Nick and Brett get a chance to sit down with Lee and Rick to discuss their involvement in the Idaho Tow Association as well as how they got into the Tow Life and the direction of the industry. Listen and follow along on Rev.com Here or play the youtube video and follow along with the text below.

Narrator 1:

Welcome to Recycled Idaho, where two recycling industry veterans, Brett Ekart and Nick Snyder, explore Idaho businesses and organizations that are putting in the work to keep Idaho environmentally and economically viable at the same time. Take a listen to how these entrepreneurs, business owners, and operators making things happen in the great state of Idaho.

Narrator 2:

In this episode of Recycled Idaho, we get a chance to sit down with Lee Bellemare, owner of Abyss Towing and the president of the Idaho Tow Association. We also sit down with Rick Burlingame owner of Boise Valley Towing and the District Three Director for the association. These two have helped so much on improving the tow industry and Idaho, as well as providing a truly essential service to our community with both their respective companies.

Narrator 2:

Take a listen.

Nick:

All right, welcome everybody. Here is another episode of Recycled Idaho. I'm sitting here with two giants in the industry of the tow industry. I got Lee with Abyss. How you doing, Lee?

Lee:

Good, how are you?

Nick:

Doing well. I got Rick with Boise Valley Towing. How you doing?

Rick:

Good.

Nick:

So basically let's just kick it off. And Lee, do you want to start? Kind of tell us how you got into the tow industry.

Lee:

Well, it was a mistake. I was attending college in Bethesda, Maryland, and a tow job was a job. It wasn't rocket science. And did it the whole time I was in college, got my degree, went off and just kept doing it. Never, ever changed. I tried and change one time, and it wasn't... I was... The hooks were in me, so to speak. That's how I've spent my whole life, for 31 years so far.

Nick:

And what city did you start in?

Lee:

In Bethesda, Maryland.

Nick:

Over in Maryland.

Lee:

Yeah.

Nick:

Okay, so...

Lee:

I'm from New England and I went to school down there, and then I went back to New England and towed there for ever.

Nick:

So what brought you to Idaho?

Lee:

My in-laws. My family is out here, my in-law family is out here, and they're getting older and needed help. My wife wanted to come out and support them. So, here we are.

Brett:

What's the difference between east coast towing and west coast, or northwest towing?

Lee:

The big difference-

Brett:

Is there a difference?

Lee:

There is. There's a huge difference. East coast people are rude and impatient; west coast or Midwest...

Nick:

More laid back?

Lee:

A lot more laid back. Here, everyone has a gun and no one's going to use it.

Rick:

Roadways and trees.

Lee:

Yes, yeah.

Brett:

Yeah.

Rick:

Yeah. Back east... I grew up in upstate New York, so yeah, the terrain is different.

Brett:

Yeah, give us your backstory, Rick. I'd love to hear it.

Rick:

16 years old I worked for a buddy, and he would put me in a dump truck and that was pretty much the start of my driving career. And I just loved trucks. Then my next job, I worked for a salvage pool, an insurance salvage pool. My best friend's dad owned it, and he put me in a tow truck and that was it. About a year before I went into the service I spent about a year, year and a half driving tow trucks; went from the salvage industry into regular towing. That was 33, 34 years ago, and it just kind of went from there.

Brett:

Time flies.

Rick:

Went into service as an equipment operator, to give me that 'nother level of experience, and was in that for six years as a reservist. And yeah, there hasn't been a year gone by in my life I have not been in a tow truck, in 34 years, almost 34 years.

Nick:

Well, that's awesome, man. All the towers I've ever talked to, it sounds real similar to the scrap metal guys. Like, once it gets in your blood it's just part of you. It's not even like a job anymore, it's just part of you. That's how I look at the scrap side; that's just part of my life.

Rick:

Some people call it stupidity, but.

Brett:

We get the same comments.

Nick:

Yeah, we get it.

Brett:

So don't feel like you're getting pigeonholed.

Lee:

I call it a special kind of stupidity.

