The challenges you face as a tow professional are endless. Working in the dark magnifies the difficulty of your work ten-fold. Thankfully, advances in lighting technology over the past 10 years has provided new and improved tools to make your job safer and easier at night.
LED lights came into the market about 10 years ago. The main benefit at the time was that they provided a tremendous amount of light but consumed a fraction of the power of the halogen lights that we had been using for years. The downside was that they were very expensive. Fast-forward to 2019 and the costs have come down dramatically thanks to manufacturing efficiencies and competition and they perform better than ever. Couple the price drop with the fact that LED lights do not require the power of a generator and now you have affordable options to light up the night! Manufacturers who understand the tow market have taken advantage of the benefits of LED lights and have made many products that improve safety and increase your productivity, and some can even directly help you to make more money at night.
One product that can be used on any size vehicle is the remote light positioner. These can be mounted nearly anywhere – roof, boom, headache bar – you name it and you can probably put it there. These are powered from your electrical system and allow you to direct the light anywhere you need with a wireless handheld remote control. Some are portable and attach to your vehicle with a powerful magnet. These make the job much easier when you are working alone. They are invaluable when you are searching for a house address in a dark neighborhood or rural area. If you are involved with a repo operation, they are perfect on a rollback and they allow you to get in and out quickly. There are a variety of turers. Light output can range from 1,000 – 40,000 lumens and prices range from $500 – $7,500.
LED headlight upgrade kits are available for many vehicles. These typically illuminate twice as much area or more than stock halogen bulbs. Make sure to ask for LED headlight kits that are USDOT approved – these ensure that the optics are aimed properly and will not blind oncoming traffic. The best brands come with lifetime warranties.
Light towers are the ultimate tools when it comes to lighting up an accident scene or job site. The advent of the LED light allowed manufacturers the ability to offer what was once only able to be installed on a fire truck with a full-size generator to be customized for the specific needs of the tow professional who works every day and night. A misconception about light towers is that they are too big or expensive for anything other than the outfit that has heavy wreckers and rotators. Thanks to the lightweight and compact design of folding light towers they can be used on any vehicle that has a roof! The roof surface on a standard rollback has more than enough area for a lightweight folding light tower.
What benefits does a light tower deliver? Simply put, it provides more light from a higher height. Break it down a bit further – light from a higher point allows the illumination to be focused and spread over a wider area. This gives you more coverage and provides a safer work site. Also, the light from this higher vantage will not blind you. The light is created from above like the sun. This is also important if you are working a traffic scene, it will not blind oncoming traffic. A light tower also gives you the ability to rotate and tilt the lights, so you can focus on the location that you need regardless of the position of the truck or boom. Higher end light towers offer the ability to control two banks of light separately so that you can cast the light a full 360°.
Light towers are available in two basic configurations: folding, which are designed to be installed on a flat surface and vertical which requires less surface area to install and are typically available in higher heights. Lights typically come in pairs to balance the load and disbursement of light.
A light tower gives you the ability to take on nearly any job at night. We have seen examples of house demolitions, moving heavy equipment and providing emergency lighting for municipal emergencies. A light tower, which is always with the vehicle, frees an operator from relying on the fire department or a second crew with a tow behind light trailer both of which can cost extra money or be unreliable. Let’s face it, you are always the last to leave the scene.
The light towers’ safety benefits are obvious. You can see to perform the job in near daylight conditions AND most importantly, oncoming traffic will be able to see you.
Not so obvious are the various ways you can make more money. Some states allow the use of a light tower to be charged as auxiliary equipment necessary for the job. We have heard that some charge up to $250 / hour, but many are more in the $250-$500 range / job. Another way is to take on jobs that are more easily done at night when there is less traffic on the road. Moving heavy equipment or demolition jobs are common.
Light towers can be installed as part of the original truck build or as a retrofit. The installation is straight forward, and most shops can install a tower in a day or less – there is a good chance you can install it yourself if you are mechanically inclined. A light tower is an investment that will pay off by giving you safer working conditions, enabling you to do the job more efficiently and enabling you to make more money.
LED lighting allows today’s tow professional to take full advantage of his or
her capabilities 24/7. ◆