Tow Shows 2021

It’s getting to be that time of year where the industry looks like it starting to bounce back and vendors are registering their booth at tow shows. We say the industry is coming back but is it really.

I went to Minnesota a few weeks ago on business and I had the opportunity to talk to a few tow companies.  Yes they told me that tow volumes are picking up because people are starting to travel again, but there is other things in the industry that are now effecting their business.  Finding drivers will always be a problem because the next generation tow company owner is decreasing.  Family members don’t want their dads business.  Their interests are different, and now finding trucks is becoming a major task.

I could just tell be talking to the tow company owners that their attitude is changing.  When I first got into towing everyone one was competitive and creative, now they are looking for ways to sell their business, or find other ways to make money in towing.

From Minnesota I drove over to Wisconsin to meet with a few tow company owners before I went to the Wisconsin tow show.  Again the attitude was the same.  How do I get out and retire.  One owner told me his driver came to work the other day with half his hair brown and the other half green.  He went on to explain how hard it is to put these employees in front of his customers.  I was standing at the show talking with another company when his wife took a call from a driver.  The driver’s girlfriend broke up with him so he quit his job.  No notice to the owner he just quit.  

The state tow show is small in comparison to the bigger shows coming up but you can get more intimate with the owners who were there.  We talk at length about the driver problem and what a tow truck driver will look like in the future.  In the past the driver wanted as many certifications as they could get.  A patch on their shirt was like a trophy to them.  Now the new drivers are getting by with minimum skills which will eventually cost the tow company money in damage claims.  

I don’t want to sound hard on tow truck drivers; I met a lot of the drivers at the companies I visited.  I was impressed with their appearance and attitude.  The owners said they take care of their drivers. The scary part is that there is no planning to create future drivers.  I don’t hear much from the professional trainers like Tom Luciano, Wreck Master, Wes Wilburn or other professional trainers.  That’s not to say they are not training, but their names were always being mentioned in the past.  I talk to associations and they are telling me their state training is slowing down.  I can only imagine 10 years from now. In a previous article I talked about a trade school for drivers.  I asked for feedback and 2 companies got back to me and said they would help to create the class material.  

We had several long conversations in Wisconsin about the need for trade school for towing.  At the Montana tow show 2 years ago they expressed a high level of interest in the school.  Starting in September I will begin the early stages of defining the school.  I will work to get as many tow companies involved as possible.

We will address things like:

1. Where do we find the future drivers

2. Where will the school be or schools be located

3. What materials should be taught

4. Who will teach the classes

5. Where can we get funding

6. How long should the students attend the school

7. Who gets the drivers once they graduate

That’s one area addressed, not let’s talk about another problem we face and that’s trucks and equipment  I went to several Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge dealers looking for a pick-up for my own personal use and all they could show me were pictures.  No inventory to be had.  I thought that was strange but I accepted that.  I then went to a tow truck dealer here in Dallas to see if I could buy a used tow truck.

I was shocked to find they had no inventory and new trucks were on a 6 month waiting list.  I asked what the problem was and was told they are all awaiting computer chips.  

Apparently Taiwan makes all the computer chips for the world. There are countries fighting for control of Taiwan and until it is resolved they stopped producing computer chips.  I was told there is a speedway in Kentucky with thousands of cars and trucks sitting there waiting for computer chips.  This problem could last well into next year. It’s hard to find parts for your existing fleets as well.  I talked to a driver in Syracuse who needed parts for an existing truck and it took 5 different shipment’s to get what he needed then he had to assemble the parts.  

How does this impact the tow shows.  I am curious and excited to get back into the swing of things with the shows.  I have my booth for San Antonio, and I will be in Vegas Tennessee and Baltimore.  I will be talking to drivers and introducing them to new lines of business talking to vendors to see how their business has been affected over the past 18 months.  

Now I hear we are going back to masks again and that could have an impact on the shows. All that being said there will be shows again and a whole new set of challenges for our industry but none-the-less we are finally back.