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ESC

Overturned loaded 3 car hauler- now it’s time to write the bill

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Last night at 5:45 pm, just as everyone was about to leave for the holiday weekend we got a call for an overturned, loaded 3 car hauler. I was nearby in my personal car as I had left early to pickup my daughter from school. We went direct to the scene.

 

From the look of things, the fifth wheel hitch may have broken causing the overturn but police are working to find the actual cause.

 

I am a little curious to hear feedback on billing for this recovery. Do you out everything on one bill? Or each vin a different bill?

 

We had two mpl40 wreckers, two flatbeds, our 896 and myself on scene. Time of call until we cleaned up the trucks and headed home was just shy of 4 hours total.

 

After the police finished and gave us permission to get to work, the first thing we did was disconnect the dodge from the trailer. It was still held together by one safety chain. The front of the trailer was winched tight to the truck so we could take tension off the chain so it could be cut. Then the truck was winched onto our flatbed while a wrecker winched the back away from the trailer. Next we stabilized the trailer with two wreckers so our crew could disconnect the straps from the vehicles. Some of which had been compromised during the rollover. The trailer was uprighted using two wreckers. Our fifth wheel plate was used on an mpl40 and the trailer was moved out of the area. A wrecker uprighted the pickup and another hauled it away on dollies. The wrecker uprighted the suv which was hauled away on a flatbed. We swept the roadway and used spill tackle to cleanup and fluids.

 

Each unit was transported to our storage facility. All broken windows were covered.

 

We did find out the hauler has coverage from Progressive, so now we wait to find out about coverage limits and all.

 

We are very familiar with recovery billing and have attended the Big Whee class. But it’s a first for me having multiple vehicles all on the same trailer so I’d love to get some feedback from others.

 

 

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First off, Nice work on the recovery. It looks Like it was very time consuming but went well. 

I would guess from looking at the 5th wheel, it was not rated for the load he was hauling and it collapsed. Maybe more of an rv style setup?

The insurance company is more than likely going to treat the 2 trailer-loaded vehicles as "cargo" If I had to make an educated guess. So with that being said, It might all be in the wording of your invoice to get your recovery fees covered for each "cargo" vehicle. I would sit down and figure out the numbers for both treating them as individual recoveries and tows as well as treating them as handling, recovering and transporting "cargo" then feel out the insurance adjuster when he comes so you can be ready for whatever way they decide to go with it. Obviously your bottom dollar will be the same amount for either. It is just a matter of wording it the way they see it.

If you could post how it turns out for you I would be interested to see how they play it with you Sir. 


PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

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Nice work on tricky situation. He probably had the trailer loaded too heavy on the nose and like Grumps said, that hitch looks a little light to be doing what he's doing with it. I'd probably put that on all one bill since his insurance is likely to pick it all up. 

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All on one invoice, in the grand scheme of things it shouldn't be a problem. It all falls under property damage liability right? I would think the invoice would be in the $4500 + your storage range...just a guess since I wasn't there. Stick to your rates and charge for everything you did. 

 

Good work.

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As a tower that also owned an auto transport company those vehicles are treated as any other cargo for the recovery invoice. Just because they are vehicles is irrelevant as they were being hauled by the trailer. Invoice for time and material used to recovery the cargo while protecting the salvage value. They would not be separate tows instead just part of the overall job. My suggestion is to bill for the trucks and manpower as hourly instead of hook and recovery fees for each of the cargo vehicles.

 

Progressive sucks, although it is still better than having the truck, trailer and cargo insured by different underwriters. At least you will only be dealing with one adjuster for the entire invoice rather that trying to split the bill among different parties (which I never would do).

 

As for the cause of that crash, hitch failure is likely. Those wedge trailers hauling cars always have scared me. Way to unstable and if the driver doesn't balance his load properly (as in this case) it puts too much top heavy sideways stress on them and over they go. That load should have been lower on the trailer not all the way up front. Until there are three units on the trailer the load should be at the center or towards the tail as per manufacturer recommendations but most of these wedge drivers are too lazy to move the load as they pick and drop units.

 

In the car haul world there are reports of these types of rollovers almost daily, it is such a problem that the Auto transport Intel YouTube show has a rollover of the week segment featured on their Tuesday night live show. I am scheduled to be on their show at the end of September to discuss weight balance and proper loading of those rigs to prevent these crashes and failures.

