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New ATRI report focuses on predatory towing

Research based on experience surveys

Posted December 1, 2023

In an effort to improve the working relationships between trucking and towing industries in the U.S., the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has released data the causes of and possible solutions to predatory heavy-duty towing practices.

What is predatory towing?

The most common types of predatory heavy-duty towing practices include:

  • Excessive rates,
  • Unwarranted service charges,
  • Access or release delays for trucks and cargo,
  • Causeless truck seizures, and
  • Nonconsensual tows.

These issues are a major cost for both motor carriers and for other towing companies that are compliant with the regulations. ATRI’s cause analysis

ATRI reports that over 80 percent of motor carriers experience both excessive rates and unwarranted charges, with 29.8 percent of crash-related towing invoices containing some form of predatory billing.

Invoice records show that these excessive rates and charges included:

  • Miscellaneous service charges (found in 8 percent of invoices),
  • Administrative fees (6.5 percent), and
  • Equipment rates (6.3 percent).

Since carriers are rarely able to choose which towing company to work with, carriers don’t have the option to compare rates or approve tow strategies. The conflicting objectives between towing and trucking companies create increasing opportunities for problematic predatory towing, ATRI says.

Possible solutions

To prevent predatory towing incidents, ATRI says carriers should contact their local trucking association to find preferred towing companies. Carriers should also research their state’s laws and encourage drivers to take photo and video records of the scene before, during, and after the tow, in addition to recording any other relevant details.

To help mitigate a predatory towing situation, carriers should advise their drivers to take notes on:

  • The arrival and departure times of the tow truck,
  • The equipment used, and
  • Whether outside resources (fire department, utility workers, etc.) participated.

Additionally, ATRI says carriers should advise drivers not to sign any documents from the tower, since the documents may not be accurate and do not technically require a signature.

Carriers who face a predatory towing situation should contact their insurer to negotiate with the tow company or hire an experienced lawyer to handle the issue.

Learn more about the causes and countermeasures of predatory towing in ATRI’s full report. (https://truckingresearch.org/2023/11/causes-and-countermeasures-of-predatory-towing/)

This article was written by Lucero Truszkowski of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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