Let’s start at the beginning… Simon Birch

Simon is a fascinating character and since he was a lad he was intrigued by the Recovery Industry and even joined the Army as a Rec Op with the REME to get the best experience and training. After a few years in the private sector he moved to the USA and has spent the last 20 years as a Recovery Operator in the States. Now settled with his family in Wisconsin, he has never looked back but he still keeps close contact with the UK, both through his friendships with UK operators and as a contributor and moderator to the Recovery World Forum, where he is known as Hoover! So how is our industry seen from an Trans-Atlantic perspective?

What was you first paid job?

Testing the air con system at the British Leyland Metro plant !!!

How did you break into recovery?

I’ve wanted to do it since I was 12. I rode along with several local ops as soon as I was old enough for the experience.

 

Simon Birch

How long have you worked in the recovery industry?

Since 1981. I joined the Army REME to train as a recovery operator. It was good experience because if you can recover a tank, you can recover anything!

 

When did you leave the UK to live in USA?

It was way back on June 12th 1991

 

Why did you leave the UK?

After 6 years in the army I worked for a couple of large operators. I was always fascinated by the USA and when I met an operator from the States, we got on like a house on fire. It made me even more determined to work in the States, and when I was offered a recovery job out here I jumped at the opportunity.

 

What work path did you take upon arriving in USA?

I was a heavy recovery driver for Don’s Towing Service in Madison,Wisconsin.

How is recovery different from the UK?

There is a lot more room to work, most of the trucks and buses are a much simpler design and therefore easier to hook up and tow. Back in to 90s there was a big difference in attitude. The States had different standards and better equipment. These days the gap has shrunk and the UK is getting more like the States, but the training is better in the UK.

 

What’s your current job title?

Owner of Liberty Towing Service,Madison,Wisconsin

 

How many vehicles do you operate?

5

 

What was your first truck?

The first truck I operated in the field was an army Scammell Eka.

The first truck I bought was an International 4200 21’ flatbed

 

What is or has been your favourite truck?

The Peterbilt 378 with a Century 60 ton rotator that I operated at Johnson’s Wrecker in Orlando,Florida

 

What was your worst buy?

2010 International flatbed. Total pile of garbage. Broke down 32 times in its first year of service

 

What was the best time to be in breakdown/recovery?

For me, the mid 90’s were the most profitable and challenging.

 

What do you feel is the most positive thing about the industry?

The public image and perception for sure. Also, the level of training being offered around the world now, makes it much easier to break into the industry. The standards have got much better. Ops are smarter and more professional in their approach now which can only be good for our industry.

 

What frustrates you about the industry?

The backstabbing between fellow ops and the constant need for one upmanship. It’s much worse here in the USA than in the UK. In the UK you can talk openly and directly, but in the US you have to be a bit more wary or people take advantage. but then that’s the American way. It’s hard to deal with, but it’s worth putting up with it because the lifestyle out here is so good, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Do you expect to see any changes in the industry over the next few years?

I would like to see it more evenly regulated in the US. Apart from a couple of States there is no mandatory training in the US, so I’d like to see us follow the UK.

 

What’s the most important lesson you have learned in life?

Be honest to your self and your peers.

 

What’s the biggest cock up you ever made?

I’ve made hundreds of mistakes over the years but I’ve been quite lucky and managed to avoid any disasters.

 

Do you have any hobbies outside work?

Music is very important to me and I love to read.

 

Who do you think has been (or is) our best prime minister?

I have never voted. Sorry to say it but not sure it makes much of a difference.

 

What kind of car do you drive?

Jeep Cherokee.

 

Do you have a favourite car or one you would like to own?

Mk 2 Ford Escort RS 1800.

 

Who in life do you most admire?

My wife.

 

What was the first record you bought?

Gary Glitter. I love you love me love

 

What is your favourite book?

Ishmael or Margrave of the Marshes ( John Peel’s Autobiography)

 

What is your favourite film?

The Italian Job, the original one.

Who is your favourite comedian?

Jimmy Carr.

 

What is your favourite food?

Indian.

 

Where is your favourite place, anywhere?

I lived in Edinburgh for a year in the mid 80’s. Loved it. Chicago a close second.

 

What alternative career would you have favoured if it had not been in the motor trade?

Radio DJ. Not given up on that dream yet.

 

If you could have a wish, what would you change most in our industry?

To keep going forward with both training and equipment.

 

 

 

Hoover