Jump to content
News Ticker
  • Many thanks to our sponsors and patrons for their continuous support of our community.
  • Slow Down Move over
TowNews

City Plans To Rein In Racing Tow Truck Drivers (PA)

Recommended Posts

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They’re called chasers — local tow truck drivers who race each other to the scenes of accidents to get the tow.

 

When they get there, it can sometime turn violent, like in early February, when police say one tow truck driver shot another who was wielding a baseball bat at the scene of a crash on Washington Boulevard.

 

“What we’ve had historically is a wild, wild west. It’s been a free-for-all where when there are accidents on city streets, whoever gets there first and gets their business card in front of a crash victim was winning multi-hundreds of dollars of towing fees,” Dan Gilman, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff, said.

 

The administration wants to put the brakes on the chasers once and all. Instead of having tow trucks racing in the street, the city would establish a half dozen districts and have a designated towing company for each one.

 

“This isn’t trying to create a monopoly. It’s not trying to cut anyone out of business. We could have as many as six tow truck operator companies still doing business with the city,” Gilman said.

 

Over the years, KDKA has done several stories on folks having their cars towed and not being able to locate them, only to be charged days later with exorbitant towing and storage fees in the thousands of dollars.

 

Gilman says new city rules would address that too, limiting fees but allowing the companies to make a living without deceptive or dangerous practices.

 

“We want to support our local businesses. We want to support entrepreneurs, but it needs to be done safely,” he said.

 

This is a request to the towing companies to bid on one of six towing contracts. Each winner would be assigned a zone in the city that would be theirs alone; no other company could tow cars from accident scenes within that zone.

 

The city believes that this would do away with the chasing once and for all.

 

UPDATED:

 

Pittsburgh tow truck drivers doubtful about proposed city procedures

 

Monday morning’s precipitation mix caused fender benders and crashes from the South Side to Squirrel Hill. Just after 7 a.m., emergency dispatchers could be heard over a police scanner radio discussing three cars that slid off Potomac Avenue in the city’s Banksville neighborhood.

Tow truck drivers were certainly tuned in — just as they are beginning to dial in to a city plan that could dramatically change the way they do business in Pittsburgh.

“There’s quite a few companies that are legitimate companies, and they listen to a police scanner,” said Jason Watkins, owner of Jay’s Towing in Brighton Heights. “We know all the streets in the city, we go to a wreck.”

He said there are some “bad” operators in the business that are considered “chasers” because they hurry to accident scenes in hopes of hooking the resulting business.

The city of Pittsburgh is now trying to stop so-called chaser tow truck drivers from racing to crash scenes, which public safety officials say “creates unsafe conditions” — a justification that comes just weeks after an incident in which one tow truck driver critically injured another after arguing at a crash site within city limits.

The city announced Friday that it has launched a bidding process for towing companies to split coverage areas.

But some in the towing industry are afraid the regulations will kill business.

Mr. Watkins, who lives in Brighton Heights, said he heard about the city’s effort when another person in the industry gave him a call.

“Is it going to push out the good ones or bad ones? I don't know. There’s not enough answers out there,” said Mr. Watkins, who said he’s looked at the city website and has called to ask questions.

In an effort to stop the chasing, the city is seeking to designate one towing company to respond to car crash scenes in each of the city’s six police zones. Companies can bid on more than one zone.

According to the city’s request for proposals, eligible towing companies must have at least three trucks on call that each have a gross vehicle weight rating of 17,500 pounds; be able to provide a flatbed that could haul two vehicles simultaneously; and have a facility that can store at least 10 vehicles within a two-mile radius of the city.

Additionally, towing charges would be determined by the city’s towing ordinance, which now sets pickup fees for passenger cars, light trucks and motorcycles at $135.

Mr. Watkins said his company operates five tow trucks, including flatbeds, and that he could store up to 11 vehicles inside his Brighton Heights garage, or as many as 40 on his outside property. He charges $395 for a tow from a crash scene.

Mr. Watkins said that adjusting to a lower fee is “not going to be feasible” for his business when considering his operating costs of plates, insurance and maintenance.

But according to Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration, “safety and customer protections” are paramount for those who find themselves in car crashes or disabled vehicles on city streets.

“When numerous tow trucks hurry to the scene of a vehicle crash it creates several safety concerns,” Pittsburgh’s Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich wrote in an emailed statement Monday. “First, they are competing to get to the scene and therefore often speed and break traffic laws to get there first, which creates unsafe conditions. Second, as many as six tow trucks can show up for a single-vehicle crash, which adds to traffic congestion,”

Mr. Hissrich said that he’s been to crash scenes where tow truck drivers have gotten into arguments.

