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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Everyday MI Tow Hero Honored

Kudos to Bryan Hudson of Merl's Towing, who was honored by American Towman last weekend at the tow show in Baltimore!

Here's the FOX 17 story and video:

KENT COUNTY - A tow truck driver from West Michigan was honored for saving the lives of three people, including a 90-year old man. It happened last December when he pulled them from an icy lake.

Bryan Hudson had just finished a job when an SUV plunged into Reeds Lake, flipping over on it's roof. A Kent County Sheriff's Deputy called for help. Bryan went in.

"I did my job. When I was done I went home showered and went back to work, after I retrieved the vehicle out of the swamp," said Hudson.

His boss says he's proud of Hudson.

"We're just happy Bryan was there at this time to take care of what needed to be taken care of and he's been recognized for it," said Mark Fredette, Owner Merle's Towing.

Each year American Tow-Man magazine selects 10 drivers for going above and beyond their job.


Here's the video:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NV Insurers Say Towing Companies Inflating Fees

Here's the story from The Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Some of the biggest auto insurers in Nevada urged state regulators Wednesday to take action against towing companies that they said are inflating bills for towing cars involved in accidents.

Law enforcement officers typically specify which tow truck company will remove damaged cars from the scene of an accident, because of the need to clear the street quickly, said Robert Compan, government affairs representative with Farmers Insurance Group.

These are called "nonconsent" tows, because the motorist isn't allowed to select the tow company.

During a meeting at the Nevada Transportation Authority's offices at 2290 S. Jones Blvd. in Las Vegas, Compan complained about companies that he said were overcharging for accident-scene towing services at the expense of insurance companies and consumers.

"It sounds to me that there could be numerous violations of a regulatory structure that is already in place," authority Chairman Andrew MacKay told a crowd of 75 people that overflowed into the hallway.

AAA Nevada said a random survey of 100 tows showed the average nonconsent tow cost $590, of which 59 percent stemmed from miscellaneous charges.

A claims director from American National complained about towing bills that failed to itemize the charges.

"That's a no-no," MacKay said.

Steve Poloain of Farmers outlined a study that contrasted the practices of two tow companies, one that paid drivers hourly rates and one that paid commissions based on fees charged.

Poloain questioned whether one of the towing services wasn't "double billing."

Farmers reviewed towing charges involving 214 vehicles at Company A and 178 vehicles at Company B. Neither company was identified by name.

Company A charged for out-of-the-ordinary services in 66 percent of its calls while Company B only did so 6 percent of the time.

Company A charged customers for winching services in 33 percent of the calls compared with 1.6 percent for Company B. Company A charged extra for spending longer than 30 minutes to clean accident scenes in 49.5 percent of the cases, compared with 20.8 percent for Company B.

The first time an insurance representative or motorist visits his vehicle at an impound lot is free. But Poloain complained about charges ranging from $21 to $65 for additional visits and suggested regulators require companies to keep logs to document these charges.

"At what point does this become bill padding to take advantage of the insurance company and the individual?" Poloain asked.

MacKay suggested Farmers provide information to the authority's enforcement staff.

The chairman also called on Joe Citta of State Farm Insurance to do the same for another study, but Citta said the only problem was its documents were about 18 inches high.

Compan said the Nevada Highway Patrol has designated 50 towing companies that are authorized to tow wrecked vehicles from accident scenes.

However, the Metropolitan Police Department relies on two companies, Quality Towing and Ewing Bros. Auto Towing & Towing, Compan said.

He estimated that the two companies each tow vehicles from 46,000 accidents yearly through contracts with the police.

The Farmers Insurance representative suggested that the police needed to allow more competition for nonconsent tows to drive down prices.

"I know there are some abuses," said state Sen. Michael Schneider, D-Las Vegas, who attended the meeting.

Schneider and Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, mentioned instances of tow services towing cars parked on streets within homeowner association communities within minutes of the homeowners going inside.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Are You A Facebook Fan? I am!

Canadian Tow Truck Driver Injured In Rollover

Here's the news brief from the Belleville Intelligencer:

A tow truck driver making his way to a single vehicle rollover in the city's north ward was taken to hospital after his vehicle rolled over.

City police blamed the fog on Sunday morning for the two incidents. The tow truck was making its way to a truck that had rolled over on Harmony Road with no injuries to that vehicle's driver. The tow truck operator, however, suffered serious injuries when he rolled over on Casey Road.

Road Ranger Saves FL Tow Truck Driver Pinned By Bus

Here's the Orlando Sentinel story:

A Road Ranger's quick action saved a tow truck driver who was pinned under a bus today.

The mishap started when a Lynx bus broke down just after 5 p.m. near the intersection of Conroy and Vineland roads, near The Holy Land Experience theme park. A driver from Johnson's Wrecker who showed up to tow the bus instead needed help himself.

Road Rangers patrol Interstate 4, but Ranger Mike Cocomazze had exited I-4 at Conroy for a quick break when he spotted the ailing bus. It was blocking traffic, so he went to help.

That's when he heard the two truck driver.

"He was yelling, 'Get the bus off me! Get the bus off me!" Cocomazze said.

The tow truck driver had crawled underneath the bus as he began to hook it to his truck. Somehow, he became pinned between the bus and the curb.

"He was absolutely in distress," Cocomazze said. "It was affecting his breathing. I didn't know how long he had."

Road Rangers don't carry the kind of specialty equipment firefighters use to extricate accident victims. But Cocomazze did have a hydraulic jack he uses to change flat tires.

While his dispatcher called the Orlando Fire Department, Cocomazze ran to his truck and got the jack. He put it between the bus and the curb, and managed to lift the vehicle just enough to pull the man free.

Paramedics transported the tow truck driver to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was being treated Sunday night. A Johnson's representative said his condition wasn't life-threatening.

"I didn't see it as a big deal," Cocomazze said. "When you've been doing this for five years, it's just another incident."

Mark Schlueb can be reached at mschlueb@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5417.

OH Repo Man Struck By Repossessed Car

Here's the story from kypost.com:
SILVERTON, Ohio -- A Silverton man is facing charges for allegedly going to extremes over the weekend when his vehicle was being repossessed.

Charles Alexander, 41, was arrested outside his home late Saturday night. He's charged with felony attempted vehicular assault and another count of misdemeanor failure to stop after an accident.

Police say two repo men allowed Alexander to get in the vehicle to retrieve some of his items when the car was on the tow truck's hook. At that point, Alexander allegedly started the car, put it in reverse, and struck one of the men.