Nick:

And you both being from the east coast; we had a driver at one point from New Jersey, and I could definitely tell a difference between him and his willingness to just go do bins anywhere. Because I'd be like, "Man, that's a tight fit. You might want to send the shorter truck." He'd be like, "Nah, I'll just park it. I got it." Because he's so used to doing... He was a driver. He was a driver in New Jersey. So you guys probably, having that background, you guys could feel like you could probably get in to most places.

Brett:

Yeah, more space than you know what to do with.

Nick:

Yeah.

Brett:

Some of those guys, yeah.

Nick:

So real quick, you guys are both part of the association. Do you want to go into that?

Rick:

The Tow Association.

Nick:

The Tow Association, sorry. Do you want to kind of go into that?

Rick:

He got it started, so we'll start with him.

Brett:

Yeah, just give us some background on the Tow Association. And just real quick, to preface it: one of the coolest things that I liked about this is you guys, obviously it's two separate companies, but you guys have found a way to help your industry by working together, bringing other tow companies, people you might compete with on a daily basis, but I'd call it a friendly competition where you're not trying to cut each other's necks, to do business. But for the betterment of the industry, you guys have created this Tow Association. Just kind of give us a little bit of background on that, and what brought it about?

Lee:

Sure. So like I said, being from the east coast I was involved in the association in New Hampshire, in Maryland, and in Florida. And every state pretty much has one. Again out here, there had been one here in the past, but there wasn't one active. There were a lot of internal industry complaints. You know, you're out there every day and you work hand-in-hand with these other companies, right? You're doing wrench, you're doing... Even with the insurance calls, sometimes they fumble dispatch and two companies show up. So you're constantly talking to other people, and there's complaints get mentioned and talked about. And there seemed to be a lot of that. I was kind of new to Idaho, but still, there's a lot of complaints, and, "We're going to change this," but nothing ever happened. People talked about it, and it just kind of went into the wayside.

Lee:

And the reality is, I mean, you can have 10 little, I use the term rogue groups that all have their own agenda, and they're not working together. So if you try to go somewhere with it... And this is what Rick and I have talked about eons, over, over, and over, and over again: when you're not a professionally legal entity that is bonding together for a common goal and purpose, you're not going to reach the goals that you want to reach, because people aren't going to give you the time, the respect, the understanding, even just being able to be heard. It doesn't mean you're going to accomplish everything you set out to do, but that was the goal. Let's take those random conversations and complaints, and let's actually do what an association is really supposed to do. So the whole goal was exactly that. We're all competitors in some regard, right? We're all towing companies.

Brett:

Correct.

Lee:

But the reality is, Rick knows heavy-duty; I don't.

Nick:

You still can have your own kind of niche.

Lee:

Everyone's got their own thing.

Rick:

Well, and that's, I think, one of the biggest things, is yes, we come together as an industry. I think that's kind of the key; we're together as an industry. We don't talk about each other's business, so to speak.

Nick:

Yeah.

Rick:

You know, what I do daily to earn our business, to keep our business, all that kind of thing. Some things are very surface. You can see it; yes, I have X amount of trucks and he has X amount of trucks, or whatever. But the goal is to come together as an industry for whatever the common good is, whether it be law, or ethics, or...

Lee:

Professionalism.

Rick:

... dealing with our roadside assistance companies, insurance companies, so that we can-

Brett:

Safety.

Rick:

Safety, training, all those things. So those are more the common goals. That's what we're truly are after. I don't necessarily want to copycat him, and he doesn't want to copycat me. You know, we've both been very successful in our businesses, but we don't talk about that portion of it.

Nick:

Yeah, that's the feel I get from being at some of those meetings, is like, people are there to kind of fix some common problems.

Rick:

I'm very neutral. I don't even wear company logos when we have association meetings.

Nick:

Yeah.

Rick:

Because I don't feel that that's necessary.

