Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Judge Rules For OH Tow Truck Operator In Suit Against Cleveland

Here's the story from The Plain Dealer:
CLEVELAND — A tow truck operator who sued Cleveland claiming officials destroyed his business and trampled his name is one step closer to making the city pay.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin ruled Tuesday that Cleveland police violated Jose Rodriguez's rights when they searched his property, confiscated his entire fleet of tow trucks and arrested him on two separate occasions in July 2006 -- all without a warrant or probable cause.

Rodriguez is asking for at least $5 million as atonement for the series of events that sent him spiraling into financial ruin.

A city spokeswoman said Wednesday that the city's lawyers are prepared to counter Rodriguez's claims for damages.

Rodriguez was in the process of buying M&M Auto Body and Towing on Harvard Avenue when police arrested him based solely upon information from an anonymous source that Rodriguez had received stolen property.

Officers told the 37-year-old entrepreneur they were conducting an annual inspection. They roamed the property and examined vehicles in the impound lot, he said last year. Ten minutes later, Rodriguez was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.

Police said a 2004 Ford dump truck on his property didn't belong to Rodriguez, and they seized it along with four tow trucks. Rodriguez, who had never been arrested before, spent a weekend in jail before being released on $15,000 bail.

Police showed up again at M&M days later -- this time with news camera crews from three local television stations. Officers arrested him again for possession of criminal tools, including a floor jack, a tool chest and a welding torch. They seized the remaining tow trucks on the property, shutting down the company completely. Police refused to return Rodriguez's fleet in the months before his trial date.

When the case went to trial in January 2007, Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg acquitted Rodriguez because police could not provide evidence that he had knowingly received a stolen dump truck. Rodriguez provided titles and ownership documents proving that he believed he rightfully owned all the confiscated vehicles.

Synenberg ordered police to return the rest of his trucks immediately. But by then Rodriguez's business was in shambles, and he had lost a management job at a factory over the media frenzy that accompanied his second arrest.

Rodriguez filed his lawsuit in federal court in August.

"All he has ever wanted to do is make a living working hard and live a proper life," said Rodriguez's attorney, Edward LaRue, who also represented him during the criminal trial. "But that's been denied him by the actions of those empowered to serve and protect."

Rodriguez could not be reached to comment Wednesday.

Gwin dismissed some of the claims against the city, including that the police's conduct and disregard for due process were malicious and that officers intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Rodriguez.

But several issues remain for a jury to resolve. Among those are whether the city failed to properly train its police officers to obtain warrants and whether police routinely circumvent department policy and the law by using the label "administrative inspections" to describe warrantless searches.

Also, a jury will determine if the city was harassing and retaliating against Rodriguez when it denied his application for a city tow truck license and interfered with his state vehicle registration earlier this year.

The trial is scheduled to begin June 16.

MI Tow Hero Acclaimed For Roadside Assistance

Good story by writer Jeanne Kniaz on about MI tow truck driver Mike Thorpe:
Click here to read my post from last April about this.

Tow truck operator Mike Thorpe takes pride in having the expertise and equipment to serve those in need in most situations.
That being said, the service rendered by Thorpe on an April afternoon last year clearly transcended the scope of your typical roadside assistance, Memphis Police Chief Elena Danishevskaya believes.

"His deeds were a great act of heroism," she declared when advised that Thorpe had received an American Towman Medal for "The Simple Act of Bravery" -- an award for which she had nominated him.

Thorpe is the owner of Mike's Towing and Hauling in Yale. April 16, 2008 began like any other day but, in the blink of an eye, events unfolded that triggered disaster when a man opened fire on Capac Police Chief Raymond Hawks and St. Clair County Deputy Tim O'Boyle.

Prior to the commotion Thorpe, 41, had responded to a routine wrecker call but soon found himself in the midst of mayhem, dodging bullets wielded by a gunman.

Events erupted after Chief Hawks had chased a recklessly driven vehicle to a Capac residence at which point the driver, Donald Burke, 50, fled on foot and holed-up inside of his house.

Hawks then called for a wrecker to remove the suspect's car from the scene.

"We didn't think much of it. We just thought it was another routine job ...towing another vehicle abandoned for whatever reason. But, when we went to back up to that vehicle in that driveway, it turned out to be a whole thing that was anything but ordinary," Thorpe recollected.

As Thorpe sat inside his vehicle and conversed with the chief, who stood alongside the wrecker, the suspect suddenly emerged from the house and pointed a 22-caliber weapon in their direction. Shots rang out and Hawks, 65, was hit in the shoulder and the chest.

"He fell to the ground instantly and bullets were ringing through the truck. It took a couple shots to realize that bullets were actually being fired ... to realize that this was gunfire. He was shooting into the cab near the left side of my head and I heard ringing sounds and ricocheting noises from bullets. As I leaned to my right to get away from the noises the rearview mirror on the truck was actually showing (Burke) standing on his porch with a long-barreled rifle just shooting wildly down the road - what we thought was wildly - but he was actually shooting at a sheriff's deputy who was down the block. He was actually shooting over the bed of our truck at that point, behind the cab of my truck and through the windshield of a sheriff car that was another couple hundred feet down the road," Thorpe recalled.

Somehow through it all Thorpe kept his cool, called 911, jumped out of his truck and assisted the chief as he writhed on the ground, his white shirt turning red.

The gunman fled back into the house as Thorpe and some neighboring residents cut away the blood-soaked shirt from Hawks' arm and applied clean towels to his wounds.

At Hawks' request, Thorpe phoned Hawks' wife and stepped discretely to one side as the police chief notified his wife that he had been hit by gunfire.

Hawks also called St. Clair County Central Dispatch and pleaded, "I'm dying; tell them to hurry."

Rescue units responded but due to the fact that, at that point, the crime scene remained unsecured, emergency medical service personnel did not pull up to the scene.

"Once it clicked in that they were not going to allow more people in because they didn't know where the shooter was, we started looking around and thought we would put the chief inside the cop car and then bolt him out of there," Thorpe said.

But trying to wedge the injured Hawks, with his brawny six-and-a-half-foot frame, into the backseat of the cruiser proved to be a futile maneuver.

"It was like trying to get a square peg into a round hole," Thorpe chuckled.

Luckily, out of the corner of his eye, Thorpe spied his flatbed wrecker.

"If I can't move things with my own hands, that is the first thing I turn to," he said.

"I pulled it back out onto the street and then ran the bed down so that we didn't have to lift him. It was a flatbed and we were able to take it right to the ground and then just slide him on to it."

Just as Thorpe was pulling away Hawks' wife sped onto the scene, came to a screeching halt, jumped out of her car and ran to the wrecker where one of the neighbors hoisted her onto the flatbed.

"I'm trying to take off, but I'm watching in the mirror; and he literally grabbed her with one hand, and you kind of see her airborne and then land on the back of the wrecker. He pulled her right out of her shoes. One of her shoes stayed lying in the street and off we went," Thorpe related.

Around the corner he came into contact with Danishevskaya, the first officer to arrive on the scene.

"As I was running toward the scene I met up with the tow truck with Ray Hawks on the flatbed. I motioned for the ambulance to come and meet us and to get Ray into the ambulance. I feel that (Thorpe) and a couple of the neighbors who were on the scene were so important in helping to save Ray Hawks' life when every minute literally counted. I really feel their actions made a big difference," Danishevskaya said.

Months later when police chiefs around the country received application forms to nominate candidates for the 2008 American Towman medal for bravery, Danishevskaya recalled Thorpe's actions in the Capac incident.

"As soon as I opened it and read it, his name came to mind immediately. I took a couple moments to fill out the application and mention his great deeds, and he actually got the award," the chief said.

In her letter to American Towman the chief stated Thorpe's quick actions were instrumental in saving the life of the wounded chief and that she believed he should be recognized. He was, along with two other recipients from Maryland, at an awards ceremony.

Deputy Tim O'Boyle, then a 25-year veteran of the sheriff's department, suffered a grazing wound to his head and was treated and released; Chief Raymond Hawks, at one time in a coma and critical, is still recovering from his wounds today; and the gunman, Donald Burke, was captured, arrested, tried and found guilty of three counts of attempted murder.

