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Offering a Lift: Continuing Education for Tow Truck Operators

Posted on Feb 25th, 2016 | Topic: Tow Operator

Many people can remember seeing pictures of tow trucks many years ago, perhaps as a child. The trucks appeared to be relatively simple devices: a truck with a hook hanging off the back. Tow trucks are much more complex today, and there are millions of tow truck operators in the U.S. Some of them have specialties, and some of them provide broad and general services.

The tow industry can be a lucrative business, especially during those winter months when motorists need a lift out of the snow. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that being a tow operator is without its complexities. The modern tow truck operator must take into account many more variables, such as all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, electric, hybrid, and so on. All of this, depending on the truck, will determine the towing strategy.

The Need for Tow Trucks

For nearly as long as there have been automobiles, there have been breakdowns and traffic accidents. And when horseless carriages are suddenly powerless, it dawns on their operators just how heavy they can be.

Enter the tow truck – a special vehicle designed to move tons of metal from point A to point B, kind of like an ambulance for other cars and trucks.

In many ways, the tow truck swoops in as a hero. In northern climates, snow and ice can cause countless spinouts and accidents. When cars become trapped in the snow – often for hours – a tow truck is the only way to free it. The same is true when there is a collision on the roads. Traffic often comes to a standstill until tow trucks arrive to clear the dilapidated vehicles from the scene. Although feelings about tow trucks that repossess cars for the bank may be slightly more mixed, there’s no argument about the necessity of their operation.

Towing Requirements in the United States

Tow truck operators are typically required to be familiar with state and federal regulations in terms of accident scenes and repossession services. In other words, when it comes to tow operation, there’s a lot to keep track of.

Your basic application and certification process will make sure that most of that information is already instilled. But the world keeps changing. And as it does, cars change and so do the towing rules. To ensure that tow operators continue to stay up to date, many states require tow drivers to complete a certain amount of continuing education classes in order to maintain their certification.

It might be easy to view these classes as an unwanted necessity, but they are indeed a great opportunity to sharpen your skills and knowledge and ready yourself for the coming challenges of tomorrow. There are many services that offer these classes in a convenient way, such as online, so your credentials can stay current without sacrificing the profitability of your flexible tow schedule.

Types of Tow Operators

Depending on the state in which you reside, there are a few basic types of tow operators. The type of tow operation will often determine the quality and quantity of the required continuing education.

Consent Tow
– This type of tow service is the one most associated with the common perception of tow operators. A consent tow basically means that someone has called and asked for a tow, often due to a malfunctioning vehicle or weather-related event. In other words, a consent tow is one in which the owner of the vehicle consents.

Incident Management
– When a collision occurs, substantial vehicle damage often occurs. At times, damage is severe enough to require a non-traditional tow. When vehicles are unable to be towed in a traditional manner with two wheels off the back of a truck, special services must be rendered. In some cases, incident management services are also responsible for the clearing of debris from the scene. Often, incident management tow operators must be intimately familiar with best standards and practices at a collision scene. They must be comfortable working around law enforcement and emergency services.

Private Property
– Perhaps more commonly known as repossession services, private property tow operators are usually hired to ensure the recovery of said private property. In these cases, it is most often cars and trucks that banks have asked to be repossessed because of delinquent payment on the loans involved. Private Property tow operators work in contentious environments at times, and many debtors actively attempt to obfuscate the tow operator’s recovery of the property in question. Private property tow operators also have strict rules and regulations under which they must work. It is their responsibility to continue to understand these rules and regulations as they change through the years.

Many operators are not confined to one role, choosing instead to diversify in order to ensure a more stable stream of income. In most cases, such operators are referred to as multiple lines towing services. However, each type of service must be individually certified and permitted.

Continuing Education in the Towing Industry

Most career fields place some emphasis on the importance of “continuing education.” The term basically means that even though you’ve completed an important and initial round of education – the round that was required to secure your current job – there is still much to learn. In many states, tow operators are licensed or even contracted by the state government. Many state occupations attempt to codify the amount of continuing education necessary to remain current with changing trends and information, and the same is true for tow operators.

Continuing education classes are often geared toward knowing the rules of the road, or what to do in particular towing situations. The actual requirements can vary widely from state to state, so be sure to check with your local governing bodies to discover the exact requirements.

In Texas, for example, all tow operators are required to perform at least four hours of continuing education. However, incident management operators are instead required to take at least eight hours of continuing education even if they are certified in incident management towing. Whether four hours or eight hours, the education must be completed within the duration of the license, meaning it must be finished before the license is due for renewal. Failure to do so could cause complications with the renewal of your license and, thus, the operation of your business.