Brett:

There are certain industries that are more blue collar, you know? Like the scrap metal recycling industry, your guys' industry. There's certain industries out there that rightly or wrongly have gotten sometimes a bit of a tougher rap than others.

Rick:

Oh yeah.

Brett:

So by creating an association and doing stuff like this, it kind of helps you get the word out there. Like, "Hey, we are blue collar, we work our butts off for a living, but A, we enjoy it, and B, we're doing it the right way. We're trying to associate with other people that are trying to do it the right way." Right? I commend you for that.

Rick:

And I fell into this by accident.

Brett:

You tripped and fell into that door, huh?

Lee:

Face first.

Rick:

I fell into this totally by accident. I got fed up with cops being the only ones protected on the roadways and decided to start making contact with representatives and senators in our state to try to get the move over law upgraded to include towers. And then, throughout my conversations and knocking on doors and ringing doorbells and such, ended up getting pretty tight with ITD. And even though they couldn't really endorse anything, I felt they needed to be included as well, because I worked side by side with those guys on many big wrecks. And if anybody you want behind you with a sweeper instead of a broom, it's those guys. And they're in harm's way as well.

Rick:

So as I started into this I called [Sarah Biggers 00:00:10:14], who we've worked with in the past with Crossroads, and she says, "Hey, have you talked to the association?" And I said, "What association?" And next thing I know, I went to one meeting and I was voted as a District Director; and I didn't even know it had happened, honestly. There was something that happened in that Denny's, I think it was.

Lee:

It was Denny's.

Rick:

And two weeks later he's like, "Hey, you were unanimously, dah, dah, dah, for director." And I'm like, "What are you talking about?"

Brett:

Got you! Just...

Rick:

That was two years ago.

Brett:

Yeah. So how active members do you guys have part of the association right now?

Lee:

Currently statewide we have 29 tow company members, and then we have seven sponsors or affiliates.

Brett:

Affiliate members, okay. Which is good; I mean, you start with a couple. And you feel like it's building? I mean, every year you feel like more people are starting to get involved, and starting to want to put their two cents in?

Rick:

Yeah.

Lee:

It was a challenge, but yeah, it's coming around. I think there was a lot of reservations and people not understanding what the association was all about, and what the benefits. And it's coming around. I think we're getting a lot more response now.

Rick:

Well, the biggest thing: an association is a voice.

Nick:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rick:

So it may be inclusive of 30-some people, 35 people, whatever that number was, but when we walk into a room it's one.

Nick:

Yeah.

Brett:

Yeah.

Nick:

Do you think-

Rick:

And it's one big one.

Nick:

... there would have been a possibility to pass that move over law without the association?

Rick:

I think it had been a fine line.

Nick:

Yeah.

Rick:

Because when you go in as a group, that means more than one person is speaking to...

Nick:

You're speaking for everybody.

Rick:

Yeah.

Nick:

Yeah.

Rick:

And so-

Nick:

Because I think that was important.

Rick:

And that actually brought in other groups to us, saying, "Hey, we represent this group of people, and we represent this group of people," like AAA and taxi cab companies, and all kinds of different transportation things. I mean, it was amazing; you know, garbage trucks. I was amazed at how many people wanted to jump on board with this. And I had meetings with many of these people, so that opened a lot of doors. Now I know one, two, four more people I can go, "Hey, what do you think about this bill? Can we either make this better or shut it down if it's not good for our industry?" I imagine if Idaho all of a sudden said, "Hey, you can't collect platinum anymore," you'd probably flip out. You know? Or whatever it is-

Nick:

Yeah, any metal.

Rick:

... you get recycled, recycling industry. We're the same way. They try to change and regulate how we do paperwork, how we get the information, how quick we put it out, all that kind of thing.

Brett:

We had a kind of a similar crossroads over here when they tried to pass a bunch of metal theft legislation. Had to be about eight, nine years, somewhere, where they went from handwritten tickets and now you have to record every transaction, you have to videotape, you have to do this, record the license plate. I mean, it went from very little rules to a very expensive upgrade for every single facility, and a lot more admin backend. And I think sometimes when people are looking at adding legislation or taking away legislation, they don't really realize the impact on the industry. They just, there's this problem that somebody's really pushing to get fixed, and all of a sudden it's like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, guys. There's so many more moving parts to this puzzle than what exists today."

