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Slow Down or Move Over

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jan. 16, 2019

Tela Mange

Public Information Officer

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation

512.463.3208

 

Texas motorists: Slow down or move over for stopped emergency vehicles

AUSTIN – After a recent outbreak of fatality and injury incidents involving tow truck drivers and other first responders, Texas motorists are asked to slow down or move over for stopped emergency vehicles including tow trucks, police cars and fire trucks.

 

“Our tow truck licensees work hard every day to help people who are stranded on the side of the road. And, like everyone else, they are anxious to return home safely each night,” said Brian E. Francis, executive director for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. “Please obey state law and slow down or move over when you see emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road.”

 

In the past few months, at least three Texas tow truck drivers and a towing customer have been struck and killed while on the side of the road. That statistic doesn’t include several Texas police officers who have been seriously injured when they were hit.

 

Among the recent incidents:

  • Jan. 3, 2019: Tow truck operator Keith Holt was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in Grand Prairie as he was helping a single mom.

  • Dec. 2, 2018: Tow truck customer Dylan Thomas Pietrzyk was struck and killed by an 18-wheeler as he waited to have his vehicle towed.

  • Nov. 20, 2018: Tow truck operator Charles McGough was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in Fort Worth as he was working.

  • Nov. 3, 2018: A Fort Worth Police Department officer was injured when he was hit by a car.

  • Oct. 21, 2018: A Dallas Police Department officer was critically injured when he was hit by a car

 

Texas law requires drivers to slow down at least 20 miles per hour under the posted speed limit or, if able, to change lanes when they’re passing a first responder stopped on the road.

 

“Please help us make sure emergency personnel including tow truck operators are safe when they’re trying to help people on our roadways. Slow down and move over. You can help prevent another tragedy just by taking the time to obey the law,” Francis said.

 

About TDLR

TDLR provides regulatory oversight for a broad range of occupations, businesses, facilities, and equipment in Texas. The agency protects the health and safety of Texans by ensuring they are served by qualified, licensed professionals. Inspections of individuals, businesses, and equipment are done on a regular basis to safeguard the public. Currently, the agency regulates 39 business and occupational licensing programs with more than 800,000 licensees across the state.

 

Visit TDLR’s website for more information and resources. You can search the TDLR licensee database, and also find past violations in which a final order was issued against companies or individuals. TDLR’s Customer Service line is available anytime between 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 1-800-803-9202. TDLR representatives are fluent in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese.

SW Tow Operators Accomplishments

Over the past 12 years, Southwest Tow Operators has been on the front lines working on your behalf before the Legislature and the agencies that regulate our businesses. Your membership and contribution to our organization is vital to continuing our work to protect our industry during the legislative session which begins this month.

Below is a short list of accomplishments:

  • Added tow operators to the Move Over Act

  • Reporting of abandoned vehicles to law enforcement will now only be required if the law enforcement agency requires it.

  • Tax offices cannot require proof of delivery (only proof of mailing) for notification letter in order to process a storage lien. Therefore, if you accidently sent the first or second notice letter a few days late, you can still sell the vehicle without going to district court for a title.

  • We changed the law where you now can “relocate” a vehicle for a property owner without facing a penalty from the agency.

  • Use of warning sticker for expired tags, instead of a certified letter.

  • Fixed storage lien issue.

Killed the following initiatives over the years

  • Require a property owner to be present at the time of tow

  • VSF’s to store vehicles free for the 1st 24 hours

  • Cargo to be released at no charge

  • TDLR to regulate Incident Management tows and put a CAP on IM tow fees

  • Rights of vehicle owner be printed on tow signs

  • Give vehicle owners 180 days to file for tow hearing

Other important items that STO worked on and supported:

  • The dual towing/VSF license has been eliminated. Licensed tow operators will now be able to work in a VSF without a special license.

  • State booting operator and company licenses were repealed. Booting will now be regulated at the local level.

  • The Towing and Storage Advisory board will now be made up of nine members, 5 industry members and 4 other (2 law enforcement, 1 insurance, and 1 parking facility representative). We will have an opening for a new towing/VSF member since the booting member has been eliminated. We will now have more representation from industry than from “other” which is a very good thing.

This session a few of the issues we will be working on:

  • Increase the daily storage fee.

  • Increasing the penalties for those who violate the Move Over Act.

  • Fin off any harmful bills that would negatively affect your business and the industry.

  • Fix PPI issues to clarify and legalize towing for violation of PP rules.

  • Fix car hauler language from 2015 session.

  • Tow hearing language clean up

 

Thank you to all our supporting members.

If your not a member please call 469-512-6560 and find out how you can help or visit our web-site at www.swtowop.org

So, You Have to Comply with ELDs... Now What?

Tow Operators LogoELD Implementation for the Tower

By Brian J Riker

By now I am sure you have heard about electronic logging devices (ELDs) and hours of service (HOS) regulations that are affecting the towing industry. I am sure you also are aware that

TRAA has been working to mitigate the effect these regulations have on our industry. Unfortunately, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently denied the Association's petition for exemption. Our efforts are not over, although in the meantime towers will need to comply with the current regulations.