Texas is a good state to use as an example because it’s one of the least regulated states in the union, so it provides an example of the bare minimum you’re likely to encounter. Remember that requirements vary by state, so you should check with your state’s Department of Transportation in order to verify the requirements for your towing operation.

Types of Continuing Education Classes

The beauty of continuing education classes is that you can select classes that interest you. This means that not everyone is required to take the same class. Many states make various classes available, often through colleges or special institutions. While some classes may emphasize rules and safety, others may discuss the practicalities of recovering a flipped vehicle. Others may emphasize hybrid safety. These courses will vary significantly by state and by available funding, so check your local system for possibilities.

You should choose the class that is an appropriate fit for your operation and your type of towing business. Most classes will cover a set number of hours, and that set number of hours will generally be similar to what your state requires for the re-permitting process to move forward. In other words, if your state requires that you submit four hours of continuing education, most classes in that state will last for four hours. If you need eight hours, you will likely take an eight-hour class, or two four-hour classes.

Onsite Classes for Continuing Education

Classes are available through a variety of mediums. Many classes are available onsite. There is a certain advantage to taking classes at an actual physical location, one being that they offer valuable, hands-on training. They may also offer an opportunity to make connections with other tow operators in your area. In this way, onsite classes can be a great networking opportunity, and a great way to get extra hands-on experience.

However, onsite classes require specified meeting times and strict attendance in order to be effective. In an industry where a sudden dusting of snow can mean big businesses, it can be difficult to honor a steady schedule. For tow truck operators, big snow means big profits, so at times it may be challenging to attend onsite classes work during those conditions. Luckily, there are options for those who need a more flexible schedule.

Online Classes

Most tow operators seeking a more flexible option choose to enroll in online courses. Colleges often provide these courses, and they offer advantages beyond a flexible schedule. With online classes, you progress at your own pace. If something doesn’t sink in, you can go back and review it. Likewise, you can speed through some of the information you already know, but a review is usually helpful. Also, being a tow operator is a demanding job. There will be days when you’re mentally and physically drained, causing you to have trouble absorbing new information in an online class. This is another benefit of taking online courses. A self-set schedule allows you to focus on learning when you have the time, making your education more efficient and personal to you.

Self-learning and a self-set schedule is conducive to the success of many tow operators’ continued education. Simply put, it seems that a large portion of tow operators get into the business to be self-sufficient business owners who are their own boss. Having to submit to someone else’s schedule to meet for onsite classes goes against that grain of proud independence. Online classes allow you to honor your independence without sacrificing the education.

Are Continuing Education Courses Worth the Cost?

In many fields, continuing education and career development can be costly prospects. It’s not uncommon for some continuing education courses to cost thousands of dollars. But most continuing education courses for tow operators are much more reasonably priced.

A cursory search reveals that many four-hour courses cost somewhere between $100 and $200 for a single enrollee. Of course, more intense classes, which generally involve more hours, will cost more. Also, the cost will vary depending on the state in which you enroll, unless you attend a national institution that offers online courses.

It’s important to remember that continuing education classes are often required to maintain your tow operator job as you know it, or advance to the next level of your career. As with any type of education, you must apply yourself in order to ensure success. When you take your classes seriously and attempt to gain useful knowledge through them, they will be a valuable investment and help improve your career.

Through continued education, you may learn to better run your business. Most continuing education institutions recognize the value of your time and therefore make every effort to ensure your experience is worth that time.

If you think about continuing education as an opportunity, it can be a great way to improve your business. At its core, you have a dangerous profession. As a tow operator, you’re often working with damaged and wrecked vehicles that may be leaking flammable fluid or noxious chemicals. The placement and makeup of these fluids and chemicals can change drastically over the years, so continuing education not only helps you prepare, but it also helps keep you safe.

Start Your Tow Operator Continuing Education Today with StateCE

Online institutions such as StateCE offer low cost, high-quality online continuing education classes for a wide variety of careers, including tow operator. With an emphasis on customer service and a dedication to excellent courses created by industry experts, StateCE will help you reach your continuing education goals and navigate through the process involved with continuing education.

Having served over 100,000 individuals nationwide since its founding in 2001, StateCE is well positioned to help you successfully reach your goals. As you complete your continuing education requirements at StateCE, you will enjoy a meaningful experience coupled with the confidence that comes with completing the requirements needed to keep you on the road.

Considering the investment for continued education and the benefits you receive from it, returning to school is a fruitful necessity. Tow operators are an important sector of the economy. Not only do they contribute to society in terms of their own expenses and profits, they also contribute by helping to maintain safety and order on our nation’s roads. Highways, streets, and roadways are the arteries of the economy, and they need to be kept clear and moving. Without tow operators, those arteries would clog and become inefficient. It’s vital that this component of our nation’s economy is kept moving and operating in a way that is safe, profitable, and efficient.

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