County Board Advertises Update to Towing Ordinance, With Some Modifications

Arlington County Board on 9/27/16The Arlington County Board on Saturday spent an hour and a half discussing changes to the county’s towing ordinance.

The Board voted to advertise a series of changes — final approval is set for next month — but not before making some alterations to the County Manager’s recommendations.

The alterations were essentially intended to prevent towing malfeasance. Among them:

  • The Board inserted a provision that requires towing companies to receive authorization from the property owner to tow a vehicle, which would apply only to non-residential properties during business hours.
  • The Board kept the current requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it, and added a requirement that tow companies notify those who have been towed that they may view the photos upon request.
  • While the County Manager recommended language stipulating that tow companies must notify police of a tow within 10 minutes, rather than “immediately,” as currently worded, the Board gave itself the option of requiring police notification prior to a tow.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce objected to the authorization requirement — also referred to as a “second signature” — on the grounds that it could cost businesses more time and money to remove trespassers who park on their lots.

A towing standoff outside Ray's Hell BurgerThe Chamber sent a letter to the Board expressing its “vehement opposition” to the requirement. Chamber President and CEO Kate Bates also spoke at the meeting.

“Nobody likes it when their car is towed but that is not justification for putting significant burden on property owners,” said Bates.

County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette proposed the addition of the second signature requirement. It passed, but with at least two County Board members saying they were unlikely to support it when a final vote is taken next month.

Fisette said that the low number of formal complaints against towing companies — there were 87 towing complaints and seven violations recorded by the county in 2015 — does not reflect the reality of widespread disdain for so-called “predatory towing” practices in Arlington.

As evidence, Fisette cited an poll from last year in which 84 percent of respondents — nearly 2,300 people — said towing companies in Arlington were more predatory in their conduct than “just doing their job” for local businesses.

“It’s actually refreshing to have the Vice Chair cite an ARLnow poll,” said Board member John Vihstadt, to laughter in the County Board room.

Fisette also cited an opinion column that recounted someone being towed from the former Taco Bell lot on Wilson Blvd in 2000 while eating at the restaurant — because a spotter saw him walk next door to get cash from an ATM.

A resident who spoke at the Board meeting agreed with Fisette’s assessment of towing practices.

“Many mom and pop restaurants are being harmed by aggressive and predatory towing… it’s driving business away,” said Sarah McKinley, a towing critic and the vice president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association. “A second signature creates a balance and gives retail owners some control over this situation so they aren’t so damaged.”

The Chamber, however, said towing companies provide a valuable service to local businesses. The Chamber supported the County Manager’s original proposal, which it described as a “compromise.”

“We… emphasize our vehement opposition to the addition of a second signature requirement for the removal of illegally parked vehicles or the prohibition of parking ‘spotters’ to monitor parking areas,” the Chamber wrote in its letter to the Board.

“The addition of either would present significant administrative and cost burdens to implement and would deteriorate the level of service provided by towing contractors to local businesses who must keep parking areas clear and available to their employees, visitors and customers to remain financially viable,” the letter said. “We appreciate the steps the County has been working towards to make Arlington a more business friendly community, and urge extreme caution to the Board in exploring proposals that would shift things in the opposite direction.”

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John Martins Classic Cars and Tow Truck Show coming

PAWTUCKET – The John Martins Foundation proudly presents the “First Annual John Martins Classic Cars and Tow Truck Show” on Saturday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the grounds of McCoy Stadium. The rain date is Sunday, Aug. 14.

The family-friendly event is free and open to the public.

It will feature a combination of classic cars and tow trucks for all car enthusiasts or anyone who would like to simply enjoy a day of remembrance with family and friends in honor of John Martins.

Other activities include food trucks, music, face painting, balloon artists, fingerprinting, “Best of Show” awards, prize giveaways and raffles with a special appearance by former NFL Indianapolis Colts player Jamie Silva signing autographs.

All proceeds and donations to benefit the John Martins Foundation to help support burn victims.

The John Martins Burn Foundation is a nonprofit founded in memory of Rhode Island businessman John Martins, “a kind, generous and charitable man admired by many because of his ethics,” states a release. Martins believed that, with hard work and determination, dreams can become a reality.