Rick:

Well, it's more difficult to get it than getting a passport.

Nick:

Yeah.

Rick:

You know, are we supposed to regulate the rest of the world?

Brett:

Yeah.

Rick:

Do I really need to know your child's name?

Brett:

Yeah.

Rick:

I mean, and sometimes that's how ridiculous it seems.

Brett:

I know. And...

Rick:

You know, and then to document and keep all that is crazy.

Nick:

Well, the awareness that you guys brought at the Tow Show over last September, when you had the entry point be where it was; how you guys operate on the freeway every day, that's how much space they gave people to enter. So that was super cool to see that-

Rick:

That was a big, big ploy.

Nick:

... because that brings awareness. Like, "Shit, I don't want to be on the side of the road and an 80 mph car almost hits me." So you guys' job is dangerous, man. And like, that's something... I deal with towers a lot, and I didn't quite realize that even until I was there thinking. I was like, "Holy smoke." So I think that was a great law to pass.

Rick:

That was a twofold thing for that entry, the way it was set up. One was to show people our side of it, but it also shows their side of it as the public. What if you were that person stuck on the side of the road waiting for us to get to you?

Brett:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Rick:

And you know, the state turned us down on that portion of the law where they didn't want to include the public, for reasons that are still bizarre to me at this point in time. And I'd still like to try to get that added to the law. Because without the public, we wouldn't be there. Without the public, the police wouldn't be there. Without the public, the fire department wouldn't be there. Any of the first responders wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the public in the first place. And they try to convolute it with abandoned vehicles and stuff like that. There were some entities... They were saying, lawyers were saying, "This is just an open door for illegal search and seizure."

Brett:

Yeah.

Rick:

Wait a minute. These are the people that are broke down on the side of the interstate or the highway, or whatever roadway they're on.

Brett:

Yeah.

Lee:

We're not even changing why a vehicle's being towed; we're changing the protection of the folks that are out there involved.

Rick:

Yeah.

Brett:

Yeah.

Nick:

Yeah.

Brett:

And that's where sometimes when legislation comes down the line is, then people will start tacking on a bunch of stuff, and you're like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's go back to the original intent." We would talk about... If we're trying to stop metal theft, then let's figure out how we're going to stop metal theft. We don't stop metal theft by adding 30 requirements for every scrap ticket that gets written, you know? If a guy has 10 pounds of aluminum cans, or 20 pounds of aluminum cans, do we really need his driver's license and his this and his that, and all the stuff that goes on with it? I'm like, are we trying to stop metal theft, or are we trying to gather more data? And I think for you guys just trying to create safety, we're not trying to embark on anybody's rights as an American, we're just trying to make it a little safer on the freeway so we can do our job to protect the general public, according to me.

Rick:

Yeah. Yeah, when you get into the legislative ends of things, your eyes get opened quickly.

Brett:

What's the biggest issue, kind of transitionally what issues do you guys see? Because you guys have moved on from that, from the move over law, so what stuff are you guys working on right now? Just general industry stuff? Or any legislative stuff?

Lee:

Right now, well, we just re-elected our new board for the new term, 2020 to 2022. So that was kind of the focus, internal focus, for a fair amount of time; nominations and voting, and who's who, and what's what. That's concluded. There was a little bit about ethics and professionalism that came about, we kind of dealt with that. But I think right now it's gathering... We just put out a big newsletter and a poll: what would you like to see worked on? So it's gathering information to see, because it's not just up to us.

Rick:

Well, keep in mind, Idaho legislature ended right at the beginning of COVID. In fact, I think they even closed down a week early, even though they were talking about being three weeks late. The... Pardon me, microphone man.

Brett:

No, you're good.

