Tow trucks have been a constant requirement almost since cars existed. It took a while for them to develop but they did become vital for drivers whose cars had broken down to get a tow to a repair shop. Over time, they have been used for people whose cars are wrongly parked and the police need them taken away. Also, repossession companies have used towers, as well.
It may seem simple enough; just hook up another car and drive off and not care about the way you’re ruining the owner’s day. However, tow drivers do face a lot more challenges than people believe. After all, they often have to handle towing in bad weather and very stressful conditions. Plus, there’s the problem of drivers who don’t take it well when their cars are driven off.
Tow truck drivers have a lot of problems to face. They also have to put up with scores of misconceptions on what they do. It’s not helped by the sneaky and dubious companies who give the rest of the business a bad name. People don’t know about the industry and tow truck drivers wish they could, mostly in order to make their own lives easier. Here are 20 things tow truck drivers wish everyone knew to show there’s more to the towing business that meets the eye.
20 They’re Considered Emergency Vehicles
This is a major thing tow drivers wish more and more people understood. In most states, tow trucks are classified as emergency vehicles. It makes sense, as they often respond to the scene and require extra space to handle these cars. Yet, unlike police cars or fire trucks, tow drivers aren’t given the right of way by other drivers. While there are state laws about tow trucks being given this treatment, drivers almost never follow them. Maybe if tow trucks had sirens, as well, it might help. They are the same as an ambulance yet don’t get the same respect from others on the road.
19 Weather is a Serious Pain
If weather is a hassle for a regular driver, it can be a total nightmare for a tow truck operator. A heavy rainstorm makes it way too slick to get a car hooked up properly. Ditto for snow, which also reduces visibility. The worst are the cars stuck in banks of snow or puddles. Just getting to them to hook up can be horrible and a challenge for the operators. Even tougher are cars that have skidded off the road, which can offer their own challenges when getting a proper hookup and tow. Throw in the dangers of other cars nearby that can suddenly skid out and bad weather is a huge issue these guys wish people appreciated more.
18 They Really Need To Know Your Directions
This has been an issue long before folks had GPS on their phones. Somehow, even when they’re in dire need of a car pickup, most drivers will fail to give the right directions to their location. Some don’t even know where they are on some highway and can only give vague ideas on their spot. Others will make the mistake of saying the road but not specifying if it’s east, west, north, or south. This causes the tow driver to waste time in the wrong direction looking for them. If ever a tow is necessary, the drivers need to be as specific as possible to make it easier for the tower to find them.
17 Climbing Into Your Car is Unwise
This is something that happens more times than you think and it’s astounding for tow truck drivers. Obviously, if a car owner discovers their vehicle is being towed, they’ll raise a huge fuss over it. This includes the often ludicrous sight of the owner climbing right into their car and refusing to leave. Some will even do it as the car is being towed, which is dangerous on multiple levels. That's not to mention that there’s no actual rule the driver has to stop. In fact, the driver could actually tow the car all the way to the lot with the owner inside it and there’s no rule against it. Tow drivers wish that more owners knew how bad this is.
16 Cash is Still King
Like so many businesses today, tow truck companies have adapted to the world of wireless transactions. They do accept credit and debit cards, as well as checks, for payment. However, at the end of the day, many prefer good, old-fashioned cash. It makes it much easier to handle the transaction and encourages trust. After all, a lot of their business comes from people who failed to pay off their cars or tickets, so a tower may be wary of a check bouncing or a bad credit rating. Cash makes it much easier and less of a hassle, as well. It may be annoying for the car owner yet cash is still king when it comes to paying a tow truck driver.
15 There is a School
Tow truck driving can be a more complicated business than it seems. That’s why it requires a special school for training. There, drivers learn how to handle not just a regular truck but also towing a variety of replica cars around lots. It helps them get used to the type of jobs they’ll need to handle and the types of situations they may face. Many tow companies generally use a “learn on the job” approach by pairing a rookie up with an experienced driver to show them the ropes. However, it‘s best when the driver has some good training before going on his way. It shows that drivers do have training before towing someone’s car away.
