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TOWING & RECOVERY March 2011 Keeping industry pros on their tows tow Partners ADVISOR Now FOOTNOTES Month ® Every www.trfootnotes.com SUCCESS STORY Western Winner Montana Tower Gets Elected! Page 8 towPARTNERS ADVI S OR Read It Right Here: Teaching towers to take the path to professionalism Page 13 Wrecking Crew Towers Who Crash-Test Cars TOWPIX Page 10 Trainers Wes Wilburn and Tom Luciano By Allan T. Duffin “Ever seen a tow truck driver in a tuxedo? Well, if you look closely, you won’t actually see them on our drivers either (our dry-cleaning bills were kill-ing us!).We live by our clean profession-al standards.” This friendly opening paragraph on Alpha Towing’s website not only spotlights the company’s insistence on well-dressed drivers but also stresses owner Mike Patellis’ focus on professional training for all of his employees. Drivers at his Woodstock, GA-based firm must complete a com-prehensive 14-day training course that mi x es classroom instruction with hands-on e x perience. While Patellis created his own train-ing regimen, other towing companies often prefer to purchase their educa-tional programs from a third party. The towing and recovery industry doesn’t have a single standard for training and certification, but a num-ber of organizations provide tools so that towing companies can ensure their employees are road-ready. The market for education and train-ing is big business, and for good rea-son: An estimated 35,000 towing busi-nesses currently operate in the United States, according to the Towing and Recovery Association of America. And since each towing company has at least one employee, that’s a lot of industry professionals who need to stay current on the skills needed to do the job. An official confirmation of comple-tion of an educational program from a recognized training entity or respect-ed individual trainer is a sign of good business practice and encourages cus-tomer and peer trust and respect. Volume 21, Number 11 © 2011 Dominion Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. ❘ $3.95 Towing & Recovery Footnotes ® 10 Bokum Rd. Essex, CT 06426 PRST STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID PEORIA, IL PERMIT NO. 315 Demand Rising Like the rest of the towing indus-try, trainers have taken some hard economic knocks lately, said Terry Humelsine, senior lead instructor for WreckMaster. “The current recession has had, to some degree, an effect on our industry in the training and edu-cation of their personnel.” However, See ROAD READY , page 3
Allan T. Duffin
Teaching towers to take the path to professionalism
“Ever seen a tow truck driver in a tuxedo? Well, if you look closely, you won’t actually see them on our drivers either (our dry-cleaning bills were killing us!).We live by our clean professional standards.”
This friendly opening paragraph on Alpha Towing’s website not only spotlights the company’s insistence on well-dressed drivers but also stresses owner Mike Patellis’ focus on professional training for all of his employees. Drivers at his Woodstock, GA-based firm must complete a comprehensive 14-day training course that mixes classroom instruction with hands-on experience.
While Patellis created his own training regimen, other towing companies often prefer to purchase their educational programs from a third party.The towing and recovery industry doesn’t have a single standard for training and certification, but a number of organizations provide tools so that towing companies can ensure their employees are road-ready.
The market for education and training is big business, and for good reason: An estimated 35,000 towing businesses currently operate in the United States, according to the Towing and Recovery Association of America. And since each towing company has at least one employee, that’s a lot of industry professionals who need to stay current on the skills needed to do the job.
An official confirmation of completion of an educational program from a recognized training entity or respected individual trainer is a sign of good business practice and encourages customer and peer trust and respect.
Like the rest of the towing industry, trainers have taken some hard economic knocks lately, said Terry Humelsine, senior lead instructor for WreckMaster. “The current recession has had, to some degree, an effect on our industry in the training and education of their personnel.” However, despite the recession’s effects, Humelsine noted that “more and more municipal, state, and federal governmental agencies — such as highway administrations controlling our nation’s highways — are seeking, and in some cases demanding, trained and certified towing, transport, and recovery operators for quick and effective highway clearance.”
“With the emergence of sophisticated organizations with advanced in-depth training programs,” Humelsine continued, “the towing industry at this time has produced and is continuing to produce some of this industry’s brightest and most knowledgeable operators.”
Training and education is available from various sources, such as Wreck- Master, The International Institute of Towing and Recovery (IITR), Miller Industries, North American Towing Academy (NATA), Star Training and Consulting, the California Tow Truck Association, and others. In addition to Humelsine, the roster of well-known trainers includes names like Wes Wilburn, Tom Luciano, Joe Sroga, David Lambert, and others around the nation.
Towers looking to get certified will find a number of organizations that offer programs designed to meet that need. The Towing and Recovery Association of America, Inc., led by Executive Director Harriet Cooley and President Al Gregg, is based in Alexandria, VA. The nonprofit organization offers its National Driver Certification Program (NDCP), which was launched with a grant from the federal Department of Transportation.
The NDCP tests provide three distinct levels of certification. “TRAA has tested over 15,000 towers and participation continues to grow each year,” said Natasha Patterson, director of certification operations for TRAA.
According to Patterson, the TRAA Level 1 exam focuses on light-duty towing in five functional areas: customer service, safety, incident management, trucks, and equipment. The Level 2 exam deals with medium-duty towing issues including professional service, forms and invoices, safe driving skills, customer and personal safety, specialized equipment, and recovery skills.
“Level 3 [heavy duty] testing is unlike Level 1 and 2,” explained Patterson.
“Testing is both written and an oral exam, and the heavy recovery specialist is tested on his or her analytical abilities based on years of experience rather than the strictly factual approach as in Levels 1 and 2.”
