Monday, September 28, 2009

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.


Hino Trucks said...

I didn't realize there was so much involved in towing, Good on you john, keep up the good work!

Auto1 said...

Interesting read.

Auto Professionals said...

is DNA dictated that John Boudreau would become a tow-truck operator. Ha ha, maybe he just chose it?

Ben Cousins said...

Must be a nice way to live, meeting a lot of different people.

Truck said...

I have to agree with Ben.

Nissan4x4 said...

I wonder whats the bigegst thing he ever towed

Free Stuff said...

I doubt if it was bigger than a normal car.

Mercedes-Benz said...

You never know, Ive seen a tow truck tow a mack truck before.

Automotive Recruitment said...

Your kidding?

Hino said...

Flatbed towing makes up about 75 per cent of his tow truck calls these days, how true.

SSR Towing said...

so much involved in towing business. Not that simple... Good work...GTA towing

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