Rick:

The stuff that was in there was more paperwork related, and time constraints they wanted to put upon us and things like that. Big scheme of things, most of what... And both of those passed, if I recall, both of those things. In the big scheme of things probably wasn't going to hurt us, only because the state of Idaho can't uphold their end of it. They can't even complete the timeframes that they were requesting in that new law. But this year, like I said, we're kind of on a delay of everything.

Nick:

Yeah.

Rick:

You know, we've missed a couple of meetings because of this. I haven't seen my district people since January. And...

Brett:

Versus how often were you seeing him before this?

Rick:

Every month, then we voted to an every other month, just for the district side. The board still meets every month, but we went to every other month. Then when March hit, then everything went crazy.

Brett:

You guys try to do any Zoom meetings or any online video conferencing?

Lee:

Our board meeting was with Zoom meetings.

Brett:

Okay.

Rick:

We do the board that way.

Lee:

Because that's statewide, obviously, and we have folks all over. We don't expect them to travel all the way here once a month just for a meeting, or we travel there.

Brett:

Yeah, makes sense.

Rick:

We're having one next week, and fortunately we know somebody that donated some space for us to do an outdoor barbecue style. I don't want to drop any names; wink-wink.

Brett:

Yeah. Yeah, understandable.

Rick:

In our business it's important. I think it's important for us to see each other face-to-face to have those conversations. Hey, I love Zoom and all these cool, neat, new things, but the reality is, I don't think you get the same result.

Brett:

I think it's a good supplement. Like, it shouldn't be the answer.

Rick:

Exactly.

Brett:

I think it's just like anything else; it's like an extra tool in the toolbox. It shouldn't be the toolbox. You know? I think that's the way I view it, because I do, I travel, I visit our consumers, customers, vendors, and this is the least amount I've traveled in years. Okay? I'm almost walking around wondering what I'm supposed to do with myself half the time, because I'm used to that; I'm used to the physical handshake, "How you doing? Let's go drink a beer, let's discuss what's going on in the world."

Rick:

Sure.

Brett:

And that, I think that physical interaction... People are starting to realize, that's a pretty big part of business; it's a pretty big part of friendship; it's a big part of a lot of stuff. And you take that away, it takes away a part of, a piece of the puzzle, in my opinion.

Rick:

And I don't think it's a whole lot different than texting, you know? Yes, you get the video, you can kind of see them in the background and all that, but underneath the camera is somebody dropping the finger on you? I don't know. And they can always turn away. You know, I don't think you'd get the full...

Brett:

Are they even wearing clothes below their shirt?

Rick:

Right?

Nick:

I was. I promise; I had pants on.

Lee:

But no, that's something that you want... Like Rick said, I mean, somebody can turn off their camera and not even be sitting there anymore. You know? And you just don't know.

Rick:

That's generally how I do it.

Brett:

Put the headphones on, listen.

Rick:

I'm not kidding; I let the dogs out. I put mute on, I could still hear everybody; I'm making my wife dinner. I don't know, whatever it is.

Brett:

So how many tow companies are out there in the state of Idaho? How many... I mean, roughly, estimate, how many-

Lee:

Functioning or registered?

Brett:

Both. Like, well, how many-

Lee:

Because those are two different numbers.

Brett:

Yeah. Just like illegal immigrants versus actual like citizens, right? I mean, there's a big difference in the actual numbers.

Lee:

So when we started this thing, and we're just getting ready to re-evaluate those numbers, but when we started this thing, we pulled the Secretary of State and searched for any company that has the word 'towing' in its name, and we came back with 640-some odd companies.

Brett:

Wow.

Lee:

Of that, we found out that only like 327 were actually functioning towing companies, or at least they admitted to be functioning towing companies. And that is one of the challenges, right: who's out there that's running legal versus illegal. It's another kind of behind-the-scenes thing that the association is trying to look at it. We want everybody on the same platform, right? Pays his bills, I pay my bills. He pays for insurance, I pay for my insurance. He pays his annual fee to register with the state, and for DoT, and for inspections.

