This year was our best yet for Southern Tow Expo and Beach Bash in Orange Beach, Alabama! It’s been three years now since Tow Professional magazine, based out of Birmingham, Alabama, began this national towing trade show.  With representatives from 26 different states, we had attendees from Oregon to Pennsylvania, from New Mexico to Virginia, from New York to Florida, and more representing towers from across the nation! We want to thank all those who helped us with a great line up of training, events, and fun crafted for a blast of a trade show in one of the most beautiful places in nation Orange Beach, Alabama!  We could not have done it without you! So, here are the details of the show:

WEDNESDAY: WreckMaster Training

We kicked off our Southern Tow Expo with our WreckMaster Training Level 2/3 led by certified instructors Kurt Wilson and Scott Aey. Several of our local towers offered their equipment, trucks, and inventory to make the training sessions a great “hands on” experience for towers wanting to improve their skills:  We thank Todd Pitts with Pitts and Sons providing a school bus and two cars, Aubrey Morris from Little Bitty Towing who provided a light-duty truck and a rollback, Mac Fletcher with Fletcher’s Towing who provided medium-duty wrecker, and Tony and Daniel Wade with Tony’s Towing who provided a medium-duty wrecker.  With a full class, the guys got hands-on experience and certification to take their skills to the next level with some of the best towing instructors in the nation.

THURSDAY: WreckMaster Training, Deep-Sea Fishing Tournament, Association Dinner

While the second day of WreckMaster training continued, Southern Tow Expo also headed out to sea for our Deep-Sea Fishing Tournament Thursday morning with Reel Surprise Charters launching from the SanRoc Cay Marina returning that afternoon.  After a day of fishing, wrestling the waves, woozy feelings, feisty fish, and the hot sun, we had vetted tournament winners!  Joel Littleton won the “Chumming Award” for the most seasick! Zachary Burghardt from Beacon Funding won “Smallest Fish,” and Todd Wiles from Best Tools won “Largest Fish.” The fishing tournament was held on an impressive 40 x 100 ft. boat called “Weather or Not” which was sponsored by Jerr-Dan.  We have grown every year with 35 participants the first year, 42 the second, and 52 this year providing a timely opportunity to do some great fishing while forging and solidifying trusted business relationships for years to come!

We came back just in time to get ready for our 3rd Annual Tow Association Dinner in the largest meeting room the Springhill Suites had-the Canal Room.  Booked to capacity with 100 presidents, vice presidents, and key members from across the nation along with first responders from Orange Beach, Baldwin and surrounding counties, we had one of the largest inter-association and first responder dialogues in the nation!

Ken Grimes, the Orange Beach City Administrator, greeted our crew on behalf of Mayor Tony Kennon and his staff. Chris Litton, the City of Orange Beach Logistics Coordinator, also joined us for dinner representing the city.  With D.J. Harrington, the Tow Doctor, emceeing our discussion with leaders from across the Southeast, Midwest and more, the attendees were able to discuss creative ideas on how to grow their associations.  From offering healthcare, to discounts books, to golf tournaments, and other fund raisers, associations are finding ways to grow and increase their streams of revenue.  The associations were encouraged to use their associate members to help sponsor training and other association fund-raising events.  Key to the dinner, future issues were highlighted that towers must be aware of, such as the issue of cars that are now reporting directly to insurance companies faster than first responders are getting notified and making it to the scene.

We were privileged have Linda Unruh from the New Mexico Trucking Association join us for our dinner; she is a member of the TRAA Legislative Advocacy Network® (TRAA LAN®), but she also is the first woman and the first native American to own a trucking business in New Mexico. Because of her effort, the “Move Over” law was expedited and passed in her state. She responded to the loss of her own son, Bobby, (37 years old) who was killed while attempting to tow a commercial vehicle by lobbying for the last state in the union to adopt the “Move Over” law, and they did!  We were also glad to have Cynthia Martineau, Executive Director of the TRAA, along with TRAA board members, Gay Rochester and Michelle Topel representing national leadership at our dinner.

We thank Auto Data Direct, INA Towing Network, and Jerr-Dan for sponsoring the dinner that was catered by Alabama Coastal Catering who provided a delectable beef tenderloin, a perfectly seasoned herb chicken, crunchy almond green beans, a tasty, assorted-veggies medley topped with gourmet deserts with buttercream icing! Growing from 50 attendees our first year to 70 attendees our second year to 100 attendees our third, we have put to rest the idea that tow associations will not come together, work together, or dialogue together—dinner helps!  During the meeting, towers were able to share what they need from police

while the police were able to share what they need from towers-a key first responder dialogue.  The dinner sponsors who spoke for their companies were:  Tom Drake, Towing Services Manager, shared on behalf of Auto Data Direct. Gay Rochester, CEO of INA Towing Network and current president of the WTRAA shared on behalf of INA Towing Network, and Jacob Perron, Jerr-Dan North American Sales Representative, spoke on Jerr-Dan’s behalf.

We enjoyed representatives from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and the District of Columbia!  Everyone was able to bring something to the table and take something away—and it was more than just the beef tenderloin and chicken!