14 Don’t Judge Them by the Bad Apples
Sadly, like any profession, tow truck drivers have had some bad apples in the bunch. Drivers who will overcharge customers, damage cars, and other acts that are borderline against the rules. TV shows love to do investigations of such instances and it gives the entire industry a pretty bad reputation. The reality is that these are the exceptions, not the rules. In fact, a tow company that regularly breaks such rules won’t be in business very long and won’t get as many jobs from AAA or others. Thanks to the internet, customers can be open on such experience and easy to report these dubious operators. The bad ones shouldn’t be used to condemn good drivers, who truly want to help the customers out.
13 They Never Try to Harm the Cars
This is a common experience by car owners. Not only has their car been towed off but, when recovered, it’s shown to have major damage from the tow itself. While drivers are trained to make sure they do a job right, there’s still a chance for even an experienced guy to make a huge mistake that causes damage. It’s easy to slam the operator for being sloppy when the fact is that it’s never on purpose. More importantly, it can be very costly. Most tow companies have a strict policy of you break it, you bought it. In other words, any damage to a car has to be paid by the tow driver, not the insurance or customer. That’s a good incentive for making sure no damage is caused.
12 The Paperwork is a Nightmare
The job requirements of a tow truck driver should be obvious. They have to be strong, good drivers, able to handle the hookups of the cars, and level-headed. But one requirement not spoken of as much is good penmanship and writing skills. That’s because even a simple tow job can have a mountain of paperwork attached to it. They need the car's information, driver's information, a full record of the tow itself, and more. They require copies for the owner, the insurance company, the police, and their superiors. Even when they’re done with the on-road work, a tow truck driver has to spend hours making sure the paperwork is done right and this is one hassle of the job people don’t know or appreciate.
11 They Need More Space
It’s truly amazing how some drivers on the road will ignore the very basic rule of giving space to the cars in front of them. It’s more astounding that they’ll do this for tow trucks. It should be logical that these trucks need far more space than regular ones, especially if they’re hauling a sizeable car behind them. Yet, tow drivers will still get people tailgating them a lot. While tow trucks are sturdy, there’s always one chance in a thousand something comes loose and the towed car falls off to create a huge mess. Also, a tow driver on the highway should be given space rather than worry about cars flying by inches away from him.
10 They’re On Call
Usually, “on call” refers to doctors or policemen and firemen. But tow truck drivers always endure it, as well. More than one driver has settled in for what should be a quiet night at home, only to get a call on a job they have to go out for. It’s not fun—but it’s the job. It’s especially major on bad nights of heavy rain or snow, with incidents are common. On such occasions, their companies or AAA will want tow truck drivers out as soon as possible. While it’s not a full 24/7 job, tow drivers wish more people knew how they often need to drop everything at a moment’s notice to get on the road in bad conditions.
9 They Have a Serious Code of Ethics
Tow truck driving may seem a somewhat seedy business, given that it’s often all about taking cars for violations. The reality is that most tow places keep to a strict code of ethics. They have rules on what cars to take, what places they can work, and how to get along with rival drivers. They always do their best to aid the customer first and care for the cars. As tow drivers often work with AAA and the police, keeping to good behavior is essential. That includes being well-mannered on the job, being calm with upset customers, and always doing their best to understand a situation. Even when in competition, drivers from different companies will work together to ensure a tow job goes okay.
8 They Keep Traffic Moving
Tow truck drivers often put up with a lot of slams from drivers for messing up roads. That includes how they’re often blamed for slowing down traffic by having to pick up a disabled or damaged vehicle on the highway. The truth is that towing actually helps traffic. That’s because many rush hour roads can be jammed up by parked or broken-down cars that slow things down. By removing those cars, tow truck drivers free up the street and help commuters. Likewise for a highway, as the tow makes it much easier for traffic to get going. Rather than being a huge delay, tow drivers are actually critical to ensuring heavy traffic is freed up quickly.