Alexander fled, but was found with the use of a GPS device. The man who was struck was not seriously injured.

Alexander was arraigned on Monday.

Positive Profile On NM Tower


Here's the story from the Portales News-Tribune:

David Welch is owner and operator of A-1 Towing in Portales.

Background: Welch grew up in Portales and graduated Portales High School in 1969. He and his wife, Pam, who does the bookkeeping for the business, have three sons and a daughter. Welch started in the trucking business right after high school.

“I hauled cattle for years,” Welch said.

Years in business: Welch started A-1 Towing four years ago.

What made you choose the profession? “I’ve just always wanted to be in the towing business,” Welch said. “When I got out of the trucking business, it just seemed automatic. I was already used to the odd hours.”

What does the job entail? Responding to broken-down cars, car wrecks and police impounds at all hours.

“When the phone rings, you get up and go, 24-7,” he said.

Welch uses a flatbed recovery truck to load the disabled vehicle and haul it to a dealership or wrecking yard. He also does vehicle unlocks, jump-starts and flat changes.

What training do you need for the job? Welch says a lifetime of driving trucks and operating heavy equipment gave him most of the experience he needed. He gained that experience on the job over the years. Pam went to a school to train in reading and verifying vehicle identification numbers. Welch had to apply for a state license to operate and place his business in the police rotation for tow truck operators.

What do you enjoy most about the job? “All the interesting people you meet,” Welch said. “You meet all kinds from all walks of life.”

Dallas Tow Truck Driver Arrested For Selling Inspection Stickers

Here's the story from the Dallas Morning News:

A Dallas tow truck driver who was allegedly selling illegal vehicle inspection stickers out of his truck was arrested today by the Sheriff's Department following an investigation by the county's clean air task force, officials say.

Coincidentally, Anthony Smith is a driver for Ron's Towing, which is one of the wrecker services that tows vehicles for the sheriff.

"It doesn't matter what agency you're doing business with. We're not going to overlook wrongdoing," said County Judge Jim Foster, who oversees the task force.

Smith was arrested at his house and charged with tampering with a government document, according to Lt. Jerry Kitchens, a deputy constable who serves on the clean air task force.

Smith drives a gigantic wrecker that tows disabled semi-trailers. It was so big the task force couldn't impound it, Foster said.

Kitchens said Smith also dealt in counterfeit inspection stickers. He said Smith got the real ones from a Dallas vehicle inspection station. Smith charged $100 for the real stickers, Kitchens said. He wasn't sure how many were sold.

The task force launched the investigation after a sheriff's deputy stopped a motorist with a counterfeit inspection sticker. The task force traced that bogus sticker back to Smith, Kitchens said. The task force then had an undercover officer buy a real sticker from Smith, he said.

Smith hadn't yet been booked into the jail as of the writing of this post.

Arrest Made In Killing Of GA Repo Man

Our condolences to the family and friends of 27-year old Brandon Thomas who was shot and killed on Nov. 12 while trying to repossess a vehicle.
Here's the update and previous story from the Rome News-Tribune:
ATLANTA (AP) — A man has been arrested in the shooting death of a Kennesaw man who was killed when he tried to repossess a car.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Fulton County Police spokeswoman Melissa Parker says U.S. marshals arrested 29-year-old Justin Moore in DeKalb County Tuesday morning.

Authorities say Moore began firing a shotgun at the two repo men after they had loaded his 2004 Ford Mustang on their tow truck Thursday morning. They drove away, but police say he chased them in another car and ran them off the road.

Moore is accused of killing 27-year-old Brandon Thomas and wounding 36-year-old Willie Thackston.

Officers found the car Thursday night behind a warehouse in Clayton County, just south of Atlanta.

From Nov. 4: Ga. repo man killed, another wounded by shooter

ATLANTA (AP) — Police are searching for a gunman who killed a repo man and critically wounded another as they tried to repossess his car in south Fulton County.

Police spokesman Scott McBride says the two men had loaded the 2004 Mustang on a tow truck early Thursday morning when the car's owner began shooting at them. The two men fled in the tow truck with the car attached, but the shooter followed them in another vehicle.

McBride says the shooter ran the tow truck off the road and shot the two men, killing the passenger and wounding the driver. The shooter then took the Mustang and drove away.

Police briefly chased the suspect, but he was able to get away.

McBride said police are searching for 29-year-old Justin Moore in connection with the shooting. The names of the victims have not been released.

Also In MA...

I'm sure his insurance company wasn't real thrilled...
Here's the story from www.wickedlocal.com:
PLYMOUTH —

A Marshfield man escaped injury when a shed fell off a tow truck and crushed the side of his vehicle in Cedarville Monday.

The shed hit a girder while traveling under the Route 3 overpass on Herring Pond Road and fell into oncoming traffic at 7 p.m., hitting a Nissan sport utility vehicle driven by John Perry, 28, of Marshfield.

The shed damaged the entire length of the Nissan’s driver’s side, shattering the window, but Perry was not injured.

The accident limited traffic beneath the highway for more than an hour as crews cleaned the debris and engineers from the state highway department inspected the bridge. Capt. John Rogers said the inspection revealed no structural damage.

The tow truck is owned by J and R. Towing of Wareham. The driver, Joshua McKee, 35, of Plymouth, was cited on a charge of operating to endanger.

MA Man Arrested In Road Rage Incident With Tow Truck Driver

Here's the story from the Patriot Ledger:
BRAINTREE —

Police arrested a Braintree man and charged him with pointing a handgun at another man during a road rage incident.

Police charged John M. O’Connor, 45, with assault with a dangerous weapon.

A 25-year-old tow truck driver from Braintree told police that O’Connor pointed a gun at him from an open window during a verbal exchange at the intersection of Elm and Church streets early Monday.

The tow truck driver said he was traveling on Interstate 93 and was getting off the highway at Washington Street when O’Connor cut him off. When O’Connor drove away, the tow truck driver followed him and called police.

Officers Brian Eng and Matthew Heslam stopped O’Connor at the intersection of Commercial Street and Prescott Lane.

Police said O’Connor gave a different version of what happened, but both men told stories about aggressive driving.

A loaded Smith and Wesson 9mm handgun, similar to the type police officers carry, was found in O’Connor’s vehicle. O’Connor has a license to carry that type of weapon, police said.