Today, though his truck remains riddled with bullets Thorpe -- whose picture appeared on the Feb. 2009 cover of American Towman magazine -- remains upbeat, appreciates life and has these wise words to impart: "Even if you are talking to the police, make sure you still watch your back."

Fatal Tow Truck Crash Case Continued In CA

Here's the Morgan Hill Times story:
Louis Estrada Vasquez, 44, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge and could face up to one year in county jail if convicted, according to prosecutors.

Just over three years after Vasquez's truck allegedly skidded on wet roads and crashed into the Caltrans work site where Merriman, 32, was part of a three-man crew repairing potholes on U.S. 101 near Hellyer Avenue in San Jose, attorneys plan to move forward with the long-awaited trial. Vasquez's tow truck pushed a Caltrans truck into the work site, pinching Merriman between two vehicles, according to court documents. Merriman died instantly.

A judge was supposed to schedule a date for the trial this week but the case was continued while prosecutors await reports. The trial has been postponed several times while the defense collects more evidence from the crash site and while prosecutors waited for the statement of an expert the defense has enlisted for the trial, Deputy District Attorney Michael Amaral said.

A judge is supposed to set a date for the trial 8:30 a.m. June 15 in Department 24 of the Hall of Justice in San Jose.

Amaral expects the trial to last longer than a week. The first day will begin with pretrial motions and jury selection.

Houston, TX Mayor's Car Towed, Driver Asks For Autograph

Here's the story from the Houston Examiner:
Mayor White had his car towed, and then he was asked for an autograph by the wrecker driver who towed him during Thursday night's four-alarm fire that leveled the Gallery Furniture warehouse on I-45 North.

Flames were visible for miles and traffic slowed to a crawl on the I-45 North Freeway, a problem made even worse by dozens of spectators who jumped out of their cars to stand and stare.

Police moved in to block entrance and exit ramps, and the Safe Clear Wreckers that Mayor Bill White commissioned after his election to ease traffic congestion also moved into action.

HPD officers say the wreckers started towing onlookers' cars from the freeway, and it turns out one of those cars belonged to Mayor White himself.

Mayor's office aide Frank Michel says White has routinely shown up at major fires and shootings, so this was no different. This time, he had his daughter with him but he was unable to reach the fire scene due to the traffic mess, according to Michel.

Houston's chief executive inched along I-45 and parked his car at the closest spot he could find, then he and his daughter jumped out and jogged to the fire command center. The Mayor spoke with fire scene commanders, and he met with Gallery Furniture owner Jim McIngvale (or "Mattress Mac"). He also was interviewed by several news crews.

The mayor then returned to the spot where he parked his car, only to find out his own brigade of Safe Clear Wreckers had hauled his car away with many others.

No official City of Houston markings are on the car and no sign was placed in the window, according to Michel.

The Mayor approached an HPD officer who was handling the messed up traffic, and the Safe Clear wrecker was called back with the Mayor's car. The tow truck arrived at the fire department command post, then lowed the car and opened the door for White and his daughter to head home.

Mayor White says the Safe Clear Wrecker driver was courteous, and even asked the Mayor for an autograph.

Traffic remained a mess through Friday evening's rush hour, with motorists continuing to gawk at all the fire trucks, news crews, and rubble that remains on the spot of Gallery Furniture, a well-known Houston landmark.

Houston Fire Department investigators started the task of pinpointing the cause of this fire, which involved more than 175 firefighters and dozens of pumper and ladder trucks. One employee told investigators an electrical short in the warehouse may have sparked the fire, but no official cause has been released.

Safe Clear Wreckers cruise Houston freeways to clear disabled cars. A city law that was passed at Mayor White's urging allows wreckers to remove cars with or without owners' permission after 6-minutes. If broken down motorists don't submit, police are called to push the issue and enforce the Safe Clear law. Mayor White has credited the program with cutting down on freeway collisions citywide.

TX Tow Company's Fees Draw Outrage

Here's the story from the Corpus Christi Caller Times:

— Four groups of anglers got an unwelcome surprise when they returned from fishing Saturday at Padre Island National Seashore. Their vehicles had been towed and the tow truck operator demanded $2,500 cash to release them.

“It was like “Hand over your wallet,’” said Matt Yankee of Corpus Christi, whose vehicle remains impounded.

The trucks weren’t stuck in the sand, where they would become victims of shifting tides or loose sand. They were parked illegally because the Bird Island Boat Ramp lot was full when they arrived well before dawn.

“It’s not like we were blocking a fire hydrant or a hospital entrance,” said Randy Donato, a Houston-based lawyer and owner of a home in Port Aransas. “This needs to be stopped.”

Sanford Amey, owner of Sanford’s Wrecker Service, says he charged that much because he has expensive equipment and the charges reflected the difficulty of the job.

“Everybody wants to break the law, then they want to go cry to the media,” Amey said. “The park rangers will tell you the same thing.”

Amey said he charges by the pound.

The trucks he impounded Saturday were of different makes and weights, but the price was the same: $2,500. Asked about this, Amey responded:

“It could have been more, but I was giving them a deal.”

Within the city of Corpus Christi, where wrecker fees are limited, that same towing job would have cost about $115, according to Aaron Rios, who oversees tow truck operators for the Corpus Christi Police Department.

Amey is correct that he can charge whatever he wants. Cities and counties in Texas have the power to regulate maximum fees for non-consensual towing. Kleberg County, where most of the park is located, hasn’t done so. Amey has told the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation that he could charge as much as $20,000 to tow a vehicle.

David Resendez, owner of Apollo Towing, also charges by the pound. He said if he had been called to remove the vehicles, the most he would have charged is about $700. That assumes the worst weather conditions and the heaviest truck being towed.

As far as the cost of Amey’s services reflecting the value of equipment?

“I challenge you to find anyone in South Texas with higher overhead than me,” Resendez said.

Park Rangers at the National Seashore were also surprised by the bills Amey charged.

“This is the type of fee we see when the tower has to go down the beach,” said Tim Thompson, supervisory ranger at the park.

Rangers picked Sanford’s Wrecking Service to tow the vehicles because it was the company’s turn. The park service maintains a list of nine tow truck companies and rotates weekly which company will be called. Amey maintains two of the companies on the list — the other is called Amey’s Wrecker Service.

Thompson said the park service is considering removing the companies from the towing list. To do so, the park service would have to find something that violated Texas regulations. Because these fees don’t violate regulations, that might be difficult.

“We understand the frustration here,” Thompson said.

For those whose trucks were towed, finding out their cars were gone was only the beginning of the challenge. Nobody was around to tell them what had happened to their vehicles.

The Bird Island boat ramp area doesn’t have cell service, so the boat owners had to ride from the seashore to Marker 37 Marina under the JFK Causeway.

“We weren’t prepared for that, so we ran out of gas,” said Mitchell Smith, a friend of Yankee’s.

Their boat ended up getting a tow from Dan Love, owner of an Atascosa County pest control business.

“They stranded 10 people,” said Lee Love, who had to travel from Rockport to pick up her husband.

A bill in the Texas Legislature could put limits on what towing companies can charge. The bill, which has passed both the House and Senate, would allow the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to establish those maximum fees.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Big Tow" Show Being Developed

TBS is developing BIG TOW, an animated project from Sony Pictures Television, Tantamount, and Executive Producer Clay Graham (The Drew Carey Show ) will follow the life of J.D. Biggs, a small-town Tennessee single dad and local hero who runs a towing company.

We'll keep you posted!

