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Archive for Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tow troubles

State and local officials should seek additional ways to protect consumers from unreasonable charges from towing companies.

July 21, 2011

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Motorists with cars that have broken down or been involved in an accident need to get their vehicles off the street and towed for repairs. But whom do you call for a tow in Douglas County?

If you don’t have a preferred service, Douglas County emergency dispatchers can call a towing company from a rotating list of 10 companies. Each company charges a different rate and some charge more for additional services, such as cleaning glass from the accident scene. Total charges can vary from $100 to $900 or more.

It’s legal and how things work in most states because there is no regulation of towing fees. A 1995 federal law — the Motor Carrier Act — prohibits states from putting limits on towing charges.

While the federal law doesn’t allow governments to get involved in price setting, California and Florida lawmakers have set regulations that help keep towing fees in line. Glenn Neal, executive director of the California Trucking Association, said companies on rotation lists must keep their charges within 15 percent of other services on the list. The regulations help keep prices competitive and fair, he said.

Tow services in Douglas County must meet some basic requirements to get on the rotation list, but the county has no power to take a company off the list even if officials get complaints about service or fees, said County Administrator Craig Weinaug.

But when informed this week of the California and Florida laws, Weinaug said he was interested.

The concern is that some services may take advantage of motorists who are in stress following an accident. Few people have the phone number of their favorite tow company programmed into their cell phones, let alone know the going rate for a tow.

Perhaps patrol officers could have a card they could present to motorists with suggested questions to ask a tow company about cost and services before their vehicle is towed. That would lead to fewer surprises later when the motorist tries to pick up the vehicle.

But most important, Kansas should follow the lead of California and Florida to approve regulations to protect consumers who find themselves in need of a tow service.

Comments

Bob Forer 3 years, 5 months ago

A Miranda warning for motorists needing a tow????? Poor idea. Government should not be in the business of giving unsolicited legal advice to motorists, which is what those cards would essentially entail. A better idea would be to simply trash the rotation list, and replace it with a written list that the law enforcement officer would hand out to all motorists involved in an accident. The list would include all pricing information, including the basic tow fee, plus add-ons such as per mile and per diem storage. The motorist would then choose the company desired, and so inform the officer. Additionally, the tow truck driver would be required to submit to the motorist a signed and dated statement of charges before hooking up the vehicle.

As a requirement for being placed on the towing list, eligible companies would be required to quote their basic prices which would be set forth on the list.

A very simple solution, and one which would probably put all of the shyster companies out of business.

Everyone would win. Reasonable towing rates would mean lower insurance premiums for all of us.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

That sounds like a good idea to me.

One thing that really scares me is the possibility of needing towing services far from home. I know that happens to a lot of travellers.

beeshlii 3 years, 5 months ago

i don't have time for this and so do you. if i stop telling you what to do, its going take at least 30 mins, do you have time? i don't think so, you be sitting there rolling your eyes, cursing at me, etc.

beeshlii 3 years, 5 months ago

don't have time for this and so do you. if i START telling you what to do, its going take at least 30 mins, do you have time? i don't think so, you be sitting there rolling your eyes, cursing at me, etc

trailertrash 3 years, 5 months ago

For the Kansas legislature to even consider this, they would have to call Chicago and check with the Koch brothers to see if it was to their liking. Isn't that right, Mr. Anthony Koch-Brown.

jesse499 3 years, 5 months ago

Let me get this the tow truck drivers lobby paid congress enough so they made a law that no state government could protect us the little people from being screwed sounds normal to me.

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