Impounding a large, American-made beater that had been ticketed for removal late one night, on a dark street in a bad neighborhood, I back up my Eagle to the rear of the car, and when the Claws touch the rear tires, the car immediately begins to roll away down the block.  The road is sloped gently, but
enough that I can't safely attempt to follow the escaping car with the truck and slide the claws in place to make a moving pick-up, which can be done if you keep your wits about you.  I feel I need to do SOMETHING, so I get out and started running after it.  The driver's door window is down or broken out, so I run alongside and grab the steering wheel.  Locked.  Some of you old-school guys might know this--you can move a locked steering wheel on older cars by hitting it in the right place while applying pressure one way or the other.  I frantically begin beating on the steering wheel, to turn it slightly to the right.  Keep in mind: it’s almost Midnight, I’m in a baaaaad neightborhood, running as fast as  I can, punching something through an open car window – it’s a miracle I didn’t draw sniper fire.  There is a space between parked cars on the other side of the street, and I’m aiming for it.  I manage to hit it.  The car hops the curb and stops on the  sidewalk.  I collect my thoughts, wait for my pulse to drop below 200 beats per minute, and complete the tow.

A common mistake I've made a few times over the years is forgetting to shift the truck's transmission in park during the hookup.  On
one occasion, I was impounding an older front-wheel drive car for the local county sheriff from the parking lot of a housing project.  It
was nosed into the parking space in park, so I backed up to the rear of the car, slid the Eagle Claws in place, lifted the vehicle, and strapped it down.  Then I began to assemble the tow dollie under the front wheels.  I activated the dollie on one side of the car.  I then activated the dollie on the other side of the car, and to my amazement, it started rolling away.  I had left the truck in reverse, but the towed vehicle's front wheels on the ground were enough to keep the whole thing stationary.  Freed from their position with the activation of the dollie, those wheels weren't much help anymore.  The dollie wheels climbed the curb and started over the sidewalk.  I was on the wrong side of the truck to attempt to get to the cab and put the truck in park, or apply the brake.  I grabbed the dollie release handles and
 deactivated the dollie.  There was some gouging of the grass on the other side of the sidewalk by the dollie frames, but the truck and the car stopped.  I smiled sheepishly at the sheriff's deputy, who gave me a puzzled look but didn't say anything.

I had a great career driving tow truck, with very few accidents/incidents that resulted in monetary loss for my employer.  I hired drivers in my management time who did more damage in 90 days than I did in 15+ years.  However, I had a LOT of close calls, often the result of my own inattention or overconfidence.  Towing is an inexact science.  There are a lot of variables.  Kind of like life.  And business.  How
you react to a situation of distress often defines your effectiveness.  Something tells me that, in 5 or 10 or 20 years' time, when we look back at this current time of economic distress, we will ask ourselves, how did we react?  Did we let the runaway car go off the cliff, or did we slow the moment down and locate our damage-control techniques? Could be the difference-maker.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper


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