Court Orders UT Man To Pay Towing Bill On Car He Does Not Own

Here's the KSLTV5 story:

SALT LAKE CITY -- Four years after selling his car, a Utah man got a $1,000 towing bill for it. Even though he hasn't seen the car in years, he was court-ordered to pay it. Trace Fifield sold the car in 2004. "We sold the car in good faith. We gave the gentleman a bill of sale," he said.
But that gentleman never re-registered the Honda Accord in his name, so it stayed under
Fifield's name. When the car was found abandoned last summer in a parking lot, the towing company sent Fifield the bill.
"The original bill was $1,081," Fifield said.
What really frustrates him is in 2005 he received paperwork from the DMV about the Honda, directing him to shred the paper since he no longer owned the car. "Instead of saying, ‘If you no longer own this vehicle, destroy this form,' it should say, ‘If you no longer own this vehicle,
contact the DMV,'" Fifield said. Charlie Roberts, spokesman for the Utah State Tax Commission, said, "It happens way too often. We'll get reports of this several dozen times during the year, where people will be victimized by this."
Roberts says Fifield made a mistake when he didn't keep kept a copy of the bill of sale after he sold the car. He also says Fifield should have let the DMV know about the sale and removed his license plates from the car.
"The most important thing we should do is remove our license plates. The reason for that
is that identifies the car, who the owner is of the car is," Roberts said. Fifield found that out too late. For the past year he's been fighting the towing bill and just recently was ordered to pay it after the towing company took him to small claims court and he lost.
"I felt robbed. Every time we got litigation in the mail, those feelings come up every time," he said.
Out $1,000, Fifield now hopes his story helps other sellers. "I hope I've saved
somebody money," he said.

When you sell your vehicle:1. Remove your license plates from the vehicle. If you do not, you may be liable for any parking or traffic violations occurring while your plates remain on the car.2. Give the new owner the signed title, current registration certificate and current safety and
emission certificates. The new owner may obtain a temporary permit from any Motor Vehicle office by presenting the signed title, proof of insurance and picture identification and paying all applicable fees.3. Notify the Division of Motor Vehicles in writing that your vehicle has been sold. The notification must include the vehicle year, make, plate or vehicle identification number and the owner's signature. This notification can be sent by fax or mail to:Division of Motor VehiclesSuspended Transaction Unit210 N. 1950 WestSalt Lake City, UT 84134Fax: 801-297-

Sad, And Tasteless

INDIANAPOLIS - A 750-pound woman who died in her bed was covered with a carpet and pulled out of her apartment on the mattress in view of neighbors, then hoisted onto a flatbed wrecker to be taken to the county morgue.
Marion County Coroner Frank Lloyd Jr. says he's investigating why a contractor with equipment capable of handling obese corpses was not used, and he has apologized to the family.
"It could have been handled in a better fashion, there's no question about that," he said Thursday.
Teresa Smith, 48, died Tuesday at her apartment, where she had been confined to bed because of her weight.
Lloyd said it wasn't clear why coroner's officials contacted a wrecker company to transport the corpse instead of using the regular body removal contractors who were at the scene. He said that the regular contractor is equipped to handle large corpses, and he was looking into why a different contractor hired more rarely was used.
"You know how you hoist a car on a flatbed with a chain? That's how they took her up there," Smith's boyfriend, David Johnson, told The Indianapolis Star.
Lloyd said that the carpet was the only suitable covering available but acknowledged it was not the best way to handle the situation given that Smith's body was visible to some apartment dwellers in a small courtyard between buildings.
"We cannot control what neighbors do on balconies," he said, adding that privacy was a key concern.
He said his office was considering purchasing a special cart for obese corpses.

Hino Trucks to Debut Race Recovery Vehicles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Hino Trucks to Debut Race Recovery Vehicles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

NOVI, Mich., May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Hino Trucks announced today that they have teamed up with Jerr-Dan Corporation to debut at least seven tow and recovery vehicles for use at the Indianapolis Speedway. The trucks will be used for all events that take place at the Speedway during the 2009 racing season.

The partnership will kick off at the Indianapolis 500, 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing' on Memorial Day weekend. "This is the start of a new chapter for Hino in racing," says Glenn Ellis, Vice President of Marketing for Hino Trucks. "Hino Trucks has been a sponsor of Team Penske Indy Racing League race team for the past five years and our newly increased exposure at the speedway is a unique opportunity to demonstrate Hino product capabilities trackside."

Established in 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has long prevailed as an icon of motorsports excellence. This year, the Speedway begins celebrating its Centennial Era, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the facility in 2009 and the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 2011. Other major events at the speedway include the NASCAR Allstate 400 at the Brickyard and Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

Ellis continued, "We are thrilled to have Hino Trucks as the preferred tow truck at these prestigious events and look forward to supporting the racing teams with the best recovery vehicles in the industry." The vehicles on standby and ready for action at the speedway are the Hino 268 model conventional chassis with Jerr-Dan(R) Aluminum Cougar HPL 6000 wrecker body and Hino 258LP model conventional chassis with Jerr-Dan Premium 6-ton carrier body.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Season 2 of "Wrecked" Starts Today

Check out the SPEED TV page here

Here's the SPEED TV release from Business Wire:
Chicago Mega-Towing Team Back in the Spotlight as SPEED™ Launches Season Two of Wrecked
15 Original Webisodes Added to List of 2009 Series Offerings
CHARLOTTE, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bill, Marci, Joey Gratzianna and the rest of the crew at Chicago’s O’Hare Towing & Recovery return to television next week as SPEED launches Season Two of the Thursday night prime time series Wrecked on May 21 at 9:30 p.m. ET.
“Last winter was one of the harshest in recent Chicago history, and as a result the sophomore season of Wrecked is bigger, colder and more intense than ever,” said SPEED VP of Programming and Executive Producer Robert Ecker. “The crew at O’Hare was really put to the test, and the production team on site experienced the rigors of working in sub-zero temperatures right along with them. There’s a palpable sense of the danger and duress caused by these extreme weather conditions that adds tremendous urgency and immediacy to these new episodes.”
The 2009 season, produced by North/South Productions, calls for 20 new, 30-minute episodes in 720p High-Definition format. In addition, North/South will deliver 15 original Webisodes to air on
Wrecked full-length episodes, advanced screenings and free clips also will be available on and for electronic download via iTunes, Amazon and other electronic download distributors. Exclusive Wrecked short-form content will continue to be made available all season through, VOD cable, iTunes video podcasts, mobile phones, cable broadband sites and viral distribution.
On the mobile front, long-form episodes will be available on Sprint wireless handsets via Sprint TV. SPEED clips and original short-form content will be made available to Sprint, Cingular, MobiTV and others.
SPEED™ is the nation's first and foremost cable television network dedicated to motor sports and the passion for everything automotive. From racing to restoration, motorcycles to movies, SPEED delivers quality programming from the track to the garage. Now available in more than 78 million homes in North America, SPEED is among the fastest-growing sports cable networks in the country and, the home to NASCAR on SPEED and an industry leader in interactive TV, video on demand, mobile initiatives and broadband services. For more information, please visit, the online motor sports authority.
Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Need A Father's Day Gift For Your Tower?

Build Him A Ride. Go online at to choose, build and customize a tow truck, race cars, retro hot rods or working trucks. Between the body styles and colors, and all the parts, Ridemakerz estimates there are more than 649 million possible combinations, not including individual decal placement.

Choose the “Make-it-Real” feature to convert any virtual RIDE into a real RIDE, which is shipped unassembled, to be built in minutes. Use the RIDE Identification Number (RIN) to race and play online with a RIDE that looks exactly like the one built for real.

RIDEZ are priced from $10 to $32, depending on body and paint scheme selected. Radio remote control can be added for an additional $25 and custom accessories range in price from $2 for grille guards, spoilers, and hood scoops to $15 for a deluxe “muscle kit.” RIDEZ measure 10 to 12 inches long and range from approximately 1:14th to 1:20th scale.

RIDEZ can also be built at one of the 12 RIDEMAKERZ shops in the U.S. Learn more at

Arlington, VA Aproves Towing Fee Hike

From the

Drivers who park illegally on private property in Arlington could soon see a steeper fine, as the Arlington County board on Saturday approved a 15 percent increase in its trespass towing fee.

The storage fee of $50 a day after the first 24 hours and the drop fee of $25 will not change, said Nancy Iacomini, Chairman of the Arlington County Towing Advisory Board.

The increase keeps Arlington's trespass towing rate within range of surrounding jurisdictions, whose rates vary from a low of $80 in Alexandria to a high of $165 in Fairfax City.

John O'Neill, a member of the Towing advisory board, said that over the past decade, increased costs in the towing company have put pressure on his company, Advanced Towing, and made them think about leaving Arlington. He said the cost of storage yards and 24-hour staff required for non-consensual tows run over $20,000 per month.

Board member Walter Tejada, though, pointed out that for people in low-income areas where they're making minimum wage, a $100 towing fee is “a hard hit to take.”

