Tow truck driver is not a beloved profession. By definition, the times you met a tow truck driver is when your car has broken down, so you're probably not going to be having a good time. But towing is an honorable profession, as this story tells.
When we saw what might be the world's laziest tow truck driver (or, more likely, just a guy screwing around with a crusher-bound Cadillac), reader towman chimed in with some stories from his career. This one describes how he helped the San Diego Sheriff's department bust up some insurance fraud.
the insurance fraud was a SD Sheriff deal, we got the call to Lake Wohlford rd (Escondido CA), car over the road. First our 20 ton wrecker arrived at the scene, (the car did not require heavy equipment, however the distance and the angle of the winching needed something bigger, that is why the 20 ton responded), and the wrecker's driver started the recovery process. Climb down (and I mean a real climb down) to assess the situation, climb up to, start to hook up. This is the time when I arrived with my flatbed to assist the wrecker driver and to haul the car once we got it out. Anyway I climbed down with the cable (the wrecker driver operated the winch), plus about 4 additional chains (the winch cable was a bit short, so we extended it with the chains), btw it was in the middle of the summer inland southern California (hey at least it was dry heat :) ).
Once I hooked the car up I signaled the wrecker driver (using walkies) to start winching, I was following the car up parallel with the path, often stopped the winching to clear out obstacles, bushes, bigger roots, rocks. The process was pretty unusual and we had to improvise a lot, like building a small "bridge" out of 4x4s to gap a smaller crevasse. The recovery was long and painful, lot of hang ups, the heat, the terrain itself. Eventually we got the car out, a 90's XJ Jag, I don't remember the exact year, the car was surprisingly intact, but totaled nevertheless.
Anyway, the investigation found out the that owner pushed the car over (saying that he lost controll of the car and jumped out the last second) because he did not want to pay for the car anymore. Instead, he had to pay for the recovery (due to the difficulties, tech and time involved the bill was hefty, around 800+ US$), pay for the car and answer to the law for the fraud.
Fun fact, down at the ravine where the car ended up, there were 2 more rusty wrecks, they were legitimate accidents of the past, and the owners (or whoever ended up with the legal custody of the cars) signed a waiver to let the cars stay where they are, due to the cost of the possible recovery.
Towman then added another story, of how he helped the sheriffs dept. again, this time in luring a suspect out of a motel.
Same city as above. We got a call from the police department to, seemed like a standard impound. We got the make and model, color, license plate number, location. A motel 6 just off the highway, I arrived but before I could look for the car, an unmarked silver crown vic pulled in front of me, just at the entrance of the motel 6 parking lot. Two detectives jumped out, and told me to hold off, they have a special plan for me.
Apparently they spotted a vehicle of wanted felon in the parking lot with the possibility of the felon is staying the motel, their idea was to call a tow truck and impound the car, hoping that the guy comes out of whichever room he was staying.
They told me to do it loud :), no problem, loud I can do. I pulled in with roaring the diesel, air brake hissing. Rattled my chains as much of possible while hooking the car up, always looking toward the closest room in case I need to duck out of the way. The car was backed in to the spot, hand brakes on, so used my wheel lift to drag it out, remember, loud as possible.
The car was already on my bed, the whole thing seemed like a bust (no pun intended), I was tying the car down, when a door opened and a young guy came out calmly approaching, he was about 15 ft away, when the silver crown vic and a black and white pulled in from both directions, blocking the way. He didn't put up a fight, and they arrested him on the spot without incident. Sorry, no big action scene :), on the other hand my adrenaline was pumping for sure.
As much as this could have turn out badly for me, it was still one of the safest job i did that day, with police back up, and no cars flying by 80 MPH 10 inches of my head (an everyday call for a tire change on the side of the freeway).
Towman, I look forward to more of your stories. Keep 'em coming!
Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove (towman not pictured)