On Sept. 4, 2015, Martins was driving a tow truck back from a job when he lost control of his vehicle, which plunged down an embankment and burst into flames. Doctors did not expect he would survive his extensive injuries more than 72 hours, but Martins “fought valiantly for his life “for the next 23 days before succumbing to his injuries.

His grief-stricken family created the nonprofit organization in his honor to benefit other burn victims.

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Tow truck catches fire downtown

A tow truck caught fire Saturday night at the Four Corners intersection in downtown Rochester, though no injuries resulted.

According to the Rochester Police Department, the tow truck was traveling east on Main Street with a red four-door sedan hooked up. Apparently, electrical issues sparked a fire at the intersection, where East and West Main streets, State Street and Exchange Boulevard meet.

The Rochester Fire Department responded and extinguished the fire.

A Department of Transportation pole at one corner was damaged.

No further update is expected Sunday.

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Tow truck drivers to motorists: Move over

It was another dangerous few days for tow truck drivers on Twin Cities roadways this Memorial Day weekend.

Tow truck driver Troy Mechura captured video of drivers not moving over despite a Minnesota law that requires drivers to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles.

Tow truck drivers say it’s nothing new and only getting worse.

“I had a semi that literally took my hat right off and sent it down the freeway,” Mechura said.

Tow truck drivers say commuters are often distracted or worse yet, don’t know the law. The space the law seeks to provide can be the difference between life and death and Mechura hopes that, through advocacy, this growing problem can be fixed.

“My life is worth something, everybody’s life is worth something, you can not put a price tag on it,” Mechura said.

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Tow truck loses tanker that crashes into buildings

 By Dalondo Moultrie

The Herald-Zeitung

No one was hurt Tuesday morning when a disabled 18-wheeler tanker truck slipped off the tow truck pulling it and rolled into two industrial buildings in New Braunfels, a city police spokesman said.

Police don’t expect to file any charges in the accident, said David Ferguson, New Braunfels Police Department communications coordinator.

“The 18-wheeler was unoccupied, and both buildings were unoccupied at the time of the crash, and no injuries were reported,” he said. “However, both buildings suffered heavy damage from the collision.”

He said the crash happened about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday in the 4200 block of Farm-to-Market Road 482, where police and New Braunfels Fire Department personnel were called for reports of a major accident.

Crews arrived and found a large tow truck had been driving south on FM 482 near Solms Road when the truck it was hauling detached from the wrecker, Ferguson said. He said the tanker began rolling free through a grassy area and then it crashed into two “metal, industrial-style buildings.”

He said the runaway tanker truck remained upright and spilled none of its lime powder load.

Authorities closed traffic on FM 482 from the southbound Interstate 35 frontage road to Solms Road. They kept it closed about three hours while investigation and debris clearing commenced.

“The investigation revealed that the wrecker hit a bump in the road, which caused the tanker it was hauling to bounce up,” Ferguson said. “That bounce caused the safety straps to break and dislodged the tanker from the hook that was securing it to the tow truck, allowing the 18-wheeler to roll off the wrecker.”

Fred Heimer said he and his family have owned buildings in the industrial park since the older ones were built in the 1980s. He said the buildings damaged Tuesday were built in 2014 and currently house a beverage company and a martial arts studio.

“The worst part of it is it hit where the electricity goes in. Both buildings are without power,” Heimer said. “It’s going to be a challenge the next couple of months to get it put back together.”

Allen Salmons said he is manager at Ellis Sales Company, a manufacturer of oil drilling parts. The company already was facing challenges Tuesday afternoon, he said.

“We have no electricity, no water, no internet, no nothing right now,” Salmons said.

He predicted it would be a week before things got back to business as usual.

The front of the truck smashed into the buildings, went about cab-deep and left the trailer sticking out of the structures, NBFD Battalion Chief Donny Obuch said. He said emergency crews initially thought a hazardous liquid was leaking from the bottom of the truck, but later learned a water main was broken and water was the liquid they saw under the vehicle.

