TR Footnotes FN.1110 : Page 1

TOWING&RECOVERY November 2010 Keeping industry pros on their tows SHOW & SAVE Tow Tax Breaks Deductions for fun & learning Page 14 Tops In Service Towers win award for customer care Page 16 OPEN LETTER From The Editor With new offers all FREE for you Page 15 DRIVER’S SEAT Tow Doc Alert! Truck operators are prone to this Page 8 FOOTNOTES READER ALERT!! HAVE YOU RETURNED YOUR SUBSCRIPTION CARD FROM THE AUGUST ISSUE? Your FREE subscription is EXPIRING! Volume 21, Number 7 ❘ $3.95 © 2010 Dominion Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. Towing&Recovery Footnotes® 10 Bokum Rd. Essex, CT 06426 By Lynn Ford Keeping the customer safe is by far the most important aspect of a tow call, yet there is no industry standard on the best way to do that, particularly when it comes to where to put the customer. There are, of course, some basics every-one seems to agree with: • Don’t let customers wander around • Don’t let them help • Suggest they not stand nearby to watch PRST STD U.S.POSTAGE PAID PEORIA, IL PERMIT NO. 315 • Strongly suggest they stand behind the guardrail • Suggest they get into the tow truck, or their own vehicle, or…. Hold on! Did you just say put them in their own car!? “For years we have taught, no, don’t put them in their car,” said towing and recovery trainer Tom Luciano. “Obviously things have changed and the answer is now yes. Except when loading a vehicle onto the carrier deck, it is safer for them to be in their car than to be standing out by the interstate.” “Some will argue with me about that and say the safest place is stand-ing in front of the tow truck,” Luciano said. “But, if it’s getting dark, with revolving lights and the customer is wearing dark clothes, they’re safer in the truck or the car.” Luciano and other experts inter-viewed agreed that the single safest place is usually inside the tow truck; however, there are no industry best practices on the issue, partly because it is so dependent on circumstances and partly because legal liability makes trainers reluctant to write rules in stone. The result is a void that can leave towers guessing about where to put the customer. Act Reasonably “There’s nothing in training materi-als about where to put the customer because of liability,” said Justin Cruse, president of WreckMasters. “There’s no question this is an area of concern within the recovery industry because there are a lot of choices and liability is on the shoulders of the individual companies.” Knoxville Attorney Michael McGov-ern, an expert in towing industry legal affairs and former counsel to the Towing and Recovery Association of America, said the best protection from a lawsuit is making reasonable deci-sions about safety, even if sometimes it’s based on the lesser of evils. “You can only be held liable if you do some-thing negligent or something a rea-sonable person wouldn’t do,” McGov-ern said. Customer safety starts from the moment you pull onto the scene, See THE STRANDED CUSTOMER, page 3 AN EXTRA MILE FOOTNOTES The Stranded Customer ® www.trfootnotes.com Should you put her in your cab or her car? iStockphoto.com/Maravic www.trfootnotes.com FREE! GET US

