Brian J. Riker
As first published in Tow Industry Week by American Towman Media on March 13, 2019
Are you sick and tired of things happening to you rather than controlling your own destiny? I know I am. Quit bitching about it and do something; it really is that simple.
I attended the Towing and Recovery Association of America’s Legislative Action Day event this past week. The title is really a misnomer, as we were in Washington, D.C. for the better part of last week hosting or attending meetings with legislators and regulators. We did something and made a difference.
I had a chance to participate in a conversation with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s No. 1 person, Administrator Ray Martinez. What a guy, really one of the easiest people to speak with. He truly is interested in what we have to say and sympathetic to our plight. He was just one of many officials TRAA had a chance to influence.
He assured me and the industry that our requests for flexibility in Hours of Service have not fallen on deaf ears.
Although not at liberty to release anything further publicly, his office is in the process of reworking HOS regulations in a way that should be beneficial to many small motor carriers like the average tower.
Another great guest speaker was Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA). McGovern comes from a working class family in Massachusetts, first elected to the House in 1996. He is supportive of our industry and gave the audience some sage advice on getting favorable legislation passed.
McGovern strongly advised towers to come prepared when they meet with their legislative representatives. Don’t come in with a complaint without offering at least a few viable solutions. It is best to come prepared with a focused topic and supporting documentation, including proposed regulatory or legislative language. Give the lawmaker a ready-to-implement solution that is fair to all parties involved.
Roadside safety was also a hot topic with Federal Highway Administration’s SHRP2 Program Manager James Austrich presenting to the group about roadside worker safety.
From Jan. 1 to March 8 this year, there have already been 26 reported roadside fatalities, 10 of which were towers. Austrich called these “struck-by” incidents a phenomenon of epidemic proportions.
Although Traffic Incident Management training has gained widespread acceptance in its seventh year with nearly 400,000 roadside personnel trained, it is not enough.
Austrich said FHWA needs data to support better solutions for roadside safety, calling for towers to self- report near-miss and struck-by incidents to the Towing Traffic Incident Reporting System. The TTIRS, created in 2015, collects data that is used to support funding requests for training, support of the slow down move over laws as well as support for public awareness campaigns.
Although the current data is useful, it will be much more powerful when more of the near-miss and struck-by events are recorded.
Legislative Action Day was a success. As an industry we have come a long way; however we have even further to go. Now is the time to speak up and become involved. Our industry is under attack from all sides, most notably from the insurance and trucking industries. They have well-funded lobbyists, political action committees and various other resources we can only dream of at the moment.
Now is the time to get things done politically—and I mean right now. Congress is in session, bills are being introduced daily and it is before the appropriations process. If you don’t get your legislation into the hands of the correct committees right now there is no chance it will make it into law this year.
The process requires review on several levels with perhaps the most important being the appropriations level. If they can’t pay for it, they won’t enact it!
Unfortunately, there are still several states without a towing association. There are also a few where the towing association is simply a committee within the trucking association.
We have so little self-respect that we can’t find the time or common ground among fellow towers to band together. Since we are all in this together, we need to learn to work together for the common good of the industry. There is strength in numbers. This is your call to action. Will you do something … or just stand there bitching when the world changes around you?
Brian J. Riker is a third-generation towman and president of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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