It’s 3:50 in the afternoon and I’ve just finished a late lunch. I get to sit for a short while because mom is out running errands and dropping our oldest at work. Matthew has friends over and Sammy just got home from school. Babysitter tag; I’m it and mom is out the door.

It’s hard to write with all the distractions; I’m having a multitude of school forms read to me and poked at me for signatures, the TV is cranked and the 12 year old boys have finally left the building, but a few things have happened lately that I need to rant about, so I’ll get at it.

They are not significantly dramatic, these things that have happened to me. In fact they are pretty much the status quo for this industry. Things like; attending police service board meetings that leave you bewildered and feeling like a 2nd class citizen, or dealing with an accident victim who believes that he should not have to pay for cleaning up the mess he made while he was driving without insurance. This clown actually told me it was my own fault for towing his car without him asking me to. The police officer directed me to clean up the mess while he and his passengers were boarded, collared and taken to hospital by ambulance. He had rolled his van into a pile of trees beside the highway. When he got released from hospital, he arrived in a rental car, claiming to have no money or credit card to pay his tow bill. He demanded his personal belongings from the vehicle and left, never to return again.

Oh yes, I shouldn’t forget the letter from the insurance brokers stating what insurance will cost for the next year. I’ve tried shopping around, but there are very few companies to choose from because all the smaller insurance companies have been bought up by a few larger ones. No choice but to pay I guess.

It’s now 4:51 and mom will be home in about 10 minutes. I’m going to take off now because I’ve been sitting on a call for 20 minutes. The kids won’t burn the house down in 10 minutes ……. will they?

The house was still here when I came back. The kids are in bed and the scanner is quiet. I could go on for pages and pages about the stuff at the bottom of our barrel, but I haven’t got all night. Instead I’d like to go on about how we might link all of us brightly coloured plastic monkeys together, and get us out of the barrel. I had hours of fun doing that as a kid.

Seriously though, why are we constantly pushed around by governments, pimped out by auto clubs, and dumped on by insurance companies?

Simply put, because as an industry we are unorganized and easily divided, thereby leaving us easily conquered. Exclusive auto club contracts or low bid municipal contracts that somehow include tows that the municipality doesn’t pay for, are examples of how this happens.

Have you ever tried to collect from an insurance company for restoring a highway by removing the vehicular garbage at the request of municipal officials, on behalf of the public, only to be told that the driver had no collision coverage, and that since they had no interest in the vehicle, the insurance company would not pay your bill? Or, asked why your invoice would not be paid under the public liability portion of the policy, only to be told that legal precedent or not, there was no legislation compelling insurance companies to pay towing invoices under PLPD, so you’re welcome to send the invoice but don’t forget to breathe while you watch the sky for pigs?

Yes, it is starting to leave scars! Please make it stop! Working for nothing sucks!

It’s clear that one tow company owner on their own doesn’t stand a chance to solve such problems and improve his/her environment by actually getting paid for work that was done in cases like these.

So are associations of towing company owners the answer?

This approach has met with moderate success in the past, but history shows that these associations don’t last. A bottom line is a very unstable thing to base your organizational campaign on. Everyone is always focused on their own bottom line and protecting their own investments, so conflicts of interest are common, and solidarity in such a society is weak and fleeting and therefore, so are the results.

This plays well to those who would see us divided, conquered, and working for scraps. The bottom line approach is the very thing that fuels the mess we’re in. Business owners engage in low bidding, undercutting, loss leader, undermining type of behavior; yes we do it to ourselves; and then ask for peoples’ money to help make it stop somehow. What did that sign say?

A far more solid investment is needed to bring the solidarity required to link all the monkeys and get them out of the barrel with some solid results, but what? If not the money that we invest, what else is there?

The biggest investment of all; the commitment we make every day to go out and tow for a living. Our bottom lines will always vary, and keep us cautious of one another as competitors, but the commitment to get up every day and tow is our common thread. This should be where we start, and the investment that we strive to protect as a society.

It has been said that competition law is relatively ineffective within the towing society because the industry lacks clear entry and exit points. In other words, the tower lacks definition. All one needs to do, to be a “tower”, is have a set of keys for something that tows and the brass to go out and do it. That’s it!

This makes for a fairly unruly society that is difficult to govern, because beyond those keys and the brass, there are no specific requirements of proficiency upon which to establish a uniform code of conduct and best practices, only opinions and egos.

The first step toward a healthy society should be to define the tower with a certificate of proficiency that defines him as a skilled tradesperson; having made a significant commitment to attaining such proficiency, and bound by a code of conduct and best practices rooted in that proficiency.

You would then have a society of professional individuals recognized and accredited by government, and you would establish clear entry and exit points to the industry. You would have to prove yourself before you could call yourself a tower! And for that you’d get some well deserved recognition and true professional stature, not the self proclaimed stuff. We can recognize each other all day long but at the end of the day, how far has hat really gotten us?

A professionally accredited society is a better foundation for effective self government because the right to vote is retained by all accredited individuals in good standing, regardless of bottom line, and is therefore more effective at dealing with a broader range of issues that affect the industry, with fewer internal conflicts of interest.

Provincial and Federal governments recognize skilled trades and have programs and money available to train, maintain and retain skilled work forces for established industries. Employers can receive funds to offset apprentice wages, college training is subsidized and apprentices receive EI while they go to school.

The bottom line here is that the government recognizes and establishes the tower, and he/she is still free to associate and organize his/her society to build on that recognition and establishment.

Trade certification is not the opposite of self government. It’s the foundation. It’s the only way to effectively let enough water into the harbour to float everyone’s boat. There have been some great pioneers that have gone a long way toward defining the proficiencies a tower should possess and strive for, but until they are made mandatory, the tower will remain self defined at best, unrecognized and troubled.

Trade certification will not solve the industry’s problems, but it is a fundamental building block in having our collective voice properly heard and recognized. Our house needs to be properly put in order, and laid on a solid foundation if we want to get anywhere with solving the problems outside.

Your provincial ministry responsible for education, training, colleges and universities should have an environmental scan and information on skilled trades. Make your associations, employers and fellow towers aware of this, and encourage your association to contact the ministry and work with them to complete the environmental scan.

I gave my money to an association once, and came to discover that my voice was being used to pitch for a quasi-government power structure that would likely have seen my existence marginalized. A conflict of interest, yes, and absolutely bad for my bottom line, so I had to take my voice back and yell really loud.

I’m not likely to give my money or my voice away again anytime soon unless I see a drastic paradigm shift at the association level, and some effort to establish a true society of properly recognized and accredited professionals. It just works better if the cart is behind the horse.

I do believe that association is the proper vehicle for self government, but the engine that drives it must be the tower, properly defined and recognized. Not the money.

Money is a variable that we use to help fuel our endeavors. Its value fluctuates daily.

A tower’s value should not be directly pinned to it. The ride is way too rough. We are professionals that provide an essential service under some of the most dangerous conditions imaginable. We deserve far more breathing room than that, and our society needs a more stable under pinning.

If you are a tower; you deserve proper accreditation and recognition for what YOU do, as well as a vote in governing your society. You give your life to it, you deserve no less.

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