Third-generation tow professional and owner has seen exponential growth and evolution over time.
As a third-generation tow professional who followed his father and grandfather into a family-owned towing business, Jay Fox, owner of Bob’s Garage in Painesville, Ohio, has seen exponential growth and evolution in his company and the towing industry as a whole over time.
“My dad and his dad started out owning gas stations in Cleveland from the mid-30s to 1960,” he remembers. “Then my father started doing auto repair and towing out of Painesville in 1965, and I went to work with him when I got out of high school in 1978. Since then, I’ve grown the business from four trucks to 13 and from four employees to 10. Towing is 50 percent of our business, with the other half being made up of our maintenance and repair shop.”
Another evolution for Jay has been the makeup of his fleet. “As needed, we convert all of our vehicles to Jerr-Dan,” he says. “I think they give the competition a run. One of our favorite features is the JFB poly body line of the heavy-duty wreckers. Because they feature poly bodies, not steel or aluminum like some of the other manufacturers use, they don’t rust. Not having to worry about the salt, rust or other elements is a big plus. Once rust starts, you’re fighting it all the time. We also really like the scissor-style outrigger system on the rotators. It’s easy to use, easy to set up and far more stable than what is offered by other manufacturers. And I could go on. The roll-up doors on the side of Jerr-Dan trucks that don’t open up into traffic or block your view of passing cars and the customizable storage solutions in each truck are both great too.”
Jay has been buying his trucks from Fallsway Equipment in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio for years. “Fallsway is great at sales, service and everything in between. They know how particular we are about our trucks and always take care of us,” he says. “They’re doing a heavy-duty build for us right now on a Jerr-Dan 50-ton, so that will be the fourteenth truck in our Bob’s Garage fleet.”
The new truck will help with the wide variety of jobs Jay sees. Bob’s Garage handles everything from small car and truck towing to larger wrecks. “We tow for many police departments, body shops and dealerships, but we also see pileups on I-90 in the winter because of the lake effect snow,” he says. “One day on the job that I’ll never forget was a summer night in 2010 when a custom armored tractor trailer hit a barrier wall on I-90 during rush hour, blew a tire, and went down a 200-foot ravine on its side. I never even knew they made armored tractors like that one. The roof of the trailer broke open and several of the 50-gallon drums it was carrying flew out – they were filled with silver bars worth $2.5 million in total. There were silver bars all over the ground. We weren’t allowed to go near that vehicle until the armored car company could bring out extra trucks and armed guards. We took a Bobcat down the ravine and back up again several times to retrieve the barrels, with the guards following us to ensure the entire load was brought up. Then we were able to recover the truck. It was a very interesting day. Best of all, everyone on board the truck walked away from the wreck unharmed.”
Jay says technological advances in Jerr-Dan trucks have made complex towing and recovery jobs easier and safer for the operator today. “There have been wonderful evolutions in the quality and longevity of the Jerr-Dan equipment that is available to the end user that will stabilize the vehicles you’re towing and keep operators safer during a tow,” he says. “This is a very exciting industry, and I hope it continues to attract young, bright talent. Many young people don’t realize how worthwhile and profitable a career in the towing and recovery industry can be. It is a 24/7 job, so it’s not for everyone, but it is rewarding for people who want to be outside and do different things every day.”
Jay may never know what each day will bring, but at the same time, he says many aspects of his business have stayed the same. “I’ve worked with many regular customers for years, and over time, they’ve become friends,” he says. “My oldest son joined me in 2001, so I work with my family and I love what I do. It’s really a mix of what has changed and what has stayed the same that keeps me doing this every day.”