Brett:

It's an even playing field.

Lee:

Right.

Brett:

Yeah.

Lee:

How we do it? Like you said, the intricacies of how he runs his company, how I run mine, we don't discuss that. That's not what the association is about. But yeah, the numbers are staggering. There's actually more companies, I think, last check, in the Treasure Valley functioning legal than probably the rest of the state put together.

Rick:

Technically legal.

Brett:

Well, the cool thing about that is, say if you have 29 as part of the association now, then you have a pretty good opportunity for growth, if you can get everybody just to kind of understand what the mission is, which is [crosstalk 00:24:21].

Rick:

That is the battle. That is the biggest battle.

Lee:

[inaudible 00:24:25].

Rick:

Overcome old school thought; become more 21st century innovative; like you say, using those tools; put those tools in your box. Doesn't necessarily mean you have to be that way, but there's still guys out there doing handwrites, cash only, one truck, two truck situations. And two trucks may be all that's needed in a specific area. You know, if you live in Donnelly then yeah. I mean, really, two, three trucks in that whole valley up there, the Cache Valley could... or, Cache Valley, wow; Valley County.

Brett:

Valley County. Adams County too, kind of up that way, yeah.

Rick:

I lived in Cache Valley. But yeah, you know, that may be all that's needed in that area. But, can they still communicate with the outside world? Can they use a computer? Do they have cell phone? Using Towbook dispatching, or a form of, so you can email receipts. Can you use a Square to receive payments? Things like, you know? And, can it all go inside of a truck with a good trained operator? You know what I'm saying? Unfortunately some of us don't want to change much, but it's going to be an eventuality. In our business we didn't have digital dispatching until probably recently, and that was forced on us.

Nick:

Well, eventually you got to keep up or you're going to get left behind. That's true with any industry.

Brett:

And especially if you want to grow. I just tell people, "Yeah, if you want to grow," but also I say, "Even if you want to maintain."

Nick:

Yeah.

Brett:

Even if you don't... You're not trying to conquer the world in your industry, but if you just want to maintain the business that you've accumulated over your 30 X amount of years, at some point you have to digitize, or you have to at least keep up with what's going on just to maintain that growth that you've worked so hard for.

Rick:

Absolutely.

Lee:

And you open your eyes and you realize the different options. Like, exactly what Rick said, that was me. So when I started towing, and I'm sure it was the same, there were no cell phones. We had a pager. And when you got a call, guess what? Your boss gave you a roll of dimes at the beginning of your shift, and that was to find a payphone and call the dispatch to get your next call. You had to write it down on a pad of paper. And you had to flip pages in a map because there was no GPS either. I was so against... And I'm a computer major. That's what I went to school for. I didn't want to go to this digital. No, I've got this. But then you realize... It might be a learning curve, it might be a transition, it might be that big step that you're so afraid of, we all fear change, but the efficiency is amazing, and it brings that bottom dollar way closer.

Brett:

Yeah.

Rick:

It is neat when you can take one step out of the equation and you've just saved 15 minutes. And in our business, 15 minutes times... You know, we average 40-ish phone calls a day.

Nick:

It all adds up.

Brett:

It adds up.

Lee:

Yep.

Brett:

And sometimes I tell people, let's say that computers aren't your thing, or Zoom meetings or setting all that up, that's not really your thing; then go find somebody that that is their thing, and let them help you move along. I mean, it may not be your... You might be the equipment, the driver; that's your wheelhouse. And then say, okay, well then find a way to find somebody and work it into the budget to help you grow.

Rick:

That's the whole thing about association. Now I've got all these people that I communicate with, and so long as we can have a level conversation, and we take the competition and set it to the side, we both have a common goal. "Hey, who do you use for this? Who do you use for that?" You know, "Have you got a better buy on straps?" Things like that, those are common, good goals. And I think it's great to be able to communicate.