Fortunately for the bulk of the industry electronic logging devices are not a big issue. Most light-duty towers can benefit from the short-haul exception to logging requirements, as can some heavy towers. The companies most likely to be affected are the multi-location companies, ones that cover large areas, or those that also offer more traditional trucking services such as equipment transport.

In its simplest form, ELDs are only required if you are currently required to complete paper log books more than 8 times in any 30-day period. This is per driver, not per company or truck. There are other exceptions based on commodity hauled or the age of your equipment. See my previous article on Hours of Service Compliance: Best Practices for Towing Companies for more detailed information about the exceptions. Contrary to popular belief, the towing industry is not exempt from hours of service compliance, even when operating locally. Yes, there is a police ordered tow exception, however, it is very limited in scope and does not provide relief beyond the "emergency" which makes it practically useless.

So, how does a tower implement ELDs once they have determined they must use them? The goal is to come into compliance swiftly with a minimal disruption to normal operation. In reality that is harder than it sounds, but with a good ELD vendor it is manageable. Before simply choosing the lowest cost or most readily available device you should evaluate your overall digital communication system. Now may be the time to upgrade devices or increase integration between your truck location services, in-truck dispatch system, and the ELD system. Of course, you also want a vendor that understands your unique business needs and is responsive to your questions. Towing is not "one size fits all" and neither should your ELD be.

Another important consideration is the ability to service and expand the system. The regulations only provide 8 days to repair a malfunctioning ELD before the vehicle it is installed in must be placed out of service. Also, it is not cost effective to purchase a system that can't grow with your business. Determine if the system is something you can self-install or does it require a visit from their technician every time you have a problem or want to move it to a new truck?

Once you have chosen your system, install the devices in the entire fleet before you cancel any other systems you have been using. There will be some hiccups during the installation and are expected when you first start using any new technology. You don't want to find yourself with no means to track or communicate with your trucks. Make sure your vendor will assist with training both your drivers and operations crew. Many providers have excellent training for the office staff but not the drivers. It is usually the drivers that struggle the most with these systems.

Do not bring all your trucks online at the same time. Again, install the system on all trucks but bring your trucks online gradually to limit the problems. I suggest starting with the least critical trucks and working towards the most critical or busiest trucks.

Assure your drivers that the new system is not to punish or babysit them, it is simply to comply with new Federal regulations. This will ease their apprehension, and there will be resistance – drivers do not like these systems, especially older or less tech savvy drivers.

After installation - but prior to the first use, have a refresher course on hours of service compliance. Some of the biggest issues with ELDs in daily use revolve around incorrect understanding of the hours of service regulations. This training is needed for both your drivers and dispatch staff. Often dispatchers simply do not understand how a driver may manage their available time, or they don't understand how the break and rest periods actually work.

Expect mistakes and log violations in the beginning. Unless your drivers are already familiar with using ELDs they will forget to document things or input them wrong. This will even result in a few out of service situations, possibly even DOT citations. Be prepared with contingency plans to cover loads and shifts due to technical errors that can't be edited or erased. This is perhaps the biggest downfall of the ELD system. In an effort to minimize cheating they have removed the ability to correct honest mistakes.

Make use of all the features, it will give you the best return on investment. Many companies resist ELDs because they think it will just be another expense, and if you don't take full advantage of all the features that is right. The better ELD systems have maintenance alerts, fuel mileage, state mileage, even driver behavior monitoring built-in. If your fleet needs to file mileage reports for the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) or International Registration Plan (IRP) the time savings using automated reports can be amazing. Some insurance companies will take driver behavior monitoring into consideration when deciding what your premiums will be. Even without discounts, the savings from fewer accidents and truck repairs will offset a significant portion of the system's cost.

If you don't already have a digital dispatch platform most ELD systems have at least a basic one that includes two-way messaging, vehicle location and other basic tools to increase fleet utilization. Now may also be the time to revisit your policies on take home trucks and unnecessary movement. With every minute of driving time being tracked, it may make business sense to keep the trucks staged where they are most often used. Not only does this reduce response times, it also reduces exposure to risk by eliminating, or at least minimizing, the time on the highway which in turn reduces your chances of being in a crash.

In summary, cheap is not always the best way to go; even with a system you don't want to use but are being forced into using. There are many business benefits to using ELD systems when the proper system is chosen - if you take advantage of its features. Successful integration of electronic logging devices will require a change in how you plan for call volume and even how you dispatch your drivers. There will be times that your preferred driver simply does not have the available hours to complete an assignment and you will need a backup plan. Prior to implementation of an ELD system, be sure you have evaluated your call volumes, available resources, and have made any corrections needed, otherwise you will find yourself unable to service your customers on-time.

About the Author – Brian J. Riker is President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC and Director of Transportation Compliance for eComply.com®. He is a third-generation tower with more than 25 years of experience in the ditch. Brian specializes in helping towers and other non-traditional fleets navigate the complex world of regulatory compliance. He works with several state associations as well as TRAA. You can read his bi-weekly column in Tow Industry Week or find him presenting educational seminars at towing industry shows throughout the year.

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  • Southwest Tow Operators
  • 660 N Central Expressway, Suite 230
  • Plano, Texas 75074
  • Toll Free: (866) 320-9300

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