I like tow-truck drivers, especially during the winter season. They are often maligned, under-appreciated or despised by urban drivers. Rural drivers have an entirely different view of these modern-day hoisters of the highway.
City dwellers live in fear of having their vehicles towed to an impound location for a parking violation. The tow-truck operator becomes the bad guy/gal in this scenario.
Country dwellers, on the other hand, have been known to elect tow-truck-company owners mayor of their communities.
The B.C. government has added tow-truck operators to the list of those who must be given special consideration when responding to roadside emergencies, alongside ambulance, police and fire-truck drivers. Drivers must lower their speed to no more than 70 km/h when the highway speed is posted at 80 km/h or more. When the speed is posted at 70 km/h or less, the maximum speed is 40 km/h when encountering a tow truck in action at the side of the road. If there is more than one lane in one direction of travel, drivers must not be in the lane closest to the tow truck. A full clear lane serves as a buffer between passing vehicles and the tow truck.
This relatively recent amendment to the traffic laws validates the respect shown to the towing industry by government. Most drivers are not aware of the change, however. On my last highway trip, it was blatantly obvious that most drivers did not know enough to allow a buffer lane when passing an engaged police vehicle, let alone a tow-truck operator.
The last time I was rescued by a tow-truck driver was a rather mundane situation. My exhaust pipe had become detached and wedged in the pavement when the driving-school vehicle had been backed into a parking space against a brick wall. The small SUV could not be moved forward or backward.
The tow-truck driver had the vehicle hoisted and on a flat-deck transport vehicle in no time. The driver’s operating and safety skills, acquired through a rigorous training program, were obvious.
Once a towing company is charged with the responsibility of transporting a vehicle, it assumes the liability. It is best to employ a reputable company, perhaps a member of the Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau.
Many tow-truck drivers have an industrial first aid qualification. Some are responsible for saving lives as a result of being first on the scene of a horrific highway crash. They routinely assist police and firefighters as well as ambulance attendants in rural settings, where great distances mean life-saving resources are few and far between.
I have witnessed tow-truck drivers running down the highway to place flares and cones by the side of the road to warn approaching traffic of impending danger. They have used fire extinguishers to save lives at the scene of a crash. They carry blankets to help people suffering from hypothermia who need to be kept warm. The cabs of their trucks are used as everything from triage centres to command posts and locator facilities in remote areas.
Tow-truck drivers, as a rule, are very skilful and safe behind the wheel. They see firsthand the aftermath of crashes. They have a duty to perform and take it seriously. We should all give them the credit they deserve.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and graduate of the University of Manitoba.
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