Hiring and Retention
By: Tow Times Staff
Joanne Blyton: The availability of operators is a long-term problem that has escalated in recent years. We need more quality young people to start choosing towing and recovery as a viable career path, which is why TRAA has decided to support two important federal initiatives. The first is the DRIVE-Safe Act (H.R.1374), currently with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The second is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s pilot program to permit commercial drivers under age 21 to engage in interstate commerce (docket no. FMC-SA-2018-0346).
John Glass: This has become a crisis. As employees leave the industry through retirement or move to a different occupation, the influx of new and younger workers is not there any longer. It’s difficult, and sometimes near impossible, to find, attract or retain qualified, responsible individuals interested in this line of work. In the past, employees found a rewarding and exciting career in the towing and recovery industry; however, this era is over. Lack of interest in our industry is a major concern.
Sam Johnson: From Florida to Vegas and even in my hometown of Sacramento, Calif., we’re desperately trying to figure out new ways to find and recruit quality help-drivers being the most challenging position to fill. There are as many theories as to why as there are colors of tow trucks on the road. But the fact remains tow truck drivers are a dying breed. The rate of pay for a new (inexperienced) light-duty tow operator just doesn’t level up to the liability and risk we’re asking them to assume. From the $125K truck they’re driving to the million-dollar insurance policy hanging on their heads as they work the fog line inches away from 70-mph traffic, these young workers are grossly underpaid. If you look at any other industry, you can see the huge disparity in wages. Over the past decade our industry has worked itself into a high-volume, no-profit corner. There is no simple solution to this problem, but I do know it must be addressed. Things such as rate increases for our services so we can afford higher wages and flexible work schedules to accommodate employees who need to fit in school or single-parent responsibilities need to be considered. We are at a crossroads of learning what it means to run a truly sustainable business model in these challenging times.
Mike Seamon: Training will be a crucial aspect of the future of towing operators. Tow companies will need to find the time to train and send employees to classes. A mechanic buys their own tools; training is the toolbox for a tow truck driver. You can’t change parts on a vehicle with no tools, so how can a driver be efficient in the quest to make a living without the training tools? The mindset about drivers and training will need to change to keep the driver and the company profitable.
Ken Ulmer: The towing industry is in dire need of qualified drivers. It takes a unique individual to make a good driver, with the right mix of competitiveness, common sense and professionalism. The hours can be long, tedious and many times under dismal conditions- inclement weather, late night call-outs, etc. Today’s workforce is very tech-oriented, which is a great thing, but many lack the commitment for long and sometimes laborious hours. Our industry does a poor job of recruitment and is devoid of formal training programs. Few towing companies offer incentives such as health insurance, retirement and vacation pay to retain employees.