Issues Archives: Volume 3 – Issue 5

Towing: The Future

By Dan Messina DJ Harrington and Dan Messina For the past two years, I’ve been telling towers how the industry is changing. Social media now plays a big part of our everyday life, our customers have gotten smarter, and they expect a better service, but the biggest change taking place is companies bidding for city contracts. In the past, if you were bidding on contracts:

  1. Cities
  2. Counties
  3. Sheriff departments
  4. Toll ways
  5. Other municipal contracts

The tower would try and build a relationship with city officials, which were usually someone in law enforcement. It’s not in a tower’s DNA to build relationships with mayors or city council members. A tower would follow a simple procedure, and, if they met the qualifications, they would get in the rotation. Then things started to change. Single tow companies would try and get the entire contract, leaving many towers on the sidelines.

Here are a few examples of things I’ve seen in Texas. In one city, a company did not even have a tow truck and bid. They told the city that if they got the contract they would buy all new trucks. They won the contract and purchased the trucks necessary to provide the towing. There was a sales pitch made along the way that left many towers out of the rotation.

In another city, a group of towers formed a separate company, won the contract and would not leave other towers in because it was a private company…and yet in another city, they would pay the city for the right to tow. They set up requirements so that other towers could not meet them and be left out. Some tow companies were very successful and held these contracts for over 10 years, while many suffered because they did not know how to negotiate with higher city officials. Take a look at what is being done in your city. Do you think it’s fair? Now the bidding process is about to change again.

Outside business people are looking at the towing industry and seeing tremendous opportunities with city contracts. They look at where the expenses are in the towing business. It is usually the tow company that incurs most of the expense:  

  1. Buying trucks
  2. Providing insurance
  3. Paying damages
  4. Paying the drivers
  5. Paying for the fuel
  6. Other equipment as needed

While the revenue in towing comes with:

  1. Vehicle storage
  2. Preservation
  3. Letter writing
  4. Vehicle disposal
  5. Vehicle parts
  6. Other

Companies are coming into the industry that only want to provide storage and vehicle disposal while contracting local towers to provide the towing. They come in in three-piece suits and a suitcase full of money and start building relationships with city officials. This method is working and they have won contracts in some major cities. As their success grows, other companies will start taking the same approach.

As time goes on, tow companies will have one of three options going forward:

  1. They can buy a three-piece suit and learn how to build relationships with city officials. This approach will be hard for the average tower because, as I mentioned, it’s just not in their DNA.
  2. Get together with a group of other towers and bid contracts together. Once again, this will be hard for the average tower who hates his competitor.
  3. Build a relationship with the company that only wants the storage and vehicle disposal. They will need towers and that’s what you are good at. In many cases, you will be getting city rotation calls you never had before. This will be a new line of revenue you have never had.

For the past few months, I have listened to towers complain about these new companies and how
they will hurt the industry. These new companies are just trying to get into business just like any
other company. They attend tow shows to meet towers who someday might be working for them.
No one ever protested when a big tow company won a contract and eliminated the other towers.

I recently attended a tow show where a new company with a new approach put on a seminar and
tried to explain their approach. They did a terrible job explaining and the attendees showed no
mercy. They talked about what the consumer was being charged and how much the tower was
being paid. The tow ticket exceeded $550 and the tower made $78. The attendees were upset that
the storage company was making over $475 for the call. Here are a few points I would like to
make about that presentation:

  1. The tower who did the tow was there and he was happy with his fee. He explained
    that since he partnered up with this new company, he has gone from 4 trucks to 12
    trucks. The people that were not happy were the tow companies that had 12 trucks
    and now have 4.
  2. This was a California tow. Everything in California is expensive and I’m sure the
    expenses could be justified.
  3. These new companies will not win every contract they bid on.
  4. No tow company reveals their bid information to other competitors, yet questions
    were asked on their business philosophy.
  5. I talked to some towers after the seminar and they want this company in their city.
    They wanted on the city rotation for years and could not get on.
  6. As for consumer protection, they try and get laws passed every session in Texas
    because towers are constantly gouging the consumer. Apparently, this is not
    something new.

About 3 years ago, I was bidding on a city contract with 10 other companies, and this new
company was one of the 10 bidding against me. Yes, they were the only one in suits at the
meeting. They submitted their bid just like I submitted mine. I just looked at them as another tow
company submitting a bid on a contract. The only difference was that, after the meeting, their
first stop was by my location to see if I would be interested in joining them if they won the
contract. No other bidder offered me a partnership. I now increased my chances to be a part of
the contract if I lost the bid. I’m sure they visited several other bidders, as well.

I know this article will not sit well with some towers because you may think I’m defending these
new companies. I’m simple letting towers know that the skyline of our industry is changing.
Protest tow shows if you think that’s the right thing to do, but I assure you that by the end of
2014, there will be at least three other companies with the same approach. If you need help, can be of assistance.