7 The Drop Charge
Tow drivers cannot be bribed and even trying to do so can be seen as against the rules. However, the “drop charge” is a tool not often utilized by customers. The idea is that if a driver finds the car about to be towed, they can pay a fee that would be only a fraction of the cost of a full tow. What doesn’t help is that too many places have been caught overcharging drop charges to an often ridiculous degree. That means even if a driver knows of it, they’ll assume it’s a scam and not pay it. Those are really the exception, not the rule, as paying a drop charge can save a trip to the towing lot and should be something drivers are more aware of.
6 It’s Serious Competition
People fail to realize that two services are often very much in competition with each other. They can often be pushing AAA to get higher priority on rescuing broken-down cars. The true competition comes with the search for wrongly parked cars. This leads to bits such as when a tow driver takes all the cars parked in a lot. As drivers get bigger paydays by the number of cars they bring in, there will often be mini-races to see who can reach a target first. Plus, the fights between drivers for these jobs can get pretty dirty. Drivers may be ethical but they also get into serious competition with each other.
5 They Can’t Be Bribed
A great deal of towing is for people who have commited parking violations. There is also towing as part of a car's repossession. This leads to the car’s owner being incredibly upset and arguing over these issues. They fail to realize that the tow drivers are not responsible for why the car is being taken away. And yet, some owners will attempt to bribe the tow driver to let them keep the car. True, maybe once in a hundred, they’ll be dealing with someone willing to take the cash. But these jobs are handed down from other companies and they don’t take kindly to the driver taking a bribe to let the driver skate by. Not to mention how it’s against the rules and so much easier to just pay the fee instead.
4 The Risks They Face
One wouldn’t think tow truck driving is a high-risk occupation. But the truth is that these drivers do risk themselves quite a lot. Navigating a truck in major traffic is tough enough. Doing so when you’re dragging another car behind you is even harder. There’s also the major dangers of doing a hookup on a highway as too often, other drivers are not kind enough to stop but just keep racing by. There have been some incidents with tow drivers due to these issues and they show the dangers of working on bad roads. That’s without such problems as poor weather messing up a tow. Finally, there are cases of drivers taking major issue with a toll, to the point of scuffles, and these make this a dangerous occupation.
3 Not Every Car Can Be Towed
Tow truck drivers used to be just that. There’s still the constant sight of the classic truck hooking a car to the rear of their vehicle and then driving it off. Many modern services utilize flatbed trucks with ramps to make the tow a bit easier. However, there are issues with some cars that not every tow service can handle. More than a few tow trucks have responded to a vehicle out of service, only to find that it’s far too heavy to properly be able to pull out. Other times, the car is in rough shape with damaged wheels and thus, a regular tow isn’t an option. Don’t assume that every tow truck can handle every car out there or the wait time for service can be longer.
2 It’s Not Their Fault
This is one of the biggest issues tow truck drivers face. They get all the blame from drivers over towing their vehicles as if they take pleasure in picking someone out at random to tow. The fact is that they are responding to police calls for traffic violations for many tows and it’s the driver’s fault for parking in the wrong spot. Other times, it’s responding to a collection agency repossessing a car for non-payment. However it happens, the tow service is simply responding to someone else’s orders. It’s not personal by any means, they don’t even know the drivers, and they are just following someone else’s orders. If there’s someone to blame for a tow driver taking your car, look in the mirror.
1 Their Hours
This is something so utterly logical that tow drivers can’t believe so many people miss it. Somehow, the idea has sunk in that tow lots are open 24/7, 365. Owners have often endured messages on their phones from irate customers demanding someone come over to free their car in the middle of the night. These places can’t afford those kinds of hours and are used to holding cars overnight. It should take a brief check online for an owner to find out a tow lot’s hours and hitch a ride over there at an appropriate time. Instead, they act as if these businesses should be open constantly and somehow blame the owners for daring to take a night off.
Sources: Reddit, Jan's Towing, and Wikipedia.