Pic of the Day


Wrecker driver Gilbert Harrison attaches a towing cable to a Bugatti Veyron that was driven into the water near Omega Bay in La Marque, Texas. A man blamed a low-flying pelican and a dropped cell phone for his veering his million-dollar sports car off a road and into a salt marsh near Galveston. You write the cutline. (AP Photo/The Galveston County Daily News, Chris Paschenko)

November Nor'easter In VA

Sorry for the lack of posts all week! The November Nor'easter here in VA took out my internet connection. Getting caught up though!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Farewell, Friend

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of Rodney F. ‘Rod’ Pichel, owner and operator of Rod’s Wrecker Service Incorporated of Merrill, WI. He passed away last Friday at the age of 60.

Here's the Newsline 9 story:

MERRILL (WAOW)--It was a sendoff fit for a gear-head.

Rodney F. ‘Rod’ Pichel was the owner and operator of Rod’s Wrecker Service Incorporated of Merrill. He passed away last Friday at the age of 60.

Friends and family gathered together to say their last good byes on Wednesday. He made his last trip, flanked by about a dozen tow trucks.

Online condolences may be made at http://www.taylorstinefuneralhome.com/

My Vote For Pic of the Day


FL Tow Truck Driver Dies While On The Job

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of this as-yet unnamed tow truck driver who died Wednesday from a medical problem while on the job. The driver worked for A Touch of Class Towing. Here's the story from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
A Fort Lauderdale tow-truck driver died from medical complications while he was driving on the job Wednesday afternoon, an employee for the towing company said.

Karl Waith, a manager with Touch of Class Towing in Fort Lauderdale, said an employee who worked for the company several years suffered a medical problem that resulted in his death.

A Fort Lauderdale police spokesman couldn't be reached Wednesday for additional information about the incident or to verify whether the driver's next of kin was told of his death. However, no one else was reported hurt after the driver suffered medical complications and lost control of his vehicle.

His tow truck struck a white Honda Civic on Wednesday afternoon, just west of State Road A1A on Northeast 34th Street, said Artino Joseph, 79, the driver of the Civic.

Joseph said he was in the Civic and stopped at a traffic light on Northeast 34th Street when the tow truck struck his vehicle on the side.

After the crash, emergency responders arrived, he said.

"The truck driver passed away after they tried to revive him," Joseph said.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Footnotes' NEW Digital Edition Is Now Online!


Check it out today!

Couldn't Be Worth It...

Clumsy crimes, wild stories result in Alaska man's arrest - story from the Anchorage Daily News:
While most of Anchorage was sleeping on Tuesday morning, a local man allegedly broke into a local tow shop’s storage lot, trying to retrieve a 1967 pickup that he left there a month ago.

Police say Richard Heger, 67, then embarked on a clumsy crime spree, including damaging property at a couple of local businesses, lying about his identity to police and spinning them stories involving President Barack Obama and the CIA.

To aid in recovering the pickup, Heger allegedly stole a tow truck at Rusty’s Towing & Recovery near Government Hill and caused an estimated $7,000 in damage to the storage lot’s gate. While he was towing the pickup down C Street at 3:30 a.m. today, police say, the pickup came unhitched from the tow truck and struck the Romano’s Restaurant sign.

A sanding truck driver noticed the collision at Romano’s and called police. When police arrived, they found Heger attempting to reattach the pickup, but incorrectly. When they queried Heger, police said he gave them a false name and told “wild stories” about scouting for President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Anchorage and working for the CIA.

He told police that he had purchased the 1967 Ford for $800, but could not furnish any proof of ownership and he was not listed as its registered owner.

A shop representative from Rusty’s Towing told police that Heger had asked the company to tow the pickup to a repair shop but he didn’t have any money to pay for it. Instead it was towed to Rusty’s storage lot until he came up with the money. The truck had been sitting at Rusty’s since early October, police said.

Police arrested Heger this morning and charged him with vehicle theft, two counts of criminal mischief, two counts of trespass, providing false information to police and driving with a canceled license. His bail was set at $10,000 and he is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon.

Miller Industries Inc. Reports Operating Results

From www.gurufocus.com:

Miller Industries Inc. (MLR) filed Quarterly Report for the period ended 2009-09-30.

Miller Industries, Inc. is a leading integrated provider of vehicle towing and recovery equipment and services. The Company's business is divided into two segments: (i) manufacturing and distributing towing and recovery equipment and providing financial and related services to the towing and recovery industry and (ii) providing towing and specialized transportationservices. The Company markets its towing and recovery equipment under several well-recognized brand names and markets its towing services under the national brand name of RoadOne(R). Miller Industries Inc. has a market cap of $116.8 million; its shares were traded at around $10.06 with a P/E ratio of 29.6 and P/S ratio of 0.4. Miller Industries Inc. had an annual average earning growth of 2.4% over the past 10 years.

Highlight of Business Operations:

Cash provided by operating activities was $22.1 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, compared to $3.0 million for the comparable period in 2008. The cash provided by operating activities for the nine months ended September 30, 2009 reflects decreases in accounts receivable and inventory due to lower sales volume offset by decreases in accounts payable.


Cash used in investing activities was $0.5 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, compared to $4.3 million for the comparable period in 2008. The cash used in investing activities was for the purchase of property, plant and equipment.


Cash used in financing activities was $4.0 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, compared to $1.2 million for the comparable period in 2008. The cash used in financing activities repaid the term loan under our senior credit facility, mortgage notes payable, and other outstanding long-term debt.


We are party to a Credit Agreement with Wachovia Bank, National Association for a $27.0 million senior secured credit facility. The senior credit facility, as amended, consists of a $20.0 million revolving credit facility, and a $7.0 million term loan. The senior credit facility is secured by substantially all of our assets, and contains customary representations and warranties, events of default and affirmative and negative covenants for secured facilities of this type. Covenants under the senior credit facility restrict the payment of cash dividends if a default or event of default under the Credit Agreement has occurred or would result from the dividends or if the Company would be in violation of the consolidated fixed charge coverage ratio test in the Credit Agreement as a result of the dividends, among various other restrictions.


In February 2009, approximately $1.7 million of mortgage notes payable was repaid and the related obligation was terminated. At September 30, 2009 we had approximately $0.3 million of equipment notes payable and other long-term obligations. We also had approximately $1.5 million in non-cancelable operating lease obligations.


