Have you joined TCS?
Out and about with a yellow angel: The patrol - the heart of the Touring Club Switzerland
What do you think of spontaneously when I tell you "TCS"?
I immediately have memories of the summer vacation during my childhood. Of these trips to southern Italy, which we as a family tackled with an aging family car. These trips were always an adventure back then and started or ended at least twice with a TCS patrol having to bail us out - sometimes shortly after we left for the south, sometimes just before we got home at the end of the vacation ...
TCS and roadside assistance. This association is probably not just me for a long time. Because: Almost every second Swiss household is with the TCS - and this is often already in the 3rd generation! And certainly everyone has been able to make the acquaintance of a TCS patrol officer at some point.
But what does a TCS patroler's working day look like? What are the most common mishaps that occur? How does the relaxation work on site and what else does it entail?
I wanted to know and after several years of being free from breakdowns - I wanted to touch wood! - I sat in the car next to a yellow angel for half a shift and used him to search for breakdowns. I didn't have to search long ... But read for yourself:
It is ten in the morning when we are on our way to work on this freezing cold winter morning - Marco Fusco as patrol, I as his companion and observer for half a day. It is very quiet at this time, the morning traffic in the city has long since flattened out and Fusco is heading for his base in Schlieren. If he does not immediately receive an assignment from the operations center in Schönbühl (BE) when he starts his shift, he does not drive around town - as some believe - bored and aimlessly waiting for an assignment, but rather does various work in such rare non-mission time windows at the base.
Marco Fusco originally completed the 4-year apprenticeship as an automotive mechanic and then gained experience as a polymechanic. He has been a patrol at TCS for five years. When he talks about his work, I feel that he is passionate about it:
„In this job you have to enjoy being surprised every day, always being confronted with a new, sometimes not clearly definable problem. You must enjoy diagnosing vehicle malfunctions and relaxing vehicles.
I always have to think in terms of variants and make a diagnosis as quickly as possible. There are no specifications for the solution, I have to be creative and quick. As a patroler, I have to ensure that the customer can move on as quickly as possible, as Marco Fusco I always make sure that the customer is right, that I can offer them the best individual solution!
The work is very varied, cannot be planned, a day is full of surprises. One day the weather is nice, the other it rains or snows. I enjoy being on the go, meeting different people and helping people out of an emergency. I don't want to swap my job with anyone! "
When asked about the downside of his job, Fusco was reluctant to tell me about his irregular working hours, which may then become an issue when you're in a relationship or planning a family. But he doesn't see this aspect as the real disadvantage of his work. Because: Irregular working hours also have their charm and: “Where there's a will, there's a way,” he says, concentrating on the street.
I don't doubt for a second that Fusco is guided by this motto not only at work but also privately!
A profession with high tech and passion
All TCS patrollers are highly qualified. Fusco not only knows the different car brands, models and types of tires, but also their features and special features. Should he still not succeed in solving the problem right away, he can rely on his colleagues at the Technical Helpdesk in Schönbühl, who in turn have access to an inexhaustible database of technical data for thousands of car models of all brands and the respective "weak points" can.
Like all other TCS patrollers, Fusco is a trained Samaritan and can provide emergency aid. He has also completed further training as a road ranger, a new profession that has been available for three years. Fusco's superior calls his yellow angels “top mechanic with helper syndrome”!
The patrol vehicle: garage and parlor at the same time
Each patrol officer has his own patrol vehicle. This has the advantage that everyone is ready to go from home. The car has standard basic equipment: numerous car batteries, vehicle parts such as ignition coils, cable ties for temporary repairs, tow ropes, compressors or canisters with gasoline and diesel - to name just a fraction of the whole arsenal of tools and spare parts that are available in the rolling workshop are stowed in the tightest of spaces.
