For Towing Service Biz Modzelewski's, 'Appearance Is Everything' On the Road

James Modzelewski (L), president of Modzelewski’s, and John Apple of Westchester Tractor.

Thu July 29, 2021

Modzelewski's, with locations in Newtown, New Milford and Danbury, Conn., is an auto and truck repair center with a significant fleet of wreckers and flatbeds that offers, in addition to repair services, towing services and recovery services throughout southeastern Connecticut.

The business, in fact, has the responsibility of clearing all wrecks and stranded vehicles on a 23-mi. stretch of Interstate 84.

Over the years, Modzelewski's has found itself in need of construction equipment to recover vehicles on the scene of wrecks, according to James Modzelewski, company president.

"When a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed leaves the road, particularly a tractor trailer, it can travel a tremendous distance before stopping, quite often taking trees, road barriers, fences, or anything else standing in its way with it, and in the process typically dumping whatever load of freight it is carrying all over the interstate or along the side of the highway," he said. "When we respond to a call, we never know if the vehicle or trailer may be in pieces. Whatever the case, it's our job to clean it up and it is demanded that we clean it up as quickly as possible and get traffic flowing again."

For towing services like Modzelewski's, dispatching the wreckers and flatbeds is the easy part. However, cleaning up downed trees and lost freight calls for a different type of vehicle. Wheel loaders, skid steers, telehandlers and excavators come into play.

If traffic is backing up on I-84, an operation like Modzelewski's certainly cannot be running around looking to rent the necessary piece of equipment or trying to find a contractor who is willing to respond. So, the rule of thumb for James Modzelewski over the years has been "once I find a scenario where a piece of equipment is needed, I immediately buy it so I have it available to me for the next time."

Modzelewski learned this business growing up working in his dad's body shop. In 2002, he purchased two small flatbed trucks to do vehicle recovery and transportation. At the time, his father thought he was making a major mistake and that diversifying the company in another direction would never work.

Today, largely because of the diversification of the company, Modzelewski now has three locations and an inventory of 50 pieces of related vehicles and equipment. Each and every piece of equipment in his fleet is immaculately maintained. In fact, the company has a dedicated, full-time employee, who works six days a week just detailing the vehicles.

According to Modzelewski, "Appearance is everything. It is a direct reflection on who you are and what your company is all about."

However, it's not just their cleanliness that makes Modzelewski's vehicles stand out. Each one has a special customized paint job that expresses a story. For example, one of the company's flatbed trucks was recently painted to look like a puzzle as a salute to the "Autism Speaks" program.

The most recent addition to the Modzelewski fleet of equipment is a Kobelco SK210LC excavator that was purchased through Westchester Tractor. Modzelewski said that in the past there were times when he had vehicle recoveries that ended so far off the highway that he had to actually build a road to recover the vehicle.

Modzelewski did his homework to find what size excavator would best suit his needs and what brand within that size category would best match up with what he was trying to accomplish. After looking at numerous models and comparing critical points like price, power and comfort, the decision was made that the Kobelco from Westchester Tractor best suited his needs. It didn't hurt that John Apple, former president of Westchester Tractor, was also a good golf buddy of his.

The next question became what to do with his customized paint job and what tribute to pay.

For guidance, Modzelewski went to his daughter, Stella, who after thoughtful consideration, told dad that she would like to see Woody and the gang from Toy Story on dad's latest asset.

The skilled staff in Modzelewski's body shop designed and painted the customized tribute, and his daughter was not disappointed in the result.

For more information about Modzelewski, visit

(All photographs in this article are Copyright 2021 Construction Equipment Guide. All Rights Reserved.) CEG