Rick:

We haven't... This is a newer, younger group of people. I'm going to step on a branch and say you're probably a good 10 years younger than I am, and so-

Brett:

Maybe, yeah.

Rick:

Maybe 15.

Lee:

Are we sitting down by age?

Rick:

It's good to see a guy like yourself at your age at this level in your business-

Lee:

Absolutely.

Rick:

... and willing to open doors and cross boundaries. I mean, you built this. This is cool right here. You know, who in the world would ever think of sitting in a recycling center and having a, what do we call these, podcasts?

Lee:

Podcast.

Brett:

Podcast.

Nick:

Podcast.

Rick:

Yeah, yeah. I wouldn't have. And so it helps keep me young on that side of it. Even though I'm not the physical guy I used to be-

Lee:

That's not the truth. You're [inaudible 00:29:33].

Rick:

... but I'm communicating with this younger group in our industry that does have their eyes open and wants be a part of something for a better future.

Brett:

As long as you're willing to learn, I don't care whether you're 80 or 20. Some people are 20 and they just think they already know everything and they're not willing to learn anything else.

Rick:

Sure.

Brett:

I think they're just in as bad a shape as the 80 year old guy that says, "I'm good, I'm done learning."

Rick:

And the cool this is, we can say, "Hit the bricks, kid." Because if you don't want to learn, I got nothing for you.

Brett:

Yeah. Because I mean, everything is always evolving. Things are changing. I mean, even when we started doing podcasts... We started out with our pipe business, and then we're like, "Hey, on the scrap side is where we have a lot of influence and we know a lot of people, and we can help drive people's businesses that are doing shit the right way." And I think that's the biggest feel-good about the podcast for us, is we get to sit down with guys, operators, owners, whatever it is, people that are running good shops, that are a good business... they're good operators, they're doing it the right way, they're trying to do something good for-

Rick:

And they care about their business.

Brett:

... their industry, their business. They care about their business. And even on the recycling end, we try and bring people in here that people don't think about. "Oh, tow companies? They're really involved in the recycling business?" We're like, "Yeah! Tow companies are a big, big part of our business." And try and-

Rick:

It ends up in our yard before it ends up in yours.

Brett:

Yeah. We try and bring those people to the top and just say, "Hey, you guys are a big part of our business. We appreciate your business. We appreciate people that run a good, tight ship." You know, I'm always saying, "Let's help each other, whatever it is."

Lee:

And that's another facet of the association, is crossing industry gaps and realizing where those overlaps are. Like you just said: our industry impacts yours, yours impacts us, and that happens more than people know.

Brett:

Oh yeah. Yeah, it's a big deal.

Lee:

Being able to bring those people together and make... Like Rick was saying, there's people that you can now talk to. And I mean the reality, like I said in the beginning, I don't do heavy-duty towing. Well guess what? When my trucks break down, it means I don't have a truck to tow them. Who do I call? I call Rick.

Brett:

Yeah. The old saying, "Steel sharpens steel." You try and get with the best, and that's the way I've always said: find me the best operator in whatever industry, I want to be around them. Because that's how you learn. I mean, they may not be doing the same thing you're doing every day, but they've found a way to be really good at what they do.

Rick:

Oh, and it's clear when you work with these people. That's what got me sucked into you guys. I see your trucks; there is nothing more bad ass than-

Lee:

I was just going to say bad ass, yeah.

Rick:

... your heavy haul industry.

Brett:

Thank you.

Rick:

They are slick. And some of them might be 20 years old, but you'd never know it. Because they are done right, they're clean, your equipment's clean.

Lee:

Maintained.

Rick:

You guys do a great job of keeping your scrap area clean when you're breaking stuff down. You know, if I pull a truck in I don't have to worry about losing a tire. You know, stuff like that. It's not like when I started as a kid, rolling through the dirt mud road with all the broken parts and pieces surfacing, taking out side walls. You guys run a clean industry, and that's what... And you communicate well.

Nick:

One thing I've always-

Rick:

You got a great staff.

Brett:

Oh yeah, for sure.