We are subject to risk arising from changes in foreign currency exchange rates related to our international operations in Europe. We manage our exposure to our foreign currency exchange rate risk through our regular operating and financing activities, and not through the use of any financial or derivative instruments, forward contracts or hedging activities. Because we report in U.S. dollars on a consolidated basis, foreign currency exchange fluctuations could have a translation impact on our financial position. At September 30, 2009, we recognized a $2.0 million increase in our foreign currency translation adjustment account compared with December 31, 2008 because of weakening of the U.S. dollar against certain foreign currencies. During the three months ended September 30, 2009 and 2008, the impact of foreign currency exchange rate changes on our results of operations and cash flows was a gain of $83,000 and a loss of $36,000, respectively. The impact of foreign currency exchange rate changes on our results of operations and cash flows were gains of $367,000 and $47,000 for the nine months ended September 30, 2009 and 2008, respectively.


Read the The complete Report

MLR is in the portfolios of Michael Price of MFP Investors LLC, HOTCHKIS & WILEY of HOTCHKIS & WILEY Capital Management LLC.

Monday, November 9, 2009

URT Announces Live Online Bidding At Its Chicago Vehicle Impound Auctions

Here's the Nov. 6 press release:

United Road Towing (URT) announced today it has launched hybrid bidding technology at its weekly auto auctions in the Chicago market that allows buyers to bid electronically via the internet! “The goal is to link registered qualified bidders in real time along with live local bidders and allow people not able to travel or attend the auction sales in person to bid on line from the comfort of their office or home,” said Tom Tedford Sr. VP of Business Development for URT. “This technology has existed for years in the market place primarily used by large used car auction houses and insurance salvage auctions worldwide and we are excited to launch this into the impound auction market.” URT plans to launch this technology into several of their existing markets including Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the coming months. "Buyers using this technology will no longer have to deal with weather, travel, or other inconveniences in attending our sales throughout the country,” Tedford continued.

URT is the nation’s largest and premier provider of municipal services regarding towing, storage, and on site auto pound management for seized vehicles and law enforcement impounds. Currently URT services over thirteen major markets including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, and Las Vegas in addition to others. Specializing in offering the full service solution through its technology resources, procedures and experienced management team URT tows over 40,000 vehicles a month and processes over 5,000 vehicles through its auction sales held weekly throughout the country. The company currently has over 45 facilities throughout the nation.

Contacts

To learn more about URT and their online bidding process or to register to bid on vehicles at its sales you may visit http://webauctionchicago.com/ or www.unitedroadtowing.com

FL Horse Rescued From Muddy Hole Via Tow Truck

Here's the New Smyrna Beach News story:
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- A horse stuck in a muddy hole late Thursday night was rescued by firefighters, a veterinarian and her staff and a tow wrecker, at the Matava Family Farm, 225 Sugar Mill Road, a fire official said.

Upon arrival at 11:31 p.m., New Smyrna Beach Fire Department units found a horse stuck in a wetland/cypress head type area. The animal was stuck/entrapped in the mud and water. The commander on the scene, Battalion Chief Andy West, called for additional assistance which included; a heavy wrecker from Bishop’s Wrecker Service, veterinarian Dr. Cindy Merrick, her associate Jill Getty; and Tom Smith a heavy equipment operator.

Fire Department spokesman and Division Chief Randy Wright gave the following summary of action taken: "Rescuers utilized a tow cable from the wrecker that was stretched above the horse and across to a pine tree and tied off. The NSBFD employed the use of its high angle rescue rope equipment and rigged a lifting unit with pulleys and blocks and attached the rig to the cable. Using a horse lifting harness provided by Dr. Merrick and Jill Getty, the horse was lifted out of the muddy hole. This operation took several hours to accomplish. The horse was moved incrementally due to many factors including the weight of the animal, limited access, snags, stumps, and felled trees (some were cut for access) in the immediate area. Without the special lifting harness provided by the doctor we believe the horse would have sustained injury. Dr. Merrick continually evaluated the horse during the entire operation."

"Crystal," owned by Lisa Comko, was doing fine in her recovery Friday, Wright said.

Comments

horse rescue on Sugar Mill Road

What a wonderful story. There is a right way -- and a wrong way -- to remove a large animal from entrapment. The wrong way is most often employed and is usually devastating to the animal, often causing more injury and even death as a result of trying to help. Anyone interested in learning more about this type of rescue is invited to go to www.saveyourhorse.com, the website for Large Animal Rescue.

Congrats to Chief West, the NSBFD, Dr. Merrick, Jill Getty and Tom Smith for their excellent work, and for having the foresight to take the training needed. Obviously it paid off!

Kudos to the Rescue Team!

What a great story! Dr. Cindy Merrick and her late husband (a Firefighter) have attended and hosted several Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue (TLAER.org) related events over the years, and she has such a great disaster plan for herself and her clients that I featured her in my book. She is dedicated to assisting her clients and educating them about safety with their horses.
Incremental technical rescues such as this require specialized equipment, training and methods to be successful - you are fortunate to have a dedicated firefigher team and veterinarian in your area that could accomplish such a task efficiently and safely for the victim as well as keeping the rescuers in a safe position.
Kudos to her and to the team performing a safe rescue!
Dr. Rebecca Gimenez, PhD.

Repos Up Amid Downturn in KS

Here's the story from the Lawrence Journal-World:

The rumble of the diesel engine is constant.

That steady growl from Bryan Sorenson’s Ford dually pickup is probably what raised the red flags at this home near the eastern edge of Lawrence.

Something did.

When Sorenson started to ease his specially equipped pickup truck into the short driveway, the light of a television shone through the home’s picture window. By the time Sorenson got the truck in park, it was off.

Evidently, this fellow knows the repo man cometh. Evidently, though, he doesn’t know the repo man can see through the picture window.

“The guy is laying right there on the floor,” Sorenson, an owner of Lawrence-based Lighthouse Investigations and Recovery, said as he came back to the truck after failing to get anyone to answer the door. “I mean, he’s awake and everything. He’s just laying there on the floor, hiding.”

“Well, that’s about childish,” said Debbie Sorenson, Bryan’s wife and business partner.

Ah, children and delinquent debtors — you never know what you’re going to get.

•••

Sometimes it is easier than this.

Debbie remembers a recent “run” that she made to “hook” a minivan. When it became obvious that the van wasn’t in a spot where it could easily be hooked up to the company’s special tow truck, she went to the home’s front door to see if she could talk the owners into voluntarily surrendering the car.

“A woman answered the door and she said it was her ex-husband’s,” Debbie said. “She said, ‘You can have it.’”

But the majority of the nearly 800 vehicles Lighthouse repossesses each year — the company generally does repossession work throughout eastern Kansas and into Missouri — fall somewhere in between the just-take-it category and the let-me-lie-on-the-floor-and-become-invisible category.

“About 50 percent of the time we just get it and go,” Bryan said.

