The Mysterious Blue Flash

Have you ever gottent that gut feeling where you just know something is wrong.  Like when a family member doesn’t show up when they said they’d be there, or doesn’t call when they say they will.  That’s the feeling that is far too frequently felt by those with loved ones in the towing industry.

Working at roadside to save people is scary and down right nerve racking.  As a tow operator, we want to spend as little time on the side of the road as possible.  It’s a fine line between safe and fast.  We always find ourselves asking the question, do I spend the time to set up a ‘safe’ scene which also requires teardown, or do I just boogie and risk my butt to get the car loaded and out of there.

Alberta has taken a step to make ‘Tow Trucks’ a little safer at roadside, or at least trial to see if there’s benefit.  The Alberta Government announced on June *** that a “Pilot Project to allow blue lights on Tow Trucks” will start on June 30th and last for one year.  A huge step that many parties and companies ahve been requesting for years.  There is some legislation in progress to make it legal officailly, BILL 207 which we spoke about before.

But what does this mean?  Specifically, what does the ‘Pilot’ really mean.  It was announced from the government with fewer details than most.  We have heard numerous rumors throughout the industry to has created some hysteria as to “what’s allowed” and what isn’t.  Tuber takes great pride in ‘doing it right,’ and wants to make sure we are doing what’s best for the public as well as business and the industry as a whole.  With the little direction provided by the government or other lobbying agencies, we have decided to make our own policy with some logic.

What we know (Quick Facts):

  • In Saskatchewan, Tow Trucks are permitted to use Amber and Blue lights, this includes ‘service trucks’
  • In Manitoba, Tow Trucks are permitted to use Amber and Red lights but,
    • Cannot have more than 2 red lights
    • Must be visible for at least 150m
    • Must automatically disable when vehicle is in motion
    • Must not be used on roadways less than 60km/h

To our knowledge, Tow Trucks use Amber univserally across the Country and in some provinces white lights are common practice but not necessarily legal.

Bill 207 recommends changing the Alberta Traffic Safety Act (TSA) to add some verbage including “…a tow truck may be equipped with warning lamps that are a combination of amber and blue.”

That’s a great start, okay lets put our heads together, lets assume for the Pilot Program we are going to operate as if Bill 207 was active. In order to do that we must fully understand the legislation in existence = and how Bill 207 impacts it.  By changing the TSA it doesn’t necessarily make the changes needed to make it legal for Tow Trucks to operate with blue lights in Alberta.  For example, in the Vehicle Equipment Regulation Section 31(1) states that “A tow truck must be equipped with one or more amber warning lamps…”  To move forward with blue lights, that section would also need to be updated accordingly.

Section 31(2) provides guidelines around when to and when not to use the lights.  This section is written vague enough that it could be applied to blue lights as well.  There’s no change here.

Section 31(3), here’s somethig interesting.  “A vehicle, other than a tow truck, that is operated by an association whose purposes include helping a person whose vehicle is stopped on a highway or by a towing business, a service station or a garage may have amber warning lamps that are visible from all directions outside the vehicle.” <- This answers a question many might have had, given ‘Tow Truck’ isn’t actually defined in the legislation, one could assume that subsection 3 is refering to those ‘service trucks’ that are owned by Towing Companies providnig simliar services at roadside.

Okay, so now we’ve determined that for Bill 207 to proceed some other minor edits in legislation will need to happen but that hasn’t caused any roadblocks or limitations.  At this point, it would seem that for the ‘Pilot,’ both Tow Trucks and Service Trucks of towing companies can be outfitted with blue lights.  But before you go and spend $20,000 changing over the lights on your fleet, lets consider a few things.

1) This is a PILOT Project, there is a chance that after this is over in a year that everything will revert back and Blue Lights won’t be allowed.  Please consider this, the investment you make into Blue lights for the pilot project MAY ave to be spent again with either time or money to revert your equipment back to just amber

2) Do we really want to run blue lights viewable from 360° of the truck?  Keep in mind that Police are the only other vehicles that use Blue Lights in the province.  To provent confusion with the public, should we only run blue lights rear facing?  Arriving on scene at the side of a highway to a client in need of service may mistake you for a Peace Officer, though unlikely this could still pose concern to the public. Perhaps we can find a way to identify Tow related trucks from police.  Granted Police run Red/Blue, and Tow units will run Amber/Blue that is some separation, but those who aren’t super aware may confuse the amber with blue fairly easily… Especially dependant on the quality of lights used.  Maybe we can put the words ‘TOW’ on the top of our windsheild or something of that nature.

3) Should the ‘Blue’ lights be automatically restricted to ONLY operate when not in motion to eliminate risk of accidental confusion.  We’re all human, sometimes we forget to turn off ourl ights.  Police do it too and they are quickly reminded when people they are following start pulling over randomly.  “Oh Crap” comes to mind…  In that mind sent, if people are pulling over for Tow Trucks, it would be a quick indicator to turn off our lights.  Although, again, may create a negative public perception.

4) Public Education, many of us in the Industry and striving for change, steering away from the stereotype.  Although, there are still people out there who live up to the old stereotype and scam people out of money.  We have some concern that these individuals will outfit their trucks with more Blue than Amber lights claiming to be ‘Police Towing’ or something of that nature.  Without awareness campaigns the public is more at risk of scams from the not so good towing companies.

After consideration of the above, Tuber Towing will be outfitting some Tow Trucks, Deck Trucks, and Service Trucks with blue lights in various configurations.  We plan to make the changes fleet wide within a couple weeks of the start of the Pilot.  We will regularily poll out team on how they feel the ‘blue’ lights are impacting their safety at roadside.  We will use this forum to communicate those findings as time permits.  This is the time for ‘trail and error’ type events to happen.

We will also be sharing this message on our social media and working with @TuberTaylor to spread the word.  It is imperative that the public be made aware of this Pilot Project.  Though it won’t take very long for the public to share their observations as Blue Lights may surprise some people on Tow Trucks out the gate.

After all, the ‘decision makers’ of this topic can’t be educated on the topic if information isn’t provided to them.  Stay tuned!