Professional Towing Company: How can you identify one and why you should use one?

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 components 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 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 secures 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.

Alaska Highways: Route #s & Names

Highways in Alaska: Maps may use numbers, but most Alaskan use names

Route #1:     Tok Cutoff, Richardson, Glenn, Seward, and Sterling Highways  Tok to Homer
Route #2:     Alaska, Richardson, Steese, and Elliott Highways border to Manley Hot Springs
Route #3:     Parks Highway                                              Wasilla to Fairbanks
Route #4:     Richardson Highway                                      Valdez to Delta Junction
Route #5:     Taylor Highway (mostly gravel)                       Tok to Eagle
Route #6:    Steese Highway (partially gravel)                     Fox to Circle
Route #7:    Haines Cut-off                                                border to Haines
Route #8:    Denali Highway (mostly gravel)                       Paxson to Cantwell
Route #9:    Seward Highway                                            Moose Pass to Seward
Route #10:     Copper River Highway (mostly gravel)         Cordova to Copper Center
Route #11:     Dalton Highway (mostly gravel)                    Livengood to Deadhorse

Alaska Highway                        (#2)       Canadian border to Delta Junction
Copper River Highway              (#10)     Cordova to Copper Center ( discontinuous & mostly gravel)
Dalton Highway (Haul Road)     (#11)     Livengood to Deadhorse (mostly gravel)
Denali Highway                         (#8)      Paxson to Cantwell (mostly gravel)
Edgerton Highway                    (#10)    Richardson Highway to Chitina (mostly gravel)
Elliott Highway                          (#2)      Fox to Manley Hot Springs (partially gravel)
Glenn Highway                         (#1)       Anchorage to Glennallen
Haines Cut-off                          (#7)       Canadian border to Haines
McCarthy Road                        (#10)    Chitina to McCarthy (mostly gravel)
Parks Highway                         (#3)      Wasilla to Fairbanks
Richardson Highway                (#1, 2 & 4)    Valdez to Fairbanks
Seward Highway                      (#1 & 9) Anchorage to Seward
Steese Highway                       (#2 & 6)    Fairbanks to Circle (partially gravel)
Sterling Highway                      (#1)      Moose Pass to Homer
Taylor Highway                         (#5)    Tok to Eagle (mostly gravel)
Tok Cut-off                               (#1)    Tok to Gakona

Roads more than forty (40) miles long outside of urban areas without route numbers:
Denali Park Road                    Park Entrance to Kantishna (mostly gravel)
Chena Hot Springs Road        Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs
Nabesna Road                        Slana to Nabesna (mostly gravel)
Nome-Teller Road                   Nome to Teller (mostly gravel)


Junctions:
Route #1        starts at #2 & meets 3, 4, & 9
Route #2        meets #1, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 11
Route #3        starts at #1, ends at 2, & meets 8
Route #4        ends at #2 & meets #1 & 8
Route #5        starts at #2
Route #6        starts at #2
Route #7        meets no other highway in Alaska
Route #8        starts at #4 & ends at 3
Route #9        starts at #1
Route #10      ends at #4
Route #11      starts at #2

Why is a “simple winch-out” so expensive?

Why is a “simple winch-out” so expensive?

The main reason that a “simple winch-out” is so expensive is that it is often NOT a simple winch-out, even though the customer claims that it is or was. There were many expenses above and beyond the actual winching. On a recent job, these additional services included:
•   the call-out fee,
•   mileage to and from scene,
•   safety procedures including putting out cones to protect the operator working on the side of the highway,
•   digging in the snow to reach a safe attachment point after the vehicle had been there for a number of hours and the snow had set up around it,
•   winching (not yanking) the vehicle out of ditch,
•   working parallel to traffic, but perpendicular to the casualty so as not to block traffic and/or put personnel and equipment at risk of injury, damage, and/or causing a secondary accident,
•   loading the vehicle onto the tow truck and since the keys were not present, the vehicle could not be put into Neutral, and the wheels would not turn, using skates and additional time to load and unload,
•   towing the vehicle to the customer’s location and then to the storage yard, and
•   a significant amount of stand-by time.

There are also expenses involved in running a business and operating a commercial vehicle including:
•   insurance,
•   establishment of the business, buildings, and property,
•   communications so that the business can be reached at any time and between base and trucks,
•   the constant availability of service,
•   repair and maintenance of the commercial vehicles so as to be able to always respond and pass inspections by the state,
•   advertising so that the business can be found to request service, and
much more.

A non-commercial vehicle which was in the area could have jerked the vehicle out of the ditch with a strap, chain, or cable by:
•   not having a long distance to drive to and from the scene,
•   working in the traffic lane of the highway and accepting the risk of being hit,
•   not worrying about using attachment points which might be damaged if pulled upon,
•   not bothering to tow the vehicle or arrange for payment, just pulling it out of the ditch,
•   not having the expense of operating a commercial vehicle,
•   not having the insurance to cover any damages which they may cause, and
•   not having the expense of operating a business.

