Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NC Wrecker Driver and Two Others Injured In Crash

We hope that everyone makes a quick recovery. Here's the story from The Greenville Daily Reflector:

A runaway pickup truck smashed into a roadside grill and a tow truck in the restaurant parking lot Tuesday night critically injuring the pickup's driver, State Highway Patrol officials said.

A supply room attached to Hollywood Grocery & Grill was demolished in the incident that occurred about 10:50 p.m. at N.C. 43 and Worthington Road. The tow truck operator and his customer also were struck by the pickup and injured.

The 2002 Ford pickup was driven by Dustin Soddy, 17, west on Mills Road across N.C. 43 toward Worthington Road and the high school. Soddy failed to negotiate the left-hand bend in the crossroads, First Sgt. M.A. Williams said.

Instead it drove at 55 mph directly into the grill's parking lot, where Jeffery Waller of Grifton was completing a towing transaction with Joey Adams of Ayden.

The two men were standing next to the wrecker when Soddy's truck hit the wrecker and then crashed into the pantry room of the grill, Williams said.

Waller and Adams were transported to Pitt County Memorial Hospital, where they were treated and released. Soddy was in critical condition on Wednesday, an official there said.

There was no indication that Soddy was driving impaired and no indication of any attempt to slow down or avoid the crash, troopers said.

“He might have fallen asleep at the wheel, but we haven't had an opportunity to find out yet,” Williams said. Soddy was not restrained by a seat belt when the crash occurred, he said.

There was no one in the grill when the wreck occurred. It closes at 2 p.m., an employee said Wednesday. Charges of reckless driving are pending against Soddy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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OH Towing Business Profile

Here's the story from the

HEBRON -- After 50 years, Ours Garage & Wrecker Service Inc. is under new management, but the business is staying in the family.

Kevin Ours, 48, of Hebron, and his two partners, Mike Davis, 48, and Matt Buchanan, 42, of Newark, bought the business when Ours' parents, Bill and Diana Ours, retired in July.

The company, which specializes in heavy-duty towing, was started by Kevin Ours' grandfather in 1959 as a gas station at the corner of Ohio 79 and U.S. 40. Bill Ours expanded the business to include towing and wrecking in 1961.

In 2002, the company joined the Towing and Recovery Association of Ohio in suing the city of Columbus after it tried to force the company to buy a license to tow within the city limits. The case traveled all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although the company lost the case, it succeeded in convincing state legislators to create a statewide license for tow trucks, Kevin Ours said.

A former executive director of the Towing and Recovery Association of Ohio, Ours has been involved with the family business since he was a young man. He jumped at the chance to own the company.

"The opportunity came at the right time," he said.

Beside towing, the business will begin repairing trucks and refrigerated trucks as well as hauling freight. Ours said he hopes the business will be able to double in size in the next year and open more locations in the area.

Despite these changes, he said the company will stay true to the principles it was founded upon.

"We've always been very service oriented, and that's not going to change," Ours said. "In fact it's going to get even better."

As for his parents, Ours said they will remain in Hebron.

"I worked with them everyday for 20 years, so it's pretty odd not having them around," he said. "But they still stop by to say hi."

Anna Sudar can be reached at (740) 328-8544 or

Monday, September 28, 2009

Woman Tries To Sell Son For $10 To FL Tow Truck Driver

Here's the story from the Sun-Sentinel:

Marcy Pappalardo did the unthinkable.

A tow truck driver said Pappalardo pulled up next to him at a red light in Melbourne and made a proposition he couldn't believe.

She asked if he wanted to give her $10 for gas money for the kid in the back.


The tow truck driver said after he turned down the offer he immediately called 911 and then followed the car several miles north on US-1 and even after the car turned around until sheriff's deputies caught up reports WFTV News.

She said he was lying.

The passenger in the car with Pappalardo admitted she was just released from jail after being arrested on drug charges.

She said they did ask him for money, but that was it.

The driver said he had nothing to gain from this and ended up losing time at work.

"I have kids of my own. I have no means to make something like this up," the driver said.

Officers said the child neglect charges stem from the accusation that she tried to sell her child.

But they said there were other aspects of this incident they wanted to look into.

Photo: WFTV News

Everyday Tow Hero In MA

Tow truck driver Scott Nowlin of West Bridgewater in Needham, not far from Route 128, where he rescued a teen trapped in a car.

Kudos to Scott Nowlin of West Bridgewater who owns South Shore Towing for saving the life of one 16-year-old driver.

Here's the story from

RANDOLPH - Brittany Biancuzzo was upside down and screaming — scared, disoriented and trapped, tugging on the seatbelt locked across her chest. The 16-year-old’s car had flipped over three times, landing inverted in the middle of Route 128 as cars flew by in the middle of the night.

Then a tow truck driver from West Bridgewater happened on the scene — and in the eyes of Brittany and her mother, helped save the teenager’s life.

“She saw these lights behind her and all of a sudden she heard this man’s voice,” said Brittany’s mother, Jaclyn Biancuzzo of Newton. “He said very calmly, ‘I’m going to help you. I’m going to help you.’”

The accident was on Thursday about 9 p.m. on Route 128, near Exit 17 in Needham. Biancuzzo, in a 2002 Honda Accord, was on her way home from work and had swerved to avoid some debris in the road, police said. Her car flipped when she tried to readjust the wheel.

The accident shut down all lanes of the highway except one.

When police arrived, Scott Nowlin — the tow truck driver who lives in West Bridgewater and owns South Shore Towing and Recovery in Randolph — had already freed Brittany Biancuzzo.

Another passer-by, who was a doctor, had checked the teenager for injuries and wrapped her in a blanket to keep her warm.

She was taken to Beth Israel Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Needham and treated for cuts and bruises.

Nowlin, for his part, was humble when reached Tuesday.

“I was just doing what I consider to be part of my job,” he said. “That’s my instinct. I just jump in and get it done. I don’t want to see anyone hurt.”

But Jaclyn Biancuzzo said her daughter described Nowlin as a true hero, who was in the right place at the right time.

The mother and daughter plan to thank Nowlin in person this weekend, having already done so by phone.

“Other cars had stopped, but nobody wanted to go into the middle of Route 128. He did,” Jaclyn Biancuzzo said. “It’s a miracle really. He actually put his life on the line.”

Nowlin said he initially didn’t realize someone was in the car.

But then Biancuzzo began honking the horn, and he saw her moving around inside.

Afraid the car might catch fire or that another driver might hit her, Nowlin grabbed a hammer from his tow truck, told Biancuzzo to cover her face, then smashed the driver’s side window.

