Belonging to an association has many benefits. It’s sometimes hard to recognize or justify the cost of joining. The California Tow Truck Association (CTTA) is one of the largest and most successful in the towing industry. Often people immediately look at the cash outlay and ask if they’ll get their money’s worth. We’ll try to explain what goes into a successful association and the value of membership.
First and foremost is the safety and professionalism for an industry like ours. We often operate in very dangerous situations, and it requires ongoing training and a focus on legislative issues, such as the “Slow Down, Move Over” laws, to protect our members and their employees. As for professionalism, the consumer is almost always in a negative situation when we begin our relationship. Whether it’s their vehicle being impounded by a police agency (and we are the ones contracted to take it away), they’ve broken down, or been in an accident, all are emotional events, and we must present the best customer service of any business, all while in these stressful situations. Not as visible, but equally important, is understanding the technical part of towing, whether it’s operating the equipment or performing within the complex legal guidelines on impounds, general tows, etc.
The legislative piece is often the most complicated and hard to manage. We clearly want to be heard on protecting ourselves, but frequently this comes with the burden of facing more stringent compliance guidelines for doing business. Often we must also become the enforcer. An excellent example of this is the recent enactment of bill AB 306 in California, requiring a company picking up a vehicle from a tow yard to provide a copy of their Motor Carrier Permit. The intent is to keep rogue operators with no Worker’s Compensation or Liability Insurance off the highway. The police agencies and DMV don’t have the resources to administer this, so we now become part of the solution by carrying out the change. On the other hand, while we were excited to partner with Caltrans (highway maintenance in CA) on getting our version of the “Slow Down, Move Over” bill passed, it is very difficult for the various law enforcement agencies to oversee.
Education is critical. Everyone sees the value in learning how to roll that semi back upright or get a Jeep out of the ravine. However, it’s also about teaching safety and customer service skills to a driver or dispatcher, how to look professional, and, if the business is to be profitable, teaching the owner how to be successful. Being successful includes managing expenses, payroll, HR issues, marketing and advertising. Education comes at a cost: writing and producing the manuals, paying for instructors, and the facilities to do the training.
Member benefits programs are often how the typical owner measures his association’s value. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some of the companies and programs just offer a discount, and some pay back to the association. An association like ours has dozens of vendors offering price breaks, assistance in problem solving for owners, and other help. It’s unfortunate that we end up comparing the “price of membership” against the “discounts and savings” to get owners to commit.
In reality, the association’s value is beyond measure. How do you put a price on a single driver saved by safety training, the number of customers satisfied by quality service, or the security of knowing your fellow towers must have the same insurance and qualifications as you do to be on scene working alongside you?