FRIDAY: Seminars, Beach Bash, Planned TIMS Event

Friday morning, we started the day with an outstanding opportunity for business growth, development, and liability awareness with lineup of progressive seminars.  We appreciate Jim Lewis (jlewiswrites), Perry Beaty (FlowStop), Michael P. McGovern (Tow Lawyer), Patrick Mobley (Zellner Insurance), Charles Fator (Hanby Environmental), Randy Cook (OMG), Jessica Innocenti (OMG), Dan Messina (TowTrax), D.J. Harrington (Tow Doctor)—all who led informative and practical seminars for attendees wanting cutting-edge information to grow their business and to troubleshoot their challenges.  Friday evening, we headed out to the parking lot for the Beach Bash sponsored by Santander and TowMate for some of the best fried shrimp and pulled BBQ pork and fixings from a local, Brad King with Brad King’s Catering. Brian Chandler also was a hit with his samples of Clyde Mays whiskey which didn’t take long to be history!  With good food, good beer, and good whiskey it did not take long to enjoy the good tunes from a local Alabama band, Ruff Water, who played several classic favorites.

As the sun went down, the 36,000-lumen light from Ron Pullen of R. P. Recovery Consulting went up along with the anticipated energy for the Planned TIMS Event.  Ron’s light started off in a box and then inflated into a 10-foot light bulb illuminating the front area of the event.  The Will Burt Company provided the lighting system positioned at the front of the bus that lit the whole scene up.  The WreckMaster instructors, Kurt Wilson and Scott Aey, gave a play-by-play of everything that was happening, so those watching could see the decisions being made and understand why they were made. Ironically enough as we were setting up for the event, random cars and trucks drove right through the middle of the event scene just like in a real-life recovery scenario.

Thanks goes to Interim Fire Chief Kimmerling and Kevin Lanford, Asst. Chief-Training, who helped to organize the fire and EMS first responders from the Orange Beach Fire Department, and thanks goes to Police Chief Fiero from the OB Police Department for their participation in securing the recovery scene. Thanks goes to Todd Pitts at Pitts and Sons Wrecker for providing the school bus and the Honda Civic casualties for the event. The accident scenario was a school bus which had “fallen” on top of a car with a manikin trapped inside the car. Steven Weil from Weil’s Wrecker who was the tower who did the recovery used MatJack airbags to lift the bus off the car. The receiving bags on the opposite side of the bus were inflated to catch the bus as it was returned to an upright position.  Since airbags were used on both sides of the bus, the Air Bag Crew used headsets provided by Sonetics to coordinate the effort without having to yell instructions back and forth adding to the chaos of the situation.   After removing the bus off the car, the OBFD used the “jaws of life” to cut the roof off the car. They then removed the “injured” from the car on a backboard to the EMS vehicle and transported it to safety for treatment.  The major emphasis for the Planned TIMS Event was to highlight the “Slow Down, Move Over” campaign to raise the public’s awareness, so they will move over one lane anytime they see someone on the side of the road especially first responders which include towers since their “office” is six inches from the white line.  It has been said that every six days a tower is killed on the road here in the US.  Let’s all practice “Slow Down, Move Over,” so everyone can go home safely to their families. To give the message of protecting first responders greater reach, Darian Weaver, TP Publisher, and his wife, Holly, petitioned the Alabama governor, Kay Ivey, to make August “Slow Down, Move Over” Awareness Month, and Gov. Ivey approved it.  To learn how your state can do the same, email Gene at, and we will be glad to share the process we went through for approval. To check out the Alabama TIM website, go to:

SATURDAY: Car Presentation, Tow Truck Rodeo, Product Demo, Flora-Bama Party

On Saturday, we started the morning off with the GEICO and NABC’s Recycled Rides Presentation. They awarded a 2014 Chevy Cruze to “Eye Heart World,” a human-trafficking prevention organization. We appreciate GEICO’S leadership who organized the event:  Dwayne Fuller, ERG Zone Manager, J.R. Carter, Auto Damage Adjustor, and Paul Lorenza, the Regional Event Marketing Coordinator. The car was refurbished by Wreck-A-Mended Collision and received by Crystal Wood, the representative from Eye-Heart World. It’s great to see companies giving back to the community!

After the seminars, Jerr-Dan conducted a Tow Truck Rodeo in which towers were able to test their skills of using a rotator’s boom to lift a large water barrel and then progress it through a challenging obstacle course without spilling any water.  Jerr-Dan’s goal was to give operators (over 50 of them!) an opportunity to run the controls of their 50/60T Rotator through this challenging obstacle course.  This would include current Jerr-Dan operators, along with operators that run competitive equipment.  The course displayed the agility and proportionality of the remote while only allowing the operators to facilitate select functions as part of the challenge.  The course also demonstrated Jerr-Dan’s ability to achieve 41 ft. of reach off the side for those hard to reach recovery scenarios.  The winners of the men’s competition were: 1st Place– Patrick Linton of Linton Wrecker Services; 2nd Place–Joel Linton (son of Patrick); 3rd Place–Neil Lee of Hayles Towing, MS.

On the heels of the Jerr-Dan Tow Truck Rodeo, the finale party for Southern Tow Expo was held at the world-famous beach bar-the Flora-Bama! We appreciate Jerr-Dan and Waters Truck and Tractor joining Tow Professional in sponsoring the event for both our towers and exhibitors to enjoy a free drink and great food!  With five different bands playing all in one iconic location, there was something for everyone whether it was some of the best drinks in the south, one of the best scenic views of the ocean being right on the beach, or just enjoying some excellent food! The Flora-Bama was also having “Whiskey Jam” while we were there which revved the energy and excitement even more – a great closing event for a great show.