He used a knife to cut the seatbelt loose, then grabbed Biancuzzo under her arms to pull her out.

Once Biancuzzo was in the care of police, Nowlin said he continued on his way. He had been heading to Newton — where the Biancuzzos are from — to pick up a vehicle that was going to be donated to charity.

A tow truck driver the past 25 years, Nowlin said he’s seen a lot on the roads.

And this is not the first time he has stepped in to help.

In the late 1990s, he said, he helped a state trooper and a passenger who got struck by a drunken driver while on the side of the highway.

Referring to Nowlin’s actions last week, state police Sgt. David Mahan said he could not say how often passers-by come to the aid of strangers.

“(But) it does happen, and thankfully it did happen on this occasion,” Sgt. Mahan said.

Jennifer Mann may be reached at

World Record Holders!

Congratulations to Worldwide Equipments Sales' "Tow Trucks For Tots" on their Guinness World Book of Records Acknowledgment! Their 240-truck event on Nov. 9, 2008 has officially been certified as the "Largest Parade of Tow Trucks." The next "Tow Trucks For Tots" will be held Nov. 8, 2009. Visit for more info!

GA Tow-er Helps Out With Beam From WTC Tower

Thanks to tow truck driver Jeff Poquette for his help! Here's the story from The Times-Herald:

A piece of history, with a full guard of honor, passed through Coweta County Tuesday, and many Cowetans got to put their mark on it.

A two-ton steel beam from the north tower of the World Trade Center was escorted into the Pilot Travel Center south of Newnan Tuesday by current and retired members of the New York Fire Department and by more than 200 motorcyclists.

The brief stop was the last on the Iron and Steel Run before it ends at Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga., where the beam will be placed outside the National Infantry Museum. A similar beam was presented to the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune.

The beam will be next to a statue of Col. Rick Rescorla, a decorated Vietnam veteran who was the vice president of security at Morgan Stanley.

Rescorla's widow, Susan, was one of the motorcyclists escorting the beam.

The beam is being donated to the Army to "honor the veterans who have died since Sept. 11" and those still fighting, Rescorla said.

Her husband's actions on Sept. 11, 2001, saved more than 3,000 lives, Mrs. Rescorla said. Of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 employees in tower two, only six died on Sept. 11. According to an entry on Wikipedia, Rescorla ignored building officials' recommendations to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of tower two.

A statute of Rescorla was erected at Fort Benning in 2006. Rescorla was inducted into the Soldiers Hall of Fame in April 2001, Mrs. Rescorla said.

"This is such a spiritual journey," she said. When she heard about the trip, "I said, 'I can't not go with them.'"

"The spirits of those who were murdered that day are on that steel, and they are being brought to another spirit," she said.

The motorcade left Bennet Field in Brooklyn Saturday morning, said Paddy Concannon, a retired lieutenant with the Fire Department of New York who organized the event.

The motorcade stopped at several locations along the route from New York, and "just about every overpass, from New York to Georgia, was covered with fire trucks and police cars," Concannon said.

A group of police "motormen" met the motorcade at the South Carolina line early Tuesday morning, and planned to escort it the whole way, said Elton Hassell of the Suwannee Police Department. Hassell said he'd been working for several months to organize a group to escort the motorcade.

Also in the motorcade were several current and former NYC firefighters, and Engine 343, a 1951 fire engine that is engraved with the names of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks.

A large crowd turned out to greet the motorcade, including dozens of Coweta County firefighters, local police and deputies, and Coweta residents. The local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association was on hand to give out water to the riders.

Everyone in attendance was invited to sign their name to the beam.

There was very little room left for people to sign, so Concannon and others enlisted the help of heavy-duty tow truck driver Jeff Poquette, who just happened to be at the truck stop. With the help of his crane and a few volunteers, the beam was flipped over.

"This is a tow truck operator's dream!" said Concannon as he presented Poquette with a FDNY T-shirt.

Throughout the whole trip, there has been a "wonderful outpouring of support," Concannon said.

"I appreciate all the support. It shows you how united we are as a country," he said.

"People are very, very positive, and emotional."

Profile of Canadian Tower John Boudreau of Loftus Auto Clinic

John Boudreau of Loftus Towing runs a fleet of tow vehicles that can handle just about any job out there.

Here's the profile from the New Brunswick Business Journal:
His DNA dictated that John Boudreau would become a tow-truck operator.

His father before him was. Two brothers are. And as for himself, he's been righting flipped tractor-trailers and rescuing stranded motorists since he was a teenager, more than 30 years ago.

Today, the Memramcook native owns Loftus Auto Clinic, which operates eight tow trucks of all sizes, including a new unit that arrives soon capable of lifting more than 40 tons.

"It's challenging work," John says. "It's different every day. You work in all kinds of weather. You could be here in Moncton in the morning and in minutes you could be on your way anywhere, because we travel the whole province."

Boudreau might be the boss, but he's also out in his truck, getting his hands dirty. Flatbed towing makes up about 75 per cent of his tow truck calls these days, but there's a vast amount of other tasks operators get assigned to, from lifting and moving small buildings to transporting heavy equipment onto major work sites.

Some learned the trade at their father's side. Some have taken accredited operators' courses in order to find their way into the business, for example through the New Brunswick Towing Association or via Wreckmaster, which teaches excellence in the field of towing. Most, like John, have a combination of the two, as well as specialized safety training they need to gain access to some of the biggest construction projects in the province.

"You start on the lighter stuff and move up to the heavier stuff," John says.

Operators need a keen mind for mechanics, good common sense, the ability to lift heavy objects like chains and slings, lots of patience and they must keep safety at the top of their minds at all times. They need to be good communicators since they'll be dealing with someone who's likely upset, because there are very few people who are happy to end up in a situation where they need a tow truck.

The hours can be long, for example, if you are tasked with towing a vehicle a long distance, or during winter storms which also prompt a flurry of calls because everyone who is stuck in a ditch somewhere is hoping for help as soon as possible. When it's very cold out, calls for battery boosts keep the phones ringing. During storms, public works' officials need cars moved that are illegally parked on city streets. Then there are drunk drivers whose cars are being impounded. And, of course, accidents.

The competition is fierce, with about 30 towing operations in Metro Moncton alone. Still, John's phone rings about 4,500 times per year, with everything from frozen car door locks to massive graders that can get stuck in ditches while plowing roads during winter storms.

"A plow in a ditch, well, it's got to come out," John says.

The competitors get along surprisingly well, likely because they mostly specialize in different aspects of the business and there is enough work for all.