And when he says go, he means go quickly.

“We have a guy who can have a car hooked up and rolling in 20 seconds,” Bryan said.

The average time is about 45 seconds. A specialized towing system allows the speed. The company’s large Ford extended-cab pickup trucks have a system called “Sneeker” lifts that are hidden underneath the trucks’ chassis. The system uses a night-vision camera attached to the bumper. That allows the driver of the truck to operate from inside the cab two arms that slide out from underneath the truck and hook around the front or rear wheels of the vehicle.

Other times, Bryan simply cuts a key for the vehicle, using a code provided by the finance company. He can even cut the keys that require a special computer chip.

But sometimes, even quick isn’t quick enough.

About 50 percent of the time, Lighthouse crews end up having to make contact with the owner of the vehicle. Bryan said what ensues usually isn’t the high drama that is portrayed on some popular cable television programs that detail the repo business. But sometimes it is dicey.

“There will be some who want to come out and fight you,” Bryan said.

Unfortunately, he said, his drivers have had both knives and guns pulled on them, although the number of such incidents could be counted on one hand. Once, a driver had to mace an aggressive pit bull that an owner of a vehicle wouldn’t control.

Almost always, there’s an uneasiness that hangs in the air.

“You have to watch your surroundings,” Debbie said. “If somebody is hooking, you had better be watching his back. You can’t trust anyone. You have to assume everybody is there to deceive you.”

•••

Back at the eastern edge of Lawrence, a white KU ball cap pops over the picture window ledge. It promptly ducks back down after the head inside the cap sees the repo truck parked on the street.

This little scene — white hat here, white hat gone — goes on for several minutes.

In the meantime, Bryan has called the Lawrence Police Department for a “citizen assist.” The police have no legal ability to make the person inside the home open the door. A repossession case is not a criminal matter. Rather, it is a civil matter between the vehicle owner and the finance company.

Most repossession matters never show up in a court file anywhere. Instead, the process gets started with a delinquent notice to the owner, and then usually a fax from the finance company to Bryan telling him to pick up a specific vehicle. It is that fax that gives Bryan the legal ability to pick up the car — as long as he doesn’t break other laws in the process. No special license is needed to be a repo man. But the faxed repossession order is important. Without it, Bryan is just a car thief with a fancy truck.

Bryan has called the police officer in hopes that if an officer knocks on the door, the person inside will answer. As the officer arrives, it becomes obvious that Mr. White Hat has grown restless.

Or, maybe, just bored.

The light of a television now shines through an upstairs window. (Hey, it’s Sunday night. There might still be a game on.) The officer directs his flashlight beam to the upper window. The television goes off.

All this over a 2003 Kia, which Bryan assumes is behind the closed garage door.

“This is pretty crazy,” Debbie says. “A grown man hiding in his own house.”

Some may say pretty sad.

•••

Repo man Bryan Sorenson prepares to unchain a vehicle repossessed from a Topeka owner Monday. During the recession, business has been up as it becomes harder for people to pay.

Repo man Bryan Sorenson prepares to unchain a vehicle repossessed from a Topeka owner Monday. During the recession, business has been up as it becomes harder for people to pay.

There’s a lot of sadness to be seen these days in the repo business.

Since the beginning of bank notes, there always have been people who have had the size of their car outpace the size of their wallet.

“In the six years I’ve done this, I’ve never been without a car to find,” Bryan said.

But there’s been a definite difference since this economic downturn began. Reliable national estimates on the number of repossessions can be difficult to find, but some reports for the National Automotive Finance Association have estimated that repossessions since 2005 have been rising by about 15 percent per year. Other indicators suggest even more.

Bryan said his business is way up. In the early years of his business, Bryan said his company would do 200 to 300 repossessions per year. Now, it does between 600 and 800, he said. Part of the increase is due to his business becoming more established. But part of it is just because more and more people can’t pay. And that has created more and more desperation.

“I probably have more people who will try to do whatever they can do to keep their car rather than just do the right thing and give their car up,” said Bryan, who said some have even begun switching cars with friends in hopes that will throw the repo man off.

And it is not just cars that people are falling behind on. It is not unusual for Bryan’s company to do repossessions of motorcycles, boats, RVs and, occasionally, even lawn tractors.

“They make loans for those too,” Bryan said.

But cars and trucks are by far the most common. And there’s one vehicle that may be the toughest emotionally — the kind with a car seat in it.

“We’ll get ones that are for single moms with two or three kids at home, and she’s trying to work to keep her head above water, but I still get a repossession order to pick up her car,” said Bryan, who worked at Lawrence’s Hallmark plant before getting into this business. “It sometimes is emotional to pick that car up not knowing how she is going to get to work or how the kids are going to get to school.

“But then there are others who are so aggressive and obviously have a job and could pay for the car, but just won’t. So they kind of offset each other.”

And at the end of the day, this isn’t a job that allows for much sappy sentimentality. Not if you want to get the car, anyway.

Bryan tells one story about a recent repossession in Junction City. It was a single mom with three kids who was constantly late on the bill. Sitting outside her apartment, he saw the upstairs light go on as she went to put her children to bed.

Bryan’s repo mind thought one thing: “It’s a perfect time to get this car. There was a lady across the aisle that was watching it, and as soon as she figured out what was going on, she ran to get the lady.

“Too late. We were gone.”

•••

Back at the eastern edge of Lawrence, there’s a new development — a car pulls up to the house.

No, not the 2003 Kia. It won’t be that type of night.

“Oh my gosh, a delivery driver,” Debbie says like an engrossed fan of a soap opera.

Maybe pizza to go with the show?

Not quite. No delivery driver. Just a girlfriend or a wife. Still, maybe it could be a break. Maybe she could get Mr. White Hat to come out. Instead, she says she’s not sure anyone is even home. Bryan and the police officer tell her that they are confident someone is. They convince her to go into the house and come back out with a report.

There’s some waiting.

“He’s got his house for sale,” Bryan says matter of fact. “It doesn’t sound like he’s working right now.”

The woman comes back. Nope. He’s not here. Nobody’s home.

Perhaps the repo man’s eyes played a trick on him. Perhaps not. More likely, the trick in this story is yet to come. There’s a saying Bryan has.

“Sooner or later, we will ultimately get our car — whether it is willing or not.”

Tow Truck For Tots Sets New Record

Way to go! Here's the Southtown Star story:

Finding a tow truck in the Southland might have been a bit of a challenge Sunday morning.

