Towing business gets vehicles where they need to go

Classes help younger set prepare for driving
July 11, 2012
Annette Cone Carpenter
July 11, 2012
Classes help younger set prepare for driving
July 11, 2012
Annette Cone Carpenter
July 11, 2012

Jimmy Dies has always gotten a lift from his job. Actually, others get the lift. He just enjoys helping them.

As a teenager, he began working at a service station that offered towing services and was generally the one sent to recover broken-down vehicles, clean up after wrecks and even follow repossession officers to recover property. He remained working for others well into his 30s.

“I always liked what I did and the people I worked with,” Dies said. “Then I met this guy that had a wrecker service, we were friends, and he said, ‘Man, when are you going to start your own towing service? You’ve been doing it forever. Why are you not working for yourself?’ I had never thought about it until then.”

Dies’s friend made him a deal on a truck, and a new business was born.

Jimmy’s Towing and Recovery began as a home-based business in November 1991. A storage area was rented, and after his first year being self-employed, this entrepreneur was able to buy property at 415 N. Hollywood Road, where he remains.

After almost 21 years Dies’s business has grown into a full-service towing, recovery and storage facility. With assistance from his son Jesse and two other employees, Jimmy’s covers a wide range of territory including Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary parishes. “We’ve even gone to other states to pick up vehicles,” Dies said. “We’ll go anywhere.”

Dies said he has met people from all over the world towing cars. Each was an experience he said would have been missed had he not been on the road. “One of the things I always liked about it is once you leave the office on a job you are on your own,” he said. “You don’t have somebody breathing down your neck.”

Jimmy’s Towing now has four trucks. The range of units enables this crew to tow anything from a passenger car to a tractor-trailer. The fleet includes a small tow-truck with a hook and wheel lift, a medium tow-truck with a boom and wheel lift, a medium-sized flatbed and a 32-ton tractor-trailer tow-truck.

The towing business definitely has its ups and downs. Dies admits he always liked being on the road best, but like many workers turned boss, he now spends most of his time doing paperwork and keeping his crew motivated.

While most towing runs are one-time calls, Jimmy’s has a list of companies that rely on this service with regularity. “We do some of the road clubs like All-State Motor Club and AAA,” Dies said. “We work with some of the repair shops and car dealerships. We do the emergency stuff for the city police and sheriff’s office. We are also on all the rotation lists for state police. Then we have the public calls.”

Properly operating a legal, full-service towing business requires licensing and being bonded for specific situations. Even what towing vehicle is being used has specific requirements attached.

On top of what the public might assume, storage licenses are required as well as occupational licenses and Department of Transportation physical cards are mandatory for drivers.

To cover more certification ground, Dies is also a member of the trade, governing and lobbying Louisiana Towing and Recovery Association.

The cost of towing varies, depending on location and what needs to be done to recover a vehicle. Prices on a local tow can range from $60 to $95, depending on the various factors that can be involved. Time and day play into the price charged.

Storage rates at Jimmy’s start at $18.50 per day if the vehicle is left outside. Covered storage is $23 per day and large vehicles (six or more wheels) are $37.50 a day.

Much of Jimmy’s work comes on referral for a simple reason.

The biggest complaint of any towing operator is related to the number of jobs for which they never get paid. This is especially common when wrecks have to be sold as scrap for $50 after literally hundreds of dollars in terms of labor, equipment, storage, billing and processing was spent from the time of pick-up to disposal.

Overhead for towing companies also includes insurance placed on drivers, which varies as to where a specific vehicle is recovered – residential driveways differ significantly from a busy highway wreck – and what is involved in completing the job. Even being in daylight compared to dark makes a difference.

“My biggest worry is where you read about these [towing] guys getting hit by cars while working on a highway,” Dies said. “Somebody not paying attention runs off the road and kills them. I always say, ‘Everybody should be aware of the move-over law. When you see those lights, move over.’”

Jimmy had encouraged Jesse to go to college and not end up in the towing business, but the younger Dies wanted nothing of that notion. “I thought this would be easier than going to college,” Jesse said. “I’ve been doing it 10 years.”

The towing business is not all heavy work. On occasion Jimmy and Jesse will send one another on a prank call. “It is all in fun sometimes,” Jimmy said. “It gives us something to laugh about later.” It is one of the many ways they get a lift out of the work they do.

Jimmy and Jesse Dies are the father-son team behind Jimmy’s Towing and Recovery. Among their fleet of towing vehicles is this 2000 Peterbilt 35-ton wrecker, showing that the vehicles Jimmy’s has can match the largest jobs as well as the routine.