The Stranded Customer

Lynn Ford

<B>Should you put her in your cab or her car?</b><br /> <br /> Keeping the customer safe is by far the most important aspect of a tow call, yet there is no industry standard on the best way to do that, particularly when it comes to where to put the customer. There are, of course, some basics everyone seems to agree with:<br /> <br /> • Don’t let customers wander around<br /> <br /> • Don’t let them help<br /> <br /> • Suggest they not stand nearby to watch<br /> <br /> • Strongly suggest they stand behind the guardrail<br /> <br /> • Suggest they get into the tow truck, or their own vehicle, or….<br /> <br /> Hold on! Did you just say put them in their own car!? “For years we have taught, no, don’t put them in their car,” said towing and recovery trainer Tom Luciano. “Obviously things have changed and the answer is now yes. Except when loading a vehicle onto the carrier deck, it is safer for them to be in their car than to be standing out by the interstate.”<br /> <br /> “Some will argue with me about that and say the safest place is standing in front of the tow truck,” Luciano said. “But, if it’s getting dark, with revolving lights and the customer is wearing dark clothes, they’re safer in the truck or the car.”<br /> <br /> Luciano and other experts interviewed agreed that the single safest place is usually inside the tow truck; however, there are no industry best practices on the issue, partly because it is so dependent on circumstances and partly because legal liability makes trainers reluctant to write rules in stone. The result is a void that can leave towers guessing about where to put the customer.<br /> <br /> <b>Act Reasonably</b><br /> <br /> “There’s nothing in training materials about where to put the customer because of liability,” said Justin Cruse, president of WreckMasters. “There’s no question this is an area of concern within the recovery industry because there are a lot of choices and liability is on the shoulders of the individual companies.”<br /> <br /> Knoxville Attorney Michael McGovern, an expert in towing industry legal affairs and former counsel to the Towing and Recovery Association of America, said the best protection from a lawsuit is making reasonable decisions about safety, even if sometimes it’s based on the lesser of evils. “You can only be held liable if you do something negligent or something a reasonable person wouldn’t do,” McGovern said.<br /> <br /> Customer safety starts from the moment you pull onto the scene, Experts said. “If you know you are going to subsequently tow the vehicle, you should park in front,” said Scott Burrows of Burrows Wrecker Service in Pendleton, Kentucky. “If you are contemplating doing a repair, then you should park behind.”<br /> <br /> The Towing and Recovery Association of America recommends that drivers and customers never stand in front of, behind, or between vehicles and advises towers that the safest place for the customer is in the car or the tow truck.<br /> <br /> Trainer Joe Sroga, of Star Training and Consulting Inc. in Minneapolis, agrees. Sroga has been in court on a number of cases where towers were sued for not protecting the customers, including cases where customers have died on the scene. He trains drivers on where to park and how to best set up the area for safety.<br /> <br /> “Most of these cases get settled, but I’ve had some cases where people allowed their customers to walk around and they’ve gotten pinned between the vehicle and tow truck,” Sroga said.<br /> <br /> <b>Good Advice</b><br /> <br /> Sroga said customers should be thoroughly advised on proper highway safety, including staying clear of the roadway and not standing between vehicles. But, other than warning customers, there’s little a driver can do. Some have suggested that drivers leave the scene of non-compliant customers, but that has liability as well if something happens to the customer after the driver leaves.<br /> <br /> So, if a customer insists on watching, the best thing to do is strongly advise them to protect themselves, Sroga said. “We can recommend safety, but we cannot enforce it. You can’t hit them with a flashlight and force them into your truck, but you can tell them to stand behind the guardrail or behind a bridge abutment. Then I’ll motion when it’s safe and we’ll get in the truck and take off,” Sroga said.<br /> <br /> In one case several years ago in Chicago on a rainy Halloween night, a woman plowed into the back of a car carrier, killing both the tower who was loading the car and his customer who was watching. It’s not known whether the driver advised the customer to get into the tow truck.<br /> <br /> While Sroga is reluctant to advise putting customers in the car, under certain circumstances it’s clearly the safest place, he said. For instance, if the car is in front of the tow truck, “at least they’ll hit the truck first,” Sroga said. And, unlike some trainers, Sroga recommends putting the customer in the car, even if the car is behind the tow truck, rather than having them stand in front of the truck by the side of the road. “You could argue that at least they could run, but I’d rather be in the car and take my lumps,” Sroga said.<br /> <br /> <b>Common Sense</b><br /> <br /> The problem with creating industry standards, Sroga said, is that as soon as the circumstances change, so do the rules. “It all comes down to common sense and assessing each individual situation,” he said. “Disagreement among instructors is good. It keeps people thinking for themselves.”