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For argument's sake, I'm not so sure about a single bill for the entire recovery. For legal reasons, I believe splitting the bill is a better process. I'd bill each individually like Grumps said. Because each vehicle has its own VIN and registration information, I'd bill individually to include hourly (portal to portal here for CHP) labor, storage and whatever other fees are reasonable to the allowed rates set by the initiating agency. Additionally, what if the transport company or their insurance agent argued the, "all inclusive invoice", and refused to pay because it was too high? What about the other owners who have the right to get their vehicle's back? What if they came to get property out of their vehicle? You can't hold the other owner's vehicle ransom for the transport company's error. What if the trailer remains in your facility for two weeks because of a rate dispute? Are you going to charge the insurance company seperate lien fees on the single invoice? Without the individual invoice per vehicle, how can you start a legal lien if there's no invoice for services rendered; especially if you tranported any of the damaged vehicles using seperate tow trucks and carriers? I'd first look real close as to what is allowed by agency and by state lien laws.      R.


Randall C. Resch

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37 minutes ago, rreschran said:

For argument's sake, I'm not so sure about a single bill for the entire recovery. For legal reasons, I believe splitting the bill is a better process. I'd bill each individually like Grumps said. Because each vehicle has its own VIN and registration information, I'd bill individually to include hourly (portal to portal here for CHP) labor, storage and whatever other fees are reasonable to the allowed rates set by the initiating agency. Additionally, what if the transport company or their insurance agent argued the, "all inclusive invoice", and refused to pay because it was too high? What about the other owners who have the right to get their vehicle's back? What if they came to get property out of their vehicle? You can't hold the other owner's vehicle ransom for the transport company's error. What if the trailer remains in your facility for two weeks because of a rate dispute? Are you going to charge the insurance company seperate lien fees on the single invoice? Without the individual invoice per vehicle, how can you start a legal lien if there's no invoice for services rendered; especially if you tranported any of the damaged vehicles using seperate tow trucks and carriers? I'd first look real close as to what is allowed by agency and by state lien laws.      R.

The individual owner's of the vehicles being transported as cargo do not have the same rights as if they were driving them and were involved in the accident. We can't look at them as vehicles, they are simply pieces of cargo no different than a box of nails at this point. They are subject to the rules of the Uniform Bill of Lading and other applicable Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations regarding cargo ownership and control.

 

It is always a hassle when trucking companies want to split the invoice, my theory is one call from the PD one invoice. The other interested parties can fight amongst themselves as to how to divide responsibility. Towers are not legally obligated to split a non-consent towing bill although it may be a way to get paid when there is a dispute between several insurance providers.

 

The lien process would be for the truck and trailer only. Both in Pennsylvania and Federally towers are not allowed to hold cargo hostage (the two transported vehicles) so their can not be a lien process on those two vehicles. Upon demand the cargo must be released to the cargo owner. PA based towers do have the right to request payment but in the end they must release cargo even if the cargo owner does not pay the recovery and storage charges. That said, the shipper (cargo owner or their agent i.e. broker) is responsible for the costs associated with cleanup, preservation of and storage of cargo. These charges can be collected from the cargo portion of a trucking companies insurance policy through a court process but again the cargo can not be detained so the transported vehicles that came off the trailer would have to be released on demand.

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Hey Brian ... everything reads good herein up-until you write ... "Towers are not legally obligated to split a non-consent towing bill."  

 

You said, "The lien process would be for the truck and trailer only," so ... how does the tow company justify the lien process for the pickup and Mazda that were physically towed/tranported and NOT as an attached unit of the transport truck and trailer? After the 3rd day in storage, how does Bill of Ladening over-ride state lien sale? Aren't these two seperate issues?

 

OK ... would you agree that there could be other legal rammifications based on per-state laws that don't necessarily recognize Bill of Ladening? What I'm feeling is the potential of a huge battle for payment initiated by multiple parties as noted by your narrative. Do you try and get paid via one invoice or do you get sued where it costs more to defend? What's the better choice?  R.

Edited by rreschran

Randall C. Resch

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There is some really really good conversation here and I want to thank ESC for posting this situation. Now with what has been discussed so far, what would change if lets say, ESC was able to recover and tow the trailer with the vehicles still secured to the trailer? They would almost certainly be considered "cargo" at that point, Right? 

I see this the same as if a semi loaded with cartons of books for instance was laid on its side and the wagon had to be off loaded prior to the recovery. You would have time equipment and manpower that needs to be paid for. Cargo is cargo regardless of what it actually is.


PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

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2 hours ago, rreschran said:

Hey Brian ... everything reads good herein up-until you write ... "Towers are not legally obligated to split a non-consent towing bill."  

