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TOWING & RECOVERY August 2011 Keeping industry pros on their tows T & R Footnotes ❘ August tow 2011 ❘ 1 Now ADVISOR Partners Every Month FOOTNOTES ® www.trfootnotes.com iStockphoto.com/Fenykepez Recalling 30 years at the wheel of a tow truck By Chuck Murphy Chuck Murphy sent his story to us out of the blue! We found this personal account of a tower’s life very compel-ling, including his service during Hur-ricane Katrina. We present it here in virtually its original form and uncut. In 1973, I started to work at an Exxon station. I was only 15, but I lied about my age. At the time, it was a full-service station, which meant that I cleaned all the windows, checked oil, and sold customers an air fi lter if needed. Back then, the tips were good. After working there for a while, I no-ticed this really bright red tow truck made by Ortiz. I started out just driving it around the pumps. Then I built up the nerve to hook up a car and tow it around the lot. After my in-lot training, I thought I was ready for the real tows. FOOTNOTES READER ALERT!! HAVE YOU COMPLETED AND RETURNED YOUR SUBSCRIPTION RENEWAL CARD FROM THE JUNE ISSUE? Volume 22, Number 4 ❘ $3.95 © 2011 Dominion Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. “ “My wife was told that I was in a life or death situation” Now, mind you, I had no license — most of the cops thought I was older — and I decided to start chasing wrecks. Chasing was a lot of fun. The thrill of being at a scene fi rst, using my gift of gab, and bingo! — I had the job! All of a sudden, I was fi lling the lot with wrecks and the money started coming in. ” Teamwork Works The money had me interested, but I recall running a wreck on Route 208, almost in the village of Walden, NY. The wreck was bad — the car had burned and the driver died in the car fi re. The heat was so intense! Being the fi rst one there, I tried to get the door open, but I couldn’t get close enough. I tried throwing the J-hook to catch the door, but that did not work either. Another tower showed up: Mike Biggs Jr. I got the tow, but without his knowledge I wouldn’t have been able to bring it back to the station. I had the car on dolly wheels, but with all the Towing & Recovery Footnotes ® 10 Bokum Rd. Essex, CT 06426 PRST STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID PEORIA, IL PERMIT NO. 315 damage from the heat, it kept bending in the middle. Mike showed me how to cradle it with the chains. Mike Biggs was the one who really sparked my interest in towing. I had tried all kinds of work but towing now was in my blood, and it has always been fun for me. I have towed in a few small towns and on the New York State thruway. While on the thruway, I towed out of the Albany area and the New York area. They were both busy areas and often required long-distance calls and lots of roadside service and recoveries. We had a ton of AAA calls plus many that were long distance. When you towed on the NYS thru-way and fi nished your call, you always gave the customer a comment card. Everyone tried to get good comments, but you cannot always please them all. There were two of us who would get the most good comments when I was working there: me and a guy we called Tex. It was always a challenge to see who would receive the most each month. A Long Way Over my 30 years in towing, the in-dustry has come a long way. When I started, the T-bar and a tire were being used to tow vehicles. Then, you need-ed a wood 4x4 to be placed on top of the chains. See A LIFE ON THE ROAD, page 3

A Life On The Road

By Chuck Murphy

Chuck Murphy sent his story to us out of the blue! We found this personal account of a tower’s life very compelling, including his service during Hurricane Katrina. We present it here in virtually its original form and uncut.

In 1973, I started to work at an Exxon station. I was only 15, but I lied about my age. At the time, it was a full-service station, which meant that I cleaned all the windows, checked oil, and sold customers an air filter if needed. Back then, the tips were good.

After working there for a while, I noticed this really bright red tow truck made by Ortiz. I started out just driving it around the pumps. Then I built up the nerve to hook up a car and tow it around the lot. After my in-lot training, I thought I was ready for the real tows.

Now, mind you, I had no license — most of the cops thought I was older — and I decided to start chasing wrecks. Chasing was a lot of fun. The thrill of being at a scene first, using my gift of gab, and bingo! — I had the job! All of a sudden, I was filling the lot with wrecks and the money started coming in.

Teamwork Works

The money had me interested, but I recall running a wreck on Route 208, almost in the village of Walden, NY. The wreck was bad — the car had burned and the driver died in the car fire. The heat was so intense! Being the first one there, I tried to get the door open, but I couldn’t get close enough. I tried throwing the J-hook to catch the door, but that did not work either.

Another tower showed up: Mike Biggs Jr. I got the tow, but without his knowledge I wouldn’t have been able to bring it back to the station. I had the car on dolly wheels, but with all the damage from the heat, it kept bending in the middle. Mike showed me how to cradle it with the chains.

Mike Biggs was the one who really sparked my interest in towing. I had tried all kinds of work but towing now was in my blood, and it has always been fun for me.