Police calls are split up among the companies, in one-week rotations. As well, cop calls on one side of Vaughan Harvey Boulevard go to one company, calls from the other side go to another. Rural police calls operate on a similar rotational system.

Gone are the days of tow truck operators being pot-bellied grease monkeys, up to their elbows in grime. Today's operators strive to present an image that reflects the professionalism that is now the norm in the business, including trucks that are kept clean and some of which sport elaborate paint jobs.

They attend seminars across North America on the industry's best practices and on safety. They read specialized magazines. They live and breathe towing, as typified by the dozens of model tow trucks in John's office, his stack of trade mags and his autographed poster of the cast of Wrecked: Life In The Crash Lane, the hit reality Speed TV series that follows O'Hare Towing around Chicago as they tackle everything from dogs locked in cars to head-on tractor-trailer crashes.

In the winter it's very cold work; in the summer it's very hot. It's always dirty and it's often dangerous. The shifts are usually long and you can't possibly schedule much ahead of time because when someone needs your help, it's usually not a planned event. You get stuck with abandoned clunkers that go unclaimed by their owners and you deal with irate drivers whose cars have been ordered towed by the police.

But whether it's hauling a load of pipe to a major industrial project, delivering a shiny new car to its ecstatic owner far away, pulling a mom and her children out of a snowy ditch or cleaning up the site of a major automotive catastrophe, two things are a certainty.

You might never get rich, but you'll never be bored.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Funny

I had a flat tire on the interstate, so I eased my car over to the shoulder of the road, carefully got out of the car and opened the trunk.

I took out two cardboard men, unfolded them and stood them at the rear of my car facing oncoming traffic. They look so lifelike you wouldn't believe it! They are in trench coats exposing their nude bodies to the approaching drivers.

To my surprise, cars start slowing down looking at my lifelike men which made it safer for me to work at the side of the road. And of course, traffic starts backing up. Everybody is tooting their horns and waving like crazy.

It wasn't long before a state trooper pulls up behind me.
He gets out of his car and starts walking towards me. I could tell he was not a happy camper!
'What's going on here?'
'My car has a flat tire', I said calmly.
'Well, what the are those obscene cardboard men doing here by the road?'
I couldn't believe that he didn't know.. So I told him,

'Helloooooo, those are my Emergency Flashers.'

Monday, September 21, 2009

Farewell, Friend

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of Ron Zacharuk, owner of Ron's Towing in Prince George, British Columbia. Zacharuk, 65, died Aug. 15 in a Vancouver hospital.

Here's the information from the Prince George Citizen on a funeral procession for Zacharuk:
The public is advised that due to an unusual funeral procession this Saturday, traffic can expect some major but brief disruptions.
The parade will be made up of numerous tow trucks is in honour of Ron Zacharuk, namesake of Ron's Towing and a popular community figure in Prince George.
"Even though this is a Saturday, this could potentially be very disruptive to traffic, so we will have members at the ready," said Prince George RCMP spokesman Const. Gary Godwin. "It looks like they are doing everything by the book, we just want to move things along efficiently so there is management to the disruptions. We are better off helping that, rather than telling them they can't do it. Safety is the number one aspect, but this is a celebration of a popular person's life, they are working within the regulations for parades, so we support that."
The procession will be led by the Ron's Towing fleet and, said Godwin, is expected to draw many more tow trucks and support vehicles from around Prince George and from out of town. It begins at noon at Boeing Rd., down Highway 16 East past the jail and over the Yellowhead Bridge, along 1st Ave. to Carney St., up Carney to 5th Ave. where they will turn towards Spruceland and drive up to Central Street, at Central they will head for the junction of Highways 16 and 97, turn onto Highway 16 as far as Ferry Ave., from Ferry under the bridge to Queensway, then down Queensway into the downtown, ending at the Ramada Inn where there will be a celebration of Zacharuk's life from 1 to 3 p.m. with an open mic.
"Ron did a lot of work for us and it was always a fabulous job," said Godwin. Ron's Towing was frequently called upon to move abandoned or suspect vehicles for the RCMP. "He was very well known in the towing industry, so we understand the large outpouring."

New Website For H&H Sales Company

H&H Sales Company, Inc. has introduced their new, updated website at The website features a new design and offers complete specifications on products including cylinder storage cabinets, truck bodies, crane bodes, bulk tank trailers, carts and other truck equipment. Information is also available on the company’s services and links are offered to suppliers’ websites. A gallery of H&H Sales Company products is also offered on the new website.

Everyday Tow Hero In NY

Florescu for News
Tow-truck driver Peter Dinome chased Michael Fennell for 8 miles after seeing him plow into a pedestrian in the Bronx and take off.
Kudos to NY tow truck driver Peter Dinome of Co-op City Towing and Collision who chased down and caught a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx on Sept. 1. Here's the story from the New York Daily News:

A Good Samaritan tow-truck operator chased a hit-and-run driver for nearly 8 miles through the Bronx, desperately weaving in and out of traffic as he tried to catch the suspect, police and witnesses said Tuesday.

The high-speed pursuit - which came after the second hit-and-run accident on Bruckner Blvd. in as many days - finally ended when Peter Dinome was able to cut off the fleeing sedan and hold its driver for cops.

"I tried dragging him out of the car, [and] I took his keys," said Dinome yesterday. "He started crying, breaking down."

"I said, 'Did you realize what you just did?'" Dinome recalled. "'He said, 'I'm sorry, I panicked, I didn't know what to do.'"

The driver, Michael Fennell, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with an injury, police said.

Investigators charged that Fennell was driving east on Bruckner Blvd. in Pelham BayBraulio Lopez-Cruz, who was trying to cross the street. when he slammed into pedestrian

Lopez-Cruz, 40, was thrown almost a dozen feet before landing on the asphalt, while Fennell's Nissan Maxima never slowed down, police said.

Dinome, 20, followed in his Co-op City Towing and Collision truck, staying close behind the black sedan even as it took the on-ramp onto I-95 North only to exit in the other direction a few moments later.

"At times I was going 120, 130, I was moving," said Dinome, adding that Fennell drove the wrong direction down several one-way streets while trying to lose him.

Dinome, who had a friend call 911 to give police updates on the pursuit, finally caught up with the Maxima at the intersection of Willow Lane and Westchester Ave., just a few blocks from where their chase began.

"I couldn't let someone die right before my eyes and let him get away," said Dinome. "I'm not a hero - I just did a thing that I thought was right."

Lopez-Cruz was listed in serious but stable condition at Jacobi Medical Center and is expected to recover, police said.

