Cold temperatures keeping law enforcement, towing companies busy

DEFOREST, Wis. (WMTV) -- The cold temperatures are causing car troubles, keeping law enforcement and tow truck companies busy on the roads as vehicles are breaking down.

Between 11 p.m. Tuesday night and 2 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, the Southwest Region of Wisconsin State Patrol had 243 calls for service, the majority of which they said were due to engine problems.

"With the extreme cold it does have more of a mechanical issue with vehicles and that can cause vehicles to stall out or the fuel to gel up, especially in diesel trucks and those kinds of vehicles," said Sgt. Bret Manke with Wisconsin State Patrol.

By about 5 p.m. Wednesday, that number was over 300.

"Sometimes it's just as simple as assisting them getting a tow truck, taking them some place warm while they do make their own arrangements with a tow truck," said Sgt. Manke. "Sometimes it's just putting lights on, changing a tire, or getting them fuel."

In the cold, a variety of problems can pop up in both cars and commercial trucks.

"Everybody is out on the roads and they have gone in the ditch, they're breaking down, we're having gas lines freezing, we're having semis break down with diesel fuel gelling up," said Todd Menzel, COO of Prairie Land Towing.

With all of the breakdowns and car troubles in these temperatures, Prairie Land Towing is being kept busy.

"Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people literally by the hour are breaking down, and we're being called to respond," Menzel said.

Menzel said they have locations in three states in the Midwest, and said they've been receiving so many calls that they are now 24 to 48 hours behind, and are prioritizing emergency calls first.

He said that across the region, tow truck companies are busy.

"There's a huge back up, every towing company is stretched to its absolute limits, we're trying to help as many people as possible, but even our own guys, one of our own trucks broke down."

Those slow downs don't help the current demand.

"We typically do about 4-600 calls a day, so I would say that we're probably upwards of 1,000 calls a day between all facilities," he said.

Menzel said that the cold temperatures plus the cold wind blowing on vehicles as they drive at high speeds down highways can serve to make mechanical components even colder.

Both Menzel and Sgt. Manke said if you don't have to go outside and be on the roads, you should probably stay in to be safe.