How can you identify a professional towing company?
A professional towing company:
- has a tow truck which is either a rollback truck with a bed which tilts down to facilitate loading and unloading or a wheel-lift truck and knows the advantages and limitations of their vehicle(s).
- has the equipment on the truck to facilitate loading your vehicle which, for a rollback would include a bridle with the appropriate hooks to hook, not around parts of your vehicle with a large “J” hook, but into slots in the frame designed to receive these hooks. (On some cars, a eye bolt which threads into a hole on the bumper can be used for winching, but must not be used to tie the vehicle down to the bed of the tow truck.) Some vehicles, if they can not be put into neutral and the wheels will not roll, may need the use of specialized equipment such as “skates” which can facilitate loading and unloading the vehicle.
- has the equipment to safely secure your vehicle for transport which includes ratchet straps and chains also equipped with the appropriate selection of hooks for attaching to your vehicle. Your vehicle should be secured with at least four points. Wheel straps are sometimes needed for proper securement, especially with high end cars. Professional towers have training and access to information on how to attach securement straps to your particular make, model, and year of vehicle.
- meets state and federal requirements which include company name, place of origin, and DOT number clearly displayed on both sides of the truck, triangles, flares, and/or cones to place around the truck when it is stopped by the side of the road, amber beacon or light bar, fire extinguisher, etc.
- has trucks inspected annually and have a dated and signed sticker displayed on the right side of their truck to show that this inspection has occurred.
- has drivers who have medical exams every two years and carry “med cards” with them at all times and, if required, have Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) which indicates a higher level of training and testing and stricter requirement for alcohol.
- stops at the scales as is required whenever they are carrying a load when the total weight of the tow truck and the load is greater than 10,000 pounds. (A non-commercial vehicle or a company towing their own equipment and not towing for hire does not have to follow the same rules.)
- has the commercial insurance to not only cover their own vehicle, but also has “on-hook” and “garage keeper’s” insurance to cover any possible damage to your vehicle while it is in their care.
- has safety vests and other safety equipment to provide visibility for themselves at the scene of disablement.
- has contracts or agreements with motor clubs and insurance companies for direct payment or no questions with reimbursement.
- has skills, knowledge, training, certification, and experience about towing, winching, recoveries, lock-outs, jump-starts, tire changes, etc. This training and/or certification can be from organization including Towing & Recovery Association of America (TRAA), International Institute of Towing & Recovery (IITR), and WreckMaster, as well as some other training programs.
Why should you use a professional towing company?
A professional tower:
- is unlikely to damage your vehicle during the loading and unloading procedure by pulling on something which is not appropriate to pull on or by having the vehicle roll away as it is being loaded or unloaded.
- can properly secure your vehicle so that in case of a sudden stop or an accident, your vehicle is not damaged or does not cause damage to any vehicle by sliding off the truck or sliding forward into the cab of the tow truck. The vehicle is also secured so that no parts are damaged by being used inappropriately as a tie-down point.
- should be able to provide advise on what may be wrong with your vehicle, possible destinations, and how payment can be arranged as far as insurance and other options.
- can tow a vehicle which has collision insurance and has been involved in an accident to a body shop and get paid directly by the body shop, so that the collision insurance is paying for the tow and repairs as a single incident. With emergency roadside assistance, the tower may be able to bill AAA or some insurance companies directly or, if you have the appropriate insurance coverage, provide you with an itemized invoice to submit for reimbursement.
- can usually accept checks or credit cards for payment of consensual jobs.
- is not going to be stopped and put out of service while performing a job for you.
- maintains its trucks to a high standard so as not to leave you stranded because of a broken down tow truck.
- usually can also provide emergency roadside assistance including recoveries, jump-starts, lock-outs, and tire changes. All of these services require knowledge, skills, training, specialized tools and manuals, and experience. Even jump-starts, lock-outs, and tire changes can damage your vehicle if done incorrectly. The towing company does much more than transport vehicles.
- is always available in case of need, even if that means little or no personal life for them.
The main question is: Do you want to trust your vehicle, an expensive possession, to a professional who knows what he/she is doing or to someone who may not have the skills, knowledge, training, experience, and commitment to provide quality service for your vehicle without causing damage and may not have the insurance to cover their mistakes?
• Look for the company’s name, place of origin, and DOT # on the side of the truck.
• Look for an commercial vehicle inspection sticker on the right side of the truck.
• Ask about training, certification, and experience.
• Ask about “on-hook” and “garage-keeper’s” insurance.
• Look for required light bar on the truck, reflective clothes, and other safety gear and equipment.
• Look for the use of specialized equipment for winching your vehicle, loading and unloading it, and securing it for transport.
• Expect a person to answer the phone, professional treatment when you call for service, and service provided in a timely manner.
• Look for a professional-looking business location.
In contrast, an unprofessional tower:
- may well think that towing is a task which does not require training, experience, and knowledge of particular skills and, perhaps, is just doing towing “on the side.”
- emphasizes price over service and quality.
- does not have the insurance which will cover your vehicle while in the care of the company.
- does not follow laws requiring DOT numbers, proper signage, “med cards,” safety equipment, gear, and lights, truck inspections, etc.
- will often claim that they are not required to stop at the scales.
- does not have a secure, locked, and insured storage yard in which to store your vehicle if the tow can not be completed in one trip.
- does not have specialized equipment to load, secure, and unload your vehicle safely and without damage.
- does not have contracts or agreements with motor clubs, insurance companies, and/or body shops to provide for direct billing or easy reimbursement from a professional invoice.
- is not able, for lack of training, knowledge, skills, tools, and equipment, to provide other services commonly associated with the towing industry, such as recoveries, lock-outs, etc.
- is not on the Trooper’s list with a file on record indicating rates, appropriate insurance, etc.
- does not have the beacons and lights on the truck to provide for safety at the scene of disablement.
- is not always available to answer your call or to provide service for you.
- is not set up to handle credit cards or checks written to the business.
When might you consider using an unprofessional tower?
You might want to consider an unprofessional tower, if:
- potential damage to your vehicle is not an issue.
- your vehicle is older, of low value, and does not require specialized skills, knowledge, or equipment to load, secure, and/or unload it.
- you do not have insurance or motor club coverage which covers the expense directly or will reimburse you.
- you are prepared to pay with cash or a check written to an individual.
- the job is not time critical.
Calling a business a “towing company” does not mean that it is a towing business.