Chris Zimmerman was the only member to vote against the hike, voicing concern about the sometimes arbitrary nature of “predatory towing,” and saying the board had not defined it clearly enough.

“I don't have any magical answers — we have to continue to evaluate” the issues, said Board Chairman Barbara Favola.

“The good news is that the towing ordinance is working,” she said. “Since the Board first enacted the ordinance in [July] 2006, we have seen a steady decrease in the number of complaints filed by consumers about abusive towing practices.”

The county received 28 complaints or inquiries about trespass towing between September 2007 and August 2008, a reduction of 40 percent over the same time period from the previous year. Favola noted that before the ordinance was enacted, the county continually received complaints about predatory towing and overcharging.

NH Towing Association's 37th Annual Tow & Trade Show.

Here's the story from

HAMPTON BEACH — It was like a scene from "Transformers" waiting to happen: More than 200 tow trucks, tractors and buses springing to life from a fog at Hampton Beach State Park.

Saturday marked day one of the New Hampshire Towing Association's 37th annual Tow & Trade Show.

The day was filled with simulated recovery demonstrations, antique truck displays and a Light Up The Night event.

The Tow Truck Parade will be held today at 9 a.m. at Hampton Beach during day two of the event.

On Saturday, towers tested their skills and compared gear; kids oohed and ahhed at the big trucks; and visitors perused 36 vendors as country music filled the air.

To NHTA President Rene Fortin, the Tow & Trade Show is about more than showing off machines. It's also about educating the public about who tow truck drivers are as human beings.

"The tower is not such a bad person like everyone makes him out to be," Fortin said. "We're here to show people that we wear a white hat now and then."

Fortin said the event started in a vacant lot in Manchester, born from the idea that the public just sees them as the bad guys, without understanding how they operate and assist police, fire and emergency medical personnel.

"We thought if we tried making ourselves available to the public they could see who we are and what we do."

Towers are on call all the time, he said, and head out on freezing cold nights while others sleep. They face hazardous situations at crash scenes — including dealing with blood-borne pathogens in cars they have to remove — and also have to try to comfort the people involved in those accidents.

"We have to be a counselor, we need to be a friend," Fortin said. "These are all things towers have to do."

The Tow & Trade event included re-enactments of actual incidents towers face — someone on an interstate losing control and ending up on the other side of the highway, for example.

"We adapt to what's out there in the real world. We try to show folks and explain to folks how things are done," he said.

Michael Mosher of led a demonstration in hybrid vehicle safety awareness — basically, how to avoid getting electrocuted when dealing with a hybrid after an accident.

Mosher said there are 775,000 hybrids in the United States, but only a small percentage of first responders are trained in working with a high-voltage vehicle that may or may not be powered down at a crash site. Contact with a hybrid's 650-volt system could kill a person, he said.

Fortin estimates between 3,000 to 4,000 people will swing by to see the trucks this weekend, but that's an estimate since there's no head count.

"We've been doing this long enough, some of the members who've been doing this since 1972 — their grandsons or granddaughters are attending shows. It's a family show."

Ray and Jackie Areson of Portsmouth came with their grandchildren, Cassidy, 7 1/2, and Adam, 4.

"I like how it's lifting that bus," Cassidy said, watching a school bus get lifted by a tow truck, while her brother played on a mini tractor.

Bill and Rosemary Blasi of Quincy, Mass., took their son Nicholas, 5, here last year. "He's into trucks," Bill said.

They are staying in the area for the Tow & Trade Show and are especially looking forward to today's parade.

Bill asked Nicholas what they did for the trucks during last year's parade. Nicholas smiled and raised his arm up and down in the universal "honk honk" sign.

They said just about every truck obligingly honked for him last year.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Farewell, Friend

Our condolences to the family and friends of 50-year old Maria Starn, who co-owned A-1 Towing of Vineland, NJ. She died on May 7.
Here's her obituary from The Daily Journal:
Maria (Cirelli) Starn, 50, of Vineland passed away on Thursday, May 7, 2009, two weeks before her 51st birthday, following a long and courageous battle with cancer.She was a 1976 graduate of Sacred Heart High School in Vineland, and, in 1978, earned an associates degree in liberal arts from Cumberland County College. Maria began working for Thrift Drug immediately following high school and remained with the company for 23 years. In 1991 she became the first non-pharmacist female store manager in the chain. Maria was honored as manager of the company's most profitable store in 1994, and was named Manager of the Year in 1995. She was also instrumental in starting an in-company donation program for the poor and needy. Maria worked for Special Care home health care from 1999 until 2002, where she became manager of the Vineland office. In 2002 she joined her husband, Brian, as co-owner of A-1 Towing, where they enjoyed a wonderful partnership. Maria was a loving, caring woman with a fierce devotion
to her family.
Maria is survived by her loving husband, Brian Starn; son Christopher Starn; daughter Jennifer Starn; and grandson Bobby Kleinow. Surviving family members include her mother, Gloria Cirelli Ronis and stepfather Marvin Ronis; devoted sister and brother-in-law, Johanna and Ronnie Biagi; niece and goddaughter Laura DeCinque; and nieces Jennifer Batchellor, Stephanie Biagi, Amanda Biagi, Olivia Biagi and Trish Birmingham; as well as grandnephew Nicolas DeCinque. Maria was predeceased by her father, John A. Cirelli, in 1966.
Funeral home visitations will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Rone Funeral Service. A funeral liturgy will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Sacred Heart Church, 1010 E. Landis Ave., Vineland.
Interment will follow in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Vineland.
Arrangements are under the supervision of Rone Funeral Service, 1110 E. Chestnut Ave., Vineland, NJ 08360.
The family requests that donations may be made in Marie's memory to South Jersey Healthcare HospiceCare, P.O. Box 160, Bridgeton, NJ 08302.
To send online condolences, visit the funeral home's Web site at

LA Tow Truck Driver Killed In Roadside Crash

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 47-year old Donnie L. Roshong, who worked for Nolen's Towing and Recovery of Bossier City, LA. He died on Friday, May 8, while working to tow a tractor trailer. Here's a story from the Shreveport Times:

Louisiana state police have been hammering home lately their plans to enforce an amended state law that requires motorists to move to the far lane when approaching emergency or disabled vehicles on the side of the road.
Accidents and near misses are the reasons behind what’s referred to the “move over” law.
The death Friday of a tow truck driver in Natchitoches Parish is a reminded why that law is in place. Donnie L. Roshong, 47, of Leesville, an employee of Nolen’s Towing and Recovery in Bossier City, was killed while he was preparing a disabled 18-wheeler for a tow near the Natchitoches exit.
The driver of another 18-wheeler loaded with about 150 head of cattle lost control and struck
the rear of the disabled tractor-trailer, sending it into the wrecker. Roshong was pinned between the large wrecker and guardrail. All three vehicles caught on fire.
Roshong died at the scene. About 50 cows died, too.
Jason A. Vanzile, 26, of Florida, was the driver of the cattle truck. He was injured and taken to Natchitoches hospital for treatment. So far, state police Troop E has not issued citations or made arrests in connection with the fatal crash. It’s still under investigation, Senior Trooper Scott Moreau said. “If you see something parked on the side of the road, please move over,” said Sue Kelly of Nolen’s Towing and Recovery, which has locations in Bossier City, Shreveport,
Coushatta and Minden.
Though Roshong had only worked out of Nolen’s Bossier office for a little over a year, he was no stranger to the towing business. “He worked in this territory for years. He formerly worked for Lloyd’s for a long time. Some of us have known him 20 or more years. He was not a friend to us; he was brother,” Kelly said. Roshong “died doing what he loved,” she added.
An account has been set up at American Bank in Coushatta to accept donations for Roshong’s wife, Jimmie, and their granddaughter, Kaylee Frazier, 4. The couple was raising their granddaughter. “She was his pride and joy,” said Kelly as she recalled how like any proud grandfather Roshong was quick to show off photographs of Kaylee.
Roshong’s funeral service was Monday in Leesville, where he lived with his family. Donations for Roshong’s survivors should be made to account number 1093746.
Donations also will be accepted at Nolen’s Towing and Recovery for placement in the account.

