I get it...to most, this is going to seem a tad on the dry side. But it's my industry, and I just wanted to cover some of the basics for those nerds of you out there who read stuff like this. So without further adieu, here's a definition of towing, what towing service is and some information on the towing industry.
At it's most basic definition, the term “towing” simply means joining two (or more) objects together so that one may be passively pulled by the other’s power source. This could be a mechanized vehicle, an animal, or even a human, while the load can be anything that is able to be pulled. Remember that childhood memory of you pulling your younger sibling or your friend in a wagon or a sled? These are both instances of towing! While the two objects are moving, they rely on a solid connection joining the one object to the other; this connector can be a chain, hitch, bar, rope, coupling, integrated platform, or another variation of any of these. Fascinating, I know...
So then, while towing can be the simple action of a tractor dragging a hay bale, the most recognized form of towing is the moving of a disabled vehicle by a tow truck, flatbed, dolly, or wrecker. Because the towing of cars and trucks is such a ubiquitous and necessary service, there is an entire industry devoted to it, as well as numerous specialized tow truck vehicles suited to the task. And this is where I geek out - show me a fleet of the latest towing trucks and I am in heaven! While most vehicle transports are several thousand pounds and fall under light duty to medium duty towing, heavy duty tow trucks (like tank recovery vehicles) are capable of extremely heavy hauling, moving even up to millions of pounds. It's quite impressive, actually. Many flatbed tow trucks are equipped with hydraulic tilting beds in addition to dollies and winches used in order to pull the disabled vehicle off of the road and up onto the truck bed. This form of flatbed towing is often preferred as it prevents further wear and tear from the highway, as in the case of towing with dollies. The latter utilizes something called a boom hitch which elevates just the front of the vehicle while the back tires are pulled along the pavement. In the case of cars and light trucks, hitch tow trucks are primarily used. In the instance where vehicle transportation is required, as in moving brand new cars from one lot to another or from a factory to a dealership, a specialized trailer is used with a tractor truck. These bi-level motor carriers are capable of moving 3-5 cars at a time and are equipped with ramps for easy transport and hook ties and mounts to safely secure the vehicle during transport. Does anyone else out there find this remotely interesting, or is it really just me?!
So, there are several reasons a vehicle may need to be towed, the most common being a motorist who can no longer operate his damaged or disabled car. Unfortunately I'm sure you have been in that very scenario before! Sometimes vehicles are abandoned by their owners and are left on public roads/highways, so the local authorities intervene to tow the abandoned vehicle. (I've been called to haul countless abandoned vehicles in my career...) When a car owner is relocating, often the choice is made to tow the owner’s car as a means of long distance shipping rather than drive the vehicle to the new location. Many times, a car needs towing due to its repossession by a lender. And sometimes government agencies will tow specific vehicles due to infractions like unpaid parking tickets.
When a towing service is wanted, the request is placed to something called a dispatching center. Wireless telephones, mobile radios or text messages are all common forms of communication between the tow service and driver. The development and implementation of GPS technology further equips the dispatcher with information as to the disabled vehicle’s exact location. This is my preference as it removes any guesswork from any vague communication. Used as their dispatching center, smaller towing companies with only one or two towing trucks in their fleet use a single phone or even a cell phone. For larger companies and operations, dispatching networks are required as they are in contact with multiple tow truck operators.
Whatever the situation, towing service companies with competitive rates balanced with an understanding of profit margin, outstanding customer service, and courteous, helpful tow truck drivers do quite well in the towing industry. Many are able to scale and acquire an entire fleet of towing trucks. Conversely, there are countless contractors who lack one, a combination, or even all four of these qualities and end up paying the ultimate price by having to declare bankruptcy. Depending on the city being serviced, it can be quite a cutthroat niche and thriving in the industry requires an acute business sense, an awareness of the current market trends, and a high level of customer service skills. It has been said that success always leaves clues, and for those desiring to grow their towing business, do the following: seek advice and guidance from those successful towing company owners with the years of business and on-the-job experience that qualifies them as leaders in their field.