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Wireless Technology – The Towman’s New Best Friend

Wireless technology is changing the way tow operators work in the field, making us more efficient and safer. From smartphones to winch control, technology improves your response, hook-up and drop-off times compared to just a few years ago.

There’s no denying smartphones and tablets have greatly helped our industry. The ability to be in direct contact with customers and your home offices improves the efficiency of your businesses. Map out directions for pick-ups with GPS software. Credit card payments can be processed through your phones. Tow instructions via the Internet and receipts emailed instead of paper.

Tow trucks and support vehicles are improving, again thanks to technology. Now, wireless controls can operate your primary warning lights, tow lights, bed controls and winches remotely.

Most smartphones or other wi-fi enabled devices can send a signal to a receiver mounted in the vehicle via a dedicated app. Then the receiver sends control signals to a modular expansion unit that can control your lightbars, sirens, directional lights, horns, etc., all from your phone.

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Code3 VLink Receiver and Expansion Unit

Rather than luggingand attaching 30’ to 60’ power cables for tow lights all the time, consider going wireless and eliminate the hassles. These new designs are battery powered and usually last for hours. They’re controlled by a wireless transmitter that simply plugs into the trailer adaptor at the rear of your trucks.  These transmitters forward all directional and braking information directly to the lightbar.

Towmate wireless lightbar with transmitter

Towmate wireless lightbar with transmitter

In a similar fashion, electric winches can now be outfitted with optional wireless remotes. These systems use a wireless receiver plugged into the standard wired remote socket and a keyfob remote.  They aid in loading trailers by eliminating the 15’ or 25’ remote cord normally used on these types of winches.

Superwinch’s Certus Wireless Remote for S-Series Winch

Superwinch’s Certus Wireless Remote for S-Series Winch

For recovery and commercial operation, the next level of wireless remotes can control your winch line and other hydraulic controlled systems, such as raising or extension of the rollback bed. The Lodar and Valve-Mate II systems can control multiple functions from several hundred feet away. They consist of a permanently mounted receiver and a hand-held transmitter.

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Systems are classified as either solenoid connected or hydraulic connected.  To determine which type you can use, inspect your truck’s hydraulic valves and winch to see if electric solenoids connections are present.  These are normally located on the backside of the hydraulic valves, either behind a cover plate on the main valve body or on a separate solenoid attached to the valve body.  In general, older wreckers have hydraulic only systems, while newer wreckers have the hydraulics with solenoids.

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Lodar Wireless Remote for Solenoids

Mount the receiver box in the best location to operate the transmitter and observe the internal LED’s. That means mounting the receiver as high as possible and in a shaded location where wheel spray and heavy vibration aren’t an issue.  If you have the solenoid-connected type, simply connect the output wires from the receiver directly to the electric or electro-hydraulic solenoid coils on your winch or hydraulic valves.  Connect 12VDC/ground, link your receiver/transmitter frequencies, test and you’re done.

If your wrecker does not have electric solenoids, other options are available. The Valve-Mate II system attaches a valve spool to the spring return side of the hydraulic valves and compressed air is use to operate the system. Lodar uses an actuator, either air-operated or electric, that attaches to linkages to control the hydraulics.

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Wireless control systems improve the speed of recoveries, save you money, give you more control of the accident scene at the touch of a button, and, most importantly, keep you safely out of harm’s way.

AW Direct
(800) 243-3194
www.awdirect.com

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Tech and Tow: Tomorrow Is Already Here

By Dave Sunkenberg, VP of Network Services, Agero

Today, over 61% of Americans have a smartphone – and that percentage keeps rising. These phones are carried everywhere, especially when people are on the road.

In fact, more and more people can’t imagine being stranded without one. No wonder so many tow professionals are now using this increasingly popular form of mobile technology to enhance and grow their businesses while improving customer experiences.

Technology increasingly makes the job easier and more efficient.

Many organizations are developing new smartphone applications specifically geared towards towing and roadside assistance. These apps are created for both dispatchers and drivers, and can help your business by making it easier than ever to:

  • Receive and dispatch calls
  • Keep track of your fleet
  • Receive real-time updates of tow driver’s location
  • Take on-scene photos and upload them
  • Complete a ticket
  • Take payments
  • Obtain signatures

Benefitting from this new technology is easier than ever.

Now you can have customer and vehicle details, contact information and turn-by-turn navigation at your fingertips.

In fact, much of the technology driving these applications is centered on GPS tracking and fleet management. Providers can improve their estimated time of arrival (ETA) simply by enabling dispatchers to access details of a fleet’s location right on their smartphones.

Companies such as Progressive Platforms and Beacon Software are already helping drivers and dispatchers better their businesses by creating a more seamless towing experience for both customer and driver with their GPS technologies.

“Location-aware technology is becoming very important,” said Todd Althouse, president of Beacon Software. He notes that it is now “as easy as pushing a button to see tow providers near a disablement call. We want to give providers all the tools they need.”

Today, nearly 40% of tow trucks have a hard-wired GPS device in them. Another 35% have drivers that carry a smartphone that could be running a dispatch application or a third-party dispatch system, such as ones offered by Progressive Platforms and Beacon Software. The remaining tow companies and their drivers are not yet connected – and will not be able to compete if they don’t upgrade their technology.

“It’s certainly an advantage to have the technology,” Althouse said. “You can route around problems and navigate your arrival on-scene. It makes for a smooth system.”

Motor clubs are also keeping up with this trend.

Many motor clubs are already creating towing apps for smartphones in order to enable their providers to enjoy the benefits of GPS fleet tracking, accepting dispatch calls, obtaining signatures and more – all from their phones.

For the motor clubs, creating these apps allows them to track and proactively manage the dispatch process. Because the apps allow for a more seamless dispatch process, tow providers are able to work better as a team, save money on fuel costs, retain more customers and grow their revenue opportunities. Plus, motor clubs benefit from more effective providers, as well as from tools that track ETAs and assist with other important factors, such as accident scene management.

“You can run a whole towing operation from your smartphone instead of sitting in an office in front of a PC,” said Mark Fensome of Progressive Platforms. “The technology makes it so much easier to help manage fleets – it’s more cost-effective and fuel-efficient.”

The bottom line is that the benefits of smartphone technology are already here, are growing, and are increasingly practical for service providers, drivers, and motor clubs. Before long, it may be impossible to compete without taking advantage of them.

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