Dinome said a traffic camera caught him running a red light, but the cop who arrested Fennell said he would pay for Dinome's ticket. "All the cops were patting me on the back," Dinome said.

A police source applauded Dinome for his help but said witnesses should call cops and not give chase on their own.

Meanwhile, cops are still hunting for the Lincoln Town Car that mowed down Octavio Reyes, 58, early Monday morning. Reyes is listed in critical condition.

Man Gets Life For 2007 Killing Of GA Tow Truck Driver

Here's the 9/5/09 story from the Gwinnett Daily Post:

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Gwinnett County jury didn't buy the murder-for-hire defense offered by Joe Lee Farris, finding him guilty on all counts Friday after deliberating for just two hours.

Farris, 44, was convicted of murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during a crime in the killing ofOlugbenga "Ken" Ikuesan, a 47-year-old Marietta tow truck driver.

Ikuesan was found dead in his wrecker near Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Norcross on the morning of May 9, 2007.

Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor sentenced Farris to life in prison plus 25 years, said Assistant District Attorney John Warr.

Farris' original trial in Febuary ended with the jury deadlocked, 6-6.

Farris took the stand Thursday and Friday, painting Ikuesan, a Nigerian immigrant, as a depressed man who wanted someone else to take his life for him.

Prosecutors said robbery was the motive, though exact circumstances aren't known.

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

The murder weapon, a 9mm handgun, was found under the porch of Farris' Carrollton home, police said.

Forensic experts linked the pistol to a bullet lodged in Ikuesan's head.

Miller On The Move

Here's the 9/2/09 story from the Chattagnooga Times Free Press:

Chattanooga-based tow truck maker Miller Industries has positioned itself well to handle the recession and is already calling back some workers it furloughed earlier this year, officials said.

The company had furloughed 256 workers as demand for the company’s products slowed.

But even as the company’s sales fell in the second quarter, its profits were up, and Miller has brought back about 85 workers.

J. Vincent Mish, Miller’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, said he hopes to continue to bring more back as the economy improves.

“We got through it just trying not to lose people,” Mr. Mish said. “They still have a job, and we didn’t have to lay anybody off.”

The callbacks at the Ooltewah-based company have been possible because of cost-cutting efforts such as the furlough program and a lean manufacturing process that includes the use of robots and a unique color-coding system for its parts and fixtures — all of which made a profit increase possible during a time when sales were declining.

Miller had net sales of $54.3 million in the second quarter, down 27 percent compared to $74.7 million in the second quarter last year. The company’s income was $1.4 million in the second quarter, or 12 cents a share, up 32 percent from compared with $1 million, or 9 cents a share for the same period of 2008.

“In these extreme economic conditions we are pleased with our second quarter results, which reflect our efforts to offset softening demand through careful cost control measures,” Mr. Badgley said in the company’s earnings statement.

Miller Industries, started in the early 1990s but with roots back to the earliest days of the tow-truck industry, employs 700 people worldwide with about 400 of them in Ooltewah. The rest are divided among the company’s facilities in England and France.

The company has about 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space at its campus off I-75. The space is used to manufacture the large, heavy-duty trucks and the smaller trucks.

Miller’s furlough program, instituted in April, has allowed employees to work four weeks and take off one week. During the off week, workers received unemployment pay.

Bill Beckley, corporate director of human resources, said the company worked closely with the state to set up the program.

“Rather than laying off 20 percent of our work force, we set up this program where we kept everyone on benefits,” he said.

About 56 of the furloughed employees came from the small wrecker plant, built in 2006 as part of a $10 million expansion. The plant exemplifies the lean manufacturing process with six robots, bought three years ago for about $350,000 a piece. They assist with welding projects and other work that requires a great deal of precision, said Jamison Linden, the plant’s manager.

“Using the robots helps with consistency and the quality of the part,” Mr. Linden said.

In the coming years, the robots are expected to more than pay for themselves with the efficiency they have added to the operation, officials said.

A color coding system used in the plant also allows workers to find parts quickly. A stack of shelves filled with different colored items is set up so that individual vendors fill the bins themselves, another cost-saving measure.

As part of the cost cutting efforts, Miller executives voluntarily reduced their salaries by 10 percent in 2008 and continued that in 2009.

The company’s leaders, however, remain concerned about how long the current economic condition will last, Mr. Badgley said in the earnings statement.

“We will continue to proactively position our business and invest in the further enhancement of our product offering to enable the company to take advantage of the eventual rebound in our markets,” he said in a statement.

Monday Laugh List


1. The nicest thing about the future is that it always starts tomorrow.

2. Money will buy a fine dog, but only kindness will make him wag his tail.

3. If you don't have a sense of humor, you probably don't have any sense at all.

4. Seat belts are not as confining as wheelchairs.

5. A good time to keep your mouth shut is when you're in deep water.

6. How come it takes so little time for a child who is afraid of the dark to become a teenager who wants to stay out all night?

7. Business conventions are important because they demonstrate how many people a company can operate without.

8. Why is it that at class reunions you feel younger than everyone else looks?

9. Scratch a cat and you will have a permanent job.

10. No one has more driving ambition than the boy who wants to buy a car.

11. There are no new sins; the old ones just get more publicity.

12. There are worse things than getting a call for a wrong number at 4 AM. - Like this: It could be the right number.

13. No one ever says 'It's only a game.' when their team is winning.

14. I've reached the age where 'happy hour' is a nap.

15. Be careful about reading the fine print. There's no way you're going to like it.

16. The trouble with bucket seats is that not everybody has the same size bucket.

17. Do you realize that in about 40 years, we'll have thousands of old ladies running around with tattoos?(And rap music will be the Golden Oldies !)

18. Money can't buy happiness -- but somehow it's more comfortable to cry in a Cadillac than in a Yugo.

19. After 60, if you don't wake up aching in every joint, you are probably dead!

Always be yourself. Because the people that matter, don't mind. And the ones that mind, don't matter.

Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

STO Now Has Free Online Classifieds For Members

STO is proud to announce that the Online Classifieds are now online and ready for use. It is free to all members to trade, sell, promote items other towers all over Texas.Here is a direct link to the new STO Classifieds:

New App From AAA

AAA announced its AAA Roadside app for iPhone users is now available on the iTunes App Store. The free app provides AAA members with a way to use their iPhone, and its innovative location based services, to quickly send their vehicle location, description, specific vehicle problem and other detailed information directly to AAA for roadside assistance. The user always has the option to place a voice call, and once the request is submitted, the AAA member receives a confirmation that his/her information was received by AAA Roadside Assistance.