MD Tow Truck Driver Charged With Theft of Autos From Roadside

Sheesh. From
By Kevin
Posted 5/12/09
A Baltimore tow truck driver was arrested Monday for stealing four cars from the shoulders of
area highways then selling them as his own to an automobile recycling yard in the city, according to Maryland State Police.The truck driver is also being investigated in connection with seven other roadside car thefts, police said.Charles Jennings III, 38, of the 4200 block of Labyrinth Road, stole four cars that had broken down or been abandoned then sold the vehicle as scrap to
Eastside Auto Recycling Inc., in the 4700 block of Erdman Avenue, according to state police.Jennings faces four counts of auto theft and four counts of theft of $500 or more.The recycling yard legally bought the four cars — as state law permits the purchase of vehicles that are inoperable and at least eight years old without vehicle titles — and its owners face no charges, said Greg Shipley, a police spokesman.The Baltimore Regional Auto Theft Task Force, which state police called in to assist in their investigation, are also investigating Jennings’ connection to seven other vehicles found at Eastside Auto. All seven had been reported stolen from the Baltimore Beltway in March and April, and additional charges are pending, Shipley said.Police believe Jennings has delivered more than 80 vehicles to Eastside Auto this year, though not all were stolen, Shipley said.Jennings turned himself in at the State Police Golden ing Barracks on Monday after his attorney contacted police regarding a May 7 warrant for his arrest.He is being held in the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson on $50,000 bond, Shipley said.He first came under investigation on May 5, when police received a call from a man who said a 2000 Infinity that he holds a lien on and is in the process of repossessing had been taken from the side of Interstate 695 near Interstate 895 after the woman driving it left it there.The man activated a GPS device in the vehicle, and told police that it had been taken to Eastside Auto.When police got to the recycling yard, they learned Jennings had towed the car there earlier that day, along with five other vehicles, for which he had been paid $1,000, Shipley said.For each vehicle, Jennings had signed an indemnity form stating he was the owner, Shipley said.Four of the six cars were found to be stolen from area highways, Shipley said.Officers also found the seven other cars they determined had been taken from the Beltway in the yard, as well as more than 80 indemnity forms with Jennings’ name on them, Shipley said.The investigation is ongoing. Police are
looking at whether other vehicles previously reported stolen in Baltimore and Baltimore County match vehicles found at Eastside, Shipley said.

GSTA Names Interim Executive Director

The Executive Board of the Garden State Towing Association (GSTA) has named Mary Leigh Barbusin to the position of interim Executive Director. Mary Leigh assumes the position from outgoing director Linda Peiffer who served as director for the past three years.

“We extend our thanks to Linda for her efforts on behalf of the industry and wish her well in her future endeavors” stated GSTA President John Glass.

Mary Leigh previously served for ten years as Executive Director of GSTA. “We look forward to working with Mary Leigh again and the experience she brings to the association” added Glass.

“I am very happy to be back working with the members of the association and would like to thank Linda for all her assistance in making the transition of the office a smooth one without any disruption to the service of our members” stated Mary Leigh.

The Garden State Towing Association is the recognized towing association in New Jersey and the only state towing association that is affiliated with the national Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA). GSTA represents the interests of over two hundred companies in New Jersey.

GSTA Presents Training Seminar

The Garden State Towing Association will present their annual Light/Medium Duty Towing and Recovery Seminar June 6 & 7, 2009. The seminar will take place at the Riverdale Fire Department in Riverdale New Jersey.

Sponsored by Equipment Sales and Service of Bloomfield, NJ, the two day, hands on seminar will be instructed by industry leader Tom Luciano and will offer workable real world solutions to towing and recovery issues.

For further information, please contact the GSTA office at 732-530-4782 or

The Garden State Towing Association is the recognized towing association in New Jersey and the only state towing association that is affiliated with the national Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA). GSTA represents the interests of over two hundred companies in New Jersey.

CA Tow Truck Driver Robbed

Here's the Milpitas Post story:
Davis man suspected of robbing tow driver
On May 5 at about 7 p.m., Milpitas police responded to a robbery on the 200 block of Serra Way.
Police said suspect Sukhjinder Singh, 21, of Davis, paid a commercial tow truck driver $200 to tow his car from Campbell to Davis. But Singh allegedly did not trust the tow truck driver's work and eventually told her to pull over in front of the Big Lots store in Milpitas.
Police said the tow truck driver, a 43-year-old San Jose woman, allegedly told Singh she would take $60 for towing the car as far as Milpitas. Police said Singh did not want to pay, and struck the woman in the face before taking $127 cash from her fanny pack. Arriving officers arrested Singh on charges of robbery. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office later reduced the charges against the suspect to grand theft, police said.

Fundraising Tow Truck Still Missing In The UK

Here's the story from The Bury Times:
POLICE are still hunting for a fundraising tow truck stolen from outside a Radcliffe garage last month.
Mick Howarth, aged 41, of Riverside Drive, used the truck to tow vehicles for a living, donating all proceeds to researching a rare illness suffered by his 11-year-old son Nathan.
Thieves took it from outside Pendlebury Commercials in Vale Street, Radcliffe, at 2.30pm on April 18.
Nathan’s mum, Denise, said: “It has still not turned up, despite the appeal for information that the police have put out. If anyone knows where it is, they should get in touch.”
The truck is white, has ‘anycarcollected’ written on the side and has the registration S954 DEH.
Anyone with information is asked to call Bury CID on 0161 856 9899.

Testimony Concludes in FL "Stand Your Ground" Hearing

Here's the story from Tampa Bay Online:
The Tampa Tribune
Published: May 14, 2009

TAMPA - It will be mid-June before a judge rules on whether a towing company owner was
justified in killing a man who was reclaiming his wife's car.Donald Montanez is seeking immunity from prosecution under the state's Stand Your Ground law in the fatal shooting of Glen "Chuck" Rich on Jan. 8, 2006.Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert A. Foster said today he wold issue a written ruling June 12. Foster wanted to rule sooner but agreed to give attorneys more time to file written arguments.
"We have been working on this litigation for three years," said Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner. "All I am asking for is three weeks."Foster said he would immediately begin working on his ruling based on the three days of testimony he heard this week and lawyers' oral arguments
presented today.
"It is a tragic set of circumstances," Foster said.Montanez shot Rich about 5 a.m. as Rich was driving off in his wife's Chrysler Sebring, which Montanez's employees had towed from behind the after-hours club Sugar Shack on East Hillsborough Avenue.
The car, along with other towed vehicles, had been taken to a parking lot on Bonacker Road to await transfer to the firm's impound lot. Another club patron found the lot and took Rich there along with Rich's two brothers and friend.
Montanez and his employee Lorraine Marie Whitehead testified that Rich was gunning the engine
toward them and that they thought they would be run over. They said Rich had hit another tow truck driver, Cory Crites, moments before.
"He just saw one of his employees struck by a deadly weapon seconds before and he was to be the next target," said Jay Hebert, one of Montanez's attorneys."Mr. Montanez had a right to pull that trigger."
But Pruner said the physical evidence showed Montanez fired at Rich through the open passenger-side window, hitting him under the right armpit.
"He had no right to shoot in the passenger's side of a car that was already past him," he said.
Pruner said Montanez illegally towed the Sebring and had no right to keep it from Rich. He said Montanez was more interested in collecting his $150 to $200 towing fee than defending himself or Whitehead.
"Donald Montanez was acting at all times like a 21st-century road pirate," he said. "The one thing on his mind was to preserve and protect his treasure."
Pruner said state law does not allow the use of deadly force to protect a car.
Hebert said the legality of the towing was irrelevant."Mr. Montanez has the right to defend himself regardless of the tow situation," he said.
Hebert wants Foster to dismiss the second-degree murder charge in Rich's death, as well as the aggravated assault charges Montanez faces for allegedly pointing his gun at Rich's brothers and friend.
Pruner said Montanez can't invoke the Stand Your Ground law on the aggravated assault
charges because he denied pointing the gun at two of the men.
He said any danger Montanez felt lapsed when he and Whitehead stepped out of the path of the
Hebert said the Stand Your Ground law only requires Montanez to present a predominance of the evidence to gain immunity."It is a mountain of evidence," he said of his case.
Reporter Tom Brennan can be reached at (813) 259-7698

Road Rage Incident In MN Turns To Assault, Mace

Here's the story from the Star News:

On May 11 at 3:55 p.m. police received a radio call of a road rage incident that turned into an assault. According to the report, a tow truck driver accidently cut off another vehicle in the left lane of Highway 169 near Main Street in Elk River.After the incident, the driver of the other vehicle that was cut off approached the driver of the tow truck with a stick, and was subsequently maced by the tow truck driver.Both vehicles ended up pulling into the SuperAmerica lot on Main Street after the incident, where the driver who was maced requested medical attention.Elk River Ambulance did respond to assist, and the man refused transport.The tow truck driver told police he maced the man because he feared being assaulted based upon the threats made.The 28-year-old driver with the stick, which turned out to be a cane, was cited for firth degree assault and disorderly conduct.