As I was leaving the show, a good friend summed it up when he told me, “Don’t hate the
player, hate the game.”

dan messina article photo

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Diesel Fuel Additives

By Dan Watson


Ultra-low sulfur diesel, low-sulfur diesel, off-road full-sulfur diesel, number 1 or number 2
diesel, Cetane ratings for diesel and on and on it goes; what does it all mean and do I need to
use an additive to supplement my diesel fuel? Today’s diesel fuel is very different from diesel
of 30 years ago. Modern ultra-low sulfur diesel is required in all over the road diesel vehicles,
and failure to comply with this requirement can result in costly fines. In this article, I will
explain the sulfur content ratings and how the sulfur content affects the fuel system
components. I will also take a look at Cetane ratings and why Cetane levels are important. And
finally, I will explore using diesel fuel additives…how they work and whether you should
consider using an additive.

Sulfur is a natural component of crude oil that is not refined out when making diesel. Special
processes are used to remove sulfur, and these extra steps in finishing diesel add cost to the
finished product. Original diesel of 30 years ago was limited to 5,000 ppm sulfur in solution. In
the early 1990’s, low-sulfur diesel set the sulfur limit to 500 ppm sulfur in solution. In October
2006, the ultra-low sulfur diesel limit of 15 ppm in solution was stipulated. The 15 ppm sulfur
limit was primarily designed to prevent poisoning the catalytic convertor and adding to the
clogging of the diesel particulate filter. Certainly, the 15 ppm limit would reduce sulfur based
exhaust compounds such as sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxides. These sulfur compounds are
directly related to acid rain, so reducing them is a good idea. So, there is no turning back on
the quest to limit exhaust emissions and consequently reducing sulfur content in diesel fuel; the
question is, at what cost to fuel system components and to diesel performance?

Since removing sulfur has a positive effect on emissions, why make such a big deal about the
resulting effect on the fuel system components? The process for removing sulfur to such a low
level of 15 ppm also strips out the compounds that provide diesel lubricity. Sulfur is not the actual lubricant but sulfur compounds are, and effectively removing sulfur from diesel results in a very poor lubricity rating for the fuel. Fuel pumps and injectors are lubricated by diesel and nothing else, so without sulfur providing the lubricity, these components are not lubricated. This is well known by the diesel manufacturers and the government, and standards for adding lubricants to the diesel have been established. It is a subject of discussion as to whether the levels of added lubricant are sufficient to provide for acceptable long-life expectations.

Cetane number or CN is a measure of a fuel’s ignition delay, the time period between the start
of injection and the first identifiable pressure increase during combustion of the fuel. In a
particular diesel engine, higher cetane fuels will have shorter ignition delay periods than lower
cetane fuels. Cetane numbers are only used for the relatively light distillate diesel oils. In short,
the higher the cetane number the more easily the fuel will combust in a compression setting
(such as a diesel engine). The characteristic diesel “knock” occurs when the first portion of fuel
that has been injected into the cylinder suddenly ignites after an initial delay. Minimizing this
delay results in less unburned fuel in the cylinder at the beginning and less intense knock.
Therefore, higher-cetane fuel usually causes an engine to run more smoothly and quietly. This
does not necessarily translate into greater efficiency, although it may in certain engines.

Diesel comes in two classifications, number 1 and number 2. Number 1 diesel is more highly
refined (more waxes are removed) and is more resistant to freezing (becoming slush) than
number 2 diesel. Contrary to many assumptions, number 1 diesel is not required to have a
higher cetane number than number 2 diesel. In many cases, number 1 diesel does have a
higher cetane, but it is achieved by adding a cetane enhancing additive.

Generally, diesel engines operate well with a CN from 40 to 55. Fuels with higher cetane
numbers have shorter ignition delays, providing more time for the fuel combustion process to
be completed. Hence, higher speed diesel engines operate more effectively with higher cetane
number fuels. In North America, most states adopt ASTM D975 as their diesel fuel standard
and the minimum cetane number is set at 40, with typical values in the 42-45 range.

Clearly, it is relatively straight forward to see that using an additive to raise cetane level would
be dependent on the quality of fuel available. If diesel with proper cetane levels is available,
then you might not get much improvement by using a cetane enhancing additive. Another
consideration would be the expected RPM of the diesel engine being used. If the engine is
turbo charged and runs at higher RPM, then the higher cetane will be useful is enhancing

Traditional Fuel Injector Pintal


Traditional Fuel Injector

High-Pressure Common-Rail Fuel Injector Pintal




When evaluating diesel additives for improving lubricity of ultra-low sulfur diesel, it is important
to look at other factors involved in fuel system and cylinder maintenance and performance.
Injector performance is a matter of design and quality coupled with cleanliness. A perfectly
clean injector operating at design pressure can be very effective in providing fully atomized fuel
to the cylinder for combustion. Allow deposits or lacquer to build up in areas of critical
clearances and you have the formula for trouble. Injectors fire at pressures between 10,000 psi
and 30,000 psi, depending on application and manufacturer. The slightest impairment can
cause diminished performance. The optimum performance and efficiency takes place when
the injector provides a 360 degree puff of fully atomized fuel to combust fully with no
unburned fuel. Any liquid drops will be partially burned and result in high carbon waste and