Yohn Named As Jerr-Dan Vice President

Jerr-Dan Corporation, an Oshkosh Corporation [NYSE: OSK] company and manufacturer of towing and recovery equipment, has announced that it has named Brent Yohn to the position of vice president and general manager. Yohn will have oversight responsibility for all aspects of the company’s operations, including: Engineering, Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Operations and Sales.

Five-Year-Old Struck By Tow Truck In Critical Condition

Keeping him in our thoughts...
Here's the story from The Niagara Falls Review:

NIAGARA FALLS – A five-year-old Niagara Falls boy is in critical condition following a traffic accident, Friday evening.

The incident happened around 6:40 p.m. near the boy's Spring Blossom Drive home.

According to Niagara Regional Police, the boy ran from the south side of the road to the north side, toward his home, and was struck by a tow truck.

Several bystanders, including the victim's parents, came to his assistance. He was taken by ambulance to Greater Niagara General Hospital and later transferred to Hamilton Health Sciences Centre (McMaster Site).

The boy, whose name has not been released by police, is presently listed in critical condition.

The accident remains under investigation by members of the NRP's collision reconstruction unit.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact police at 905-688-4111, ext. 5550.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

FL Tow Truck Drivers Towing Cars, Towing Homes

First time I've seen a story on this sad aspect of the economic downturn and its effect on people AND the towing industry...

Here's the story from

Local tow truck drivers are used to hard luck stories. But nothing could prepare them for what they've been seeing since the economy went south. Tow truck drivers at Lake Park Towing say at least once a week, they show up to tow a car and someone is living inside that car. And They say it's a bad deal for everyone.

If you ever had your car towed, you know you don't get much sympathy from the towing company. Unless the owner of that towing company is Kathryn Gadoury.

"It breaks my heart, especially when you see a baby seat, you know? You know there are children involved, and how are they getting fed, how's anyone getting fed? How are they sleeping? You know, are they safe," Gadoury said.

She showed us a van that her company, Lake Park Towing, was called to pick up after the driver was pulled over without a valid tag or insurance. Kathy says four people were living inside. No one has showed up to get the car for weeks. It's something she has seen too often lately.

"I used to maybe up until last October, I might have got maybe one a month, but now it's like one to two a week," Gadoury said.

Tow truck driver Tim Edwards says he can't tell until he arrives, if he's going to tow a car that a person is living in. He's says it can be the hardest part of his job.

"But sometimes my heart gets in my way, but I still gotta do what I'm told," Edwards said.

And about 9 times out of ten people never return to pick up their cars. Already homeless, they can't afford to get them back. And Kathryn loses money on the deal because she has to hold them for weeks, then most are crushed. The same way she feels when they have to tow a car that someone once called home.

Gadoury said, " It's just an on going thing that's going to be happening as long as the economy is going down as it is".

And aside from the cars people are living in, Kathryn tells us a lot of other people are not coming to pick up their cars. She says she had to get rid of 27 last month...losing money on every one.

OK Wreckers Stalled By High Costs

Arrow Wrecker Service of Oklahoma City tows a car. (Photo by Maike Sabolich)
Here's The Journal Record story:
OKLAHOMA CITY – Since 2004, Tommy Burrows’ insurance cost on six tow trucks has increased 36 percent. During the same period, the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for his Liberal Area Radiator and Towing in Turpin has doubled. Payroll costs have risen about 77 percent, although Burrows has fewer employees.
Based in the Panhandle, Burrows told state senators Wednesday that his wreckers may have to travel up to 90 miles to reach a vehicle. He said 35 to 38 percent of towing charges are never paid.
Burrows was among several wrecker-service owners appearing before the Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee to ask for a 25-percent increase in towing fees for nonconsensual tows, wrecker calls made by law enforcement.
“That will just barely cover the equipment raises we’ve had,” he said.
Burrows said the cost of a heavy-duty wrecker rose from about $105,000 in 2004 to $130,000 in 2008.
Chris Puckett, with Pucketts Inc. in Oklahoma City, said wrecker-service companies are also seeking a 50-percent increase in hourly (work and wait) fees for heavy vehicles. Increases are also being sought for storage and mileage
“Many wrecker operators are in dire straits,” Puckett said.
He said wrecker fees, which are set by statute, have not been increased for almost six years.
Currently, the statutory hookup charge for light-duty vehicles is $65, with a $60 hourly rate. Rates for medium-duty vehicles are $75 for a hookup, $80 hourly. The Oklahoma heavy-duty hookup rate is $85, with a $180 hourly rate.
Puckett said that compared to rates in surrounding states, Oklahoma’s are low.
According to a rate chart from the Oklahoma Wrecker Owners Association, only New Mexico’s light-duty hookup rate, at $55, is less than Oklahoma’s. Rates attributed to specific companies in Arkansas, Kansas and Texas, which do not have statewide rates like Oklahoma and New Mexico, ranged from $85 to $202.50.
Medium-duty hookup rates cited for companies in nearby states ranged from $100 in New Mexico to $190 in Gainesville, Texas, with heavy-duty rates ranging from $200 in New Mexico to $375 in Gainesville.
Jimmy Robertson, with Lenox Wrecker Service in Owasso, said towing companies have thousands invested in equipment, property and other costs. He said wreckers can cost $74,000 to $500,000, depending upon how they are equipped and the size of vehicles they are designed to tow. He said equipment alone to operate a large wrecker can cost $5,000.
“We need your help,” he said.
As for being able to sell vehicles that are not claimed, Robertson said that by the time a car has been picked up, towed and stored, a wrecker service may have $1,200 tied up in it, but be able to sell it for only $200 or $300. He said cars taken to a crusher bring $30-$50.
Al Muzny, president of Arrow Wrecker Service in Oklahoma City, said rates need to be increased at all levels, but particularly for heavy-duty trucks.
“They weren’t adequate at the time they gave us the last raise,” Muzny said. “Due to the fact of what the big trucks cost, several times what a small one does, the rates need to be increased more on those to adequately cover the cost and taking care of the public.
Muzny said he has been in the towing business since 1965 and has 30 trucks and other vehicles.
Bryan Albrecht, with Cavin Wrecker Service in El Reno, said many other costs have increased for towing companies. He said that since 2004 fuel costs have increased 72.9 percent. He also said that four out of 10 towing charges are not collected.
Wrecker service operators said Oklahoma is one of few states that set towing rates statewide.
Albrecht said in some jurisdictions individual companies have their rates approved by government agencies.
In Connecticut, maximum rates are set by the Department of Motor Vehicles. In West Virginia, tow-service operators that do not have tariffs approved by the Public Service Commission must adhere to a rate chart.
Puckett said that until the mid-1990s rates for wrecker companies were approved by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. He said that after the trucking industry was federally deregulated, Oklahoma wrecker rates were not regulated for a time, after which state public safety officials asked the Legislature to establish statewide rates.
Major Rusty Rhoades, with the state Department of Public Safety, said the agency has no vested interest in towing rates, just public safety.