"Wrecked" Star Delivers Crane To IL Company

Fun story from The Carmi Times:
Crossville, Ill. -
Several passerby spotted a tow truck driver Tuesday evening in Crossville and pulled over to get his autograph.OK, so it wasn't just any tow truck driver.It was Mike "Tryk" Trykoski, one of the drivers of O'Hare Towing in Chicago-and one of the guys frequently featured in the SpeedTV program "Wrecked: Life in the Crash Lane."Trykoski posed for pictures and signed for autographs after making a delivery to JD Mechanical in Crossville and before heading home to the Windy City.Here's how it came about:Brothers Jeff and Jim Davis, who operate JD Mechanical, bought a used crane on e-Bay. And they decided to have it delivered to Crossville. The brothers had seen "Wrecked" on TV and decided to call O'Hare. Eventually, they made connections, Trykoski was dispatched and made his way down the state to Crossville.

CA Tow Owner Will Be Tried On Theft, Fraud Counts

Here's the Merced Sun-Star story:
judge decided Thursday that ample evidence exists to try RTS Towing owner Randal Loy Wright on charges of auto theft and insurance fraud. Wright, 59, is accused of unlawfully taking a Mercedes Benz G55 AMG from a Fresno dealership in December. He's also accused of overbilling the American Automobile Association (AAA) after the Mercedes was towed from Merced County to Fresno.Dressed in a black collared shirt and slacks, Wright appeared calm and relaxed during the preliminary hearing in Merced County Superior Court. He remains free on bail and has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Prosecutors believe Wright had been leasing the car since April 2007, but was behind on his payments and had to return it. Merced County sheriff's detectives believe Wright was delinquent about $10,000 in payments.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Slocum said although the car was towed from Merced County to Mercedes Benz of Fresno on Nov. 5, the car later went missing from the dealership. In December, Wright had taken the car to Sound Encounters in Merced to have its LoJack security system disabled.
In April, police found the missing Mercedes at a vacant house in San Felipe, Mexico. That's also the residence overseen by Wright's girlfriend, a 45-year-old Canadian national named Teresa Hutt. The Mercedes is now in the hands of Merced County sheriff's detectives and is being held as
Detective Chuck Hale testified during the hearing that investigators tape recorded a phone call that Wright placed to Hutt from the Merced County Jail in March. During the phone call, Wright told Hutt that "black needs to be taken care of," referring to the Mercedes.
In response, Hutt said something along the lines that "it's already been taken car of," Hale
said.Detectives also believe Wright inflated the mileage on a AAA claim slip, after the Mercedes was towed from the RTS Towing yard to the dealership in Fresno.
Tom Pfeiff, Wright's attorney, said his client denies any wrongdoing. "In our view, it's nothing more than a guy who's late on his lease payments," Pfeiff said.Presiding Judge John Kirihara decided not to try Wright on an embezzlement charge, because the charge is similar to the auto theft charge he's already facing in the same case.
In a separate case, Wright is accused of contacting the California Highway Patrol and making a fake stolen auto report. Sheriff's investigators still haven't found Wright's wife, Karen Rene Wright, who went missing after making a trip to San Felipe on Feb. 9. The couple had shared vacation homes in San Felipe.The investigation into missing RTS tow truck drivers Steven Lincoln Lombard, 33, and Paul Armstrong, 28, also remains open.
Lombard and Armstrong, who both worked for Wright's company, vanished on Dec. 17, 1993.
Wright has not been named a suspect in the disappearance of either his wife or the RTS Towing drivers.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or

Interesting Rotation System in Ogden, UT

Here's the story from

By Tim GurristerStandard-Examiner stafftgurrister@standard.netOGDEN —
Things appear to be heating up again in the local tow truck community.Some may recall the “Towgate” controversy in 2001, when three Ogden police officers were fired for steering towing jobs to one company.The stakes are high. A tow leads to potentially $5,000 in repair work on average. Small wrecker operators today are complaining that the dispatch rotation for towing jobs has grown to favor the bigger companies. And dispatch fees are causing some drivers to pad their bills, they claim, thereby gouging motorists.Since the first of the year, the number of slots in the rotation topped 100 for the first time. Slots can be bought for $2,500 from the Ogden-Weber Towing Association. The number of slots is determined solely by request of local companies and their ability to pay.
Larger operators have 10 or more, while smaller wreckers may hold one, meaning they get called to one in every 100 or so wrecks.Weber County is the only county in the state that lets tow truck operators run their own dispatch system. Elsewhere, police dispatchers call out wreckers to accident scenes on a rotating basis.In Weber, operators at Weber Consolidated Dispatch forward tow truck requests to the association’s Central Towing Dispatch, which sends the tow truck. “The idea was perfect when it was 13, 14 companies, even five, six companies, back when my dad and a few of them started this up 30 years ago,” said Curtis Stauffer, whose family runs two wreckers, Stauffer’s and Skyhook towing. “The reason the big guy is the big guy is because they have been doing it right and for a long time,” said Brett Baur, owner of Brett’s Towing, in Ogden.“We have a lot more trucks, good equipment and experienced drivers. We get it done.”“Our goal is supposed to be get out there as quickly as you can and clear the road quickly, but you’re penalized if you do that,” said Stauffer, claiming companies, refusing to name names, intentionally dawdle at wrecks in order to charge an extra hour.
“Three-fourths of the companies operate that way,” he said, to offset the fees involved in getting and maintaining a dispatch slot. “The public gets raked over the coals. ... I’m tired of our industry getting the black eye. All these fees raise the costs to every one.”After the one-time $2,500 charge, tow truck operators pay a $10 charge per call and a flat rate $50 a month to stay on the
rotation list. That money goes to the Ogden-Weber Towing Association.“I think people are charging extra because of all the dispatch fees. They add extra time to their tow tickets because there are only so many tows in Weber County,” said Chuck Hadley, of Chuck’s Towing and Recovery. “It’s not right. When it started, it was one compnay, one slot, and you couldn’t buy ’em.”Hadley quit the towing association board eight years ago. “I could see where it was going. I still own a slot. I don’t use it because I don’t believe in what they do.” “That’s hype,” Baur said of the fee-gouging claims. “My tow bills are the same in all three counties I work in.” The Utah Department of Transportation sets the fees motorists are charged, beginning at $121 an hour depending on the size of the truck, he said. “There are some companies out there that abuse it, but we’re not all the bad guy,” Baur said.UDOT’s annual reviews of tow truck companies include
travel logs, fees, even insurance records of employees, as well as safety inspections, said a UDOT spokesman.Stauffer has two slots, while Brett’s Towing has 10 in the rotation operated around the clock by dispatchers in a Roy office.Cousin Tom Baur owns Ogden Auto Body, at the center of Towgate years ago, and has 10 or more slots. Several other local companies are said to have similar numbers.
In all, it’s estimated about 30 Weber towing companies are represented
in the 100-plus slots of wrecker dispatch overseen by the Ogden-Weber Towing Association.“Are there towers out there who are charging more? Yes. Can we regulate that? No, that’s UDOT’s job,” said Neil Schultz, association president and owner of B & R Towing in Ogden, a self-described little guy with only a handful of employees and slots.“We are not getting any complaints about the
system except for this handful,” he said. “I think it’s probably the best system in the whole country and would take more than a couple of hours to explain why. It saves the taxpayers a lot of money and doesn’t infringe on the motorists.“There’s certainly a lot more to it than what these people are saying. ... It boils down to a personal vendetta. This is what we get when someone throws a rock.”The privately run Weber system also seems to fall between the cracks as far as government regulation.UDOT licenses the towers and sets towing fees, but doesn’t oversee the fees that the associations charges members. UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo said Weber County complaints are no higher than elsewhere around the state, which amounts to one or two complaints a month statewide. The department has one inspector assigned to wreckers for the entire state.Ogden city, where most of the towing takes place, fields complaints, a few a month, but has no licensing authority. Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner is developing a policy to give his department authority to suspend tow truck companies in the city based on complaint volumes.“It’s tough to deal with them. Where do you draw the line between free enterprise and government intervention?
But they become a quasi-extension of us (OPD) because we initiated the call for them to come out.”Greiner said towing complaints are not the biggest priority for his department but are an ongoing issue.His department gets complaints about price-gouging, he said. “Charged $100 to tow someone a block. Things like that. That’s just one of the many ways they make their money.”