Nick:

One thing I've always appreciated about you, Rick, is you've been willing to call me when we are fucking up out there.

Brett:

I love it, yeah!

Nick:

Because that's the call I want. I want that call probably more than the call like, "Thank you." You know, I want that call.

Brett:

Because that's how you get better.

Nick:

Yeah. Because I want to know-

Lee:

If you don't know what's broke you can't fix it.

Nick:

Yeah, because you're like, "Man, I was out there; no one helped me." And you know, when we fix those problems we set up an area. And I don't know if today or tomorrow I'm going to show you our new area that we have set up too for all the cars that you guys haul in. You know? Because I think you called me, Lee, when this COVID thing happened, and you're like, "Are you guys going to be open? Because I got a full yard." And that would put your business, it would put a little damper on your business's store stuff if you can't get rid of some scrap. And I'm like, "No, we're open."

Lee:

And I even asked to borrow a forklift so I could [inaudible 00:34:06].

Nick:

Yeah!

Brett:

I would have brought you one.

Nick:

And that gets into, people just don't realize how important the towers are. If the towers weren't out there picking up all the junk that needs to be hauled off that's at end of life, that needs to be hauled to a recycler, our streets would just be rattled with scrap metal.

Rick:

Well, and there was no BS in that whole beginning of COVID. I did the same thing: "Hey man, you going to be open? Cool. I just got 15 cars cleared; I'm going to flood you. I'm dumping everything right now. The market's still up and you don't lie to me." "Hey, the market's probably going to drop, and so, yes, this is your opportunity."

Nick:

Get it in.

Rick:

So, boom. I mean, this is the least amount of cars I've had in my yard in five years.

Nick:

Well that's because it's less people driving right now. And then that's starting to open; you're probably filling in. Is it starting to open back up around your end?

Rick:

Yeah, yeah.

Nick:

Okay. That's good to hear.

Rick:

Which has been good. I'm starting to see pavement that I haven't seen in a long time, and have the ability to try to clean it up a little bit instead of keep burying it day after day after day.

Brett:

Well, people just don't even think about all those little things that are affected, like by the stay-at-home order, this or that. Well, that's a lot less people on the road, which means that's a lot less tows. It's a lot less accidents. It's a lot less... I mean, just the trickle down. People, if you really want to dig into it, I mean, get industry by industry and how it affects them? A lot of people wouldn't even take it into consideration.

Rick:

And a lot of it's a guessing game from here on out.

Brett:

Yeah.

Rick:

You know?

Brett:

So if people want to get ahold of you guys, Tow Association, and people wanted to hear more about what you guys are doing, whether they're state legislator or whether they're another tow company that likes what you're doing, what's the best way to get ahold of you?

Lee:

Well, easiest thing is to get on the website, and they can contact us or whatever: idahotow.org. Or 208-240-9020 is the number for the association. If no one answers, you can leave a message. Every call gets returned, absolutely that day.

Brett:

Okay. And we'll put those up on the video, so if somebody's driving down the road and they don't have a pen, we'll put it up so they can watch it.

Rick:

Right on.

Brett:

Well thank you guys. Man, it's good. I appreciate you guys coming by.

Nick:

Yeah, thanks.

Lee:

Thanks for having us.

Rick:

Killer.

Lee:

Yeah, it was awesome.

Brett:

Thanks for everything.

Rick:

Love to do it again.

Nick:

You got it.

Brett:

And I look forward to sitting together... It'd be nice to sit back in a year and say, "Okay, now how many members do you have?"

Lee:

Right.

Rick:

Yeah.

Lee:

I'm there.

Rick:

Me too. Me too.

Brett:

All right. Thanks again.

Rick:

Thanks for having us. Appreciate it. Have a great day.

Nick:

Thanks.

Rick:

Good.

Narrator 1:

Thank you for listening to another episode of Recycled Idaho. And as we continue the journey across this great state, we look forward to bringing you more stories of people and organizations putting in the work to do the right thing.