A total of 309 tow trucks traveled from the Caterpillar Plant in Joliet to Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

The procession was sponsored by the Tow Trucks for Tots program, which started last year to support Toys for Tots.

The parade of tow trucks set a new world record, outnumbering last year's figure by 69.

Every kind of tow truck participated in the convoy. Heavy-duty trucks led the way, followed by flatbed, light-duty and antique tow trucks.

The trucks proceeded from Joliet along Interstate 55, exited at Harlem Avenue and turned into the Toyota Park lot at 70th Street.

Each truck carried hundreds of toys, which were transferred into large trucks and delivered to the Toys for Tots warehouse in Bridgeview.

"It's truly an amazing thing," said George Fortier, a Toys for Tots volunteer.

Jim Brosnahan, of Chariot Automotive and Towing, led the procession, an honor given to the towing company that collected the most toys last year.

Brosnahan delivered 497 toys this year, up from 376 a year ago. His Countryside-based company also raised $700 for Toys for Tots.

"We improved our total from last year, which was wonderful," Brosnahan said.

Brosnahan said toys were collected at his garage and other collection points in Countryside. He also relied on his longtime customers to pitch in.

"I think this is going to make a ton of people happy at Christmas," Brosnahan said. "It's not the number of toys; it's the number of children we helped."

Anna Caputo, a Toys for Tots volunteer, said the number of people relying on the organization has grown.

"There's a lot more requests," said Caputo, who added the Tow Trucks for Tots program will help meet the increased need.

"They're not getting one toy, they're getting a bag full of toys," she said.

Friday, November 6, 2009

IL Tow Truck Driver Killed By Own Tow Truck

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 29-year-old IL tow truck driver Danny Quizhpi. He died Thursday, Nov. 5, when his truck rolled over him as he was unloading a vehicle.
Here's the story from Chicago Breaking News:

A 29-year-old tow truck driver was killed Thursday night when his truck rolled over him as he was unloading a vehicle from it at an auto yard on the Near Northwest Side.

Danny Quizhpi, of the 1400 block of East 72nd Place, was pronounced dead at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, officials said today.

The incident happened about 8:15 p.m. at the auto yard in the 4500 block of West North Avenue.

"The [driver] was unloading a vehicle from his tow truck when the tow truck slipped out of gear and struck the driver," said Chicago Police Officer Gabrielle Lesniak, a police spokeswoman.

An autopsy performed on Quizhpi's body today determined his death was accidental.

Bad Apple Alert

Expect to see a lot more stories like this one from Columbus, OH on private property towers that charge more than the law allows.
Click here to view the Channel 10 video news story.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Day In The Life Of An Aussie Tow Truck Driver


Here's an audio story from ABC Brisbane. Click and go to the page with the audio player.
Rain is forecast this afternoon and sadly, that means there will probably be car accidents.

Today, 612 Breakfast reporter Rebecca Levingston was with one of the people who's often first on the scene when there's a crash, tow truck driver Michael Edmonds (pictured with the roof of a crumpled car).

Rebecca has her assistant tow truck driver's license and today was her first morning on the road.

It began with a terrible accident:

WA's Fife Towing Celebrates 60 Years


Photo courtesy of Justin Kemp-Waldner

TOW TRUCKS FROM FIFE SERVICE & TOWING PULL A SEMI-TRUCK BACK ONTO THE STREET.


Congrats to owner Justin Kemp-Waldner and Fife Towing! Here's the story from the Fife Free Press:

Fife Service & Towing is celebrating 60 years of business this year.

Owner Justin Kemp-Waldner is excited that the company was able to reach this goal.

“It’s an honor,” Kemp-Waldner said. “I am proud of the work that we perform every day and how we involve ourselves in the community.”

Over the years, this locally-owned company has had a rich history dating back to the 1940s. The business’s original owner, Alex Hergert and his wife, Lydia, were the sole owners until 1965.

They had the only repair facility in the Fife area for more than two decades. In fact, Hergert’s claim to fame was that his business location was on the south side of old Highway 99 to capture all the Boeing traffic going to and from Seattle. Even back in the 1940s, Fife Service & Towing facility sold more than 100,000 gallons of fuel on a weekly basis.

By 1965, Alex Hergert had been stricken with brain cancer and his health was deteriorating rapidly. That same year his stepson, Ivan Waldner, decided to leave his home in Canada with his wife, Nadia, and three sons, Philip, Ricky and Kenton, to come to the United States. They moved to Fife, where Waldner resumed his work as an optician in Olympia. Every spare hour and weekend was spent working at the shop, though.

When Hergert passed away in 1966, Waldner left his position as an optician to assist his mother in running the family business. In 1969, he purchased the family business. Eventually, Waldner’s oldest son Philip married and moved to the Midwest. However, he returned in 1986 to work at the shop.

Deciding to stay in the Fife community – yet close enough to Tacoma and its port where growth is taking place – Waldner positioned the business in the heart of things.

The long-term goal for Fife Service & Towing, Inc. is to continue providing the kind of service that customers demand and have come to expect.

“It is remarkable that we have stood the test of time,” Kemp-Waldner said. “To think that we have made it this far and that we will continue to be strong for years to come is really quite symbolic of whom we are as a company.”

Canadian Tow Truck Driver Killed On The Jo

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of this unnamed 54-year-old Toronto tow truck who died on Wednesday, Oct. 21, following a roadside crash. Here's the toronto.tv.ca story:
A 54-year-old Toronto tow truck operator is dead following an accident on Weston Road.

The driver had stopped in a live lane near Fenmar Drive in the city's far northwest and gotten out of his vehicle at about 1 p.m.

A van, which had been travelling in the same direction, slammed into the tow truck. The driver was pinned between the two vehicles.

Paramedics could not revive him and they declared him dead at the scene.

"The cube van, southbound, apparently didn't see him, wasn't paying attention or was distracted for some reason," Const. Hugh Smith of the Toronto Police Service's traffic unit told CTV Toronto. "He came over that ridge and basically ran into the back of the vehicle."

Police told reporters that speed and alcohol aren't factors in the incident. While the roads were a bit damp, they also don't think road conditions caused the crash.

Charges may yet be laid against the 24-year-old driver of the cube van, they said.

Traffic in the area finally resumed flowing about 5 p.m.