For years, the industry has concentrated on the injector tips as the critical point to maintain as
clean as possible. Any buildup of carbon (coking) at the tip would be immediately detrimental
to the desired 360 degree puff and would allow a droplet to be formed. Cleaning agents have
been developed to keep the tips clean and they have been effective. Today, with the extremely
high pressure injectors being smaller and having tighter clearances internal diesel injector
deposits (often abbreviated to “IDID”) have been found within the injector body itself, such as
at the armature group, on the piston and nozzle needle and inside the nozzle body. These
deposits can slow the response of the fuel injector, or cause sticking of moving internal parts,
which may result in loss of control of injection event timing, as well as of the quantity of fuel
delivered per injection.

In summary, you may or may not need a cetane boost additive, but you probably do need an
additive for enhanced lubricity and detergency. The current fuel injectors are really modern
marvels, and, as incredible as they are, they are more susceptible to being fouled by carbon and
lacquer than the old fashioned injectors. The ramifications of poorly performing injectors are
significant: poor performance, loss of fuel economy and clogged diesel particulate exhaust
filters (DPF). Of course, the exhaust system is another story all in itself and I will not go down
that path in this article. When looking for a good detergent additive, make sure you see some
mention of the internal diesel injector deposits (often abbreviated to “IDID”); if the additive
doesn’t address this problem, don’t use it. With the cost of today’s injectors running $600 to
$800, using an appropriate additive is a very cost-effective strategy.

(407) 657-5969


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Are You a People Builder?

DJ Harrington - Fuel for Thought

DJ Harrington – Fuel for Thought

Unfortunately, while reading a note that someone just sent me, I discovered a dear friend of mine has passed away at the early age of 47. His name was Todd Smith. Todd was from Ashford, Alabama. What a wonderful guy he was, besides a great Dad to four children and a good husband who married his high school sweetheart. Todd loved the Lord, and it showed in the way he treated people. I had the privilege of knowing Todd Smith and got some good advice from him. It didn’t take me long to realize Todd had an innate ability of approaching business and life.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said. “When a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him, lies on the paths of men.” This applies to my friend Todd. He had a way of taking hard decisions and making them seem simple. Todd was born with goodness of heart. His genuineness could be seen and felt by those people he helped…Todd was a man after God’s own heart.

Todd would go out of his way to let people know that he or she was a winner. Most likely, there are such people like this in your life today. They may be people you work with, play golf with, or maybe even your own family members who are starving for your approval. They are craving for you to speak some good words over their lives.

You don’t know what it will mean when you affirm them, when you give them your approval, and let them know in no uncertain terms that you are proud of them and you think they will do great things. Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone needs to be appreciated. Every person needs a kind word from you.

Consider these questions. What kind of seeds are you planting within your child or in my case grandchildren? Your spouse? Or that friend on your street? What about your nephew? Do you believe in anyone? Are you taking an interest in others to see how you can make someone else’s life better? Listen to the dreams of others. Remember God gave us two ears and one mouth. Having two ears is really a hint for us because we should do twice the amount of listening than talking. Let them know you are behind them. Give them your approval.

If you talk with any successful people, they will tell you somebody believed in them. Somebody planted a seed and encouraged them when they were down. Somebody helped them get a good break. Somebody spoke faith when they didn’t feel they could do it.

Thomas Edison encouraged Henry Ford. Ford was introduced to Edison as “the man trying to build a car that runs on gasoline.” When Edison heard it, his face brightened up. He hit his fist on the table and said, “You’ve got it. A car that has its own power plant – that’s a brilliant idea!”

Up to that point, no one had encouraged Ford. No one thought it was a good idea. Ford had just about convinced himself to give up, but along came Edison and spoke faith into him. That was the turning point in Henry Ford’s life. Ford said, “I thought I had a good idea, but I started to doubt myself. Then came along one of the greatest minds that ever lived and gave me his complete approval.

That’s what can happen with a simple vote of confidence. We don’t realize the power we hold. We don’t always realize what it means when we tell somebody, “I believe in you! You’ve got what it takes. I’m behind you, 100%.” And really….everyone of us should be someone else’s #1 fan. We should be encouraging them, lifting them when they’ve fallen, celebrating when they succeed, praying when they’re struggling, urging them forward. That is what a people builder does.

When it is my turn to go and be with the Lord, I hope someone says of me, “DJ taught all of us what is really important in life and how in giving a little, you will indeed gain a lot.” Remember, when you are nice to people, you get it all back and then some.

DJ Harrington is an author, journalist, seminar leader, international trainer, and marketing consultant. He works primarily with customer service personnel, and his clients include such world-class companies as General Motors, DuPont, Caterpillar, and Damon Corporation. He can be reached at 800-352-5252 or by e-mail at

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