Hix Wrecker Service, family-owned and operated since 1957, provides 24/7 towing services to Indianapolis and the surrounding area from four locations. They have 32 trucks in their fleet, including three Jerr-Dan JD 50/60 (HDR 1000) rotators, five heavy-duty wreckers, and two medium-duty wreckers.
They are proud to provide a wide variety of towing services to their Indy-area customers. These include emergency towing services, standard towing, flatbed towing, fifth-wheel towing, wheel lift towing, light, medium, and heavy-duty towing, tractor-trailer towing, local and long-distance towing, mobile crane and lo-boy service, accident recoveries, and junk car removals.
Of course, it wasn’t always the superbly equipped, premier market leader that it is today.
In the 1950s, Jim and Ova Hix moved from Tennessee to Indiana with one thin dime in their pockets. Jim worked at various jobs until he met a man with a wrecker. Hix was instantly fascinated and took a job driving a wrecker at night for insurance companies, while still working his day job. Once he had learned this new trade, Jim Hix offered the owner of the wrecker $290 cash, and his car, in exchange for the wrecker. That was in 1957, and the Hix family has continued in the footsteps of Jim and Ova Hix ever since then.
Jamie Neal, director of finance and accounting for Hix Wrecker Service, and a grandson of Jim and Ova said, “Until my grandpa’s recent passing, our company was run by four generations of the Hix family.” It’s now owned by Jim’s daughter, Gail Neal, and her husband Tom. Their son Jamie Neal, and his son Cory Neal, are active in the business as well.
KEY SUCCESS FACTORS
However, even the combination of their stable management, impressive fleet, and comprehensive portfolio of services would not be enough to explain their longevity and success.
Adrian Emerson, rotator specialist and heavy-duty driver manager at Hix’s headquarters location, believes he knows the “secret ingredients” to their success. “I’ve worked for other wrecker service companies in the past, enough to give me a baseline for comparison,” he said. Emerson believes that two key philosophies are “baked in” to the company’s business model.
“The first thing I noticed when I went to work here is that all the customer interactions are based on honesty. I know every business on earth claims the same thing, but it is a very clear guideline established by the Hix family. We are always upfront with customers. Even in cases where we could take advantage of a situation to charge more, we don’t. The price is the price, and customers really appreciate that they can rely on us to always be fair.”
Emerson said that he figured out another key to the company’s success after working there for a while. “Something else that really stands out here is the sense of family. It extends from the owners to the drivers and all the rest of the staff and continues on to the customer. I know that sounds cheesy, but it really is true. I’ve seen how that family atmosphere helps us to retain team members during a time when a lot of companies are having problems hiring. And it has helped us build up a cadre of very experienced operators. That gives us a huge advantage.”
All that equipment and operator experience make it possible for Hix Wrecker Service to do almost anything. Emerson enlarged upon that point. “Of course,” he said, “we do recoveries, we have police contracts, we can use our rotators for business customers that need a light to heavy crane but have none in their own fleet. For some reason, Indianapolis has a lot of tractor-trailer turnovers, so we keep our Jerr-Dan rotators busy. We do site cleanup, we have a rescue truck with pump, we even do basic hazmat cleaning, though if it is a major hazmat incident, we call in a third-party specialist company to handle it.”
A relatively recent project serves to illustrate Hix Wrecker Service’s devotion to going the extra mile (or miles) to help a customer. An accident with a tractor-trailer presented a special problem: the trailer was refrigerated and full of perishables. The Hix heavy-duty team, including two of their JD 50/60 rotators, had to detach the trailer and unload it. They then reloaded the stock into an operational refrigerated trailer and tractor rig and ran it from Indy to Boston to deliver the load. Their willingness to help out in this situation was built on the operational ability to deliver that help—a perfect recipe for customer satisfaction.
JERR-DAN—BECAUSE THE WORK DEMANDS IT
One of the capabilities that helps Hix Wrecker Service stand out is its ability to handle some of the biggest and most demanding jobs. Hix has two Jerr-Dan JD 50/60 (HDR 1000) single-steer rotators and a recently delivered JD 50/60 dual steer rotator. These can handle “pretty much anything that comes along,” according to Emerson.
“That’s another thing that impressed me when I came to work for Hix,” Emerson said. “The equipment is top-drawer. I’ve been a rotator operator for a decade or more, and I guess you could say I had some prejudices when it came to equipment. I’d never operated a Jerr-Dan machine before, and I was a little skeptical about its performance. But when I started running one, I was genuinely impressed. It was an eye-opening experience, I can tell you that. I’d hate to operate anything else now.
“Hix invested in sending me to the Jerr-Dan rotator operator’s school. That was mind-blowing, in itself, seeing how much tonnage an experienced operator could move in the 60-ton Jerr-Dan machine, especially from the sides. They preached stability when using their rotator and showed us how their industry-leading scissor-style outriggers combined with their unique torsion frame design enable an operator to adjust the attitude of the equipment to get it on a flat, stable base. They only have about 20 or so operators in their classes, so I got plenty of personal attention and hands-on time. On top of that, actual engineers came from the factory to talk to the class. And those engineers didn’t just lecture us. They talked to us and listened to feedback.”
WELL-PREPARED FOR CONTINUED SUCCESS
With stable ownership and management in place, Hix Wrecker Service is well-positioned to continue growing. Indeed, they opened their fourth location in 2021 and took delivery of their third Jerr-Dan rotator around the first of this year. Their business momentum and time-tested business model, paired with their experienced and dedicated crew, seem to bode well for their continued success.