Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series focusing on night shift workers in Harrisonburg and Rockingham counties.
broadway — There are few things worse than collapsing on the side of the highway at 3 a.m. and not knowing who will wake up and come help you.
Fortunately for those on the road in Rockingham County and beyond, Trans Tech Towing and Repair’s team of tow truck operators is always ready to jump into a tow truck with just a phone call, day or night. I am.
Current owner Kenny McKenzie founded the company in 1986.
According to his wife, Heather McKenzie, the name Trans Tech comes from Kenny McKenzie’s habit of spending his free time as a teenager building car transmissions. He has always been fascinated by tow trucks and purchased his first rolled back truck in the late ’80s.
“From there, he bought a truck that was a little more sturdier,” Heather McKenzie said. [eventually] We had the biggest tow truck in the area. ”
Kenny McKenzie said he left the crane industry to become a mechanic, but added that he simply missed the outfitting part of the industry.
While many aspects of the towing industry have changed over time, one thing that Kenny McKenzie believes will never go away is the need for towing services. Today, Trans Tech has a fleet of 10 to 12 of his vehicles, four heavy-duty full-time tow operators and his one light-duty tow operator, making calls up and down the East Coast and sometimes as far as Texas. It is in operation. Transtec also relies on several part-time drivers to fill in for wrecks that occur in the meantime.
For the past 20 years, Heather McKenzie has worked as a dispatcher answering calls 24 hours a day and as a business operations manager behind the scenes. The McKenzies’ daughter handles accounting, and the store’s two dogs, Gardy the chihuahua and Cooper the dachshund, alert everyone who enters the store.
Heather McKenzie explained that towing companies do more than just pick up a family’s car with a flat tire. Trans Tech Pickup He has years of experience towing everything from trucks to his 18-wheelers and safely lowering cranes from mountainsides.
“You wouldn’t believe what we passed,” Kenny McKenzie said.
When people slip into ditches on snowy mornings, Transtec pulls them up. If your tractor-trailer rolls over, Transtec has the skills to right it again. If your farm equipment gets stuck in the mud, Trans Tech will pull it out of the field.
McKenzie said he would even go to another state if it meant he could replace the truck driver on the Harrisonburg rig and return home after hauling a load.
Kenny McKenzie said whenever a customer needs service, they call Trans Tech. Heather McKenzie answers the phone and assesses the situation. Then, by looking at the monitor, the operator determines which tow truck he is closest to the person who needs his services. At Trans Tech, each truck is equipped with GPS so you always know who’s available.
Tow truck operators are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for a 48-hour break every other weekend, so drivers can take their tow truck anywhere. At night, the tow truck is parked at your home and ready to go when you need it.
Once the tow operator arrives on scene, they will immediately remove both the vehicle and you from the road. Where the customer goes from there is up to the customer, but Transtech typically takes the customer to their home and takes the broken-down car to a service center or, if they’re a long-haul trucker, to the nearest motel.
“Then we will prepare to return to the next conference call,” Kenny McKenzie said.
Currently, he is mainly responsible for the heavy recovery and leaves the rest to his team. There are very few nights when the phone is not connected.
But what most people don’t realize about tow truck operators’ jobs is that they put themselves at risk to help others, especially during night calls, Kenny McKenzie said. Kenny McKenzie pulled out numerous brightly colored vests and said safety was one of the main concerns for the crew.
Kenny McKenzie said: “Every six days in the United States, one of us is killed because we don’t want to go to the trouble of wearing this outfit, and it’s been going on for almost six to eight years now.” ” he said.
Changing a tire or pulling an axle on the side of the road when it’s dark is putting yourself in a dangerous position. People tend to slow down and move because of flashing blue lights, but most people don’t immediately follow the same steps next time they see a flashing blue light. Kenny McKenzie said they were riding a set of yellow flashers. It is common for tow trucks and drivers to be hit because they were not noticed by oncoming vehicles.
“something [else] “What I want to point out,” Kenny McKenzie said, “is that we are not recognized as first responders.” [when we should be]. ”
Kenny McKenzie continued: If a tractor-trailer crashes and blocks an entire interstate or ends up lying on top of a car, there’s little police and rescue workers can do until a tow truck arrives. , he said. Although he has saved many lives over the years, many cars with deceased drivers have also had to be dismantled.
Michael Burkholder has only been working at Trans Tech for just over two years, but he’s attested to the hard work and resilience the job requires.
“I’m not in this job for the money,” Burkholder said. “You either love it or you hate it, there’s not much in between. Personally, I love it. The biggest reason is being able to go out and help people.”
Prior to joining Trans Tech, Burkholder was a driver for a local trucking company. Every time he broke down or got stuck, Trans Tech came to his rescue. As he got to know some of the operators, he came to admire and respect the role of a tow truck driver. Burkholder heard a radio ad that Transtech was looking for another team member, reached out, and the rest was history.
“There’s no better feeling than being stranded on the side of the road and seeing a light come on behind you, because then you know you’re going home to your family,” Burkholder said. “I always thought it would be cool to be the guy who goes out and brings them home.”