To equate the price and costs of a professional tower performing a recovery to the costs of a non-commercial truck jerking a vehicle out of the ditch is not sensible or logical. If an individual does not have the motor club or insurance coverage and can not afford professional services, then they may want to consider accepting the risks and possible additional expenses by having a friend with a non-commercial vehicle help them, but they need to be aware of the risks and understand that if there are damage, injuries or even a death, they will have little recourse. If they have motor club or insurance coverage, they will not be reimbursed for the services performed by a non-professional.

 

When you need a tow truck

This was an article that was written by another tow truck driver but I thought I should post it because it is very good information.

Posted on January 9, 2013

Few things can be as terrible as getting stranded in winter. With a few more months of freezing temperatures and dwindling sunlight, standing on the side of the road with a disabled vehicle is the last place you want to be.

Thankfully, these days roadside assistance comes with most car insurance policies, and at a reasonable price.

“It’s very inexpensive to have,ours costs about $4 every six months,” said Victoria Stratton, an insurance professional at State Farm in Fenton. “Our roadside assistance includes towing, lockout, if you run out of gas, flat tires and if you end up in a ditch.”

AAA, Progressive and Allstate also have roadside assistance. With State Farm, Stratton said drivers can either call a number on their insurance card for assistance or contact a local tow truck company and be reimbursed.

But it’s not just snow or black ice on the road that tow truck companies tackle.

Woody’s Towing of Fenton also has diving equipment for vehicles that fall through the ice. Owner Bill Wood said Woody’s has already recovered four vehicles from the ice this year. Wood said people who typically fall through the ice aren’t familiar with the lake they’re on and the ice is usually too thin to drive upon.

As for vehicles that break down on the road, Wood attributed most malfunctions to a lack of car maintenance.

“When you call, we need to know if the vehicle is wrecked. Usually we take all of the information and decide on which equipment is needed,” Wood said. Towing companies may ask for the vehicle identification number (VIN), year and model of your car, as well as a copy of your insurance and proof of registration.

Depending on the tow truck company, a vehicle can either be dropped off at a location designated by the driver or back to the tow truck shop. As a full-service station, Woody’s can repair vehicles back at its station.

While the cold weather can be hard on cars, it’s not necessarily true that more accidents happen in the winter. Both Wood and Stratton said the need for roadside assistance is pretty even throughout the year. Extreme weather, such as excessive heat or a blustering snowstorm, increases the odds of a car breaking down.

While having roadside assistance is great for emergencies, using this service sparingly and only in time of need will be cheaper for you in the long run. To prevent mishaps with your vehicle, uphold regular maintenance. Nationwide, an auto insurance company, recommends rotating tires every 6,000 miles to prevent uneven wear and to replace them once the tread is worn out. Oil should be changed every 3,000 miles or every three months. Transmission fluid and engine coolant should be renewed every 50,000 miles.

If you are unsure if you have roadside assistance, contact your insurance provider and ask how to have it added to your policy. Chances are the fee is light and could save you from disaster this winter.

Items recommended to keep in your vehicle in case of emergencies:

• Blanket

• Can opener

• Matches

• Maps

• Water

• Whistle

• Cell phone charger

• Fire extinguisher

Rural vs. Urban Towing

Parks Highway Service & Towing is an automotive (cars, pick-up trucks, vans, motorcycles, small trucks, and small RVs) towing company in an extremely rural part of Alaska. We serve a large area, extending over 150 miles along the northern portion of the Parks Highway*, the highway connecting Alaska’s two major cities: Fairbanks and Anchorage. The northern portion goes through six communities: Nenana (99760), Anderson (99744), Clear Air Force Station (99704), Healy (99743), Denali Park (99755), and Cantwell (99729). In this whole area, we are the only towing service. There are no major automotive repair facilities and only two small shops. Most tows in this area are long distance. Even service calls involve quite a few miles of driving to the scene and back. Some people ask why there are not more towers or roadside assistance service providers in the area, but the overall population is less than 3000, so there is not enough business to support more than one company. (There is barely enough business to support this one company.)

Our volume of business is low, but we are on call 24/7 so that we are always available to come to the assistance of those in need. It means that we are not free to pursuit other activities or other business because we need to be on call. When responding to your call for assistance, usually we can leave immediately and the only factor determining how long it will take a truck to arrive is the distance. We can get there faster than any other towing service because, if you are on the northern Parks Highway between mileposts 336 and 177, we are closer than any other towing service and because we have no other obligations other than providing towing and roadside assistance along the northern Parks Highway and in the communities of Nenana, Anderson, Clear AFS, Healy, Denali Park, and Cantwell.

Urban towers do a number of relatively quick jobs during a day. They may be going from one job straight to the next. Wait time for you is based more on how busy the tower is, than on how far away you are. They may be reluctant to invest a huge amount of time to a long-distance job when they have a number of small jobs waiting to be done.

*The full name of the road is the “George Parks Highway” which is Route 3. Most Alaskans do not use Route numbers and may not even know them, but rather use the name of the highway, in this case the “Parks Highway.” There are very few signs identifying the route number of a highway. There are only eleven numbered highways in Alaska and some of them are mostly gravel—hardly what most people would call a “highway.”