Every patroler supplements this already huge standard range with additional aids, which he often and gladly uses due to his very personal way of working and based on his experience. Fusco not only has large and small bags filled with radiator caps, screws or hoses, which he fetches on the demolition and which he can also use for the customer at no cost, but also carries empty canisters with him thanks to a special construction on the underbody of his vehicle which he can, for example, suck up and transport incorrectly fueled fuel on site.
The patrol car is not only a fully equipped repair workshop on wheels, but also a real refuge for the patroler. Fusco has set up a cozy and functional living room on wheels: there are enough drinks available as well as power snacks. Fusco even has a small coffee machine, which, especially on cold and tough days like this, performs an important service for the well-being of body and mind!
“I like to drive my vehicle,” laughs Fusco. “Most of all, I like to listen to music and enjoy being to myself! I'm never bored and I don't feel lonely either. On the one hand there is always something going on and on the other hand I am in contact with the operations center in Schönbühl (BE) as well as with my other colleagues from the base who are currently on the move via mobile phone. And whenever possible, I return to the base for lunch breaks. I meet other teammates there and can also exchange ideas with my boss ”.
Fusco has been driving his current car for two years. During this time he has covered 70,000 km!
The on-board computer: the patroler's best friend
The patrol officer works with the most modern technology. GPS and SMS keep him up to date and he receives his own notebook with the latest diagnostic options and other helpful data.
One of his most important working instruments is the Navicom, the computer system through which the patrollers are in contact with the dispatchers at the operations center. If the operations center records a breakdown, the dispatcher assigns the order to a free patrol officer in the relevant area of operation. With the information that an operation is waiting for him, the patrolur also receives further information on the type of breakdown, the vehicle and the stranded customer.
As a rule, the average waiting time for the patrolman to arrive is only 35 minutes.
The ultimate goal: keep going instead of towing!
The TCS guarantees progress, which means that the patrolers always work with the aim of ensuring that the customer can drive on as quickly as possible - either to the next garage or home, from where the customer can then calmly initiate any next measures himself.
This goal is achieved in 8 out of 10 cases. If there really is no other way, the towing service intervenes.
Use No. 1: The classic battery
Fusco's plans to start work at the base in Schlieren this morning will come to nothing - once again during this cold spell. The winter cold ensures peak activity at TCS: this January, 47,600 calls for help have been registered and 25,700 missions have been carried out.
Via the ringtone, the operations center reports Fusco's first order via the Navicom, which he immediately accepts: After a night with the car door not completely closed and the interior light switched on, a car in Regensdorf no longer wants to start this morning.
“This is a classic,” says Fusco with a smile, “which is not only common in the cold season. At such cold temperatures, it is mainly batteries and electrical systems that cause problems. Older batteries, in particular, can then simply lie down. "
The customer expects us in front of the garage entrance and tells us again briefly and in a very humorous way how it happened that his car did not start this morning - precisely when his wife wanted to go to the weekly shop - and that this mishap almost turned into one had a marital quarrel! He only did the annual check two months ago, so the battery should actually still be good.
Fusco quickly and routinely bridges the battery, measures the charging voltage and confirms to the customer that this is still absolutely in order, but that he should now take a ferry of around 20 minutes so that it can be fully charged. Fusco also checks the oil level at the same time, records all the necessary data and asks the customer whether everything went to his satisfaction.
The yellow angel - helper awaited with joy
“Whenever I arrive,” says Fusco proudly, “I am greeted with relief and joy. That's the nice thing about my job. The customer has a problem, I can come and help. It's a good feeling every time. And also the feedback, I get that directly from the customer. Sometimes they thank me with a small present or phone me to let me know that everything went well after my assignment. For us, people still count and even if we should keep the duration of our assignments as short as possible, it is always advisable to briefly address the customer, to exchange a sentence or two with him before I have to continue. Older people in particular appreciate this very much. "
Our first customer that day confirms the good reputation that the yellow angels enjoy with everyone: As a long-standing TCS member, he has used the service a maximum of four to five times over the years, but was always from A to Z satisfied with the way things went.
At 95%, the customer satisfaction rate is above average and testifies to a top performance!