Friends and business associates of the dead driver say the man, originally from Ethiopia, was a nice family man who worked hard.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Jim Junkin

Fleet of Tow Trucks To Be Sold At Auction on Friday in Las Vegas

Here's the release from reuters.com:
More than 1,300 items - including world's largest crawler tractor - to be
sold to the highest bidders on auction day


LAS VEGAS, NV, Nov. 3 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ - Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (NYSE
and TSX: RBA), the world's largest industrial auctioneer, will conduct a
large, multi-million dollar unreserved public auction at its Las Vegas auction
site on Friday, November 6, 2009 starting at 7:00 a.m. More than 1,300
equipment items and trucks from close to 160 owners will be sold unreserved to
the highest bidders on auction day, regardless of price.
Items to be sold on auction day include 13 tow trucks and 11 rollback trucks
as part of a complete dispersal of close to 40 equipment items for Northstar
Towing.
"It's a very unique opportunity for Ritchie Bros. to sell an entire fleet of
tow trucks in an auction," says Jim Rotlisberger, Regional Manager, Ritchie
Bros. Auctioneers. "These tow trucks have been very well-maintained by the
owner who is now ready to retire from the business." Tow trucks being sold
include a 2004 Peterbilt 379 60-ton tow truck and a 2005 Peterbilt 378 16-ton
tow truck.
The unreserved auction in Las Vegas on November 6th will also feature two
other complete dispersals for American Asphalt and Grading Co. and Pipes
Paving Inc. American Asphalt and Grading Co. is selling more than 100
equipment items from its grading division, including more than 15 motor
scrapers, 10 service and fuel & lube trucks, rollers, shop tools, water towers
and a Komatsu D575A-the largest crawler tractor in the world. Pipes Paving
Inc. is selling close to 80 equipment items including crawler tractors, wheel
loaders, water trucks and motor graders.
The auction will also feature a large selection of transportation equipment:
more than 45 pickup trucks and 40 truck tractors, more than 40 water trucks,
20 flatbed trucks and an assortment of bottom dump and end dump trailers.
Every item will be sold with no minimum bids or reserve prices. Interested
buyers can inspect, test and compare equipment in the Las Vegas yard during
business hours this week.

Auction details:
----------------
- Location: Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Las Vegas auction site, 10500
Clark Petersen Blvd, Las Vegas, NV
- Las Vegas auction site tel: +1.702.644.2468 Las Vegas auction site
fax: +1.702.644.2375
- Auction start time and date: Friday, November 6, 2009 at 7:00 a.m.
- Open to the public; registration to bid is free
- Visit the auction site to register to bid in person; photo I.D. is
required. First-time bidders from the U.S. and Canada must place a
refundable US$1,000 deposit when they register. Customers can
inspect, test and compare equipment during regular business hours
this week, and on auction day
- Internet bidders must register online before auction day at
www.rbauction.com; at least 2-3 business days is recommended for
first-time internet bidders.
- Phone the auction site to place a proxy bid. Phone: +1.702.644.2468
- Equipment details, including photos, are available at
www.rbauction.com

Fraud Charges Dropped Against Toronto Tow Truck Co. Owner

Here's the Toronto Sun story:

The owner of a Toronto tow-truck company who has a multi-million dollar contract with the police department had fraud charges against him dropped as the result of a polygraph test.

John Long, owner of Downtown Towing, was awarded a towing contract last year with the Toronto Police Services but only had insurance papers for 19 of 21 trucks included in his preliminary bid for the contract.

"It has been a long, long road for me," Long said yesterday.

The Crown dropped the charges against Long, who passed a polygraph "with flying colours," said defence lawyer Calvin Barry.

"He had no knowledge that the two trucks had documentation problems. You can't keep on top of everything. You have to put trust in the people you employ. He had the other trucks good to go," Barry said.

"Mr. Long has no prior criminal convictions and for the final tender all the trucks had documentation ... He has been exonerated."

Barry added he didn't know how the investigation was started against his client.

"It is hard to quantify how all this has affected his business, but since the allegations are behind him, business will go back to the way it was," Barry said. Long had two of his trucks set ablaze

Shot Fired At TN Wrecker Driver

Here's the brief from The Chattanoogan police blotter:
A wrecker driver told police he drew his own gun after being confronted by a man who pointed a gun at him. He said the man ran off, but a short time later fired a shot at him.

Billy Hawkins said the incident happened when he was pulling into Hawk's Towing and Recovery on Curtis Street.

He said he was preparing to drop off a vehicle when he heard a noise. He said he turned to see a black male approaching pointing a gun at him.

He said he then reached in the wrecker for his own weapon, and that caused the man to run off.

He said the gunman got into a silver, four-door vehicle, which headed east on Elmendorf. He said the man got in on the front passenger side and that he got off a shot toward him that missed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

WA Tow Biz Doesn't Play Fair, Ex Employee Claims

Here's the KOMOnews.com story:

LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- A former employee of Shannon Towing, Inc. is blowing the whistle on the company, claiming the business doesn't play fair.

Shannon Towing is accused of offering gift cards to business owners in exchange for impound calls. The Washington State Patrol is now investigating the allegations.

The former employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was so repulsed by the company's kickback program, among other things, that she eventually ended up leaving her job.

"I think the best word I can come up with is 'sleazy and unethical (sic),"' she said.

She told me when she worked at Shannon, the flyer advertising the alleged kickback program was a standard sales tool.

But the company claims to have no knowledge of the deal or the flyer.

"I've never seen this," said manager Brandt Phelps of the ad, which features Shannon Towing's logo.

When asked why, then, apartment managers claim Shannon drivers approached them with the offer, Phelps said, "I don't think it's against the law. I just haven't seen it since I've been here."

Not so, according to the former employee.

"It was something that was created in the company, and it was something that was the brainchild of Brandt," the whistleblower said.

The woman even provided KOMO News with what she claims is the original flyer.

Asked to comment on the alleged original flyer, Phelps at Shannon Towing claimed to be too busy, then said he didn't have further comment.

Tina Beck, owner of Mary's Towing in Everett, contacted KOMO News when she started losing clients to Shannon Towing. Beck said she found out about Shannon Towing's deal when two of her clients wrote her, skeptical of the offer.

"I felt that was very unethical," she said.

Jennifer Barton, manager of Greenview Apartments in Mountlake Terrace, said a Shannon driver gave her a flyer. She said she was tempted, but thought of her tenants.

"That makes people want to tow more cars so they can get more of a kickback," she said.

"To pull stuff like this, it's just wrong," said the whistleblower.

Happy Truck Driver Appreciation Week!


This week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week for 2009 and will be celebrated through November 7.

Washington, DC, November 03, 2009 — The Towing and Recovery Association of America, in conjunction with its ongoing effort to improve the image of towers and the towing industry to the general public, would like to recognize the hard working men and women of the towing and recovery industry. This week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week for 2009 and will be celebrated through November 7.

