August 16, 2002
Tow Truck Law …are we
Robert Edwards Jr, CFO
||As I perused through the local daily paper
today, tucked away in the back was an AP article about the New Jersey Legislature’s
passing of a new law. This one has to do with tow truck drivers.
It seems that in 1994 (yes, 1994) a tow
truck stopped to “help” a woman in distress on the interstate. Not
having the money to pay, the tow truck driver left her. Subsequently,
and not having all the details, this woman was hit and killed while waiting
Several thoughts immediately crossed my
mind. One was that I hoped the date was a typo because if it takes
eight years to pass a law regarding highway safety, we are in a sorry state
(pun intended). Second of all, I can only guess the tow truck driver
is living with the memory, common sense should have prevailed to make sure
the disabled vehicle was going to receive help from some other source.
True, times have changed since then with the advent of cell phones and
the proliferation of mobile radios.
But let us go deeper into what caught my
attention. Has the legislature been looking at “Protecting Responders
on the ROADWAYS”? You can bet your “bippy” that as long as traffic
flows, responder safety has not been a priority. Sure, they react
AFTER someone gets killed. But nationally, the injuries and deaths
of responders (FIRE, EMS, COPS), are beginning to occur too frequently.
I can only imagine how many close calls that have happened in recent years.
Recently, an EMS Captain said to me that
the fire apparatus left the scene because they were ordered to do so.
His personnel were busy treating patients and subsequently exposed to moving
traffic. The safety zone had been established but was broken down
prematurely because of not utilizing a “UNIFIED COMMAND” and communicating
with one another.
Time and time again, fire apparatus is
being cancelled or not called at all to assist at a motor vehicle incident.
Automatic procedures are being circumvented because a police officer does
not want apparatus on the roadway. With the shortages of volunteers,
especially daytime, EMS does not get on the scene for “some period” of
time. Fire personnel can size up, make victim assessments, sometimes
provide lifting assistance, extricate, expedite mutual aid, and/or establish
the scene safety zone. But I guess they know better? It is
called “working together” and understanding the local agency’s capabilities
Lastly and why the newspaper article hit
me. Several states have been passing legislation that shall help
deter motorists coming upon a roadway incident and not slowing down.
Several departments nationally have created local PSA’s (public service
announcements) to inform people slow down or yield to emergency vehicles.
What is New Jersey doing or better yet…what is your state doing to help
protect your personnel?
If this recent New Jersey law for tow truck
drivers is an example of how long it takes, then we should have started
a few years ago. It is never too late and maybe, just maybe, you
might review your response procedures. Cut back or stage your apparatus
before arriving on a scene. Look at when your apparatus drivers use
emergency lights or not. Does there use send a confusing signal to
About the author: Robert
Edwards Jr., CFO, is a 27-years plus member of the volunteer fire service
having served the past 17 years as a chief officer of the Bloomsbury Fire
Department in New Jersey. Besides having a computer science degree,
he received the Chief Fire Officer Designation in 2001. He also holds
New Jersey certifications as a Fire Service Instructor Level II, Incident
Management Level II, and a Fire Official/Inspector. As an instructor
for Hunterdon County Emergency Services Training Center, he has focused
on Incident Command, Hazardous Materials, Leadership, and Roadway Safety
Chief Edwards retired in
2001 after 34 years of employment for Johnson & Johnson where amongst
information technology duties he was responsible for the implementation
and management of an industrial Emergency Response Team. He was also
an integral part of the J&J Y2K Worldwide Command Center and its planning
activities. He serves as an instructor for Command
his first article