All-ways and Anyway
By Darin Burt
Some companies wait around for calls to come in and then have to pass because they don’t have the specific equipment needed for the job. All-Ways Towing, of Sandy, Oregon, prides itself on the fact that there is no job they can't handle.
In their fleet are 40 trucks including severe service vehicles and wreckers. For heavy-duty hauls, there are 10 lowboy trailers 10 and 11-axle Aspens.
All-Ways also sells and rents used construction equipment that they’ve rescued and refurbished to both local buyers and overseas markets. The auxiliary business - Buzzard Equipment - adds even more depth to the work that the company can accomplish.
Before going into business in 1988, owner Pat O’Malley’s previous experience had been in a cabinet shop. But when the economy tanked and custom cabinet orders slowed, he used his time to sand and repaint the company service truck. His first shop was located in his mom’s barn, but he soon outgrew that space (or was he kicked out?) and opened a professional auto body shop. A year later, he added a 1972 Chevy – a $1,500 investment he converted into a wrecker with a sling tow unit. A rollbed, from Western Wrecker Sales in Portland, soon followed, and the company was able to get onto the rotation with the local police department – they now cover four zones and tow for city, county and state authorities.
In recent years, All-Ways has moved further away from roadside service and passenger vehicle tows towards dealing with commercial towing, recovery and hauling of heavy equipment.
“We started out with a Landoll trailer for motorhome work and larger disabled vehicles,” O’Malley says, “and it evolved into moving construction and logging equipment, and now that’s a big part of our business.”
Because of the challenges and variety of equipment hauled, crews need experience not only in driving and towing, but also in the basic operation and repair of machinery.
“Some of our guys will start in towing cars, and then work their way up to the bigger stuff,” O’Malley says. “We want guys who are organized, clean and meticulous about what they do.
“If we didn’t have such a hardworking crew, we couldn’t do what we do,” he adds regarding his 20 member team. Pat’s brother Mike, who owns a log hauling business, helps with logistics of many of the extreme moves.
There is no class or seminar for learning to handle specialized equipment. Especially for logging equipment, because of the extreme height, width and weight, the only way to learn is on the job. A yarder, a machine used to bring logs to the landing, could have a 50 ft tower and weigh more than 70 tons. Another challenge is that most logging equipment moves on tracks rather than wheels. As O’Malley quips, preparing a broken down machine of this type for a move isn’t a job you can simply do with a crescent wrench.
“They’re all hydrostat driven, so if they’re not running they won’t move. You might be able to pull it a little, but you’d never get it onto a trailer. In that case, you pull the center axle out of the drive motor and then it will track freely,” O’Malley explains.
On such a recovery, All-Ways will bring a tow truck to help pull the machine onto the trailer. Once the lowboy is detached from the truck, the wrecker can move in for a straight pull over the deck. Both Landoll and Aspen lowboy trailers are also equipped with 21,000-pound winches.
Going for the Gold
Not every haul made by All-Ways is local – some are not even in the country. O’Malley and his crew recently took the massive job of moving the excavation and mining equipment for their neighbor Todd Hoffman, star of the Discovery Channel reality show, “Gold Rush: Alaska”, from Oregon to Yukon, Canada in the Klondike region, near Dawson City. The journey took 12 trucks 31 days.
“We had to tear a lot of pieces down to get them onto the lowboys,” O’Malley recalls. “We had nine trucks and two pilot cars, and we also sent our service and mechanic truck along with the caravan. Wreckers were utilized to disassemble machines to lighten loads during road bans on the trip.
The trip was unlike any other All-Ways had attempted, and in hindsight, O’Malley admits that they weren’t prepared for the conditions.
“People were laughing because we brought California trucks to the Arctic,” he jokes now.
“Everything is on permafrost up there and they want you to go through when it’s frozen. We fought a storm all the way; it was constantly minus-thirty degrees, and the wet trucks weren’t getting along with that weather. There’s hardly any flat roads; you’re either going up or down hill.
“We wrecked a truck and had another truck carrying a Cat D10 that spun out on Steamboat grade, spit all of its chains and got stuck overnight. The trucks have lockers, so once you spin out you can’t back up.
“There’s nowhere to just pull over and park, so you have to do whatever you can to get from one point to the next.”
With their large lot of excavation equipment, All-Ways has been able to work with the U.S. Forest Service doing emergency road repairs and maintenance. They also perform tows for the forest service and logging outfits in the area mountains. No one logging road is the same; it could be hard packed clay, rock or even a freshly pioneered stretch with loose soil. All-Ways utilizes four-wheel drive wreckers and rollbeds on many of the off-road recoveries. The wreckers are outfitted with Century and Miller equipment.
“You have to know what the story is before you leave,” O’Malley says.
On one particular move, the forest road gave way, tipping over a log processor worth nearly a million dollars, while it was still hooked to the trailer. “We ended up going up with our wreckers, putting about eight lines on it, sliding it back up onto the road and getting it unloaded,” O’Malley recalls. “It took about 12 hours to move it just a few feet, but we did it without any damage.”
Snow? No problem. All-Ways sends out Marooka six-passenger snow cat, equipped with a front-mounted winch and rear tow hook, for recovering snowmobiles.
Ready, willing and able
All-Ways Towing has built its success on finding and capitalizing on niche markets, and remaining open to opportunities. There was even a short time when O’Malley tried his hand at gold mining in California. He still has a nugget on his desk – a reminder that there is great value in every asset.
“If one part of our operation isn’t working, the other part is,” O’Malley says. “There’s never a slow day and all seasons are busy ones around here.”