Lady tow driver knows her business

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004

DeAnna Benson will tell you that the stares and the double-takes don’t bother her much anymore. She’s sort of gotten used to it.

Even so, she’ll be the first to grant you that it’s not every day you see a lady tow-truck driver.

Benson, friends call her “DeDe,” drives a tow for Jett Towing and Automotive out of Adamsville.

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“Sure, I get looks — everywhere I go,” Benson shrugs as she goes about hooking up two vehicles involved in an accident on a Demopolis side street. “But ya know, ya just gotta do what ya just gotta do sometimes to pay those bills.”

She considers her reply for a moment, then adds, “Well, I wouldn’t want you to think I’d do just anything.”

This last is followed by a boisterous laugh. In a world of mindless conformity and keeping up with the Joneses, DeAnna Benson marches to a decidedly different drummer.

Before she started driving a tow truck, Benson operated heavy machinery for 10 years. Then about a year and a half ago business started getting slow and she found herself out of a job.

She heard about the job driving a tow truck and decided, how tough could it be?

“It’s really not that tough,” Benson insists, answering her own question.

But that doesn’t keep the eyebrows from arching when the tow truck pulls up and Benson steps out.

“The men look at me like I can’t possibly know what I’m doing,” snorts Benson. “I actually had one tell me I should be home, barefoot and pregnant. The women tell me, ‘Way to go.'”

Benson handles mostly wrecks, abandoned cars, DUI tows and what she calls “voluntary repos.”

“Driving a tow, we have to go by the same rules the semis do,” she points out. “That gets a little tedious, dealing with DOT, because they can pull you over at anytime for a surprise inspection, stuff like that.”

But the really tedious part of the job, she adds, is the driving. Jett Towing goes all over Alabama and up into parts of Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

“I’m home every night,” Benson says. “But my minimum day is 10 hours, and I’ve put in 12, 14, 16 hours lots of times. That’s a lot of hours.”

Driving a tow may not be the most dangerous job out there, but it does have its hazards. Just a couple of weeks ago Benson had a battery to blow up on her as she was attempting to jump off a disabled car.

“There’s always an element of danger,” Benson concedes. “There’s always the chance of a chain breaking, of losing a tow. It’s always in the back of your mind. Thank God, it’s never happened to me — knock on wood.”

Benson says she’s tried more traditional jobs and they’re not for her.

“I’ve worked in an office before,” she says. “To me, it’s just boring. My dad always told me, ‘You’ll be happier if you work with your hands.’ He’s right. If the money’s right, I’ll probably stay with it. It’s all about that money, ain’t it?”

Benson finishes hooking up her second tow. The driver of a late model sedan slows to gawk at what is very probably his first-ever lady tow driver.

Benson notices the attention and throws back her head and emits a throaty laugh. Then she climbs behind the wheel and prepares to drive away.