A true professional doesn’t necessarily know it all, rather they know and have mastered the fundamentals of their chosen career and understand how to apply these fundamentals to any challenge presented. They understand the importance of maintaining their professional status.
Two key aspects of professionalism are continuing education and training.
Training is the routine practice of fundamental skill sets to reinforce their application or use, whereas continuing education is the growth, development, and introduction of new skills and ideas.
Training is always a good idea no matter the format. There are many organizations dedicated to training that serve the towing industry and they all present good material. It is in your best interest to take advantage of as many of these programs as your budget allows. I would even dare to say that as the level of training provided to your team increases, your nuisance claims (minor damage) will exponentially decrease. Training pays for itself many times over!
In-house training programs are also a must. It astounds me that so many towers will simply hand the keys to someone and say, “Go get ‘em!”
Yes, this is how I was introduced to the industry almost 3 decades ago, but it is still wrong. On average, truckload carriers spend three days with all new hires in orientation, spending even more with inexperienced drivers. They invest in this time even though they know the statistics show their average hire stays with them for 6 months or less. This seems crazy, spend thousands of dollars on orientation training for an employee that is going to jump ship in a few months, but they understand the risk they take if training, even for experienced drivers, is not provided.
I strongly suggest you spend the time to develop a comprehensive in-house training program if you have not already done so. This program should cover the basics such as company policy, rules, and regulations as well as how to operate the specific type of equipment their job requires.
Continuing education is another very important part of professional development. Investing in keeping your team’s skill set current not only helps keep you ahead of the average tower it also builds loyalty and a sense of professionalism among your team. If you show them that you care enough about them to invest in their personal level of skill development, they will take more pride in how they perform their tasks.
Cars and trucks are increasing in complexity with each new model year, meaning updated training on new models is a must. So why do we think our tow truck operators don’t need to update and improve their skills? Don’t they deal with the same changes in vehicle design? Yes, they do— but with the added challenge of figuring it out in less-than-ideal, often unsafe, working conditions.
What about traffic incident management and safe roadside work procedures? These are also in the category of professional development as continuing education. As an industry, we desire to be recognized as emergency or primary incident responders, yet many of our brother and sister tow bosses refuse to invest in even the most basic of professional development for their team.
Until such time as we all start calling out the towers that refuse to better themselves, our industry will be looked upon as less than professional.
Doctors, lawyers, and even cosmetologists have state certification boards. To pick on my home state of Pennsylvania, we require cosmetologists to attend a state-accredited school, take an exam, and even apprentice in their field. But all that a tower needs to do is pass a criminal background check and possess a driver’s license. The background check isn’t even required if you do not do police towing. No form of industry training, outside certification, or state board review. This means no education or practical skill is required.
We as an industry are currently failing in our quest for professionalism. It is as simple as that. In our quest to keep it simple and easy to become a tower, we have fought most attempts at mandatory training, certification, and other measures that raise the bar. Although they will increase the cost of doing business, these measures will make the industry more professional, and therefore more respected. And in the end, I’ll wager that it will be more profitable in the long run.
So, what does all this mean to you?
If you are a tow boss, now is the time to take a hard look at how you train and qualify your team. Do you provide adequate new hire training, routine refresher training (practice), and updated training on new issues as needed? Are you hiring bodies to fill a seat or developing true professionals that will lead the industry for the next two or three decades? Attitude and willingness to grow with the team are much more important than previous experience.
If you are an employee reading this, ask yourself what you can do to increase your knowledge and skill set thereby increasing your value. Ask yourself if your employer truly cares about your abilities and well-being. Do they have your future in mind as a long-term part of their business success or are you just another “driver” filling a J-O-B?
I beg you to evaluate your skills honestly and seek improvement where needed even if you must pay for it yourself. I took my first training classes while I was only a part-time tower even though my employer refused to pay for them. It was tough, and a lot of money for an 18-year-old kid working part-time to invest in himself, but it laid the foundation for me to become a professional rather than just have a job.
Bottom line, if we want to be elevated to the status of professional and earn the title of “first responder” rather than be viewed as the highway janitor or just a necessary evil, we need to earn it. Simply showing up and putting our life on the line is not enough. We must train like our fellow incident responders to gain their respect.