Towing Museum Facelift Precedes Hall of Fame Event

Here's the Chattanooga Times Free Press story:

Tow truck enthusiasts from around the world will descend on Chattanooga this weekend for a variety of events to celebrate the industry.

The International Towing & Recovery Museum will induct nine people into its hall of fame on Saturday, but the events surrounding the celebration kick off Friday night with a reception for the honorees.

Friday also marks the start of the Lookout Mountain Valley Tow Truck Show at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. That event will have vendors from across the country selling everything from tow chains to lights, said Jerry Riggs, festival organizer and president of the Tennessee Tow Truck Association.

“This is a big weekend for the towing industry in Chattanooga,” Mr. Riggs said.

Cheryl Mish, director of the towing museum, said she expects between 500 and 700 people to be on hand for the induction ceremony.

The museum has put finishing touches on a three-month renovation project that gave the front of the building a new look. Mayor Ron Littlefield will speak at a name unveiling ceremony.

“We are really excited,” Mrs. Mish said. “It’s a really big thing for us.”

The renovation, funded by the Miller Family Foundation, put new facades on the building along with lighting and stone on the front. William Miller is chairman and co-chief executive officer of Chattanooga-based tow truck maker Miller Industries.

Mrs. Mish declined to say how much the renovation cost.

The 16,000-square-foot building opened in 1995 and is divided into three sections — a gift shop, the towing museum and an empty space available for events. Chattanooga was chosen as the site of the museum because Ernest Holmes built the first wreckers here in the early 1900s.

The nine men being inducted into the hall of fame hail from around the world, including Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and South Africa.

“This year’s inductees share a dedication to their state and local towing organizations as well as the national towing and recovery community,” said Rolfe Johnson, president of the towing hall of fame and museum.

The first induction ceremony was held in 1986.

After a one-year hiatus, the tow truck show has returned to Chattanooga for what Mr. Riggs hopes will continue as an annual event that coincides with the hall of fame event at the museum.

An 85-ton rotating wrecker will be the star of show, and will do demonstrations in the Choo-Choo parking lot.

Fifty tow trucks will take part in a “beauty contest” Saturday, Mr. Riggs said.

Everyday Tow Hero In AL

Kudos to AL tow truck driver David Jackson who stopped and assisted at an accident scene, using his tow truck to pull a truck out of a lake.

Here's the story from WVUA -7:
Drivers and a tow truck driver are getting credit for saving another driver whose car slammed into a lake.

A van collided with a red truck sending the truck into a lake off Rice Mine Rd. in Tuscaloosa Wednesday. Several drivers jumped out of their cars and pushed the truck to the bank.

Truck driver David Jackson was passing by and noticed that something was wrong. He used his tow truck to pull the truck out of the lake, but he doesn’t want to be considered a hero.

“To me the two guys that swam and actually pulled the truck were the hero’s,” Jackson said.

Police on the scene told us the driver of the truck was conscious when he was taken to the hospital.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jury Decides OR Towing Company Operator Went Too Far

Here's The Oregonian story:

Former tow-truck driver Ryan Patrick Joynt tried to argue that he took cars from people's homes in legitimate business dealings.

A jury, however, didn't believe him. And now the 27-year-old man -- who ran Set Towing with his girlfriend Anna Alonzo and quickly gained notoriety among car owners in the Portland area -- is in the county jail awaiting sentencing.

After a seven-day trial, a Multnomah County Circuit Court jury found Joynt guilty of 14 felonies, including trafficking in stolen vehicles, theft and forgery involving three cars. He faces two similar charges in Washington County, where he is scheduled for trial this month.

"It's not too far to take the leap from legitimate towing to illegal towing," deputy district attorney Chuck Mickley told jurors during closing arguments. "The defendant has crossed that line."

Joynt didn't testify, but his attorney, Des Connall, argued that, if anything, the car owners' disputes were civil not criminal matters.

In the first case, prosecutor Chuck Mickley contended that Joynt paid a Gresham man, Robert John Lee Jr., $500 to hand over his friend's truck in January 2008. Lee had said that he chanced across Alonzo, learned that she worked at Set Towing and said he'd like to work out a deal to hand over his friend's 2006 Dodge Ram truck. The friend, a long-haul trucker who was often gone, was behind on his payments and, Lee said, owed him money.

Mickley said Joynt was the one who hammered out the deal before driving off with the truck. Mickley argued that Joynt had the truck stripped of parts or stripped it himself, and then forged paperwork to show the company had towed it from Medford.

With massive towing and storage fees purportedly owed, Joynt tried to gain ownership of the truck by filing a lien and saying the truck was worth less than $2,500 when its actual value was close to $30,000, Mickley said.

Alonzo was convicted of theft and lying to cover up the thievery with forged paperwork and was sentenced in June to a little more than a year in prison.

In the second case, Mickley argued that Joynt had a Set Towing driver tow another man's 1998 Dodge truck, which was parked along the road next to his home at the Sandy Mobile Villa, in August 2008. Joynt's defense was that the truck was legitimately towed because it was parked in the grass. But the truck's owner said that wasn't true and that when he tried to get his truck back by calling Set Towing, the man on the other end of the line refused to tell him where his truck was or how much he'd have to pay to get it back.

Police, who were growing more suspicious of the company because of other complaints, got the man's truck back a few days later after serving a search warrant at the tow lot.

In the third case, Mickley said that Joynt stole a 2006 Hummer from a man's driveway. The man had worked out an agreement with a company Joynt created, Empire Wholesale, to use the company's account to buy cars or trucks in an online auction.

The agreement was to pay Joynt $100 per vehicle purchased, but when the man bought the Hummer for his wife for $36,000, Joynt demanded a $9,000 fee, Mickley said. When the man didn't immediately pay up, Joynt, whose company held the title, took the Hummer.

"Literally, the defendant has zero money invested in the Hummer," Mickley said.

Joynt sold it two days later. He claimed that he was acting on the advice of his attorney at the time.

Joynt will be sentenced at a date to be scheduled. Judge Janice Wilson could order probation, but Oregon sentencing guidelines recommend at least 13 months in prison. The prosecutor will likely ask for at least several years more.

CAA: Tow Truck Emergency Status Needed

Here's the story from the Winnipeg Sun:

Like everyone in his line of work, tow truck operator Tim Paskaruk has a story.