“Police officers then have to act as mediators when they should be focused on assisting victims or directing traffic. It's not safe. From a public safety perspective, the time has come for action,” he continued.

On Feb. 2 an argument between two tow truck drivers in Homewood led to a shooting that left one of them in critical condition, according to police.

The incident on Washington Boulevard near Shetland Avenue occurred when multiple tow truck drivers responded to an accident and two of them got into an argument. One pulled a baseball bat from his truck, and another drew a gun and shot the first, according to police.

This is not the first time the city has butted heads with the towing industry.

Pittsburgh police have publicly complained in recent years about trouble between tow truck drivers.

And in 2012, local towing business owner John F. Halbleib filed an injunction in federal court against the city after he claimed towing business was unfairly given to city contractor McGann and Chester. He settled the case with the city in 2013.

Mr. Halbleib, who owns the Hazelwood-based businesses Halbleib Auto Body and D-Maxx Authomotive, said he plans to fight the city’s new plans. Among several issues he sees with regulations, he said, he disagrees with a provision in the city’s request for proposals that states that towing businesses affiliated with auto body shops cannot apply for one of the zones.

Additionally, he said that splitting the service between the zones will hinder his business.

“Sometimes there’s not even one wreck in your zone for two days,” he said.

The city deadline for bid applications is March 8.

 

RESOURCE LINK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember this from a DECADE ago!!

Hard to believe that city has allowed it to happen for this long.

 

These people have NO business whatsoever running any kind of wreckers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's amazing to me there are still cities out there that allow these half a*&%ed ambulance chasers to run their "businesses" like that. I just cant imagine having to fight for work like some sort of vulture. I used to wonder why i always had to defend our industry but, then i see something like this and i'm reminded why i always have to prove that there are real professionals in this industry. Hopefully actual legitimate towing companies will get these contracts they are setting up and not some clown with a homemade sling setup on the back of their ragged 1/2 ton pickup truck. If someone  raced up to an accident scene around here with a setup like that, Our P.D. would tell them to go home and take that crap off their truck before it falls off and hurts someone!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Bill H said:

Philly is on the rotation and So are the suburbs where in pa are they still chasing?

The article is about Pittsburgh.   But Phila has had chasers running as well.    They recently had something going on with AutoReturn doing something in Phila, but I am positive there is still chasing going on.  I was down in NE Phila last week and there were guys running all over.  I passed a 2 car wreck and 3 different companies were there before PD.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is a double edged sword here in Pennsylvania. As an industry we have very little in the way of regulation on the state level, a few cities have some tow regulations, but for the most part we are left to our own. This leads to chasing and some unscrupulous business practices, which we all pay for in the end. In 2019 I find it hard to believe, yet chasing happens all across the country still.

 

I was a victim of this back in the late 90's, I would not chase wrecks but my nearest competitor did, even went as far as joining the fire department just so he could respond with his wrecker to the crash and get a business card to the driver before the PSP arrived, allowing him to make it an owners request. I am not against towers volunteering with the fire department, I encourage it (will have an article on this in the April issue of American Towman), I just don't like it when it is used to get around the rotation system.

 

Glad to see Pittsburgh is finally doing something, all I can say is what took them so long?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know all too well how that goes. we have a part -time operator who works for the competition here who's full time job happens to be as a dispatcher for the county 911 center. we cant prove it but, it's incredibly obvious that when he works nights as the dispatcher, the only tow company that gets called for anything worth while is the tow company he works part-time for..

9 minutes ago, brian991219 said:

It is a double edged sword here in Pennsylvania. As an industry we have very little in the way of regulation on the state level, a few cities have some tow regulations, but for the most part we are left to our own. This leads to chasing and some unscrupulous business practices, which we all pay for in the end. In 2019 I find it hard to believe, yet chasing happens all across the country still.

 

I was a victim of this back in the late 90's, I would not chase wrecks but my nearest competitor did, even went as far as joining the fire department just so he could respond with his wrecker to the crash and get a business card to the driver before the PSP arrived, allowing him to make it an owners request. I am not against towers volunteering with the fire department, I encourage it (will have an article on this in the April issue of American Towman), I just don't like it when it is used to get around the rotation system.

 

Glad to see Pittsburgh is finally doing something, all I can say is what took them so long?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Welcome to TowForce.net

    Wanting to join the rest of our members?

    Feel free to sign up today.

×