Wreckers explain round-the-clock hauling business

Keri Thornton | Daily Press

Devin Gordon, owner/operator of Cherokee County Wrecker Services, said he can do more than just haul off vehicles.

Those in the wrecker service industry say there's more to the job than just hauling away vehicles that have crashed or broken down.

Devin Gordon, owner/operator of Cherokee County Wrecker Service, used to be a real estate appraiser until the Great Recession in 2008.

"I didn't know a thing about the wrecker business. I had become spoiled working for myself, and I didn't want to go back to working for someone else," Gordon said.

Gordon then bought his first wrecker truck and "rolled the dice," as he put it.

The requirements to obtain a wrecker license is owning or leasing a wrecker vehicle, and having an office occupied by the wrecker operator.

"Each new wrecker owner and driver of a wrecker/towing vehicle must have successfully completed a minimum of 16 hours of approved course of training," the state statute says.

The owner or driver may also have a minimum of two years of experience on the following: Traffic Incident Management (TIMS), and one can enroll at http://oktim.org; wrecker vehicle recovery controls; connecting or loading vehicle onto wrecker; tying down and securing vehicle to wrecker; wrecker operation safety; and annually completing four hours of continuing education approved by the Department of Public Safety.

Wrecker owners are required to have an impound lot located either in the same place as their office, or within two miles of their office.

According to the DPS, wrecker services are put on a rotation list by different agencies of law enforcement.

"If an operator has received a request for services, but does not respond to the scene within a reasonable length of time, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol may request the services of the next operator on the rotation log," the DPS stated.

There are nine wrecker services on rotation logs between the Tahlequah Police Department, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, Northeastern State University PD, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

William Scott, owner/operator of A.J. Towing, said he has two wrecker vehicles and he's OK with not being able to handle every single call that comes his way.

"There's a different rotation log for each entity and I'm a member of every one of those," said Scott. "I know that I can't do all of the tows and I don't even try, so I do what I can do."

Scott explained that if there were to be a three-vehicle crash, then three wreckers that are on rotation will be called to the scene.

"Unless somebody requests you and it's not your rotation. Then you get to go because Oklahoma is an at-request state and anywhere in the state, if you're licensed, somebody can request you," said Scott.

Scott has been in the mechanic business for over 40 years and he said that's an advantage for him when it comes to his wrecker service.

"Knowing how a door is made makes it a whole lot easier to get into a car. Some may say they don't know if they should go in through the window or go around the door, and there's so many options when unlocking a car," he said. "I've had cars come to me and say a wrecker service unlocked their car and now their locks or handle won't work."

While there are several wrecker services in and around the city, Gordon and Scott are on-call 24/7. According to the provisions of wrecker services, every service on the rotation log is to maintain 24-hour service.

"No two crashes are the same, so I'm constantly learning and it's a whole life adapting and adjusting. Different calls require different priorities, and everything is changing from one minute to the next," said Gordon.

Gordon and Scott both stress that drivers need to pay more attention when they are approaching them on the roadway.

"It's shocking if you look at the numbers nationwide of just how many wreckers are killed daily. Slow down and move over for us because it only takes a second," said Gordon.

Scott and Gordon provide a variety of needs of service and not just towing vehicle: jump starts, door unlocks, fuel delivery, tire changes, and even moving storage buildings, shipping containers, tractors, or lawn mowers.

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