‘Saving their day’
Mid-Iowa drivers brave conditions to help others
Stranded inside a semi-trailer truck on a gravel road during the middle of winter, a husband and wife were at the mercy of bitter cold temperatures before Mike Rees, co-owner of Mid-Iowa Towing, arrived.
“It was a husband and wife trucking team,” Rees recalled. “They hadn’t seen anyone in two hours. They didn’t even tell me that the truck wasn’t running.”
The couple was somewhere north of Pocahontas, more than 40 miles from Mid-Iowa headquarters in Fort Dodge.
Whiteout conditions prevented Rees from traveling at high speeds to get there.
“Visibility was hardly anything,” he said. “You can’t go fast. If you go in the ditch, who’s going to get you out?”
Rees said the couple had a semi that warmed the cab even though the engine wasn’t running. But that system quit an hour before he got there.
It took Rees three hours to make the drive.
“The first thing I did was got them out of their truck and into mine where the heat was and then I got to work on the truck,” Rees said.
He’s glad he got there when he did.
“They were both in the back of the truck cuddling,” he said. “They were cold. Another half hour or so may not have been good.”
The episode happened about 15 years ago, but was memorable for Rees, who said those are the types of demands a driver faces in the towing business.
Rees and the other drivers at Mid-Iowa have to be ready to respond whether it’s -20 degrees Fahrenheit or 3 a.m.
“There’s been plenty of times, I know I shouldn’t be out there,” Mike Rees said. “But If I don’t, who’s going to?”
In terms of hours, Mike Rees said the job is 24 hours, seven days a week.
“It’s 24 hours,” he said. “The phone comes with me at night.”
That has resulted in some missed opportunities with friends and family.
“If you are getting ready to go out to eat with the wife and kids and the phone rings, you don’t get to go,” he said.
Mike Rees and his wife, Dani Rees, have owned Mid-Iowa Towing since 2010. They purchased the business from Mike Rees’s parents, Roger Rees and Karen Rees.
The company offers 24-hour towing, roadside assistance, lowboy hauling, salvage parts, full U-Haul rental services, mini-storage, unlocks, tire change, fuel delivery, and packing supplies.
Mike Rees and Dani Rees have seen just about everything hooked up to one of their trucks.
“Hot tubs,” Dani Rees said. “The Sno Cone machine shed.”
She added, “If it can go on the road we have most likely towed it.”
“Or stuff that shouldn’t be on the road,” Mike Rees said. “Golf carts, electric scooters.”
Since they assumed ownership of Mid-Iowa, the company has experienced growth in a number of areas, according to Dani Rees.
“We have gone from three trucks to nine trucks,” Dani Rees said. “We went from three employees to 10 employees.”
In 2014, Mid-Iowa won the contract to provide towing service for the city of Fort Dodge.
Since that time, the company has responded whenever Fort Dodge police officers need a vehicle hauled away.
“We get there pretty quick and get it cleaned up so they can get onto their next call,” Dani Rees said.
The company has invested in new equipment in recent times.
“We bought two new flatbeds this year,” Mike Rees said. “2019 model.”
Most of the trucks are remote control operated now, which improves safety and efficiency, Mike Rees said.
“Our big rotator truck is completely remote control,” he said. “I can sit here and run it. It will do anything you want it to.”
Another aspect of the business is hauling construction equipment.
“We haul loaders, dozers, excavators,” Dani Rees said.
“We do a lot of equipment rental,” Mike Rees said. “Those trucks go as far as Scranton, North Dakota. Minneapolis twice a week.”
Mike Rees said crane parts have been delivered to the Port of Houston in Texas.
Dani Rees said although challenging, the business has its benefits.
“I would say it’s actually kind of rewarding,” she said. “If you have mom or kids broke down, they are so happy to see a tow truck pull up and these guys I think get rewarded by it by helping people and saving their day. They have seen good, and they have seen some ugly, too.”
Mike Rees said it takes everyone being on the same page to run a successful operation.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication and be surrounded by the people that believe in you and you believe in each other,” he said. “It’s teamwork. Without her I wouldn’t have done this and without me, she couldn’t have done this. We just mesh. There’s no way we would be where we are without each other.”