It doesn't work without it either: paperwork and post-processing
Before we can go back on our way, Fusco has to take care of administration. He quickly records the vehicle data, records the cause of the breakdown and notes a brief comment on the incident. Should a problem arise again shortly after his assignment with the customer, he or another patrolman could read the history in the report. The recorded data is used for internal statistics and evaluations and can be used as a management tool. Only now can Fusco complete the mission and prepare mentally for the next one.
Use No. 2: The classic plate and the thing with the spare wheel
According to information on the Navicom, a woman is waiting for help in a parking lot in downtown Zurich - she has a flat tire and this on a bike with - as Fusco says with big eyes - "exotic" dimensions.
He immediately goes through all the possible causes and possible solutions for this case: "If the tire has hit a curb, then I can no longer mend it and have to replace it," he thinks out loud. “But I don't know whether the customer or her car has a spare wheel. Many new cars no longer have a spare or spare wheel, just a tire repair kit. So it's best to drive past the base and take one with us from our spare wheel store that could fit. And maybe we're lucky and the bike “only” caught a screw or a nail. I can repair it on site without any problems - provided that the customer has not gone too far with the flat tire. In the very worst case, the car has to be charged and transported away, but this could be difficult or even impossible for us, depending on how heavy a car with such extraordinary wheel dimensions is. In such a case, I would have to delegate the removal to another company that is equipped for it. "
Fusco handles the whole process and leaves all options open in order to be prepared for any eventuality that he may encounter on site.
On site we meet a young mother with a toddler, who fortunately takes the breakdown very calmly and calmly. That is a good thing, because unfortunately the optimal case does not occur: The plate is due to a crack in the side wall and is irreparable and the spare wheel brought from the base does not fit. In order to still enable the customer to continue the journey, the patroler decides to make makeshift repairs to the damaged wheel so that he and the customer can take the next step to a nearby tire house.
No sooner said than done: Fusco stuffs the crack as best he can, squeezes in as much air as possible and ties everything tightly with adhesive tape. Every move is right and within a very short time we confidently second the customer towards the tire house. Right on the last point, but it then reaches it without damage. Only after Fusco has made sure that the tire dealer can help the customer and that the customer confirms that she can arrange everything else from here on without his support, he says goodbye and concludes the operation.
"Phew, that was really adventurous, right?" He says more to himself than to me. “It's unbelievable how cool this woman took the whole thing!” Yes, unbelievable - I only now notice how much this effort has affected me. Less because of the facts, but much more because years ago in the same situation as this mother I would have lost my nerve and completely lost my composure ...
Satisfied that we have done another successful (and, in my opinion: creative!) Effort, we are now preparing to drive to the base. But we did the math without a landlord: One ringtone and Fusco turns right and is already on a mission again!
Use No. 3: The classic sound
A young, rather perplexed man is waiting in a parking lot in Affoltern am Albis. He was driving on the autobahn and suddenly heard a rattling noise “up there” that seemed suspicious to him. He would have chosen the next exit and drove here. He doesn't want any more damage to occur. He wants to know from Fusco what that could be.
The patroler first looks at the engine compartment, turns a little there, pulls a little there and at first glance can't see anything unusual. On the spur of the moment, he suggests driving the customer's car a few meters in order to witness the noise himself. It doesn't take Fusco long to return and carefully examine the front left wheel:
One screw is loose. So relaxed that she comes straight to meet him, so to speak.
“The case is clear,” explains Fusco to the customer and shows him the screw, “that was the cause of the noise! Did you assemble the winter tires yourself? In any case, I'll put them on properly now and check the other bikes at the same time. And then you can continue driving without hesitation. "
No, the customer did not install the winter tires himself, but commissioned a garage to do them. Of course, the young man is happy that the noise has now been localized and that he can drive on without hesitation. Nevertheless, he gives some air to his anger about a possibly carelessly executed job - which is human and also understandable, right?
