Donner Pass is the crucible through which millions of truckers and motorists must pass as they travel Interstate 80 from coast to coast. But, it is considered to be one of the deadliest stretches of road in America. Along with some of the heaviest snowfall in its winter months, this hellish pass boasts elevations over 7,000 feet, white out visibility, and break-neck curves. The heroes who struggle everyday to keep this essential artery of Interstate 80 open are the men and women, the ‘Tow Dogs’ of this mountain.
Hardened by years of experience in this treacherous Sierra Mountain territory, these tow drivers eat, sleep, and breathe their job, eagerly going out at any hour, weathering any storm, to demonstrate their skill, bravery and stamina. Whether it’s uprighting a 70,000 pound big rig sprawled across the highway or winching a capsized car nearly flipped on top of a house, these mountaineers of the towing world are up for the challenge. The reasons for involving themselves in such dangerous employment vary; some do it for the adrenaline rush, some do it for the potential big paydays, but all do it in hopes of rescuing the countless drivers who find themselves wrecked or stranded.
People who – like Becky from “Dependable Tow”, a single mother of three and a force of nature, herself; or Will, from “Running Bear Towing”, an ex-biker, with hopes of a new life on the mountain, supporting his family with an honest job – perform extraordinary tasks everyday, in order to get fellow travelers safely over the mountain. With the common goal of helping drivers get back on the road and the generous payoff in mind, the competition is cutthroat. Stealing tows is a common occurrence, practiced by all these drivers who survive on commission. It’s sink or swim, and in the case of many struggling towing companies isolated up on the mountain, a single tow can mean the difference in keeping the company afloat. For these men and women, towing is their livelihood and they are willing to risk it all, gambling against the highway’s innumerable dangers, to put food on the table and provide for their loved ones.
Along with their livelihoods, these tow drivers stake their own lives every second they’re out on the job. It’s a high-risk game of recovery due to blind curves, poor visibility and other unforeseeable treacheries. They’re easy targets on this frozen, uncontrollable highway. The pressure is on and any mistake or equipment failure could mean life or death for the driver, victims, or innocent motorists. Fatality is a real possibility everyday and this season, a comrade will be lost. With such enormous stakes, in an environment that can only be described as Dante’s winter inferno, these tow drivers lay it all on the line. They’re fighting against the competition, against the elements, and against the incredible odds the highway presents, just to stay alive and see another tow.
For these four companies, towing means everything: it’s rescue, it’s a paycheck, and to the mountain veterans who know Donner Pass best… it’s Hell on the Highway!