Larry Ross has been towing cars since 1994. But he hasn’t been towing straight through. Between 2006 to 2016 he ran his own business fishing and selling sea urchins. He caught them in Gloucester, and sold them for 2.5 times the price in Portland, Maine. The sea urchin business is only good in the winter; so during summers he sold lobster. He told me that he has a garden and likes to hand out tomatoes to friends he makes on and off the road. He plans to get out of the towing business soon and return to working on cars and trucks. Ross is the first tow truck guy I’ve ever met who could get my car onto a flatbed in only a couple of minutes flat, so I asked him for an interview, and he obliged.
M & S Towing in Tewsbury. For this company (about a year).
I started doing this in 1994. It was basically part time. It started out part time nights and weekends. And when the weather got a little colder, it turned into a full time job.
I usually start about 9 in the morning. The nights I work, I work Monday night and Tuesday night. Wednesday and Thursdays I get out at about 6 at night. I do every other Friday night. Every Saturday and every other Sunday. I’m unmarried, single, no children. After hours I take the truck home, I get to visit people. I carry a tablet, I have a cell phone, so if I get a call, Triple A will send a call through the tablet. And if it’s a shop call, the dispatcher will call me directly, give me the address, type of vehicle, method of payment.
I usually bring a lunch with me, a little cooler, a couple of sandwiches, a juice or something. Sometimes I work through lunch, or I’ll eat while I’m driving because you never know when the calls are going to come in. A lot of people are stranded on the highway and stuff. I just get calls done as quick as I can safely. And then, if it’s quiet, then I might sit down and have lunch. If not, like I said, gotta’ eat while you’re driving. Sometimes I go nonstop for 14, 16 hours. A 14-hour day when I work at night is pretty much normal. Sometimes it goes up to 19. Between 90 and 100 (working hours a week). I got used to it. And it’s not physically difficult work. I mean, sometimes it is, a little challenging, as far as a car off the road, snow, and stuff like that it can be kind of stressful. But most of the time it’s just driving around. It’s not really hard work for me. I’m a diesel mechanic by trade and [that’s] heavy stuff, heavy tires and break lines, swinging up sledgehammers. To me this isn’t really hard work.
Loading and unloading a car, most of it’s driving. I also do lock-outs, jumpstarts, change tires. Basically that’s all the road service we do. Sometimes I’ll take a look at somebody’s vehicle. I might notice they have a wire loose or a blown fuse or something, and I might be able to get it fixed or if they’re [from] out of town, I might bring it back to the shop and it can be looked at there.
I had a Triple A call, it was a couple and they had two children, they were at a gas station, and they must have gotten in an accident. So I had a wheel lift style tow truck. First I called the member, which was a woman, and let her know I’d be there shortly. I made sure she was in a safe location, so I arrived on scene and her husband was black, which really doesn’t matter, but I get there and he was very irate for some reason, and I asked him if we could move the vehicle back, and he says it doesn’t move. Which was kind of funny, because it was nosed into a spot; they must have been involved in an accident somewhere else. I think he was very upset because maybe he smashed his wife’s car, or was involved in an accident or whatever it was. So anyway he said You better check yourself, which that’s slang for You better watch your mouth. At that point, I says seriously? So he took a stance like he was ready to fight me. Meanwhile I had the keys in my hand, and I was 10 or 15 feet away from him. I tossed them in the front seat and I says you can wait here now, got in the truck and left. So he calls my boss saying that I was a racist.
I’m always in Lowell, I always deal with different cultures. And that’s my job. For them to call me a racist, that was a very odd situation, and I’m glad I left there. But most of the time I get along with everybody and people are happy to see me.
When somebody’s on the highway, I always call them: A to confirm their location, and B because some people are stressed out when they’re waiting on the side of the road.
I’ve done all sorts of towing: Police towing, private property removals. Private property removals are very difficult because somebody’s illegally parked in somebody else’s parking lot and I got to tow the car out of there. It’s kind of difficult because a lot of times people will come out as you’re pulling away towing the vehicle, and it starts a big argument. But the way I look at it, if you have a business, say you have a restaurant, and someone wants to go there and eat but they can’t find a parking spot because somebody that’s not even a patron is in their parking lot, well now they lose money, and my job is to move the vehicle.
The biggest issue I have with people, and especially Triple A members is they don’t understand what we have to do. A lot of times I’m a 24-hour driver. Which means if you broke down at one in the morning I would get out of bed, get in the truck, on call. They act like, they call, and I might have five calls ahead of them. I might have somebody on the highway; the person who’s stranded on the highway’s more important than your car in your driveway and you want to bring it to the dealership. And sometimes people don’t understand.
There’s not one truck for every Tiple A member.
The image of the towing industry is very bad. Because of parking lot towing and stuff like that. You got to treat everybody’s vehicle like it was your own. It doesn’t matter if you tow a Mercedes or a Toyota Corolla, that’s somebody’s vehicle, and your job is to bring it to where they want it to go safely and without damaging it. You have to put care into your work and pay attention and double check things. When you do it for awhile you don’t really have to think about that; there’s no money in damaging cars.
You do the calls as quick as you can. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s not a 9 to 5 job. I got Wednesday night, Thursday night, and every other Sunday [off from work]. I have two days off a month. Probably like four large cups a day [of coffee]. Sometimes more. Coffee really doesn’t wake me up at all, I just like drinking it.
I’ve done all phases of towing. Police, private property removals, recoveries, stuff off road. Accounts, dealerships, other motor clubs.