The long haul – towing company honoured

Hans Vidal stands by one of his tow trucks outside his home in Meadow Lake.

By Mac Christie

Hans Vidal can’t count the number of times he’s gone through the routine of getting up in the middle of the night, warming up his tow truck and going out to help someone with vehicle troubles.

But apart from a period in the 1980s, he’s been doing that – and running Vidal Towing – for 40 years.

“We’re on call 24/7,” he said in the kitchen of his home in Meadow Lake. “We get called out at some weird hours.”

The company started out in the 1970s when Vidal, who was in the semi business at the time, took over a friend’s tow trucks. He ran it until 1983, when his wife Alice, who does dispatch for the company, said they needed a break.

“We were working night and day,” she said. “It was very busy.”

But they couldn’t stay out of the business. In 1990 they started up again because there was a need for towing in the area.

Over the time they’ve been in business, they’ve outlasted several other companies.

“People get tired of getting up at night,” Hans said by way of explanation. “It’s not a pleasant thing to get up when it’s 30 or 40 below for a boost job.”
Hans sees what he does as a service, noting he’s not in it for the money.

“I’d like to think I help people out,” he said.

Over the years Hans has towed to destinations as far away as Edmonton and Calgary, and routinely serves the Beauval and La Loche areas.

The company is a member of CAA, meaning they cover all roadside assistance calls, from tire changes to fuel deliveries. Recently, they were honoured by the association, one of 10 companies of the close to 200 in the province selected for an award of excellence.

While winning the award was awesome, Hans said he doesn’t feel they deserve it.

“I phoned them up and said, ‘Are you sure you didn’t make a mistake?’ Hans recalled. “You do the best you can, but sometimes you feel that isn’t good enough.”

Still, he noted it was nice to see the people who call them daily, dispatching the CAA calls.

“Since then, when they dispatch a call, you know who you’re talking to,” he said. “It really makes a world of difference.”

Part of the reason they won, said Alice, is their customer service and honesty.

“I make a point to call a customer, or have a driver call a customer if they can’t be there in a certain time,” she said. “People respect that.”

The problem is you never know when business will pick up, noted Hans.

“It’s feast or famine,” he explained. “There’s days that there’s nothing, then all of a sudden there’s a whole raft of calls.”

Over the years, Hans, 70, has taken countless calls, often responding to about 40 per cent of the business’ 50-100 calls per week.

A few stick out, including a month when he pulled a CAT and a road grader out of lakes in La Loche and Ile-a-la Crosse, respectively.

“It was five miles out on the ice and it took us a week,” he recalled of the CAT that was in sunk in about 45 feet of water. “That was tough getting out because it took the divers several hours to find it because it was buried in the lake bottom.

“I think it took us three days to get it out of the mud. Then it came to the surface easy,” he laughed.

But in a business that deals with accidents, Hans has also been to several grisly scenes.

“A guy was pinned in the back window of a truck,” he said of one accident. “I was talking to him and we picked the truck up. The jaws of life were there and when we got the pressure off him, he was gone.

“That stayed with me for a long time.”

But Hans, who Alice joked will be working until he’s 101, said the accidents don’t deter him.

“Some things are very, very hard to take,” he admitted, “but at the end of the day, you did what you had to do.”


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