Brandon is only nine years old, but his career plans are already set in stone—when he grows up, he wants to operate a heavy-duty rotator.
by Iva Kestrankova
Even though Kevin Skinner’s son Brandon still goes to elementary school, when asked about his future plans, he confidently answers that he wants to be a tow truck operator. One would think that his parents or grandparents have influenced his determination, but surprisingly, Brandon was not born into a towing family. Instead, his passion for tow trucks developed while watching Canadian TV shows Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue: 401.
Despite his young age, Brandon’s love for the towing and recovery industry can be traced to when he was only three or four years old, when Kevin found him playing with toy trucks in his bedroom with the lights off one evening.
Originally published in Tow Canada, January-February 2022
“When I turned the lights on, I saw all his trucks flipped over, because there was a wreck,” recalled Kevin. “He said he was working the night shift, cleaning up on the Coquihalla [highway in British Columbia].”
Years passed, and watching the Highway Thru Hell series on TV and playing with his toy trucks became not enough for Brandon. With his younger brother Tyler, they started dreaming about having their own clubhouse.
To fulfill his children’s wish, Kevin, assisted by his father-in-law, built a kid’s clubhouse made of pallets in the backyard. However, from the beginning, it was clear that this would not be a typical clubhouse. Knowing his oldest son’s passion for tow trucks, Kevin came up with the idea of constructing a tow truck shop. And that is how “BTE Towing”—bearing the three brothers’ initials: Brandon, Tyler, and Ethan—was born, in 2019
"Brandon’s dream is to one day meet his favourite tow truck operator, Jamie Davis.”
The exterior and interior of the clubhouse are decorated with different towing equipment and truck part motifs, with heavy-duty truck images and collages hanging on the walls. The interior space also accommodates a small desk from which Brandon “dispatches” his fleet of toy trucks.
After seeing how joyfully his sons played in the new clubhouse, Kevin soon decided to develop the BTE Towing project further, and he built a little BTE Towing garage where his kids could play with their toys. “I made that out of wood, with working lights on the outside and inside,” said Kevin. It took him about two weeks to finish it, and as he recalled, as soon as he brought the small wooden garage into the house, the kids squeezed inside and shut the doors behind them
Even though BTE Towing bears the names of all three brothers, Brandon is the one who is really into towing and recovery. As Kevin explained, seven-year-old Tyler is now more into fire trucks, and Ethan, who is now three years old, likes whatever his brothers do.
Whenever possible, Brandon and his dad attend tow shows held as far as two hours away from their home in Canastota, New York, so Brandon gets a chance to admire shiny tow trucks firsthand. Anytime they make such a trip, they are attired in T-Shirts adorned with the BTE Towing logo, which makes some people think that it is a real towing company. Kevin then has to explain to them the story of how he built this made-up company for his son.
As a heavy equipment operator, Kevin collects heavy equipment diecast models and builds dioramas with construction equipment in his free time. Following his father’s example, Brandon recently became a collector too. Unlike his father, though, he collects heavy-duty tow truck models and posters.
Together, they recently built a diorama showing off Brandon’s rotator models, which they took for a display to a construction equipment model show in Buffalo.
On behalf of his son, Kevin also reaches out to different towing companies to request images of their heavy-duty tow trucks or T-Shirts with their company logo, so his son can collect them.
Over the summer, Brandon and Kevin got invited to a heavy-duty equipment dealership in New Hampshire. “They were teaching guys how to flip cars over with a rotator,” said Kevin. “Brandon got to operate a 50-ton rotator, working with the controls and remotes. That was very cool for him.”
Brandon’s dream is to one day meet his favourite tow truck operator, Jamie Davis, but it is a long way from New York to British Columbia, and so he at least watches his idol every week on TV. He has not missed a single episode. “I like the one with the landslide, when the tractor trailer gets stuck in the mud and they have to pull it out,” said a nine-year-old Brandon.
Even though it will be several years before Brandon might be old enough to embark on the career of his TV favourites, his interest in towing and recovery represents hope for the future of an industry that is struggling to attract new talent. Hopefully, there are more kids like Brandon out there.