'Company took advantage,' says driver after tow firm charged $1,400 for 30-mile journey - as officials slam 'junk fees'

towing companies are under the microscope after drivers complained to federal agencies about excessive fees.

One driver cited a charge of $1,400 to go 30 miles while other companies offered their services for $500 to $600.

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Heavy-duty towing companies are under fire after several complaints of bloated feesCredit: Getty


Several towing professionals spoke during a public comment sessionCredit: Getty

Several federal agencies heard the cries of heavy-duty truck drivers citing bloated and exaggerated fees for nonconsensual tows, with some saying they were charged thousands for a simple tow.

Towing heavy-duty trucks means heavy-duty trucks are needed to move them, so jobs are not known for being cheap.

Many charge up to $350 an hour for their services, claiming the fees cover the cost of fuel and the use of heavy equipment.

A public comment session hosted by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) was held this week, attracting towing company owners and drivers who claim to have been excessively charged.

Leaders from the Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA) made an appearance to make their stances known, as well as representatives from the National Open Commerce and Safer Highways Coalition (NOCSHC) came to comment.

The session talked over situations like those of an anonymous driver who recalled being charged $1,400 to be towed 30 miles.

"The police called G/J Towing [of Revere, Massachusetts] to tow our tractor-trailer back to Lowell, Massachusetts, a total of less than 30 miles for $1,400," the written comment read, quoted by Overdrive.

"We have had other tow companies tow our vehicles from similar mileages for $500 to $600. We had a tow company that would have gone to tow this vehicle, but G/J Towing got there first."

The driver continued by saying the company would charge them $350 per hour, with the fare beginning as soon as the truck leaves the lot.

Then, it took hours for them to reach the driver.

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"There is no way it took a total of four hours for this to occur, and the pricing is outrageous," they wrote.

"In our view, this company took advantage of the situation, as we needed to pay them or they would not release our vehicle."

Representatives from the federal agencies who aim to limit "junk fees" from being charged to drivers want to see towing companies provide itemized bills to drivers, and eliminate inexplicable fees, like "administrative fees" or "miscellaneous fees."

This, they say, would help protect drivers who are towed away from the scene of an accident - otherwise known as a "non-consensual" tow as vehicles must be removed from the accident by law.

Truckers assume they have [adequate towing insurance] coverage and they dont.

Ron Myers, board member for the NOCSCH

Ron Myers, a board member for the NOCSCH, said regulating all towing companies "paints towing and recovery professionals with a broad brush," and doesn't account for the high risk of harm when tow drivers respond to accidents.

He said it's an "extremely dangerous job," with one tow driver being killed every six days, and often, towing companies aren't paid for those jobs.

Additionally, insurance companies for truckers don't often cover accident recovery, with many policies only covering $2,500.

"Truckers assume they have [adequate towing] coverage, and they don't," he said during the session.

Bill Johnson, a towing company owner in New York, mentioned that "excessive rates" are "predicated on the fact that [they] won't be paid," and that 40 percent of accident recovery jobs aren't paid.

What to do if your car is towed

Towing - 'Company took advantage,' says driver after tow firm charged $1,400 for 30-mile journey - as officials slam 'junk fees'

Wrongfully or not, retrieving a towed vehicle can be a hassle.

If your vehicle is towed after parking in a "No Parking" zone or other legitimate reason, there are a few steps to take to get it back.

Steps to take when your car is towed:

Try to figure out why your car was towed. Did you not see a posted "No Parking" sign? Did you miss a car payment? Did you return to a lot where you have unpaid citations? Finding the reason can narrow down the phone numbers to dial.Locate the vehicle. Most states, cities, or counties require towing companies to leave some form of contact information via a posted sign or sent by mail.Recovery dates and times depend on the company that towed the vehicle, but those times will be posted to the website or can be recited by a representative.Pay the fees. Be careful to be as prompt as possible, as some tow yards may charge storage fees by the day.

If you feel your vehicle was wrongfully towed, contesting the action can be done with the following steps:

Be prompt - many states have a small window of time where it's acceptable to file a complaint against a company that wrongfully towed the vehicle.Gather supporting documents: photos, emails, receipts, police reports, and witness statements if applicable. The more evidence, the better.Get familiar with your local laws, as laws for towing companies vary per state.Try speaking with the towing company. Sometimes it may have been a simple oversight, and the matter can be resolved quickly.Contact the Justice of the Peace in your area, as they may have more insight or resources to help. They are often utilized for towing cases.Talk to a lawyer. Many lawyers have free case consultations, and depending on the case, it may be worth it to utilize a lawyer.

Source: Oregon Department of Justice, National General, Rak Law Firm

Many towing professionals also told federal representatives that costs are difficult to assess without first arriving on the scene, and by then, the customer is expected to pay for travel and equipment use.

In addition, allowing people time to compare prices would put drivers in danger as they wait to see if their prices are within the customer's realm of reasonability.

By the end of the session, conversations were started about assembling a task force that would help ensure prices issued to customers were fair to consensual tows.

Another session is scheduled for another date, though a second date hasn't been announced yet.


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