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Archive for Sunday, April 15, 2012

Douglas County towing regulations ‘need to be fixed,’ administrator says

Eudora resident billed over $1,100 for 6-mile tow after wreck

Eudora woman Jen Middleton's son, Devin, was in an accident in the family's Ford Windstar in March. No one was injured in the accident, but Middleton was given a $1,110 bill for the six-mile tow.

Eudora woman Jen Middleton's son, Devin, was in an accident in the family's Ford Windstar in March. No one was injured in the accident, but Middleton was given a $1,110 bill for the six-mile tow.

April 15, 2012

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Eudora resident Jen Middleton’s towing story is one Douglas County officials have heard before.

Towing cost difference

Tom Stolz with the Wichita Police Department estimated what Jen Middleton would have paid a towing company for a similar tow in Wichita:

• Towing charge: $80, compared with $275

• Mileage: $4 per mile, compared with $25 per mile

• Gate charge: $0, compared with $35

• Labor: $0, compared with $185

• Cleanup: $0, compared with $185

• Storage: $20 per day, compared with $35

• Winch charge: $0, compared with $200

• Total price: $164, compared with $1,110

Middleton’s son, Devin, 16, rear-ended a car with the family’s minivan while on his way to Eudora High School a couple of weeks back.

The van was smashed up, but no one was hurt.

Police on scene asked Middleton if she had a “preference” for which towing company hauled the van away. Middleton said no, and Douglas County dispatchers selected the next local towing company on the county’s “non-preference” towing list, which includes 10 local companies.

Middleton went to the tow lot to retrieve the van, and, to her surprise, the bill was $1,110 for the six-mile tow.

The receipt included a $125 mileage charge, a $275 towing charge, a $35 gate charge, a $185 labor charge, a $185 cleanup charge, a $200 winch charge and a $105 storage charge.

“It was an awfully simple accident tow,” said Eudora Police Chief Grady Walker, who responded to the accident. “It seems to be a little high.”

Middleton’s case underscores the lack of pricing regulations for towing companies on the county’s rotating call list for “non-preference” tows, when someone indicates they have no preference about which company to call following an accident. In July, the Journal-World highlighted the story of a Lawrence man, also involved in a simple accident, who faced a $675 charge from a local towing company called from the county’s list.

Truth is, local towing companies can charge whatever they want, and county officials say it’s not clear what they can do to stop them.

“There are people under the current system who’ve taken advantage,” said Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug, whose office was contacted this week by Middleton. Weinaug said the county receives several such complaints per month. “It’s something that needs to be fixed.”

But it’s a complicated issue, said Weinaug, citing a 1995 federal Motor Carrier Act that prohibits governments from putting limits on towing charges.

The city of Wichita, however, has found a creative solution after years of similar complaints, said Tom Stolz, deputy chief of investigations for the Wichita Police Department.

The answer? The free market.

Starting this year, Wichita police have required towing companies, as part of a city contract, to supply police with a cost sheet listing what the company charges for nonpreference accident tows.

When someone’s in an accident, police hand them a list, and the person chooses. The police aren’t regulating or capping the prices, just educating consumers, Stolz said.

“You let free enterprise go to work,” Stolz said. “Give consumers power. The free market will always win.”

Weinaug said the county will be looking at Wichita’s ordinance, as well as others, in attempt to cut down on overcharging, and he hopes to have the issue on the County Commission’s April 24 discussion agenda.

“I’m certain there’s a local solution,” Weinaug said.

Comments

jaketh 2 years ago

My car also got towed by a towing company here in Lawrence. The tow company would not accept a credit card or check, only cash. When I paid cash, they refused to give me a receipt. When I insisted on a receipt, I was given a generic receipt, not a proper one. I doubt they pay taxes or declare the actual income since it is cash only business. Not only are they ripping off customers, but also not paying their share.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years ago

Why doesnt' Mr Hilltlle do a Little bit of investigative reporting and print all of the tow companies in town and their fees? Of course, that won't happen because it would be like free advertising for the tow companies or would it? Also report as to how the LPD arranges for public tows and how the rotation works with regard to tow companies.

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irvan moore 2 years ago

it pays to know where you want your car sent, that way they can't hold it hostage

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williampenn 2 years ago

Concerning the above $1,100 bill by a Lawrence tow co. for what is described as a simple accident tow, I was lucky that a friend called Hillcrest Wrecker when my car recently broke-down at a hazardous location on Clinton Parkway. The tow truck driver was prompt ,courteous and knowledegable. My car was inoperable and required a winch and flatbed truck and a tow of about 5 mi. Total cost $60. Thank-you Hillcrest.

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Ragingbear 2 years ago

All towing companies that hold your car hostage are scammers,scumwads and thieves that should be denied business of any sort to anyone, public and private.

That means that if you know that somebody works for a tow company, refuse to do business with them. Just don't tell them that is why. You have the right to refuse business to anyone you so choose.

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Vaildini 2 years ago

I use AAA they are awesome. But if I didn't I would put a Hillcrest sticker on my windshield that says to use them in case of a wreck. Damn, I think that is the solution. Hillcrest people make a sticker that says just that.

