AAA Northeast roadside technicians take safety seriously, and it shows.
Already experts at avoiding collisions, injuries and damage in some of the toughest situations, several technicians hold exemplary safety records of five or more years. And AAA recently recognized their everyday excellence, awarding jackets and pins to denote their status.
As you can imagine, AAA roadside technicians have seen it all. So we thought it’d be enlightening to offer some words of wisdom from their side of the windshield.
Barbara Salvo, Roadside Tech-Battery, Connecticut
Salvo, who has been with the club for more than six years, said staying safe on the road is elementary. “I remember my ABCs,” she said. “Always Be Careful.” Her supervisor told her this on her first day, and she passes the message on to new drivers.
“The most important thing is defensive driving. If you think someone is going to do something, assume they will do it,” she said. For instance, if you’re passing through an intersection where another car has a stop sign and you have the right-of-way, “slow down anyway to make sure they don’t pull out in front of you.”
Syed Aftab, Roadside Tech-Flatbed, New Jersey
Aftab, who has worked for AAA for more than 21 years, always performs a thorough pre-trip inspection of the truck before he gets behind the wheel to prevent harm to himself, members, other drivers and the vehicles he tows.
“Most important is the tires make sure they are inflated. If you see a nail or cut in a tire, you’re driving toward disaster,” he said, adding that a blowout can be dangerous and expensive, because the truck will have to be towed. The fleet center is stocked with plenty of spare tires if one needs to be changed out.
Having all of the necessary equipment, particularly chains and straps, is important, too, he said. When you tow a vehicle, it needs to be properly secured with four straps to avoid damage to the member’s vehicle or worse. “You don’t want to lose the car you’re towing, and you don’t want to keep looking in the rearview mirror,” he said. “There is no shortcut to safety.”
Herman Valles, Roadside Tech-Battery, New Jersey
Valles, who has been a AAA technician for more than 10 years, stays safe behind the wheel by practicing 360-degree scanning of what’s going on around him. “Stay focused, take your time and concentrate on the road,” he said.
He pays close attention to people who are speeding and swerving around him. “You can tell some people are running late. They’re watching the clock and not the road,” he said. “It’s better to get there late and safe.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, staying safe on the job has new meaning. Herman and the others do their part to prevent spreading the illness. “COVID is very serious. I take every precaution,” Valles said. Keeping his truck and his surroundings clean and neat, and following guidelines when he interacts with members are important.
“I avoid getting into members’ cars. I don’t touch their keys. I tell the members: ‘It’s to protect you, me and our families,’” he said. “It’s going to be this way for a while. When you do it, it becomes the way you work. It becomes a habit.”
Christina Johnson, Roadside Tech-Battery, New York
Johnson has been with the club for only two years, so she takes the lessons of more experienced drivers to heart. As she maneuvers some of the narrow streets of Manhattan and the Bronx, she contends with pedestrians in the roadway, double-parked cars and taxis stopping abruptly in her path. “I have definitely learned. I was trained very well,” she said. “You have to be aware of your surroundings and understand that anything can happen.”
Check out the video below for more tips, as AAA roadside technicians Jonathan Hadfield and Kurt Thorne discuss their safety techniques.