Locked & Chocked! Putting more power and muscle into protecting your property and employees


Published: 06/01/2012

by Allan Duffin


Bailey's Towing truck

Your towing company is a valuable collection of buildings, storage yards, equipment and vehicles — not to mention your employees, who are your most valuable resource. How can you keep all of these assets safe, secure, and protected from damage, theft, and injury? Here are a few product and security ideas to help you do just that:

Location, hiring, policies. According to Stacey Tucker, owner of Chico Towing in Bremerton, WA (www.chicotowing.com), the top priority when protecting your company assets is “identifying an appropriate and safe area to locate your business.” For example, Chico Towing is situated in an industrial park, “where the traffic coming and going is very specific to what business they are doing,” said Tucker, “so we can easily identify those that do not belong in that location.”

But securing your company’s assets really begins with the people you hire. “Employees are the most important asset a company has,” said Bill Johnson, owner of Hampshire Towing in South Hadley, Mass. (www.hampshiretowing.com), “[and] equipment can be replaced more easily than employees.”

Your staff is your first line of defense, he said, so focus on how you hire those employees. “I believe it is a company’s responsibility to keep honest employees honest. To do this,” he explained, “you need to start with honest employees.” All new hires should undergo a drug screening and a criminal background check and meet a standard of review, Johnson said. “I have found it is better to wait and hire the proper person than just fill a job slot.”

Clearly outlined procedures are another good method to boost the safety and security of your company’s assets. Hampshire Towing has written policies in place that, for example, track tow slips and cash that the drivers handle. At the end of each dispatch shift, explained Johnson, the cash drawer is counted. The cash from the towers is placed in an envelope, and the dispatcher and driver sign the envelope, which is then placed in a drop safe.

Hampshire Towing’s other written policies deal with driver safety training, personal protective equipment, rollover prevention, and spill cleanup, to name a few.

Caught on camera. Still and video cameras are, as always, useful devices to ensure that your employees and your storage lot are protected from injury, damage, or theft. “I grew up in the towing industry,” said Jim Davis, owner of Service Plus Specialty & Towing Equipment (www.serviceplustowingequipment.com) in Winchester, KY, “and one thing that I would tell a person getting into the business is to purchase a digital camera.”

Davis recommends that drivers take pictures of the vehicles that they tow. Photographs can be especially helpful if the towed vehicle is a Corvette or other high-end, expensive automobile. Take photographs of all four sides, said Davis, and document any damage to the car to avoid future problems. “There’s always a chance for the customer to say that his vehicle was damaged (or damaged more) by you,” said Davis.

Meanwhile, installing a camera system on your lot is another effective method of securing your property. These days, camera equipment is more affordable than ever. “Although it is an investment up front,” said Tucker, “a camera security system can pay dividends as both a deterrent and as evidence should you have problems.”

Ensure that the fence that encircles your property is strong, tall enough, and has no damaged portions where thieves or vandals could burrow through. Additionally, good lighting is a huge deterrent to individuals who want to steal or damage items stored on your lot. “We have numerous cameras throughout the facility and storage yard,” noted Johnson, “[and] the yard is lighted and fenced.”

Keeping people out. Maintaining a clear delineation between your company’s public and private areas can prevent unauthorized people from roaming the property. “Keeping people out of where they are not supposed to be is an obvious deterrent,” said Tucker, “and probably mandated by local regulatory laws as well.”

At Hampshire Towing, any vehicle owner going into the storage yard to retrieve his or her belongings is escorted by an employee. Customers are not allowed into the shops. “The auto damage appraisers are also escorted,” said Johnson. Salvage and tow companies must provide an insurance liability certificate for $750,000 before they are allowed into the yard to pick up a vehicle. “If they cannot supply one, we bring the vehicle to the public area for a fee,” added Johnson.

Tucker recommends round-the-clock coverage when possible. “If you have the resources to keep your location staffed 24 hours a day, this will also cut down on any issues that you might encounter,” she said. Johnson’s company provides 24-hour dispatch. “The dispatchers are instructed to call in a driver if someone picks up a vehicle after hours,” said Johnson, “so they are not alone.”

