Founded in 1967 by A.E. (Pete) Johnson, Pete Johnson Towing has been serving Huntsville and the surrounding area for nearly fifty years. When Pete first started his tow business, he had one truck and was headquartered at a Mobil gas station. Over time, the company has grown to a staff of six fulltime employees and a variety of equipment that allows them to serve even more. Mr. Johnson passed away in 2013, leaving the company in the hands of his wife Patsy and son Allan. Having been raised around towing his entire life, and working for the company for years, Allan has been able to continue his father’s legacy. When we spoke with Allan, he was getting ready to head to Baltimore for the American Towman Exposition to learn about the newest equipment and techniques available to provide his customers with the best towing experience possible.
A wrecker service is one of those things you typically don’t plan for, but hope you can find when you need. That need is usually on the heels of an event such as an accident, breakdown, or getting locked out of your car. In those already stressful situations, you want to feel whoever you call will be professional, knowledgeable, and caring. The current staff at Pete Johnson Towing is filled with people dedicated to the tow life (which is good, since they offer services 24/7/365, and all drivers are on call to assist the public with their needs). Some of the drivers have been working at Pete Johnson Towing for upwards of 13 years, so they know all about service and dedication.
While the majority of the work comes from local folks with misfortunes, Pete Johnson Towing offers a wide range of services. They will tow or retrieve anywhere in the great state of Texas, but it doesn’t end with cars. They have towed many odd jobs, like propane tanks and even a train caboose off the train tracks. With the use of a rotator truck and a lowboy trailer, they were able to haul it away. Another fun, odd tow was a storm shelter. They pulled it out of the ground, put it on a truck, drove it to the new location, and set it in the hole.
Some jobs, like the train caboose, storm shelter, and some traffic accidents, require the use of more than one truck, so the drivers utilize headsets to be able to communicate with each other and run the jobsite in a smooth and professional manner. Due to continuous bottle necking concerns, the highway department likes as few lanes as possible to be affected during a cleanup after an accident. That is where the rotator trucks come in handy. They are able to park off to the side and load the cars without having to block lanes of traffic. Occasionally, the guys will have to tow something late at night. If the car is still on the road, it is easy enough, but if the car ends up in a ditch or some other dark place, Allan will bring the Jeep and shine bars of light down on the scene to make the job quick and safe.
When you walk into Pete Johnson Towing, you are greeted with a warm office, one wall lined with plaques, framed newspaper clippings, and awards. Pete Johnson Towing has been a sponsor of the Walker County Fair and local sports teams for many years. Another way they give back is by working with MADD to stage an accident at the high school when they hold their rallies. Employees at Pete Johnson are all against drunk driving. They have had several instances where someone has called them to unlock their car and when the tow truck arrives, the driver is too drunk to drive. Allan says sometimes they will just refuse to unlock the car, other times they will tow the car and driver to where they need to go—whatever it takes to keep the others on the road safe. When asked what sets his towing company apart from all the others in town, Allan replied, “We don’t just want one-time business. We want to be your towing company. We want that phone call every time you need anything towed or unlocked. To do that, we have to do a good job, and we have to put the customer first.” Allan also makes safety a top priority. The straps and chains are all tested for quality, and truck cleanliness and maintenance is a daily task. They wash their trucks as often as possible, not only to show the pride in what they do, but also as a sign they care. “We want our customers to feel good about the job. We keep our equipment looking good, so they feel better about trusting their car to be towed by us.” This philosophy of caring was passed down from Pete and is a contributing factor to the history and success of Pete Johnson Towing.
Allan’s seven year-old son Robert has already been bitten by the towing bug. Anytime Allan gets called out in the night to pop a lock or whatever, his son loves to tag along and help. Allan said, “He knows if he goes with me, we won’t get much sleep. Sometimes we get eight hours, sometimes we get eight minutes. Towing is a lifestyle. You have to love it, or you won’t make it. We just do what we gotta do.” Anytime he’s asked if he’s going to tow when he gets bigger, Robert replies in the affirmative making that three generations of Johnson men to serve the city of Huntsville and beyond for years to come.
If you find yourself in need of assistance (or you have a need like a propane tank that will add to their collection of odd tows), you can call 936-291-1119. Pete Johnson Towing is located at 631 Ryans Ferry Road in Huntsville.