Insert # 4: The General Winter Classic and Murphy's Law
There is not much time left to discuss a possible question of guilt, because – What a coincidence - the next customer is waiting for help in Affoltern: A small vehicle that had been standing “untouched” in the cold for several days, completely covered by snow, bitched this morning and did not want to start. It should have taken a young man to an exam as a matter of urgency ...!
“With such icy temperatures and so much snow, cars that are left outside for a long time can't just take anything - that's normal,” Fusco encourages the customer."In addition to batteries that give up the ghost, frozen locks or doors can often no longer be opened."
In this case it is “only” the battery that brings Fusco back to life by bridging it. This time, his all-round service includes not only the recommendation to drive a 20-minute lap, but also the cleaning of the little speedster!
All's well that ends well - also for the examinee who, thank God, was able to switch to his parents' car in the morning and take the exam in time!
Despite preventive measures: a breakdown can happen to anyone
“A lot of people have a certain inhibition threshold to call the breakdown service. As if they had a guilty conscience that they did something wrong or that they unnecessarily disturb us with their call, ”reports Fusco. “Of course, it is important to take care of the car, to have it serviced regularly, to check the oil level, to measure the tire pressure, to switch off the interior lights and to react to glowing warning lights in the cockpit - but you can still rule out a breakdown entirely Not."
In addition to the breakdown classics experienced today, there are other typical types of breakdowns that Fusco briefly lists: "In the heat of the moment, gasoline is accidentally filled up instead of diesel, or the car starts up, but the engine suddenly stops while driving, because for Example of the V-belt breaks. But also lack of petrol, lost keys or keys locked in the car - in addition to the general accident assistance, which we also provide - the breakdown statistics of the TCS. "
After this 4th mission, Fusco drives back towards the base for lunch. He deserves a break. In Zurich, patrollers do an average of eight missions per duty. Incidentally, the record is more than twenty missions in one day!
If, like me, you haven't had a breakdown for a long time, you almost forget that you originally joined the TCS because of its most frequently used service - namely because of the roadside assistance provided by the patrol.
After this look behind the scenes, I became really aware of the value of TCS membership. Nevertheless, I do not wish for a breakdown. But in the event that one overtakes me anyway, I hope from now on that maybe Marco Fusco is on duty and the weather is much warmer!
Exciting facts & figures about the TCS patrol in brief:
- The TCS has existed since 1896. It has been around for more than 120 years.
- The TCS has almost 1.5 million members. Almost every second Swiss household is with the TCS - often already in the third generation.
- The TCS carries out around 420,000 breakdown missions every year.
- This January alone, 47,600 calls for help have been registered and 25,700 missions have been carried out.
- To this end, around 220 patrols are deployed across Switzerland - spread over 20 bases. 2 of them women.
- A patroler covers around 40,000 km per year with his company car.
- As a rule, the average waiting time for the patrolman to arrive is only 35 minutes.
- In 8 out of 10 cases, customers can continue driving with their car.
- At 95%, the customer satisfaction rate is above average and testifies to a top performance!
What goes through your head spontaneously when you hear "TCS"? Are you a TCS member yourself, or are your parents and grandparents? And: Have you already been able to make the acquaintance of a yellow angel? Tell us - it makes us wonder!
Together with the Touring Club Switzerland, The Angelones provide useful information and tips at regular intervals on how families can travel safely and with pleasure today.
This article was created in cooperation with the TCS. My special thanks go to patrol officer Marco Fusco and his superiors, who made this special reporting possible with their willingness, openness and competence!
From A for working with children to Z for braces for teenagers - I tell true stories from our multi-faceted life as an Italian-Swiss family. There are also recipes, craft ideas, excursion tips and socio-political food for thought to discuss. In the main roles of my stories: my boys - “the big one” (14) and “the little one” (12) - as well as my husband, whom I call “the head of the family” with a wink. The blog is a community effort in which we all participate. My husband delivers episodes around the house and garden, the boys write their own texts, conduct interviews and help with the image and video production.
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