Your Best “Insurance” for Safe Driving—Good Quality Tires

One of the best investments you can make to help with safe driving is the purchase of good quality tires which you inspect regularly, maintain with the proper air pressure, and replace when they are old and/or worn. Doing some research and seeking advice at some reputable tire stores about the best quality tires for your vehicle and the driving conditions is very practical. Look at tread patterns, tire width, and hardness ratings which are appropriate for your area. During winter in Alaska, roads are often covered with hard ice, so tire studs and snipping are worth considering for winter driving.

Consider purchasing an extra set of wheels for your vehicle and have the winter tires mounted on those wheels. Then switching between summer and winter tires is an easier task and the amount of wear and potential damage to the bead of the tire is reduced.

Do not assume that four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD) is going to keep your vehicle from losing traction and sliding, perhaps into the ditch. A vehicle with 4×4 or AWD has little advantage when braking and can still lose traction if the vehicle has bad tires. Good quality tires, even on a two-wheel drive vehicle, can provide better traction on icy roads than poor quality tires on a four-wheel drive vehicle. Evidence of this is the many vehicles pulled out of the ditch during the winter which are 4×4 or AWD.

Getting pulled out of the ditch

It may seem like it is not worth paying a tow truck to come pull you out of the ditch when the next guy with a strap can do it for you, but there are some reasons for having a professional do the job rather than an amateur.

  1. Towing companies have insurance to protect not only themselves while they are working by the side of road, but also, in the unlikely case that it does happen, to cover any damage which might be done to your vehicle. Not only is an amateur more likely to damage your vehicle, but he/she will probably not compensate you if damage is done.
  2. If an amateur or Good Samaritan is using a strap, chain, or rope, they are pulling by driving their vehicle away from yours, usually jerking on the strap, chain, or rope. Not only can your vehicle be damaged by the sudden amount of force from the jerk, but if the strap, chain, or rope fails or comes disconnected, it can fly through the air with a great deal of force and possibly damage something or even injury or kill a person. A professional towing operator is using a winch to gently pull your vehicle and is using secure attachments.
  3. An amateur is often going to need to pull perpendicular to the road, so they are in the road and can possibly cause a secondary accident in which vehicle(s) can be damaged and/or someone can be injured or killed. A tow truck has winches and snatch blocks so that the pull can be done from a position parallel to the road and safely out of traffic.
  4. A tow truck has lights and beacons as well as flares and cones to be able to warn on-coming traffic of the work being done by the side of the road. A tow truck operator has been trained to work safely and carefully and to wear reflective clothing for visibility. A professional can manage the scene to keep everyone, including you, and everything there as safe as possible.
  5. A tow truck operator knows where and how to attach to your car to avoid damaging the part to which the winch line is attached and any parts of the vehicle which may come in contact with the winch line, straps, or chains. Nylon straps and special hooks can be used to attach the winch line. Manuals are available to towing operators to show them the attachment points for different makes, models, and years of vehicles. Sophisticated methods such as the use of a Cruse Loop can sometimes be used. An amateur may hook bumpers or steering, brake, or suspension components and then, when pulling on them, bent, damaged, or yanked off the components.
  6. Your vehicle’s insurance may include emergency roadside assistance which may fully or partially reimburse or pay for the expense of having a professional pull you out of ditch, but will not pay or reimburse you for anything which the amateur may charge you.
  7. It is not unusual for a vehicle to be damaged as it travels through snow, bushes, trees, rocks, etc. when it went off the road. Hoses can be damaged. Steering, suspension, and brake components may have been bent or damaged. It is possible for so much snow or mud to be packed around the brakes, wheels, suspension, steering, fan, or other components that they can not function properly. A towing operator knows what to examine to be sure that a vehicle is safe to drive after it is pulled out of the ditch. If the vehicle is not drivable, the tower is prepared to tow the vehicle to a repair facility, body shop, or garage. If the vehicle has full coverage insurance, this is all covered by the insurance. For you to have another accident farther down the road because of damage done when you slide off the road would be very unfortunate.

The stories of secondary accidents; damage, injury, and death from flying ropes, chains, or straps; extensive damage done to vehicles during the pull; and exorbitant amounts of money being charged by people stopping to provide “help” are all well documented. Parks Highway Service & Towing recently towed a vehicle which had had the steering rod yanked completely off by a person who stopped to “help;” what would have probably been a relatively inexpensive winch-out turned into the winch-out and tow of a vehicle which might have been damaged beyond repair. The vehicle owner was covered by insurance and the winch-out would not have cost her any money. Another recent job was done after an amateur had already ripped the bumper off the car. Recently a man was killed when the strap he was pulling on came loose and snapped the hook through the back window of his truck, killing him while his young daughter sat beside him. http://pharostribune.com/local/x910010541/Man-killed-by-flying-tow-strap-while-helping-stranded-motorist

If you slide off the road and someone stops to offer help, consider strongly asking them to recommend a professional towing service which you can call rather than letting them hook a rope, strap, or chain to your vehicle and yanking on it.