TRAA testing is available nationally at local libraries, community colleges, national tow shows, and through certain state associations. Three years ago TRAA contracted with PSI Testing Centers to offer computer-based testing.TRAA also offers a variety of ancillary training DVDs that cover subjects such as dispatching, marketing, safety, and ANSI-approved apparel.
Another educational entity, The International Institute of Towing and Recovery (IITR), was launched in 1988 as a non-profit organization formed by a diverse group of industry leaders, Educators, and trainers. Peter Fuerst, chairman of IITR, explained that the Institute was “originally known for its self-paced, self-study program that was delivered under the auspices of the University of Georgia Continuing Education Program.”
Today, added Fuerst, “the programs now include an instructor-led Power- Point presentation that includes a hands-on component.” Current IITR course offerings include self-study and instructor-led programs in the operation of light-duty tow trucks, car carriers, and road-service equipment.
Since 2004 the IITR has operated under the umbrella of the Towing and Recovery Association of America Education Foundation, while at the same time remaining a completely independent educational entity. This is a good example of two towing organizations linking up to provide continuity in education: The IITR programs, said Fuerst, are a good way for tow operators to prepare for TRAA’s National Driver Certification tests.
Scott Burrows, president of Burrows Wrecker Service in Pendleton, KY, serves as a member-at-large for IITR.“New employees in the towing industry often arrive with sound mechanical knowledge, yet are painfully unaware of safe procedures and operational requirements related to the recovery and towing of vehicles,” Burrows said.“The IITR methodology, outlined in their educational products, gives stepby- step information in a systematic and logical manner.”
At The Academy
Based in Altamonte Springs, FL, the North American Towing Academy (NATA) is led by David Lambert, a 29- year veteran of the towing and recovery industry. Prior to founding NATA, Lambert created and taught training programs for the American Automobile Association and the Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida (PWOF). He assisted in editing training programs for TRAA and IITR, and wrote the AAA Towing and Service Manual for nine years.
NATA provides two-day training programs in light-duty, light- and medium-duty, and heavy-duty towing and recovery. The classes are both classroom and hands-on, followed by certification testing, valid for a fiveyear period.
Last year Lambert introduced a new one-day program for flatbed and carcarrier operators. The course was built specifically for Towmasters, a New Hampshire-based non-profit chartered to provide education and training to towing professionals. Other associations also have shown an interest in providing the class to their members as well.
“My heavy-duty instructor Garrett Paquette and I are working towers and certified instructors,” said Lambert.“We like to say we ‘share’ the information we’ve accumulated over nearly 60 years of experience between us.”
Organizations like the IITR work with towing associations across the country to ensure that trainers learn the necessary skills to qualify them to teach. This is important, explained Fuerst, because otherwise the towing community could very well run out of trainers.
“The IITR is unique in that the IITR does not do training classes but develDevelops the educational materials,” said Fuerst. Once that’s complete, the IITR “works with towing associations and auto clubs in developing their own instructors and training programs, using the IITR’s nationally recognized curriculum.”
As mentioned above, a number of educational entities assist each other with training and certification programs.IITR, for example, helps prepare drivers for TRAA certification, and NATA offers special training programs designed to help members of state towing associations improve their scores on TRAA certification tests.
“The program raised one association’s test scores by 20 percent,” noted Lambert. In addition, a NATA course for motor clubs focuses on improving customer satisfaction along with covering the standard towing and recovery curriculum.
An alternative for towing companies to expand their training programs is to seek related experience beyond towing itself. For example, Bruce Pedigo, vice president of operations for Joe’s Towing & Recovery in Bloomington, IL, crosstrains his drivers as certified flaggers so they can assist with traffic control at accident scenes when needed.
In addition, Pedigo’s drivers learn about the job responsibilities of the other responders they work with on the road. “We train with our local fire departments so the drivers understand more about what the fire department needs from our company at an acci Accident scene,” said Pedigo. “We are always looking for improvements in efficiency as well as new techniques to tow and recover vehicles,” added Pedigo. “So training never ends!”
Training opportunities are offered through many state towing associations, such as the Texas Towing & Storage Association (TTSA). “I certify drivers two ways,” said Ken Ulmer, TTSA’s education chairman. First, TTSA puts students through TRAA certification testing. Those drivers are then given a certification test approved in Texas and developed thru TTSA.
“As far as training goes,” added Ulmer, who also trains, “[our] TTSA trainers have trained thousands of drivers all over Texas and Oklahoma.We follow and base all of our training on the International Institute of Towing and Recovery (IITR).”
For training in the heavy-duty arena, TTSA uses a course offered by Internationally known instructor Tom Luciano of Miller Industries. Ulmer called working with Luciano in this course “the absolute pinnacle of training scenarios.
There are more training and education opportunities out there and other trainers not mentioned here, but the point is to show that there are many options available to towing companies looking to upgrade their current employees’ skill sets or to initiate new drivers into the profession.
Regardless of how they build their programs, trainers and educational organizations all have one primary goal: to train and/or certify in the best ways possible. “Safety and professionalism are the primary purposes of the classes, but we also strive to instill confidence and pride in our students,” said Lambert. “When we hand out those certificates and patches, both the students and instructors feel good about what has been accomplished.”
Footnotes invites you to review the two following columns, which continue the theme of education and training with further observations by top trainers Terry Humelsine and Tom Luciano, and towers Bruce Pedigo and Mike Patellis.
Read the full article at http://www.flashedition.com/article/Road+Ready/647089/61920/article.html.