“The second hazard is it had hit directly on the electrical meter boxes for the entire complex,” Obuch said. “In order for us to pull out the vehicle, we had to get NBU there and wait for NBU to secure the electrical lines prior to us surveying the damage to see if we could remove this vehicle.”

Once the electrical issue was no longer a problem, the tow truck operator pulled the semi-truck from the buildings, he said. Firefighters found no leaking hazardous materials and no injured people, Obuch said.

Things could have been a lot worse.

“For the amount of damage that was done and the potential hazard that existed, it turned out to be a very good call for us,” he said.

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Dramatic video footage shows Audi and tow truck both on fire on M62 near Saddleworth

Dramatic footage shows how an Audi and a tow truck became engulfed in flames after catching fire on the M62 near Saddleworth.

Smoke can be seen billowing across the westbound carriageway of the motorway, while both the white van and its load burn away.

Two lanes were shut at J22 near Rishworth Moor at around 2pm.

It appears the vehicle had pulled over onto the hard shoulder, with the driver even getting out his hazard sign before the fire took hold.

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Images taken by GMFRS station manager Jason Rain show the burnt out vehicle still smouldering.

The truck looked completely destroyed, as did the front end of the Audi it had been transporting.

The sliproad reopened at around 4pm, but lanes one and two were kept closed for around an hour after while the carriageway was treated by gritters and cleaned up.

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Highways England @HighwaysNEAST

 J22 w/b entry slip now open however 2 lanes remain closed  W/B at J22 for carriageway clean up. Long delays back to J23

Highways bosses tweeted to say the motorway was fully reopen by 5pm.

They posted on Twitter: “All lanes open and lane closures removed #M62 W/B just after entry slip at J22. Long delays remain back to J23 but clearing steadily.”

Traffic cameras show congestion is currently backed up to Huddersfield.

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City tow truck team ready for its reality TV close-up

Collin Vandenheuvel and his workmates at Preferred Towing appear in the first episode of Heavy Rescue: 401, airing Oct. 10 on the Discovery Channel.
Brett Morris photo, www.BrettM.comCollin Vandenheuvel and his workmates at Preferred Towing appear in the first episode of Heavy Rescue: 401, airing Oct. 10 on the Discovery Channel. Brett Morris photo,
Troy Shantz

Preferred Towing is often seen on the road, and will soon be seen on screen too.

The Sarnia company is a player in the Discovery Channel’s “Heavy Rescue: 401,” a reality TV show that tells the story of tow operators, rescues, and maintenance crews that keep 400 series highways moving.

The first “sneak peek” episode airs Monday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m.

“For them to come to us and ask us to be a part of this, it’s a pretty amazing feeling,” said Collin Vandenheuvel, a tow operator and son of Preferred owners, Gary and Tammy Vandenheuvel.

“We feel honoured to do this and it was a fun experience.”

Vandenheuvel said Sarnia’s unpredictable weather, which can play havoc on roads, was one reason the company was chosen.

“With the lake effect, it really changes up here really quickly.”

In January, a crew began filming the Sarnia team seven days a week for nearly three months. Vandenheuvel said having the cameras looking over his shoulder was “nerve wracking” at first, but the results were worth it.

“We’ve got our parts, and from what we’ve been seeing so far it’s been amazing. They did a great job putting it all together.“

Vandenheuvel said the company’s crewmembers appear in five of the eight episodes, including the opener Monday on Discovery Channel. The rest of the season is scheduled to run on unspecified dates early in the new year.

Vandenheuvel, his dad and four other employees apparently appear in the show. The scenario is not unlike that of the popular Discovery Channel series Highway Thru Hell, in which Jamie Davis and his son Jason work together in the business.

Starting with a single one-ton 24 years ago, Preferred Towing today has a fleet of 14 trucks.

The largest is powerful enough to clear car wrecks, pull ailing tractor-trailers off the road, and has been used to haul vessels built in Sarnia’s world-class fabricating shops.

Vandenheuvel said the tow companies and maintenance crews on the show are from all over Southern Ontario, and he’d gotten to know some of them through towing operations on 400-series highways.

“We know these guys, they’re really good guys. And they’re going to look just as good as we do on TV,” he said with a laugh.

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