OR Towing Company Owner Convicted

PORTLAND, Ore. - The 22-year-old owner of a Gresham towing company has been
convicted of stealing a man's truck, then lying to cover up her thievery with forged paperwork.
The Oregonian newspaper reported that a Multnomah County jury rejected arguments by the defense lawyer for Anna Elizabeth Alonzo, who blamed Alonzo's former boyfriend for the crimes. The former pharmacy student started Set Towing in August 2007 with her boyfriend, Ryan Patrick Joynt. The pair made headlines in recent months as police investigated them for accusations they have been stealing cars under the guise of operating a legitimate towing and repossession business.
Dozens of drivers or business owners have contacted authorities in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties to complain.Alonzo faces a sentence ranging from probation to 26 months in prison

IL Tow Truck Driver, Mother Arrested


2-year-old boy left in car that was towed
CHICAGO -- A mother who left her 2-year-old son in a car and a tow truck driver who towed the vehicle have been arrested.
Police Spokesman Daniel O'Brien said 36-year-old Felicia Nwankwo and Alsip resident Naji Zaareir have been charged with endangering the health and welfare of a child. He said Nwankwo parked the car in a laundromat lot Monday and left the boy in the backseat while she got food at a restaurant across the street.
Police said 42-year-old Zaareir didn't inspect the car before he towed it.

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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Farewell, Friend

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of Lynn B. Leverenz, the owner of NY's Tick-Tock Automotives, Inc. Here's a note that was sent to us by Leverenz's son, Matt:

Lynn B. Leverenz died April 9, 2009. He was an avid reader of your publication
and met many fine people thru its pages. He owned and operated Tick-Tock
Automotives Inc. since 1975. A pioneer in the towing and recovery business, he
volunteered endless hours to his community and its people. A car enthusist he
was a founding father of the Southern Tier Auto buffs. He leaves behind a wife
and five children. He will be sadly missed.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Everyday Tow Heroes In NY

Round of applause to John's Towing Company of Tonawanda! They did a good deed and created a training situation all in one. Way to go! Here's the Buffalo News story:

Cranes, trailers and towing equipment are busy this morning pulling an assortment of boats and vehicles out of the crater that formed after a landslide sheared away much of the Morphy family's Amherst property.

The house is considered a total loss, but a specialty, recovery and rescue towing operator showed up this morning to begin the tough but delicate job of pulling out three boats and a truck that slid into the Tonawanda Creek bed two weeks ago.

By late morning, John's Towing from the Town of Tonawanda had pulled a large tree off a black motor boat and successfully dragged the boat out of the crater.

"It's just fantastic, the heavy duty equipment these guys brought in," said Jody Morphy, who owns the house and property at 4250 Tonawanda Creek Road with her husband. "They're being so careful and so gentle to try and not disturb the ground."

The best part is, the company has agreed to do the work for free to assist the family with its plight.

Mike Kotak, towing and recovery operations manager for John's Towing, said the company has a Heavy Duty Rescue and Recovery division and often works with firefighters and police in emergency situations.

"I said, let's use this as a training exercise," Kotak said.

He added that the company often responds to catastrophic events in the area because the company is equipped with cranes, excavators and other special equipment, including the Jaws of Life.

2009 Towing Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

Here's the release:

Nine outstanding industry leaders have been selected for induction into the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame as the Class of 2009.

Harold Borhauer II (Peoria, AZ), William G. Bowser (Centennial, CO), Ronald J. Gardas (Arden Hills, MN), Patrick D. Gilboy (Butte, MT), David H. Girard (Burbank, CA), Gerald R. Olson (Minot, ND), Louwrens J. Riekert (Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa), and James M. Seamon (Longwood, FL), and Lloyd D. Yates (Chattanooga, TN) were nominated by members of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum for their many contributions to the towing and recovery industry, their families and their communities.

“Each year, the inductees share common strengths which have led to their nomination into this prestigious group,” says Rolfe Johnson, President of the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum. “This year’s inductees share a dedication to their state and local towing organizations as well as the national towing and recovery community.”

Hall of Fame members will be recognized at an induction ceremony to be held at 6 p.m. on September 19th, 2009 at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. A full weekend of activities will be held to celebrate this year’s inductees. For more information on the induction ceremony, or to order tickets, call Cheryl Mish at 423-267-3132.

The International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum is the only one in the world for the Towing Industry. It was opened September 22, 1995. There are 18 antique tow trucks on display along with memorabilia from the industry. Chattanooga, Tennessee was the chosen site for the museum as Ernest Holmes, Co. built the first wreckers there in the early 1900’s. The museum is currently located at 3315 Broad St., Chattanooga, TN. 37408.

Towing Industry Transitions: Horton Truck & Equipment Co.

Here's the letter from Danny Horton:

Dear friends,
I am announcing a shelf clearing sale (CASH & CHECK ONLY) (ALL SALES FINAL) of all parts on May 12 & 13th (10AM till 3PM) 2009. This will include miscellaneous display items and some shop equipment. At that time Horton Truck & Equipment Company will cease “active” daily business. I ask you to “please” take time to read all the information below.

We, the Horton Family (which includes many of our customers and former employees) have had quite a ride. The ride is “not” over, just a change of chapters! Sixteen (16) years as one of America ’s largest, most respected and recognized towing equipment dealerships. We have been voted “Favorite Towing & Equipment Dealer” (Tow Times 2001), received Best of Show Displays, awards for sales volume (to many to list), brought new products to the industry such as the first T-Crane at a tow show (P.W.O.F.) in the States, numerous lighting and truck dress items first to market, supported T.R.A.A., V.A.T.R.O., T.R.P.M. as well as other Associations and Shows, the Museum and Wall of the Fallen, sponsored countless training seminars around the country, many years training for Ross Kinman, and proudly always supported children’s charities and events. I list these items not to boast, but simply say to we are proud to have been able to “give back” to an industry that has given us so very much. In my new position outlined below I will do my very best to carry on this tradition of support. Just recently, we were awarded the Gold Circle Award for Outstanding Dealer for 2008 for a manufacturer we recently sold products for. This was done even in the worst of times and we have you our friends to thank for that. We have it proudly displayed next to last years President’s Award, along with this year’s Platinum Sales Award from another brand. In the past you also made us number three in the nation for another manufacturer. As a factory salesman and dealer I have been fortunate to be involved in the sale of nearly 5,000 tow equipment units. We strive to be fair priced while offering service and support second to none.

On a personal note I thank my wife Tonya for 30 years of all I have put her thru. Every receipt, deal folder, payable, payroll, answering the phone, and the list goes on. Did I mention she takes care of the house and cooks? Her constant support never wavered. While everyone seems to think you can’t be married and work together, yes you can!

For Dallas who started 10 years ago coming in when he got out of school early and watching him grow and build relationships all over the Country, to becoming one of the most knowledgeable parts people in this Industry. The past few years he has been in complete charge of our massive booths at shows, managed our Parts and Service departments, spec’d and ordered our show trucks and much more. Dallas has also attended many training classes. >From light duty to rotator schools he almost always becomes involved in setting up the “casualties” as well as working the recoveries.

Our son Miles has been in school at Longwood University but has taken time to do the artwork for many of our ads and nearly all the artwork and graphics for our catalogs which became the Nations second largest of its kind. He also provides support for our website. Miles is graduating from Longwood University this Saturday May 9th with a Bachelor degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. It has truly been a family business.