War-Lok for the padlock. Here again, following a consistent procedure to protect trucks, equipment, and other physical property can help ensure that your assets stay secure. “We try to keep most of the equipment in the tool boxes and lock the cab doors when the driver is away from the truck,” said Johnson.

RoadTrucker, Inc. (www.roadtrucker. com), in Wilmington, N.C., sells products primarily geared to the longhaul trucker. However, president and CEO Frank Oddo spotlighted one item that can be useful for towers as well. “The War-Lok IR-20 is a container lock that a tower may find useful,” he said. Oddo suggested that towers store their tools and equipment in a shipping container, “which would provide them much better security then the average garage would.”

The War-Lok covers the locking mechanism, protecting it from being cut apart. “This is far better protection than a padlock,” explained Oddo. On a padlock, a thief can simply cut the ring using a tool such as a bolt cutter, gaining access to the item while leaving the lock itself intact. “With the IR-20,” said Oddo, “they cannot get to the rings to cut them.” Oddo added that the War-Loks are the best locks he has seen in his 10 years in business.

Gear securely mounted. When items mount to the body of a wrecker or carrier, having security devices on those items is critical. For example, all mountable items sold by In The Ditch Towing Products in Mountain Home, Idaho (www.intheditch.com), feature a locking mechanism to keep the towing equipment safe from theft. Jenn George, marketing director for In The Ditch, added that the company’s products also have mechanisms that keep items from falling off the truck and possibly causing damage or injury to others.

George points to the company’s Traveling Speed Chock and Integrated Speed Mount as examples of products that include securing mechanisms to protect from theft, damage, or personal injury. “The Traveling Speed Chock rolls up the deck of a carrier attached to the tire of the vehicle being recovered,” explained George, “and prevents the vehicle from rolling off the deck of the carrier should there be a catastrophic failure of the wire rope or winch.” This protects the tower from possibly being injured or killed, as well as protecting the recovered vehicle from being damaged, added George.

The Integrated Speed Mount, said George, is a deck-mounted system that holds a Speed Dolly side frame, an aluminum telescoping axle, and a breakover bar. “The breakover bar is placed in the mount, followed by the axle and finally the Speed Dolly,” explained George. “When the Speed Dolly is sitting in the mount, the axle cradle on the back of the frame locks the axle and breakover bar into place. The Speed Dolly frame is then locked into place with a locking latch.” This, said George, allows a tower to store the components of a dolly set and protect them from theft.

Tracking by computer. Part of keeping vehicles and employees safe is knowing where they are located during the workday. Computer tracking systems such as those offered by Ranger SST (www.rangersst.com) of Cleveland, Ohio, update your vehicles’ whereabouts on a real-time basis, track the storage and impound process on your lot, and provide information about the condition and inventory of the vehicles.

The Ranger SST software package provides “end-to-end tracking of vehicles from ‘admit’ to ‘discharge’ through the storage/impound lot,” said Jim Shellhaas, president of Ranger SST and a columnist for Footnotes. “The starting point for storage/impound lot management is an effective inventory management system that provides an overview of each vehicle in the custody of the tower,” explained Shellhaas.

Better equipment, more safety. Protecting your assets also involves the use of equipment that is durable and of high quality. In Wake Forest, N.C., family-owned Bailey’s Towing (www.baileystowinginc.com) branched out and began selling towing accessories in 2009. Susan Bailey, office manager for the company, recommends the Side Recovery Guide as an example of gear that boosts the safety and security of a towing company’s assets.

According to Bailey, the Side Recovery Guide is an inexpensive way to make every carrier in your fleet side-pull capable. “The Side Recovery Guide can be positioned anywhere along either side of the bed to extend the workable area almost to the complete radius of the truck,” said Bailey. For safety, the cable is secured within the fairlead, decreasing the possibility of injury or damage to the operator. The product can also minimize lane closures, added Bailey, “which helps to protect the operators and equipment from traffic.”