<br /> <br /> Safety is all about judgment calls. “How safe is safe? How long is a short piece of string? Can you give me the exact dimensions? You can only provide safety to a certain point,” Sroga said.<br /> <br /> In one case, Sroga had an elderly woman stuck on the left side of the road for four hours with no lights. Sroga got the woman into his truck, telling her he was worried about Drunks on the road, and then quickly hooked up the car. Just as he finished, he saw a driver swerving from the center lane. Sroga took off running but the driver plowed into the back of the woman’s small Ford pushing it up to the cab of the truck.<br /> <br /> “He hit the car right as I was going over the guard rail. I tumbled down the hill and wound up next to another lane of traffic,” Sroga recalled. “A car pulled over and I yelled for him to call police. Then I ran back up the hill. I was so worried about the woman. The car was on my truck; gas was everywhere. I opened up the truck door and said, ‘Are you all right?’ and she said, ‘What did you do, sonny? Drop my car?’ She was lucky.”<br /> <br /> <b>Other Options</b><br /> <br /> Sroga’s customer survived because she was in the truck, the heaviest, most fortified place available. But what do you do with your customer if, for whatever reason, the tow truck cab is not available or is an unacceptable option. For instance, towers are advised to pull as close to the right side as possible, but this may block passenger access to the truck’s cab if there is a wall or guardrail.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the next safest place is the customer’s car, but there are legal issues. For instance, some states have laws prohibiting the customer from being in their car during loading or hookup or from being in the car during a tow.<br /> <br /> McGovern, the towing attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee, said there are far more dangerous situations than riding inside a car on top of a carrier. “It’s a lot better than the old days when you might have to drag them behind you,” McGovern said. “If you’re out in Tucson with a family of four broken down on the side of the highway, and the police aren’t there and there’s no cab company, what are you going to do? Leave them standing there?”<br /> <br /> McGovern said it’s always a case of determining the safest option available given the set of circumstances. “Obviously all passengers should stay clear of the tow truck and car while the loading process is going on, but once that’s done, it may be prudent to load everyone up and get them off the highway.”<br /> <br /> <b>A Safe Place</b><br /> <br /> Sroga agreed that if police are not available and a cab cannot respond, it’s probably best to get passengers off the road and to the closest safe place.<br /> <br /> This is especially true on interstates that run through major cities with limited or no emergency pull-offs, in tunnels, or in other dangerous, low-access situations. Then, it may even be safer to leave passengers in the car during the loading process. “It’s the safer of the alternatives and it’s reasonable given the options,” McGovern said. “Keep them safe in the car and get them to a safe place off the highway.”<br /> <br /> If, for whatever reason, you can’t put the customer in the tow truck or in their own car, then they should stand behind a guardrail or one or two truck lengths in front of the tow truck as far to the right as possible. That way, even if the truck is rear-ended and pushed down the road, they won’t be hurt.<br /> <br /> Sroga pointed out several situations where a judgment call has to be made. For instance, if there is an accident or stranding involving someone handicapped or pregnant or involving children, especially a bus.<br /> <br /> “We had one school bus full of kids stuck on a bridge packed with traffic. What do you do? Is it safer to tow them off there? Or wait in traffic for another bus and have traffic continue to back up and risk secondary accidents? Or risk injury trying to move them from bus to bus on a bridge in traffic? It might be better to tow them to the nearest exit.”<br /> <br /> Another thing to consider when making decisions is how much traffic is building up and how much that will increase the risks of more accidents occurring.<br /> <br /> <b>Against The Law</b><br /> <br /> Making a good decision is especially difficult is when the safest reasonable option is against the law. For instance, laws in many states, including New Hampshire, Washington, Minnesota, and New Mexico, make it illegal to tow an occupied vehicle, McGovern said. And many other states, Florida included, make it illegal to tow an occupied trailer or other vehicle designed for carrying persons. This would clearly cover a disabled car, McGovern believes. Even the National Park system forbids people from riding in any mode of conveyance being towed.<br /> <br /> The reason such laws exist, McGovern said, is because there have been incidents in which towed vehicles have broken loose and people have died, including one in Rangely, Colorado. Still, McGovern pointed out, there will be exceptional circumstances that leave a tower no choice, like in a blizzard, a desert, or other scenarios where passengers cannot be left unprotected. Then, the most prudent decision is to get the passenger to the closest safe place as quickly as possible, whether in the car or the cab.<br /> <br /> “Common sense is what it comes down to,” Sroga said. “The situations vary so much, there’s no way to have commandments etched in stone.”

Next Page


Publication List
 
Loading