As for myself, I am excited and honored to have been offered the position of Vice President Sales for Proton Towing Equipment for North America, Canada , and Mexico . As the saying goes “when one door closes another one opens”. The book on Danny Horton is “not” over; just the chapter on Horton Truck & Equipment Co. Businesses of all kinds can certainly use a break in equipment cost while still receiving quality equipment. I can assure everyone that parts and service support will be paramount. Visit us at . Check out the equipment, install and service options, and pricing on the web site.

My cell number remains the same 571-259-0442 and I will take calls anytime I can. Please leave a message if I miss you. I will be available and able to assist in helping you with your towing equipment needs. I want to assure “everyone” that neither Dallas nor I, are through in the Towing Industry! This is our life and passion. Hope to see everyone soon.

May God Bless each of you,
Danny Horton
“Working on a Dream”

Man Found Guilty In Murders of Chicago Auto Repair Shop Owner and Tow Truck Driver

Here's the story from the
A man charged in the 2002 slayings of an auto repair shop owner and an employee was found guilty Wednesday by a Cook County jury.

Craig Lomax, 29, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for the murders of Jaime Flores, who owned Economy Auto Sales on North Lawndale Avenue, and tow truck driver Rene Tapia. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 16.

A co-defendant, Lazarek Austin, 28, is serving a life sentence, and another, Olaudah Slaughter, 33, pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Authorities said the three went to the store in January 2002 to steal what they believed were cash and 4 to 5 kilos of cocaine stored at the business. They found a small amount of money but no drugs, prosecutors said.

AAA Anticipates 7.3 Million Stranded Motorists This Summer

Here's part of the press release:

The nation's largest motor club expects rise in roadside assistance requests, offers motorists tips to avoid becoming stranded

ORLANDO, Fla., May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the summer travel season looming, AAA announced today it anticipates coming to the rescue of 7.3 million stranded motorists this summer. During the months of June, July and August, AAA expects a rise of nearly 1.5 percent in roadside assistance requests over the same timeframe in 2008.

"AAA believes a combination of lower gas prices, consumers holding onto their vehicles longer and some motorists cutting regular maintenance from their budgets will drive an increase in the need for roadside assistance this summer," said AAA Automotive Vice President Marshall L. Doney.

On a yearly average, AAA is able to remedy problems at the roadside two out of three times, avoiding the need for an inconvenient vehicle tow. However, the motor club finds the number of motorists who suffer major vehicle problems that do require a tow usually spikes during the summer months. This summer, AAA estimates it will tow nearly 3.2 million vehicles.

Read the rest by clicking here.

Farewell, Friend

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of John R. Hernandez, Pierce Sales' art and media department director. Here's the note about John that was sent out:

Dear friends,

John R. Hernandez, 60, director of the art and media department at Pierce Sales passed away at 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, 2009. John battled with cancer for years. Two short months ago his throat cancer moved to his brain stem causing headaches and blackouts. He discussed his options with several doctors in Wichita Falls and Dallas . They reported his cancer was inoperable; but a new type of chemotherapy found effective among pancreatic cancer patients could stop the growth. Only a week after this development John was checked into the hospital for pneumonia. Several days later he was released with hospice care at his home. They supplied him with a hospital bed and superior care. John was thrilled to have someone attainable within minutes. We hoped for another incredible John Hernandez herculean rally. He beat the odds numerous times. However, Tuesday, May 5, 2009 John slipped into a coma while surrounded by his devoted family.

John was a cornerstone at Pierce Sales. He started working for Jeff Pierce as a freelance designer two decades ago then came onboard full-time in 2005. John produced our print advertisements, brochures, manuals and current website. He also managed a print shop we launched last year. John loved collaborating with customers on print and design projects. He was thrilled when a new client came onboard. From 2006-08 John produced the pioneer book, a 260 page collection of advertisements and memorials celebrating clay county heritage during Pioneer Reunion held every September in Henrietta , Texas .

Mr. Hernandez left a wonderful legacy. A legacy of professionalism and perseverance we all strive to emulate.

With heavy hearts,

The Pierce Sales Team

TX Attorney General Sues McAllen Towing Company

Here's part of The Monitor story:

McALLEN — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit in state district court Thursday against a towing company accused of charging Rio Grande Valley residents exorbitant fees.

The suit asks the court to order Ryder and Karen Oxford, owners of AM-PM Towing, to stop violating the law and pay back customers they're accused of ripping off.

The company is accused of operating without various licenses and permits and overcharging customers for non-consent tows, among other allegations.

Ryder Oxford declined to comment on the lawsuit or the allegations against AM-PM. He said the company doesn't exist anymore and was dissolved six months ago.

The suit is the latest example of a crackdown on towing operators accused of using deceptive practices.

The attorney general's office receives dozens of complaints annually from consumers upset about towing companies' practices, Abbott said at a news conference Thursday in McAllen.

Read the rest of the story here.

Move It Over In NE

Here's the story from the KPTM's Fox News:

Omaha (KPTM) - A law passed today in the Nebraska legislature says drivers who see emergency lights on the side of Nebraska highways need to move over a lane, or face a ticket and fine.

Tow truck driver Ray Wiblishouser should know

"It's rush hour now. It's moving," he says standing along I-680.

The owner of Ray's Quality Towing says almost 50 percent of his business comes on the shoulders of busy Nebraska highways, where he's literally just inches away from danger.

"I just don't feel right turning my back because there's been so many close calls. I've actually been rubbed a 55 or 60 MPH car before," he says.

But it's a scenario that he hopefully won't have to see again.

A new law passed Thursday in the Nebraska legislature now requires drivers on I-80, I-680 or any other Nebraska highway with two lanes or more in one direction to move over if they see those flashing lights.

If it's too dangerous to switches lanes, they at least need to quickly try and reduce their speed.

AAA Nebraska was a strong advocate of the bill, and say it's long overdue.

"The type of work is very dangerous for police, firefighters, medical technicians, two truck operators so it's simply the right thing to do," says Rose White, a spokesperson.

She says drivers that don't move over could face a ticket and upwards of a $100 fine courtesy of law enforcement.

While many drivers might normally scoot over for cops or emergency response vehicles, she says it was important this bill include protection for tow truck drivers and even motorist assist volunteers.

"There might only be inches of airspace that separates that person from a high speed vehicle," says White.

Close calls Ray says will hopefully now come to an end for anyone working on the sides of the road.

"They all need to be covered. We're all working the same areas."

AAA Nebraska says the bill is officially expected to be signed into law in the next couple of weeks by Gov. Dave Heineman.

Dangerous and Deadly Run Ins With Tow Trucks

Sadly, there seems to be several of these lately...

Boca Raton (FL) motorcyclist killed in crash with tow truck. Read the story here.

Mashpee (MA) man pinned between car, tow truck. Read the story here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Everyday Tow Hero In SC

Kudos to tow truck driver Benjamin Humphries... and a round of applause to reporter Jonathan Carlson for actually tracking Humphries down!!! Here's the NewsChannel 7 story:

By Jonathan Carlson
Published: May 6, 2009

A shed bursts into flames, and a good samaritan helps save a jeep—parked just inches from the fire.

The owner wanted to find the man who did it, so he could say thanks.

Aaron Cowden’s Greenville home was close to catching fire when his nearby shed burst into flames yesterday.

Fumes from gas cans inside ignited the fire, we’re told.

Aaron says he lost thousands of dollars of equipment. But the bigger story here is the random act of kindness, in the midst of an all around bad day.

His friend’s jeep, filled with flammable gas, was quickly pulled from the flames, and saved from destruction, by a tow truck operator, who was just…driving by.

Benjamin humphries—the helpful tow truck driver—went unnamed—until we tracked him down.

He told us, “I noticed the fire right beside the jeep… dropped the car i had on my back… and grabbed the guy’s jeep… pulled it out of the way because there wasn’t nobody home.“

“(reporter: “Did you have any idea the owner of that jeep was looking for you to thank you?“) “No..I had no idea…not a clue until you called me…(laughs).“

He says helping others in times of need is what he does. The owners of that jeep and the house plan to call Benjamin to say thank you.