Duane Thompson of Anderson's Towing in Ceres has received the prestigious American Towman ACE Award for achievement in service performance.
It's the seventh honor for Thompson, who has been at 2040 Rockefeller Drive in Ceres for 10 years. The facility is home to 10 tow trucks and 14 employees. He also has a towing yard in Stockton and one in Turlock.
The ACE Award is presented by American Towman Magazine, the leading trade publication serving emergency road service professionals. In the year in which Anderson last time won the award, only 93 tow companies in the U.S. were given the honor. That's huge considering that there are approximately 9,000 registered companies in California alone.
Recipients were nominated by the nation's major motor clubs and dispatch centers, including Agero, CoachNet, GEICO, National Automobile Club, Nation Safe Drivers, Quest Towing Service and Road America.
The nomination guidelines for the ACE Award include: the highest percentage of calls when the estimated time of arrival of achieved; consistency in response time; written appreciation from customers; and percentage of calls services instead of turning them away thereby reflecting reliability and overall professionalism. ACE recipients rank in the top one percent of the towing industry's service providers.
Thompson bought Anderson's Towing in 1994 from Steve Anderson.
"When I came in, I didn't know anything about the tow business at all," said Thompson. "I was green as green can get."
He purchased the business because a deal to buy a one-hour photo processing lab collapsed and he needed a business to invest in. The opportunity became known to Duane through his brother, who was a friend of Steve Anderson's. Duane had to "chew on it" for a few weeks and decided it was an opportunity he needed to seize.
"We had two tow trucks at the time so we've come a long way since. It's been a godsend to me."
Being green was a tremendous advantage, he said, because he wasn't indoctrinated in shady practices that many tow operators adopt. He said the industry reputation has been hurt by "grease monkeys"who have damaged cars and not owned up to it, had employees who steal possessions out of towed cars and overcharged customers for service.
"Because I wasn't taught those things, I didn't do those things and to me it created a tremendous advantage over our competition. A tow truck's a tow truck's a tow truck. The only difference is our customer service and that would be how we present ourselves, be it verbally, body language or our dress and being able to do the job right the first time."
Thompson said his company invests lots of time in operator training for safety purposes, preventing damage to vehicles and keeping down worker's compensation cases. He even created his own roll-over training videos.
"Training is a huge factor for us and I think that's part of our success," said Thompson.
The ACE Award was commemorated by an original design belt buckle which is on its way to Thompson. He was unable to attend the ACE Award ceremony in Baltimore, Md., on Nov. 22 during the American Towman Exposition, the world's largest trade show and convention for emergency road service providers.