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There's No Watchdog Watching Your Back

Watchdog e34dbBy Randall C. Resch

If you're a tow professional at any level of experience, you already know that your state's vehicle code requires you typically to provide a four-point tie-down and use extension lights on all towed vehicles.

For example, California's Vehicle Code regarding secured vehicles on flatbed carriers is specific. It reads, "A vehicle transported on a slide back carrier, tow truck, or, on a trailer, shall be secured by at least four tie-down chains, straps, or an equivalent device, independent of the winch or loading cable."

Regarding towed vehicle lighting, CVC says, "Whenever a tow car is towing a vehicle and a stop lamps and turn signal lamps cannot be lighted and displayed on the rear of a towed vehicle, the tow car operator shall by means of an extension cord display to the rear, a stop lamp and turn signal lamps mounted on the towed vehicle."

It Is Written

Vehicle code laws exist for the overall safety and good of the motoring public. However, to be in compliance with the wording it required operators to be in harm's way.


Think about the industry's white-line fatalities that have occurred throughout the years. There are laws on the books that have led to tow operators being injured or killed because they were required to walk the white-line side in order to complete a four-point tie-down or apply extension lights to towed vehicles.

Example 1: On Dec. 17, 2005, San Diego tow operator Winford Enoch had loaded a disabled vehicle onto his tow truck's wheel lift on the shoulder of a major interstate. Once the vehicle was loaded onto the truck, his last act of preparing the vehicle for tow was to apply rearward-facing extension lights. As Enoch moved to plug in the extension lights standing on the white line, he was struck by a motorist and killed.

Because the plug for the extension lights was located at the tow truck's driver's side, Enoch was forced to move to that position to be in final compliance with the law.

(Note to manufacturers: Extension light plugs should be mounted on the non-traffic-side of the wrecker or flatbed carrier.)

Example 2: On Dec. 29, 2016, New York tow operator Sal Brescia had winched a vehicle onto his carrier and was preparing to secure the vehicle in accordance to his state's four-point tie-down law. As Brescia moved to the traffic side of his carrier with J-hook in hand, he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run motorist. An on-scene news photo clearly showed a chain lying on the white line where he was struck.

Red and blue lights are for police use only. Why is red and blue coloring reserved only for law enforcement when their presence does have the desired influence on Slow Down-Move Over?

Towers in Peril

There are vehicle code laws on the books like these that inadvertently place tow operators in harm's way. I know that California's laws have been around for many, many years; and California leads the nation in white-line fatalities.

So why hasn't the industry as a whole, or in California specifically, lobbied to change old laws to reflect increased dangers?

Perhaps these related laws should be re-written specifically with tow operators in mind to allow them the ability to relocate a towed or transported vehicle to some safer place. Laws should reflect safety and common sense that keeps towers out of harm's way.

To paraphrase an oft-quoted line, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." It's insane that we towers continue to be killed because old vehicle code laws aren't changed to reflect the current day. Point fingers where you may, but it looks like our industry's watchdogs have dropped the ball both statewide and nationally.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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