Whether you’re an owner operator or a driver working for a company, breaking down is never fun, and no one ever wants to be towed. That’s completely understandable, but if you learn some important information about the truck you drive, the roads you’re driving on and how many towing companies operate there, you can save a lot of time, money and headaches.
As one of the largest towing and truck repair companies in New Jersey, and having been in operation for more than forty-five years, we’ve seen and done just about everything (just ask us about the day a Lear jet crashed into a parking lot and we were called in to clean up the remains of twenty burned vehicles, as well as help with the authorized cleanup crew with the remains of the aircraft). Here, we’ve put together some useful information and tips to help you navigate a breakdown and, hopefully, save a few bucks.
TOWING TIP #1: Do some research and find a towing company you feel comfortable with near your home base. Speak with the owner or manager to learn about their services, and visit the outfit in person, if you can. Make sure the company offers the services you need. If you have twenty trucks, you don’t want to be dealing with a company that only has one wrecker? If you travel in the same local area, you may want to find a company that offers road service. If you repair your own trucks, great. If not, does the towing company also have truck repair? If you travel long distances, does your local tow company have the connections to help when you break down several states away? Ask how the company needs to be paid. Can you set up credit terms, put a credit card on file or pay by check? Form a relationship with a towing company before you need one. It doesn’t matter if you have one truck or one hundred, a professional towing company wants your business, and will appreciate a good working relationship.
TOWING TIP #2: Understanding controlled highways. Most metropolitan areas have what are called “controlled highways” – this means there is a designated towing company (or a few) that have the exclusive towing rights to that particular area. What does this mean to you? Often, road service is not allowed on controlled roadways for safety reasons. You will need to either nurse your truck off the nearest exit or be towed off the highway by the designated tower before any service can be performed. In the event of a tow, many drivers make the mistake of asking to be towed to the nearest safe place off the highway. This can be an expensive mistake. In this scenario, you may be charged an initial tow off the controlled highway (at a regulated rate), and an “alternate destination tow” to be taken to a local safe spot. The rates designated by the highway authority are often regulated for tows to the towing company’s yard. By getting towed there, you are still under the “first tow” rates and may pay much less. Bottom line, you need to specify that you do not want to pay an “alternate destination tow” fee and wish to go to the designated location, set by the highway authority, to remain under their set price.
TOWING TIP #3: Don’t ask for road service on a truck that needs to be towed. This is a tough one, and we get it. Your truck breaks down, you have a few more deliveries to make, and you are hoping that a road service mechanic will pull off a miracle. The problem with this scenario is it can be costly and time-consuming to go down this route. You may assume the tower “just wants to tow the truck” and is sending you down the wrong path by dissuading you from sending road service first. This is where your relationship is key. A professional tower has been down this path and may be able to see you’re going to pay for road service to come, diagnose a problem that needs hard parts (an alternator, turbo, etc.) and call for a tow truck in the end. Now, you’ve paid for two services. The towing provider may also be taking other factors into account, such as your driver’s safety on the road or the time of day. After waiting for road service to go out and not being able to fix the truck, you may now face rush-hour and a longer ETA for a wrecker. Add to that the additional expense of paying for time in traffic, and it’s enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure. You also don’t want road service to band-aid a problem, only to break down fifty miles down the road again. Now, you’ve paid for road service, a tow and lost time for your driver twice in a single day. There’s a time and a place for road service, but there are also times when a tow truck should be called from the get-go.
It is important for you to understand that many towers, ourselves included, are legitimate businesses, and are not out to take advantage of every trucker they can get their tow hooks into. If you need to be towed, ask for a price. Don’t assume that a specified highway tower won’t give you a fair price to tow your truck. You could pay a premium to have another company come get your truck, but remember, there’s double work in unhooking and re-hooking your rig, which takes time and costs money. Also, ask if the towing company has road service or a repair facility. You may not think to ask, but the local tower’s shop rates are likely lower than what you might pay at the dealership (and probably faster, too).
Lastly, we want to emphasize, while every industry has a few bad apples, there are many professional towing companies that know their business, inside and out, are dedicated to the transportation industry, and genuinely want to help truckers and trucking companies. Not all “expensive” tow bills are unwarranted. Mechanics are expensive, qualified towing operators are expensive, equipment is expensive, and insurance is expensive. That’s not an excuse – that’s a reality. You get what you pay for. Saving a few bucks by hiring the “gypsy” tower to hook your rig becomes costly when an oil pan is punctured, or they don’t remove an axle and damage your transmission. There’s nothing wrong with asking to have a tow bill explained, and any company worth their salt will be glad to do so.
As towers, we want to partner with you to make your life easier, not harder. A life-long relationship with a trucker or trucking company is like gold. Rest assured, there are many of us towers out here that have the utmost respect for what you do each and every day, and want to help you, not hurt you. Safe travels! For more details about Nick’s Towing in New Jersey or to schedule a tow, call them at (800) 222-8691 today or visit www.nickstowingservice.com.