Last winter, Paskaruk went out to assist on a call on Highway 59 near Bird's Hill Park. It seems a car hit a patch of black ice and had slid far into the ditch.

Paskaruk parked his truck -- lights flashing and all -- further up the highway before the scene of the accident to alert motorists as they approached the crash area.

Lost control

As the first tow truck began to slowly pull the car out, he got into the vehicle, keeping the wheels straight to ensure an easy exit.

As he sat in the car, a Toyota 4-Runner lost control on the slick road and flipped over, landing in the ditch right where Paskaruk first got into the car.

"It was right in front of me," he said. "I watched it happen from the car. Fifteen feet away. I would have been killed."

In an effort to curb these dangerous situations, CAA Manitoba has decided to get the message out.

Move Over Manitoba is a two-pronged campaign designed to not only ask motorists to brake when they approach a tow truck, but to hopefully convince the provincial government to make a change to the Highway Traffic Act.

Current legislation only protects emergency vehicles with heavy fines to offenders who do not slow their speeds and move over to the side of the road. CAA Manitoba wants tow trucks to be included, too.

"People know that if they're passing an ambulance or a fire truck and they don't slow down, there will be a fine," said Mike Mager, president of CAA Manitoba.

Mager said while no tow truck operators have died as a result of motorist negligence, some have been hit by car mirrors while on the side of the road.

Drivers often joke the little orange triangles they put out at a crash site work great -- as the sound they make when people drive over them while speeding through a crash scene serves as a warning to get out of the way.

No formal dialogue has taken place with the province, but Mager expects those discussions to begin soon.

Hardworking Hero In Frederick, MD

Photo by Skip Lawrence

Good title on this column and congrats to Earle Arnold of West Auto Care and Towing on his recognition. Nice to see a story on a tower!

It's from The Frederick News-Post Online:
Earle Arnold has been in the gas, towing and auto repair business for 30 years. But he's not a car buff. He's a people buff.

That's what he likes about his business, 40 West Auto Care and Towing on Montevue Lane in Frederick -- the people. And, even though he doesn't do it anymore, he loves the towing.

"It's always about helping someone. I try to make people feel comfortable in a bad situation," Arnold said.

His daughter, Angela Arnold Fenton of Columbia, is perhaps his biggest fan. "I can remember him working long hours, working holidays, working weekends É and never taking a break for himself," she said. "He has built his business to what it is today with much sacrifice and never complaining."

She recalls him helping stranded travelers on Christmas Eve. Recently, she said, he came to the aid of a servicewoman who had run out of gas. It was a Friday at 4 p.m. He was on his way to a dealership to pick up a part. The woman was walking along the road.

Arnold was not in a vehicle equipped for road service, so he called one of his trucks at no charge and thanked her for her service to the country.

"I got the nicest thank-you card from her in my 30 years of business," he said.

Arnold said he got his work ethic from his family. Growing up in Dickerson, he started pumping gas at a station in Gaithersburg when he was 14. His dad would drive him to the station on Friday evening and pick him up Sunday.

"I worked all weekend and spent the nights with my grandparents," he said. Some of his earnings went to putting food on the family table. "That's what we did back then."

He continued to work summers at the station. The manager took him under his wing and by the time Arnold was 16 he was handling most of the paperwork for his boss's three stations, he said.

"The guy that managed those stations taught me the business inside and out."

In 1977, he started working at the 40 West gas station in Frederick . Two years later he was running the place, leasing it as a dealer. He bought his first tow truck and for two months, he ran the station during the day and towed at night. Then he hired his first employee to help run the station.

The repair business expanded beyond the capacity of the station, so he purchased the site on Montevue Lane in 1988. When the gas station property was sold about five years ago, Arnold focused on repairs and towing. He now has 10 towing vehicles and 15 employees. "I instill what I've learned in them," Arnold said.

He gives back to the community in other ways, too. He supports youth sports teams and recently joined the Yellow Springs Lions Club. When cars are donated to the Career and Technology Center for students to work on, he donates the towing to get them there.

Arnold used to work 90-hour weeks. Now, he said, he feels almost semi-retired working just 50 to 60 hours.

CTTA To Develop Team To Combat Gov't-Owned Impound Facilities

Here's the press release:
Responding to concerns of California Tow Truck Association (CTTA) members regarding governmental agencies competing in what has been considered private sector business by establishing government operated towing and/or storage facilities, the CTTA Board of Directors called a special meeting that was held September 2009 to further explore avenues to assist privately owned towing companies in California to combat this growing trend.

“After extensive discussion during the meeting among the CTTA Board of Directors, we are pleased to report that the CTTA Board of Directors unanimously voted for our Legislative Committee to develop economic studies and informational and educational materials to assist in educating city and county officials who may be considering opening government owned and operated towing and/or storage facilities”, states Jim Kruger, CTTA State President

“In addition, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to lay the ground work for the development of regional “REACT Teams” to be utilized in offering further assistance to our over 1000 towing company members. The regional “REACT Teams,” comprised of industry leaders, will offer assistance to towing companies to convey the detrimental economic impact to small business and to the constituents in the city and/or county, should they choose to engage in a government owned towing and/or storage facility,” explained Jeff Hunter, CTTA Executive Director.

“Although we were pleased by the unanimous decision by the San Bernardino City Council voting to reject the proposal presented by the San Bernardino Police Department to create a city run impound yard , the CTTA Board of Directors recognize that the Association must remain diligent to protect the interests of the towing industry. CTTA strongly encourages other governmental entities to take a closer look at the rationale used by the San Bernardino City Council when they voted unanimously to reject the proposal, states Mr. Kruger.

“Governmental agencies must realize that destroying small businesses and industries, which deliver public services to their communities is not the answer to our current governmental cash crunch or structural deficit problems. Governmental agencies do not have the equipment, experience, or training to perform the wide variety of towing and storage services that our members provide,” explained Mr. Kruger

“Our Association understands that governmental agencies may not have accurate information when they are presented with this type of proposal. It is our commitment to our industry and to the towing companies within the State of California to develop tools and resources to assist them in educating governmental agencies and the motoring public of not only the detrimental financial impact that this would have upon private sector towing companies, but also the negative effect that it will have on our California roadways and to the motoring public within their communities,” declared Mr. Hunter.

About the California Tow Truck Association

Founded in 1969, the CTTA was established to provide a means of united efforts in the solution of problems, and to administer such action as might be deemed necessary to benefit the towing industry, to communicate with government agencies on a state and local basis, and to provide a concerted effort toward giving the Towing Industry a better public image and the professional status it deserves.

