Handling the before, during, and after of an unexpected heavy duty vehicle tow or recovery.
Downtime is the antithesis of productivity for a fleet operation. When that downtime is unexpected, or becomes an emergency situation, it is even more integral to have a plan in place to efficiently and effectively respond to issues, so the problem does not get exponentially worse.
When an emergency roadside situation occurs, a safe and organized response is crucial. Adhering to these critical steps can minimize not only the loss or damage of cargo but also protect and potentially save the lives of the driver and others on the road who may be in jeopardy.
Having a plan in place to handle the before, during, and after of an unexpected tractor tow or vehicle recovery can help fleets to better plan for these events.
Prep when possible
In preparation for the unexpected, fleets should first vet and select one or several towing and recovery service providers that best suits their needs. When selecting a service provider, review the network they serve. There may be instances where a fleet runs outside of the network, or a fleet may require a nationwide network to provide service.
Once a service provider is selected, the fleet should apply to be added to the towing and recovery company’s account base.
During the event
Steps taken during an emergency service event can vary. It may be the vehicle is disabled on the roadside requiring a mobile maintenance call and quick service.
As soon as the truck is disabled on the side of the road, so long as there is no imminent danger to the driver or other passengers, the driver should be sure to gather and place the appropriate safety equipment to alert other motorists. Safety is imperative – for the driver, the tow or recovery expert, and any other individuals who may be on-hand during the response call.
In much more challenging circumstances, the vehicle could be blocking traffic, leaking hazardous fluids, or have been part of an accident. In this instance, a tow or vehicle recovery may be necessary.
A tow or recovery contractor responding to a service call requires as much information as possible to ensure a safe and quick response. This means clear and concise communication between the driver and the fleet should already be established, with a standard process in place including a point of contact for the fleet to coordinate with the service provider.
Law enforcement involvement
When law enforcement responds to an accident or a disabled vehicle blocking traffic, the fleet may no longer have a say in the towing or recovery service provider. Depending on the location of the incident, law enforcement may have a single provider for their jurisdiction or will rotate through a list of set providers. Service rates are set between that provider and the law enforcement agency.
The cleanup process
For recovery requiring additional cleanup services, the process can become even more extensive. Some towing and recovery operations have certifications necessary to handle this. Otherwise, an additional service provider that specializes in environmental cleanup may be required.
It’s recommended that you contact your [insurance] agent beforehand to see what is and is not covered by your policy.
Once an incident does occur, the fleet must work with the tow service provider and the insurance company to alert both parties of the accident.
Providing an insurance claim number and the insurance agent’s contact information to the towing or recovery service provider is very important. The fleet should also have the insurance provider send an estimator to the tow facility to assess damage and make arrangements to have the vehicle or debris removed from storage.
Understanding the invoicing
Towers and recovery companies have a responsibility to provide an itemized bill with clear and thorough descriptions of services rendered. Fleets should approach a dispute with courtesy and ask questions to get explanation or clarification on any unclear information.
Towing and recovery service providers cannot provide an estimate for a job ahead of time, due to the many variables for any response situation. However, a fleet can confirm the hourly rates and fees for some services such as lifting, up-righting, mobile service, tire changes, heavy winching, off-decking, etc.