Ronny Martinez “jumped in” a tow truck at age 19, spending the next 10 years with companies in New Jersey and Arizona, driving and later managing a group of more than 60 drivers.
In that time, he’s had his share of close calls.
“Oh yeah,” he says. “A lot of close calls. Absolutely.”
Martinez is referring to the dangers of the towing trade. A tow truck operator often works along the roadside to help someone in need. It’s risky business, especially today with so many distracted drivers not thinking about the consequences of clipping people, even killing them.
Martinez says this happens all too often.
“There are a lot of lives being lost on the side of the road from all the distractions that are happening,” he says, noting the fatalities of both first and second responders, the latter including towing operators.
With the towing industry in his background, Martinez feels a certain closeness to the issue and is now calling attention to it through his current trade.
As an autogas fleet development specialist at Icom North America, Martinez shows fleet companies the value of converting their vehicles to propane autogas. The Michigan-based company sees great potential for propane in the towing industry. The company is making a strong push here by connecting with the Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA) – the national trade group – and attending national and regional shows around the country.
Icom views its progress here as serving a dual purpose. It’s bringing a clean, low-cost, low-maintenance fuel to towing companies accustomed to running their trucks on gasoline and diesel, but it also hopes to provide awareness of and financial assistance for a good cause.
For every tow truck from a TRAA member company it converts to run on autogas, Icom will donate $250 to the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum’s Survivor Fund. The fund provides immediate financial support to families of towing operators who lose their lives in the line of service.
According to the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based museum, the towing industry loses about 60 operators annually to dangers on the road. Each year, the museum holds an event to honor the operators killed in the line of service. Their names are added to the museum’s “Wall of the Fallen.”
“We’re trying to figure out better ways to promote the ‘Move Over Law,’” Martinez says.
The law, enacted in some form in all 50 states, requires drivers approaching stationary emergency vehicles displaying flashing lights, including tow trucks, to reduce their speed and, if safely possible, vacate the lane closest to those assisting vehicles.
It’s a good reminder for us all.