During National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, America takes the time to honor truck drivers for their hard work and commitment in tackling one of our economy’s most demanding and important jobs.

The American Trucking Association asks everyone to join them in celebrating the men and women across the country who work hard every day to deliver the Good Stuff!

According to ATA, there are over 3.5 million professional truck drivers nationwide, who log more than 432 billion miles per year. Trucks delivered 10.7 billion tons of freight in 2007, almost 70% of total U.S. freight tonnage.

There are also hundreds of thousands of men and women who risk their lives in the line of service across the country every day in the towing and recovery industry and because many are truck operators TRAA would like to acknowledge them during this great week of honor for all truck operators in all industries.

NTDAW seeks to highlight that professional truck drivers are more essential to the national economy than ever before, delivering their loads safely and professionally.

Visit www.ntdaw.org for more information on NTDAW or visit www.towserver.net to learn more about the TRAA.

The Towing and Recovery Association of America endeavors to pass along positive news about the towing industry and places press releases in conjunction with these efforts. This release is a part of that effort. News submissions can be sent to jgodwin@towpartners.com.

Just-Released IN Inmate Steals Truck; Crashes and Dies

Here's the News-Dispatch.com story:
HAMLET - A man on release from prison allegedly stole a tow truck in Plymouth and during a police chase into Starke County was killed in a crash at Hamlet.

Nicholas Jacobs, 29, was on a temporary release Thursday from Westville Correctional Facility, said Indiana Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison. He was scheduled for a permanent release Sunday after serving less than a year for operating while intoxicated and auto theft, said Garrison.

After walking out the front gates at the prison, Jacobs, of Fort Wayne, later ended up in Plymouth where he went to a bar and stole a tow truck from Bob's Towing, La Porte County Coroner John Sullivan said.

About 11:10 p.m., Starke County Sheriff's deputies said officers were on the lookout for the stolen tow truck when it was spotted on U.S. 30. It pulled into gas station in Hamlet.

Police said Hamlet police officer Ryan Austin and Starke County Deputy Kelly Fisher pulled in behind Jacobs, who then fled the gas station westbound on U.S. 30 in the eastbound lanes.

At one point, the tow truck with another vehicle still hooked to it during the pursuit drove into the median between two sections of bridge above U.S. 35. He traveled more than 200 feet before crashing into the pavement below and a bridge abutment, police said.

"It was a spectacular crash," Sullivan said.

Jacobs was transported was pronounced dead of massive multi-system trauma. He had a blood alcohol level of .254 percent, Sullivan said.

Garrison said only less violent offenders who qualify are considered for a temporary release before their official date.

"You have to request it and be entitled," Garrison said.

Close Call In CA

Here's the news story from cbs47.tv:
Police say alcohol was a factor in this crash on Highway 168 and Shaw. It happened Friday around 7:30pm.

The Highway Patrol says a car was heading eastbound on 168 when it swerved into a tow-truck that was parked on the side of the road.

The tow-truck driver and an assistant were outside of their truck when it was hit. Neither of them was injured.

Canadian Tow Truck Owner Memoralizes Troops With His Rig

Alfred Cooper of Cornwall Towing displays his new military autographics in honour of the S, D and G Highlanders.

Photo by Brittany Coughlan


Here's the Standard Freeholder story:

His towtruck is a mobile memorial to soldiers past and present. Cornwall Towing owner Alfred Cooper, 54, used a number of military photographs to create a a 5 x 5 foot collage on his truck.

"Everybody wants a look at it," said Cooper, a member of the S, D and G Highlanders Pipeband since the tender age of 12.

Among the photographs are shots of the pipe band from 1941, as well as a battalion from the First World War. There is also a modern shot of soldiers in Afghanistan.

"It's to honour the troops," Cooper said.

The autographics were done by 3M Trim-Line.

Cooper is part of a large group that leaves

today for Europe to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Glengarry Highlanders role in Knokke-Heist.

"It was one of the cities they liberated," Cooper said. "In Holland, they think a lot about Canadian troops."

Among the delegation for the Nov. 2 -9 trip is Mayor Bob Kilger and United Counties Warden Chris McDonell.

Celebrations are scheduled for Zutphen and Breskens in Holland, as well as Maldegem and Knokke-Heist in Belgium. The cities were liberated in 1944 and 1945.

"Given the proud history of the Highlanders in our community and the ongoing involvement of our military in Afghanistan and other areas of the world, it is appropriate to recognize their efforts, past and present, by participating in this trip," said Mayor Bob Kilger in a statement to local media.

FL Tow Truck Driver Beaten, Truck Involved In High Speed Chase

Here's the story from the Suwannee Democrat:
By Jeff Waters, Democrat Reporter
A Lake City man who raced across Hamilton and Suwannee counties in a stolen tow truck was arrested east of Live Oak early Saturday, sheriff's records show.

Alexander Jarrod Daies, 18, reportedly beat a tow truck driver and stole the vehicle after the man came to his assistance in Hamilton County around 3:20 a.m.

Daies' vehicle was incapacitated and had been retrieved by David E. Altman of Jennings. Altman, 47, loaded Daies' vehicle onto his 2008 Ford truck and drove toward the intersection of SR 6 and I-75, where Daies was to be dropped off at a convenience store.

However, about a mile from their destination, Daies allegedly began hitting Altman in the face, forcing him to stop. Altman was forced out of the truck and Daies fled south on I-75, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Trooper Brian Creech spotted the vehicle and followed it from I-75 to US 129 after a BOLO (be on the look out) was broadcast.

Creech tried stopping the vehicle as it exited I-75 and entered US 129 South towards Live Oak, but Daies refused to stop, reports show. FHP said a chase ensued at speeds up to 80 miles per hour.

Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron said his deputies deployed stop sticks just north of the US 129/I-10 interchange in Live Oak. The truck's right front tire struck the sticks, but the vehicle continued on US 129 before turning left onto US 90 East.

Cameron said the vehicle continued down US 90 for about five miles before stopping.

"It was a very dangerous situation with a tow truck that was carrying a disabled vehicle," said Cameron. "It could have been very serious. But the deputies did a good job with the stop sticks and with getting him through town without further endangering the population."

Daies was charged by FHP with fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement and driving on a learner's license. Additional charges are being filed in Hamilton and Suwannee counties, authorities say.

Assisting in the chase and arrest were Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, Jasper Police Department, Live Oak Police Department and the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office.