KY Wrecker Driver Killed In Crash

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 69-year-old Donald C. Moore of Campbellsburg, KY, who was killed on Sept. 14 in a crash.

Here's the story from
A 69-year-old man was killed Monday morning in a crash on Interstate 71 near Crestwood, Oldham County Police said.
Police identified him as Donald C. Moore, of Campbellsburg, Ky.

Emergency dispatchers said the crash occurred just before 10 a.m.

Moore was driving south on I-71 in a flatbed wrecker carrying two crushed cars when he approached traffic that was backed up from construction, said Officer Matt Cornell, an Oldham County Police spokesman. Moore, who was driving in the fast lane, then swerved into the median to avoid hitting other vehicles and struck a rock wall and a tree, Cornell said.

The cars on the back of the wrecker then flew forward into the cab of the truck, Cornell said. Moore was pronounced dead at the scene.

The construction was being performed near mile marker 11, and traffic was backed up to around mile marker 12 near the Oldham-Jefferson County line, Cornell said.

The median along that stretch of I-71 has many trees, and only a one-car wide stretch of space to safely maneuver, Cornell said.

The southbound lanes of I-71 were shut down until around 1 p.m., with traffic detoured via Ky. 329 and Ky. 22 to the Gene Snyder Freeway.

Everyday Tow Hero In South Africa

MAN ON THE SPOT ... Bodyman Auto-Towing owner Anton Kleinhans crouches at the spot in Heugh Road where he witnessed a tourist being robbed in the early hours of Sunday morning. He then tracked down the robbers. Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI

Round of applause to towing company owner Anton Kleinhans of Bodyman Auto-Towing in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, for coming to the rescue of a young British tourist!
Here's the story from The Weekend Post Online (audio available at the website):

THE owner of a towing company who chased the thieves of a British tourist’s handbag at the weekend, spoke yesterday of his role in the arrest of four men.

The men were arrested early on Sunday after robbing a young tourist and attempting to rob another nightclub patron in Walmer.

Anton Kleinhans, owner of Bodyman Auto-Towing, saw the robbery and chased the thieves to Central, where he contacted police who made the arrests.

The tourist’s handbag was recovered and the men are set to appear in court this week.

Kleinhans said he and his wife, Elmarie, were patrolling Heugh Road, Walmer, at about 2.15am on Sunday when he drove past a young woman walking down the road by herself.

“She was wearing black shorts and high heels and was carrying a handbag. I said to my wife it was dangerous for her to be walking around so late by herself, so I made a U-turn at Sixth Avenue to see if she needed any help,” Kleinhans said.

He said the woman was walking between Third and Fourth avenue when a yellow Toyota Tazz stopped next to her and two men got out of the car.

“The two men grabbed her bag. She pulled it back. Then they pushed her to the ground. It was about 10 seconds after I had made the U-turn.”

Kleinhans said the two men then fled on foot while the vehicle sped down Heugh Road. He decided to chase the vehicle instead of the two men on foot, who had run off in different directions.

“As I was chasing the car I called the police to tell them what had happened. As they drove into Parliament Street I saw two policemen and shouted to them. They took out their firearms and arrested the two men in the Tazz.”

Kleinhans said he then called one of his drivers to check up on the woman who had been robbed. He told him to check near club Balizza, as he assumed the woman had been walking from there.

“He found her with a friend at the club and she was in tears. Her friend then brought her to the Humewood police station where the two arrested men had been taken.

“I called her phone number and a policeman from Walmer answered. He said the men who had fled on foot had also been arrested.”

Kleinhans said the robbers on foot were hiding in a Heugh Road bus shelter when police drove past and then turned back. The two men were about to rob another Balizza patron when police caught them in the act.

“It turned out that the young woman who was robbed is a tourist from London.

“She had parked her car at the Crazy Zebra and was walking back to her car from Balizza when the robbery occurred.

“She said that in London it was not that dangerous to walk alone that time of the morning.”

Police spokesman Inspector Hazel Mqala confirmed that four men had been arrested on a charge of common robbery.

Study Finds That Houston's Safe-Clear Program Is Reducing Freeway Accidents

Kudos to the companies and drivers of Houston's Safe-Clear Program!!
Here's the story from the Houston Chronicle:

Houston's mandatory towing program has continued to reduce crashes on the city's freeways, according to a city-commissioned study released Monday.

The study examined the effect of the Safe Clear program from 2005 through 2008. It found there were 120 fewer accidents per month, on average, compared to the baseline year of 2004. The program began in January 2005.

Safe Clear gives one towing company the exclusive right to clear disabled vehicles from certain highway segments, eliminating the free-for-all competitive race to an accident scene by wrecker trucks.

Another program goal is to eliminate traffic congestion and secondary accidents caused by drivers slowing down to stare at a wreck. Under Safe Clear, the city tracks how long each towing company takes to respond to and clear a disabled vehicle.

Mayor Bill White launched Safe Clear as part of his mobility plan. The program met some initial resistance. Among other controversies, the mandatory tows cost $75, a provision that was later dropped.

The drop in auto accidents has saved the public more than $4 million a month in associated medical, insurance, and loss productivity costs, the study said.

“We've worked hard to make this program the success that it is, saving people money and time,” White said.

Reasons unclear

The new study could not discern if crashes declined because wreckers were no longer racing each other to a scene or because rubbernecking was reduced.

But the study did take into account other influences on the crash rate, such as rainy days, gas prices and the amount of traffic.

“It makes the program look exceptionally effective,” said Bob Stein, a Rice University professor who co-authored the study with Tim Lomax of the A&M Texas Transportation Institute. (Stein's wife works for the White administration as a City Council agenda director.)

The study showed a correlation between Safe Clear response times and the number of monthly accidents. The faster towing trucks responded to a call, the fewer accidents on the freeway. For every minute decrease in response time, monthly collisions dropped by 80 on all Houston highways, Stein said.

Link to gasoline prices

In 2008, a tow truck arrived within six minutes 89.8 percent of the time. The city's goal is 90 percent.

The study also found that response times lengthened as gasoline prices rose. Stein said that may be because wrecker drivers may have been patrolling less to conserve gas. (Drivers are also sent to crash scenes after being dispatched by police or TranStar, the regional traffic monitoring agency.)

The city has spent at least $67,000 studying the Safe Clear data.

Stein said his research has revealed that wrecker drivers used other tactics to learn about wrecks, such as stationing themselves near construction areas or telephoning each other. The city is conducting more studies on these methods to see if response time can be improved more through better training of drivers.