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spartyinjayhawkland 2 years ago

Shaun, how about a follow up article detailing the towing charge schedules by local towing service? It looks like the commentors are trying to do that part of the investigative reporting for you.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years ago

I rarely comment anymore, but I will make my opinion on this subject very clear.

If you do not put Hillcrest Wrecker & Garage, Inc.'s number in your cell phone for quick and handy use, or just remember the name "Hillcrest", whatever happens to you is your own fault. (785) 843-0052

Hillcrest Wrecker & Garage, Inc. 3700 Franklin Park Cir. (785) 843-0052

I called them for a towing quote a few months ago. They will load a running compact to midsized car onto a flatbed truck for a $45 loading fee, and then the charge is $3 per loaded mile. That does not include any storage charges, that is only for towing to the destination of your choice. They will accept a credit card at the unloading destination.

Of course, the loading fee will be higher if the car is not in running condition, and the per mile charge will probably be lower if it is towed, rather than transported on a flatbed truck.

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blindrabbit 2 years ago

It is pretty evident from the comments here and in the 2011 article that Midwest Tow and Recovery is a major offender. Just out of curiosity, what is the owner's name, sounds like he has an attitude problem, and maybe a little gult!

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midwest_muser 2 years ago

verizon wireless gives you towing and lockout coverage for about $4 a month. No deductible. No brainier.

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middlet0n 2 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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budtugly 2 years ago

“It was an awfully simple accident tow,” said Eudora Police Chief Grady Walker, who responded to the accident. “It seems to be a little high.” It seems a little high. How much does this guy make?

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Bulldogtow 2 years ago

This is one reason i closed up. I got tired of fighting with both the county and city about these. "compaines" that continue to do this and are allowed to do this. Towing is an expensive business to be in. A $150-250 for an ACCIDENT hook-up is not all that bad. You have to understand that an accident IS diffrent than most other tows. For one the police expect us there NOW. So anything else you have going on gets put on hold. But when the county continues to allow these guys to charge $700-1,800 for simple accident that is wrong. I spent $800 out of my own pocket to hire a tow specialty lawyer to meet with the county. We were given an intern to meet with. (shows county admin is NOT realy interested in change). We gave here infomation how they can legaly change the rotaion overnight if the choose to. The rotation list is voluntary. Therefore the federal deregulation act does NOT apply. This has been proven in federal court when it comes to rotation list. The county is simply not wanting this to change for some reason. I have no interest in towing anymore, so i will not enter into any compaines specificaly, But the main problem is the county and city. So i would suggest the people being abused by pricing to contact a lawyer and include the county/City in the lawsuit sense they are they ones that called the company and had prior knowledge to pricing problems and did not act to protect the public. That will probably be the only way for them to finaly change this.

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oletimer 2 years ago

what is to discuss? Use the Wichita method. I am not real smart, but it seems pretty clear. If Lawrence and Douglas county do as usual, nothing, then I will purchase a couple of wreckers and retire.

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attorney1776 2 years ago

Back in July 2011, I provided Mr. Hittle with the state and city statues in California for towing company regulations. In Los Angeles, towing companies are highly regulated in the consumer's favor. An unlawful tow can result in criminal charges against the tow truck driver and participation in any government or law enforcement referral program sets maximum charges.

Mr. Weinaug stated in the July 2011 LJW article that the county would do something about these tow company consumer rip-offs. Now 8 months later, the emperor has been exposed as naked- nothing has been done, if even set in process.

Florida and California (both state and local governments) have strict tow truck regulations, so this continual obstacle of the USDOT regulations taking precedence is just bunk; a red herring.

Somehow I get the feeling that the city and county government officials here have some sort of linkage or affinity for the tow truck companies or their owners. They protect them. For what reason, I don't know.

If Mr. Weinaug was genuinely looking out for citizens and consumers, the county could find a way to do so. So far, I'm not aware they have even made an attempt, even though we were told they would begin a process last summer.

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Rae Smith Evans 2 years ago

Roadside assistance is just a good investment! My last tow was......FREE! Its worth the couple of extra dollars I spend on my auto insurance policy to have the peace of mind.

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Smarmy_Schoolmarm 2 years ago

We have roadside assistance with our liability insurance. It's about $2 a month for two vehicles. We've used it 3 or 4 times. It's cost us $45 out of pocket for the tow each time (Bulldog) and then we've been reimbursed by the insurance company within two weeks. It covers tows, flats, jump starting and bringing fuel if you're out of gas. I'm not sure why anyone wouldn't have roadside assistance.

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Budgets_Smudgets 2 years ago

Craig: Fix it. Other communities have. It's not rocket science.

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Teresa Endecott 2 years ago

Hillcrest Tow is NO DIFFERENT!!! They overcharge as well for a tow from Baldwin to Lawrence $670!! Plus storage charges. We specifically asked them to take it to Hite Collision and they said they could / would, but they didn't. Then we get smacked with another tow charge the next day back to Hite! Not to mention our personalize was never returned, when we have pics of the vehicle with the tag ON the vehicle when it left the wreckage. Another reason insurance is outrages! These companies are taking advantage of the insurance companies and the situation. Agreed, University Tow is the winner!