 

You said, "The lien process would be for the truck and trailer only," so ... how does the tow company justify the lien process for the pickup and Mazda that were physically towed/tranported and NOT as an attached unit of the transport truck and trailer? After the 3rd day in storage, how does Bill of Ladening over-ride state lien sale? Aren't these two seperate issues?

 

OK ... would you agree that there could be other legal rammifications based on per-state laws that don't necessarily recognize Bill of Ladening? What I'm feeling is the potential of a huge battle for payment initiated by multiple parties as noted by your narrative. Do you try and get paid via one invoice or do you get sued where it costs more to defend? What's the better choice?  R.

The Mazda and pickup truck are unfortunately just cargo in this instance. They can not be subject to a lien as a towed vehicle individually, the only vehicles that are subject to the normal lien process are the truck and trailer operated by the trucking company. Just because the cargo (Mazda and Dodge pickup) are also motor vehicles and were transported incidentally by a flatbed carrier to a storage facility makes them no different than a pallet of paper or corn flakes that could have been transported by a flatbed carrier to a storage facility after a grocery distribution truck had a wreck with a cargo spill.

 

It is clear that cargo from a truck wreck can not be held as it constitutes interference with commerce, which is the controlling legal principle that overrides any state regulation that one may try to attach to the shipped vehicles. It sucks for us as towers but it is the way cargo claims work. Another way to think of the two cars that came detached from the trailer as personal contents of a motor vehicle. In most states, Pennsylvania specifically (where this crash occurred), a tower has no legal right to hostage personal contents of a vehicle with payment for services rendered as a condition of release -same applies to cargo.

 

As for the battle of interested parties, yes it could become a problem although that can occur with any tractor trailer wreck. Often there are multiple parties involved including shipper, receiver, truck owner, trailer owner, motor carrier, freight broker and each of their insurance companies. Each has a different opinion of their amount of liability and therefore dollars owed to the tower although ultimately it is the motor carrier that is legally liable to pay the invoice since they were the entity operating the vehicle at the time of the crash. They can then subrogate their losses to any other interested and liable parties insurance polices on their own.

 

I will say form my experience as a heavy tower in Pennsylvania only about 20% of my tractor trailer recovery invoices, including liability only claims, ever became a problem. Most of them were paid by the motor carrier's insurance quickly and they hashed it out among themselves later. As for the problematic 20%, yes they went to court with success most of the time. The only time I had trouble was when a small trucking company or owner operator would file bankruptcy -then all collection attempts had to cease and I had to release everything including the truck and trailer unless the bankruptcy filing was after the date I could legally begin the lien process. Even then often the court would demand release of the assets anyhow.

 

Truck recoveries are very different than the typical personal vehicle recovery regarding billing and the lien process. Given the majority of trucking falls under Interstate Commerce by definition the Federal regulations preempt most State level lien laws and usually compel the release of everything except the physical remains of the motor carrier's truck and trailer. Even sometimes the trailer can be forced to be released without fees if it were part of the cargo (as in a driveaway/towaway or power only situation).

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Thank you everyone for the input!!  I started thinking about the billing and talking with our others at the shop and we all had some different opinions on this job, and I had a gut feeling that it was a bit of a different situation with a transport trailer and all.

 

So far my plan is to wait and talk to Progressive a bit and feel them out.  I am hoping they call and want to handle it all in one shot.  I am working up a rough draft on the invoice now, but its been a busy morning here after the holiday weekend.

 

Ed, you and I are on the same page numbers wise.... i came in around your figure before we add admin fees, crash wrap, spill tackle and storage.

 

Brian, what about the PA Towing and Storage Act- as far as not releasing anything before charges are paid.  My understanding is that protects towers from having to release vehicles and contents until charges are paid.  Now, this situation may be different than what we normally deal with with the cargo situation.

 

Also, one of the comments has me wondering.  So if we cannot hold "cargo", being the two vehicles on the trailer- if the insurance co wants to pick them up who do we talk to?   Typically with any impound or crash, we require the vehicle owner to show proof of ownership and release the vehicle to whoever- typically copart or ins co, etc.    In this case, being "cargo"... would you go off the transport company word?   I prefer to deal direct with the vehicle owner in that case, but dont want to run into any legal issues over "cargo".

 

Here is a few pictures of the aftermath in the daylight.

 

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Edited by ESC

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Wow. Snapped the pivot ears right off the plate.. I have never seen that happen before. I just noticed that Dodge "cargo" truck was a 3/4 ton DIESEL !!!! There is no way I would have put that truck that far up on that trailer.. That thing belongs down bottom, Over the axles IF ( and it is a big if for me ) even on that trailer at all.. I totally get that those trailers are supposidly beefy with their dually tandems and all But they are still rickety and unbalanced. I have never liked them. 


PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

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11 hours ago, ESC said:

Thank you everyone for the input!!  I started thinking about the billing and talking with our others at the shop and we all had some different opinions on this job, and I had a gut feeling that it was a bit of a different situation with a transport trailer and all.

 

So far my plan is to wait and talk to Progressive a bit and feel them out.  I am hoping they call and want to handle it all in one shot.  I am working up a rough draft on the invoice now, but its been a busy morning here after the holiday weekend.

 

Ed, you and I are on the same page numbers wise.... i came in around your figure before we add admin fees, crash wrap, spill tackle and storage.

 

Brian, what about the PA Towing and Storage Act- as far as not releasing anything before charges are paid.  My understanding is that protects towers from having to release vehicles and contents until charges are paid.  Now, this situation may be different than what we normally deal with with the cargo situation.

 

Also, one of the comments has me wondering.  So if we cannot hold "cargo", being the two vehicles on the trailer- if the insurance co wants to pick them up who do we talk to?   Typically with any impound or crash, we require the vehicle owner to show proof of ownership and release the vehicle to whoever- typically copart or ins co, etc.    In this case, being "cargo"... would you go off the transport company word?   I prefer to deal direct with the vehicle owner in that case, but dont want to run into any legal issues over "cargo".

 

Here is a few pictures of the aftermath in the daylight.

 

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Sorry for the late reply. As for proof of ownership to release the cargo vehicles, the Bill of Lading is the "title" for freight so either the shipper or consignee may redeem them just like they were a bunch of pallets of widgets. I always ask them to pay the whole bill, and this is where I would consider a split invoice is if the cargo owner wanted the cargo they can have it if they pay the cargo cleanup related fees which would be the labor and equipment required to clear them off the road, transport back for storage and preservation.

 

As for the PA Towing and Storage Act it is my understanding that cargo is excepted from it because of the Federal regulations preempting the State regulation. Now, if the cargo was truly intrastate (PA only) then it may not be subject to the Federal rules and may be able to be held. In that case (intrastate only load) I would check with a a lawyer before holding the cargo just to confirm if you can or can't being it is usually not permitted.

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I have been intrigued with this accident and I got Curious about the hitch failure. That Curt 5th wheel has a 25k towing capacity with a 6,200 lb ( and change ) vertical load limit.. So, Long story short it is more suited for RV trailers. That 4 Runner on the top/front along with the nose weight of the trailer alone swallowed up most of its vertical capacity. Not to mention the 9,000 lb. pickup....

Guy buys a $90,000 truck, $18,000 trailer then goes and holds them together with a cheapo $600 hitch... 


PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

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On 9/8/2020 at 10:34 PM, GRUMPS The Towman said:

I have been intrigued with this accident and I got Curious about the hitch failure. That Curt 5th wheel has a 25k towing capacity with a 6,200 lb ( and change ) vertical load limit.. So, Long story short it is more suited for RV trailers. That 4 Runner on the top/front along with the nose weight of the trailer alone swallowed up most of its vertical capacity. Not to mention the 9,000 lb. pickup....

Guy buys a $90,000 truck, $18,000 trailer then goes and holds them together with a cheapo $600 hitch... 

I have to give a little credit to the hauler.  He had a nice new truck, and nice setup with the trailer.  But, I agree, it appears that the hitch appears too light for what they were doing.   They had everything else right.  DOT info, medical card, the straps were all in good shape and installed correctly.  Nice to see from a car hauler for a change, as most that we run across are a mess.

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Thanks to everyone for all of the info!   I got a call this morning from Progressive.  They were pretty easy going so far, but they hadn't seen the bill at that time..  They asked for a total with storage through 9/11, so I emailed over the recovery invoice updated through tomorrow.   They asked if we could split up the bill for each vehicle, and I told them to take a look at what I send over and we could go from there.   I am planning to just tell them to split it up however they would like on their end.   Ill keep everyone updated.

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Good news!   Today the commercial truck & equipment adjuster came out from Progressive.  He was awesome to deal with.  He didn't have any issues with our invoice.  I showed him our pictures and he asked to forward a few of them over to him as well as the invoice.   The entire recovery and all on one invoice.  The only thing he asked that I change was to move the storage for the two "cargo" to separate invoices.  He is supposed to be having a check mailed to us for the truck, trailer and entire recovery.  He said the auto claims side of progressive will contact us about paying the storage on the two cars.  He also approved our quote, without any hesitation, to deliver the white dodge 3500 to Vineland NJ for repair.   Maybe I quoted too low... haha.

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