Blizzards and frigid temperatures mean it’s time for tow truck drivers to toss on a few more layers of clothing and get ready for a busy day of work.
Bob Cook is a driver and manager at ABC Towing in Regina. For him, the day starts by him ensuring his vehicle is ready to go and that he’s prepared for the weather.
“I wear layers. I have three pants on plus my ski pants, and up top I just wear a t-shirt and a sweater, my quilted jacket and I have another winter jacket in the truck and I have four pairs of gloves.”
Cook says he has worked up to 16 hours in one day. The most calls he’s ever responded to was 57.
“(On Thursday) in a one-hour period, I did one accident tow and I did four boosts along the way to SGI, so in one hour I did five calls.”
Cook said some people call ABC Towing daily for boosts rather than go out and buy a new battery.
From Dec. 1 to noon on Dec. 9, ABC Towing received 633 calls for service, with 70 of those being for boosts. While boosting vehicles is a major part of their business, getting people’s vehicles out of ditches is where they receive most of their calls.
It’s also where tow truck drivers face the most danger.
“Two years ago I was picking up a vehicle out of the ditch. It had rolled on its side and I had to flip it over. It was really icy on the highway and I was on a blind corner so they couldn’t see me until they came around the curve. I had my cones out so I was blocking an entire lane of traffic because I had to flip this car over. Most people slowed down and moved over and this one guy tried to slow down and lost control and drove right into the ditch beside me and right out about 100 feet away from me.”
While 980 CJME was out with Cook on one of his calls to retrieve a vehicle from the side of Highway 46 near Balgonie, only one of the vehicles that passed moved over and none of them slowed down. The law in Saskatchewan is that vehicles are required to slow down to 60 km/hour when passing a tow truck that is providing assistance on the side of the road.
Cook said it’s also important that people are prepared for the weather because drivers have to drive cautiously when the weather is bad, and depending on how many calls they receive, the wait times can get long.
Tow truck drivers are also tasked with helping the RCMP and city police when an accident occurs.
“Sometimes I feel like we are the forgotten heroes out there on the road. When you get into an accident, we’re the ones who have to clean up the mess. Everybody thinks about the fire department and the police because they’re first on scene but we’re the guys who have to clean up all the debris and everything.”
Cook said the first time a new driver gets called out to the scene of an accident can be traumatizing.
“My first fatality was someone that I knew, somebody I went to school with so that one was probably hardest one but after that it gets easy. The first one’s always the hardest.”
While winter may bring challenges to tow truck drivers, Cook isn’t complaining.
“Business is good for tow truck drivers in the winter.”