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irvan moore 2 years ago

i thought we had this same discussion on here a year or 2 ago and the same things were said by the county but nothing was done

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years ago

I buy "insurance" to cover tows.

Does "Obamacare" cover tows?

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Randall Barnes 2 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Steven Gaudreau 2 years ago

Reminds me of a national locksmith company scam. My wife and kids were at Midnight Farms in rural ks. She locked her keys in her car. She found a locksmith co on her cell phone. She asked for a price and the guy said it depend on how hard it was to open the car. Guy shows up 20 minutes later and pops the lock in 15 seconds. The charge was $550. My wife was a bit afraid To argue the bill since she was alone and gave the guy a credit card. I called the national company for an explanation. I was told they charge a % of the value of the car.

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Steven Gaudreau 2 years ago

The city needs a contracted price if they are the ones calling the tow service for the person in need. If a tow company does not want to participate on a set price for a local tow, take them off the non pref list the city uses.

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irvan moore 2 years ago

i use university tow and have been treated well by them for years. i got good service from Randy and Joe and receive good service from the new owners.

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Tricky Gnosis 2 years ago

19th Street Towing for the win! Their owner is a stand up guy who once gave me a free tow when his driver tried to charge me an exorbitant rate. The owner gave me his personal cell number, and made a follow up call to me. Really good guy.

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Bob Forer 2 years ago

There is a very simple solution: Make a few phone calls and obtain some quotes. I used to use Bull Dog Tow until they went out of buiness several months ago. Around a year ago, on I-70 just east of the Topeka exchange, my power steering unit seized, throwing the serpentine belt. They arrived promptly, and charged 105 dollars to tow the vehicle to my service station in Lawrence. Very reasonable.

Around a month ago, my car wouldn't start, so I needed a tow from my house to the service station. I called Hillcrest and was quoted $65. Since Bull Dog would have only charged $45.00, I decided to do some comparison shopping. The next business on the list quoted me $45.00. I went with them. Can't remember the name of the company, but I was very satisfied with their services.

If you leave if to chance, you might end up with one of the crooked two companies in town. A few phone calls can save you a lot of grief down the line.

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Floyd Craig 2 years ago

those tow companys needs to charge those high prices so they can keep buying newr tow trucks which the ones they have arent worn out if u loook n watch every time you look they are in a new truck if they have to buy so many new trucks n uh fancy ones WHY

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howie1 2 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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howie1 2 years ago

Actually no this is not Jeff this is Adam... And nice try there buddy

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cheapskate 2 years ago

Jeff oops I mean howie1.We do know who you are. Remember you ran your tow business (Bulldog Tow) to the ground. Remember when you made the paper for charging to much? Good try.

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howie1 2 years ago

They dont want to tell you the yoyo company and I dont know why... I can tell you this though... There is only 1 tow company I would use in lawrence and no I do not work there... It is hillcrest wrecker... But because I know all of the dot rules I hope I dont need them because the owner let an idiot become the manager and he does not make his guys follow the dot rules... Like all 4 corners need to be tied down on a roll back, straps need to be used on self loaders... Tow lights on a trailing vehicle... Proper use of safety chains... And here is another thing I see wrong most of the time.... Your car is usually one of your biggest investments of your life, every car has special hookup points, I see time after time these guys using improper hookups, like using a big J hook on your suspension... Just remember be careful who you call... If I had my own local towing business here in beautiful douglas county anddouglas county and lawrence set up regulations the bad apples would go out of business and there would be me and maybe 4 other companies in this town, and the customers and the

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howie1 2 years ago

They dont want to tell you the yoyo company and I dont know why... I can tell you this though... There is only 1 tow company I would use in lawrence and no I do not work there... It is hillcrest wrecker... But because I know all of the dot rules I hope I dont need them because the owner let an idiot become the manager and he does not make his guys follow the dot rules... Like all 4 corners need to be tied down on a roll back, straps need to be used on self loaders... Tow lights on a trailing vehicle... Proper use of safety chains... And here is another thing I see wrong most of the time.... Your car is usually one of your biggest investments of your life, every car has special hookup points, I see time after time these guys using improper hookups, like using a big J hook on your suspension... Just remember be careful who you call... If I had my own local towing business here in beautiful douglas county anddouglas county and lawrence set up regulations the bad apples would go out of business and there would be me and maybe 4 other companies in this town, and the customers and the

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howie1 2 years ago

I agree something needs to be done... Good companies get a bad rap because of people that charge prices like this... Companies like this dont have a customer base so they charge these prices because it is pretty much how they stay in business... I would be happy to help lawrence and douglas county set up a policy... I am a certified towing and recovery operator and a certified asset recovery agent... These people that are charging these prices are just idiots... I want to see the certifications that they have because I bet they dont have any... They just hook your pocket book... the city and county should find out who I am and I have several references that they would listen to that would say I am the most professional operator in this area... And Mr. Weinaug, you should consider riding around with me in a car and I can show you how these companies operate... Its not right most of them are not even dot legal... If you are going to do something do the research and do it right

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Gandalf 2 years ago

How about naming the tow company?

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