Towing Companies Doing The Heavy Lifting for Gas Industry

WHEELING – As the oil and natural gas industry has grown dramatically throughout the Ohio Valley during the past few years, so has the demand for heavy duty towing and recovery services.

Two well-established longtime towing companies – Bill’s Towing in Belmont County and Middle Creek Garage in Triadelphia – are two such businesses that have experienced a significant increase in business during the past few years because of the dramatic increase in service calls pertaining to heavy vehicles associated with the oil and gas industry. Along with the increase in calls comes a variety of challenges in the 24-hour-a-day towing and recovery business.

Recovery can include anything from working with load stabilization, shift and rollover services to transporting and clean-up services.

Chad Coulson, co-owner of Bill’s Towing, said it is obviously a matter of the numbers and geography. He said they have seen a significant increase in service calls regarding to the oil and gas industry around East Ohio simply because there are a lot more heavy vehicles traveling more back roads and highways.

Coulson said his family’s business saw an opportunity to expand its towing business in 2009 after the oil and gas business began to take hold around the Upper Ohio Valley about the same time.

“We saw there was an opportunity for us to expand. … There are more vehicles on the roads – and the roads they are traveling are not made for what they are doing, and that causes some problems,” he said.

Bill’s Towing expanded from its Bridgeport shop in 2010 by adding a heavy truck division in Industrial Park near Ohio University Eastern in Belmont County. He said by adding the Industrial Park location, their business was able to employ an additional 12 people.

Coulson said along with a towing business comes a variety challenges – some involving crucial decision-making. He said there have been instances where they had to perform delicate load stabilization and shift services on accident scenes so emergency personnel could extricate a victim from a vehicle. He said many times they have to use large air bags in conjunction with tow trucks to shift and remove loads.

Coulson and his brother, co-owner Ty Coulson, along with several other crew members, were recently honored by American Towman Magazine for actions they took in aiding rescue personnel on the scene of a tractor-trailer accident during a snowstorm on Interstate 70 in St. Clairsville in 2014. They aided in lifting a large truck after a woman became trapped beneath it.

Coulson said when they are dealing with such heavy loads in the oil and gas industry it can present a unique set of challenges – especially when they find themselves working along such narrow back roads around the valley.

“They are on single-lane roads, where it is barely wide enough for a car and they’re trying to take a tractor trailer down though – then if something happens, we have, say, 8 feet of roadway to work with,” he said.

In addition, Coulson said they train many hours with stabilizing and recovery services with local fire departments throughout the year. He said they recently participated in a class at Belmont College that was geared specifically toward recovery services in the oil and gas industry.

“They trained us and, in return, we trained them with what we can do – so if there ever is an incident, we can work together,” he added.

As a third-generation family towing business which offers 24-hour emergency towing and recovery services, Middle Creek Garage in Triadelphia also has seen a dramatic increase in demand for their services over the past few years. Middle Creek Garage handles every aspect of the recovery, including stabilization, relocation, cleanup and transport services.

Middle Creek Garage Vice President Douglas Knollinger said the firm also has encountered a much larger demand over the past three years for their specialized recovery and equipment services due to the oil and gas industry.

While Middle Creek Garage covers most of the tri-state region, Knollinger said the company has been extremely busy responding to calls in Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties. He said once the oil and gas boom hit the valley a few years ago, his company decided to invest into additional equipment and trucks. The company recently purchased a heavy-duty, 65-ton tow and recovery truck with a large rotating crane.

Knollinger said they have dealt with a lot of very delicate recovery and load shift situations over the years. He said he is very proud of the company’s many accomplishments and professionalism over the years.

“We have been in business since the ’30s. We are a third-generation business. I have been doing this all of my life,” he added.

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