“Our respondents cited a number of different ways in which excess fees show up — such as equipment and personnel charges, storage fees, and other add-ons — but an excessive base rate is the most frequent problem,” said ATA representatives. “Carriers who have had trucks towed also tend to find a variety of problems when they try to recover their vehicles from impoundment, including access and release of cargo.”
In a response, the Towing and Recovery Association of America, Inc. said that the majority of towing companies have honest practices.
This problem arises because drivers and trucking companies often do not choose which company will handle their tow. Police officers responding at the scene call a tow company from their department’s rotation list. Some towing companies exploit this system with guaranteed tows no matter their business’ reputation.
“If they didn’t have a lot (of business) during the month... we would get some extreme bills,” said Gregory Fulton, President of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association. “Sometimes they’d be billing up to $1,500 an hour. I think the most creative charge I saw was paying for each link of the chain being pulled. We thought we needed to bring some consistency to the process.”
Fulton has been working to educate legislators on this unethical practice and on Jan. 1st, the Colorado Public Utility Commission set maximum hourly rates for non-consensual towing and storage. Since then, Fulton has not received a single complaint about excessive tow rates within his state.
But while Colorado may be a success story, all across the country inflated tow bills still plague truckers and their insurers.
“The biggest problems we see are up in the Northeast, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York,” said Mike Matousek, director of government affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). “The highest tow and recovery bill I’ve seen is $250,000. That was in Pennsylvania. I’ve seen a $154,000 bill in New York, a $185,000 bill in West Virginia, a $30,000 charge for a simple jackknife and $33,000 for a straight truck.”
In these situations, tow companies hold all the cards and force insurers to pay these exorbitant bills. Tow companies keep the truck and cargo in their yard, decide how much to bill, and often charge daily storage rates creating a sense of urgency to pay. Highway robbery seems almost too perfect to describe how easily these companies can exploit money out of this broken system.
If you are dealing with overinflated tow bills and need your truck and trailer released expediently, call Morgan, Cohen & Bach at (520) 442-1303.