A tow truck driver is killed on the job every six days in the U.S. I’ve been in this industry for more than 20 years, and in that time, I’ve learned so much about towing safety. Getting involved at the state and national level with towing industry organizations has given me the opportunity to take action to make changes for better safety in the towing industry, especially for the people I work with and care about so much. 

Life in the towing industry is a roller coaster ride that I’ve touched on here and there on my blog. But today, I wanted to share an aspect of my business that I’m really passionate about and that I’ve worked hard to support. Here is how I’ve worked to create a safer towing industry in Wisconsin and beyond.

Getting Involved 

When I was first getting started in my business, I joined our state towing association and met a lot of great people in Wisconsin’s towing industry. Back then, I wasn’t too familiar with what was happening in the towing industry outside of Wisconsin, but I was eager to learn. 

Through the connections I made there, I heard about the work two national groups were doing to support and improve the towing industry across the country: Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA) and its subsidiary, Women of the Towing & Recovery Association of America (WTRAA).

I got an education on things happening in our industry, what needed to be done to advance safety efforts, and a whole bunch of initiatives the organizations were involved with. As I got more involved, I dove into leadership roles so I could lend my expertise, take action, and keep learning!

I served as the president of WTRAA for four years and have been on its board for 13 years. I’m also a presidential appointee for the TRAA board and have been the Education Chairperson for seven years, and an Executive Cabinet member for 11 years. 

I’ve seen so much change happen in the time I’ve been part of these groups, and I’m really excited about what they’ve accomplished. Our industry realized we need a national voice to accomplish our goals. Obviously, we all have to start with our local resources: contacting senators and legislators and working with our state associations to help our communities. But national change is the backbone of truly making an impact and making a safer industry.

Unifying The Towing Industry and Working Together

We’ve made huge strides to create safer experiences and environments for towing professionals, but we’re not where we could be… yet. 

Serving on the national association boards I do, I’ve seen firsthand that when towing professionals around the country come together and show up in strong numbers, it helps advance our cause. In my work with the TRAA Education Committee and Education Foundation, I’ve gotten to work on a lot of projects focusing on our members’ safety. Unifying our industry gives us a stronger voice, and it’s exciting to be part of such important work. 

Educating the public on towing safety, Move Over Laws, and safe driving practices is essential. Every year, TRAA has a legislative day in March where we gather with lawmakers, speak on important issues, and educate them about the obstacles we’re facing and what work needs to be done. We did it virtually this year and it was amazing! Towing industry safety is a bipartisan issue, and it was great to hear from speakers on either side of the aisle.

During the event, we also got to meet with local district legislators and their aides, which was super exciting! Trying to promote industry safety and connecting with people at a local level who can help us make changes is a passion of mine. The more voices, the stronger we are, and the more we can accomplish.

Educating People About Better Safety in the Towing Industry

Like I said, all 50 states have a Move Over Law of some sort. They all differ in what they require and how they’re enforced, though. The struggle I’ve seen at a local level, here in Wisconsin, is making sure drivers know about our law. It’s disappointing to hear how many people have no idea what the Move Over Law is. We need to do a better job of educating people so that we can keep our roads safe, and keep our towers safe, too.

Social media gives us a great platform for promoting towing industry safety. I talk about it a lot on my personal and business pages. I’ll do anything I can to help people understand how important it is to be careful on the road and to protect the people who help us stay safe

Michelle Sukow has worked hard to make the towing industry safer for its professionals and the public.

Promoting Safety at My Business

When it comes to improving safety in the towing industry, for me, it starts with safety for my team in my business. We take every precaution we can. It’s very important to me to have a not only positive work culture but safe work culture here as well.

That doesn’t mean just on the road. When my guys are getting in and out of their trucks, getting ready to hit the road, and even in our shop, safety is a priority. I make sure everyone has the proper American National Standards Institute certified uniforms and gear. In the shop, everything is clean and put away and in its place. No matter what, we enforce the rules because I care about every single person who works for me and I want to keep them safe.

Creating a Safer Industry for the Future

Look, my team means the world to me, and my child (I mean, grownup son!) is a tow truck driver, too. He goes out there every day on that white line and risks his life so we can help stranded motorists get going again or get to a safe place. I want my son, and all my employees, to come home every day to their families. 

Thinking even farther into the future, my grandson might be just a toddler right now, but he’s already showing an interest in trucks (just like his daddy!). I have a feeling he might work in this industry someday, too. My grandson is showing a huge interest in trucks and I have a feeling he might possibly be working in this industry as well. Honestly, there should be zero lives at risk here. We need to figure out ways and strategies to make things better.

Parting Thoughts

For me, being successful in the towing industry is about a lot more than just my business. It’s taking action and stepping up to help everyone in this challenging-yet-great industry stay safe. I’ve loved being part of groups that are working hard to make changes for towing industry pros everywhere, and I can’t wait to see what else we can accomplish in the future!