ATA Task Force to Pursue Predatory Towing at Crash Scenes
An American Trucking Associations council has begun a towing-scam initiative after receiving reports of excessive overcharging for nonconsensual towing of damaged heavy-duty trucks and trailers removed from crash scenes.
In some states, it's not uncommon for a tow truck operator to arrive unsolicited at an accident scene, pull a tractor-trailer out of a ditch, tow it away and on the scene present the carrier with an inflated invoice, even hold the carrier’s truck hostage until the bill is paid, said Jennifer Wieroniey, executive director of ATA’s National Accounting & Finance Council.
ATA’s NAFC continues to hear of carriers being gouged for simple tows by unscrupulous towing companies, Wieroniey said.
ATA last surveyed members on the extent of the towing problem in 2018. However, to establish priority problem states and cities, as well as recognize new patterns of fraud, NAFC on March 10 posted a new survey allowing ATA members to provide input on towing problems. The task force can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m interested is seeing what the results are now, compared to three years ago,” Wieroniey said.
Some states, such as Colorado, already have passed legislation to address widespread trucking industry towing complaints, Wieroniey said.
“We’ve seen a pretty drastic decrease in activity there, based on what their Legislature did,” she said. The law made it more difficult for towing companies to come to a crash scene unsolicited, allowing a carrier to call a towing company that it might have an established relationship with, or have a police officer at the scene call a tower, but on a rotating basis.
Sometimes towers stay on the move or hover near areas where accidents are frequent. Some towers listen to police scanners or have a friend, such as an officer, who will call them to a crash scene, Wieroniey said.
To take a deep dive into the problem, the NAFC’s advisory board earlier this month unanimously voted in favor of establishing a towing task force to combat the problem of predatory towing at the scene of an accident.
The task force will be chaired by longtime board member Ryan Erickson, executive vice president at McGriff, part of Truist Insurance Holdings Inc. Members of the task force include attorneys, insurance professionals, state executives and motor carriers.
The group will release a guide on how to prevent becoming a victim of billing fraud both pre- and post-tow, simple steps such as documenting what equipment was on-site and educating drivers not to sign consent to tow forms can save carriers thousands of dollars and hours of wasted time.
As part of a multipronged strategy to eliminate towing fraud, the NAFC towing task force aims to tackle the problem legislatively by working with the American Property and Casualty Insurance Association and the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud to advance two pieces of model legislation, according to a NAFC news release.
“The first bill would provide more protections for consumers against towing companies through tools such as regulating when a tow can occur and mandating more transparent billing practices, like the use of a rate sheet and itemized invoices,” the release said. “The second bill would outlaw ‘runners’ who solicit their tow services at the scene of an accident without being requested by law enforcement or any parties involved in the accident.”
In its 2018 survey, 169 respondents told ATA that nonconsensual towing is an area that federal law specifically leaves to state control, but few states have any regulations.
“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,” ATA said at the time. “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. Problems in the selection of towing companies center on how law enforcement refers them, but there are others as well.”
-FROM TRANSPORT TOPICS NEWS-