I have towed in a few small towns and on the New York State thruway. While on the thruway, I towed out of the Albany area and the New York area. They were both busy areas and often required long-distance calls and lots of roadside service and recoveries. We had a ton of AAA calls plus many that were long distance.

When you towed on the NYS thruway and finished your call, you always gave the customer a comment card. Everyone tried to get good comments, but you cannot always please them all. There were two of us who would get the most good comments when I was working there: me and a guy we called Tex. It was always a challenge to see who would receive the most each month.

A Long Way

Over my 30 years in towing, the industry has come a long way. When I started, the T-bar and a tire were being used to tow vehicles. Then, you needed a wood 4x4 to be placed on top of the chains.

It wasn’t long in between changes. As the cars progressed, so did the equipment the industry used. Next in progression was the sling; then the wheel lift came along. We really needed the wheel lift as cars were no longer as sturdy and the front ends would be damaged while towing.

When it came to dolly wheels, we had pan dollies when I first started. Then No-Mar came out with a jack-up dolly. Now we have pop-up dollies. No-Mar also had a 528 wrecker that had the ability to do side pulls. It had one stiff leg that you could move to either side, as needed.

Safety First

Safety has always been a big thing, then and now. It’s dangerous when you are on a call on the side of the road and traffic is moving fast, but if you are lucky, you have a wide shoulder to work on. But sometimes you get a call where the vehicle has pulled into the center; it is hard to get back into traffic when this happens.

My first safety rule is to always wear your vest when you are in your tow truck. As for safety lighting, in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn’t use tow lights, but times have changed and the use of tow lights is required at all times to reduce the chance of secondary accidents.

Schools for safety and education have also evolved. When I first started, there were programs by Ross Kinman. Over the years, other towing education programs have come along. Now we can choose from many more sources. We used to do everything by trial and error, but take a look at what towers can learn today! It makes me wish I had taken physics in high school!

Cleaning Up

During wreck recoveries, law enforcement is always kind of picky. While each jurisdiction had their particular policies, most often, the police always said that they had a clean road before the wreck, so whatever parts had come off the wreck you took with you.

But this was easy compared to when I towed for the Hurricane Katrina clean-up. While towing in the areas hit by the hurricane, you needed to have a GPS navigation system. Although many drivers knew of them but weren’t using them yet, it was actually a necessity there. There were no street signs, no lights, and no way to determine an address.

While using that GPS was something new, the experience of towing automobiles after such a devastating event also had a learning curve that was completely unexpected. You learned how to use that handy GPS, but when you did get to the address, your recovery may have floated away, or was in the basement of a house that was a block over and in the middle of the road, or was in a tree that caught all the debris traveling in that direction.

There were many automobiles that had been looted. I asked one owner what happened to the tires of a car. When they told me that they didn’t know, I asked them if the tide had switched directions enough times to turn the lug nuts loose!

A Dream Team

During my second trip down to the area for the Hurricane Katrina cleanup, I became very ill. I was running a high fever and felt horrible. When I started to have more major symptoms, I knew something was terribly wrong. I wanted to get one more run in for the night, but that run ended up being to Biloxi Hospital.

A young doctor working the ER that night told me that I wasn’t going die on his watch. He admitted me and put me in the care of some of the most amazing professionals I’ve ever met. I called them “my Dream Team.” It didn’t deter them that their hospital had been hit by a major hurricane or that the roof was gone and there was flooding in the halls.

They did quite a few tests that were all conducted in trailers and came to the conclusion that my kidneys had failed. I never thought this would happen to me. Years of drinking sugared soft drinks had caught up with me.

Drivers, if this sounds like you, please switch to something better for you! It may not be as convenient or fit in your cup holder, but it could make a world of difference. My wife was told that I was in a life or death situation, but I pulled through.

Close Calls

While I was recovering there, I received cards from some of the Tow411 family and even a phone call from Mark “Da Moose” Sternberg, of Eagle Towing in Engadine, MI. He is the kind of guy who can make you want to walk all the way home when you can’t make it a block!

I’ve always been impressed with the industry’s support of each other and I want to tell you all to keep it up, my brothers!

With help from that medical Dream Team, many prayers from family and friends, some stubbornness, and probably a bit of luck, I made it back to Billings, Montana.

I sold my tow truck shortly after coming home from the Katrina cleanup. Nowadays, you can find me answering phones for Rent-A-Wreck in Billings or taking my two teenagers to school and their activities. I continue to go after the rental cars, if needed, because I love that driver’s seat, although now I use a trailer.

My wife has a problem getting me to turn the scanner off to this day. It’s in my blood and it has supported my family for so long that I just can’t get myself to turn the knob. It’s been on 24 hours a day since I met her and will probably continue to be for some time to come.

Contact Chuck Murphy at MTcouple9101@ yahoo.com, 406-591-0368, or 211 S. 25th St., Billings, MT 59101.

Read the full article at http://mydigitalpublication.com/article/A+Life+On+The+Road/783628/75509/article.html.

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