abuse.

Last April Mike Meier, a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, parked in a handicapped-only spot outside a defunct restaurant, his parking permit hanging in the window.

He was towed anyway, by a company with an expired contract.

His story appeared in The Oregonian in September 2008 and was distributed across the Internet, generating multistate rage.

"I got my money back -- $194," said Meier, 43. "But more than that, what it's all about for me is those people who have had their cars incorrectly towed."