The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that 30% of all crash-related tows in the U.S. include some form of predatory billing.
The research — published in an ATRI report titled Causes and Countermeasures of Predatory Towing — was based on carrier invoices and examined situations where towing and recovery providers overcharge, illegally seize equipment, damage assets by using the wrong equipment, or withhold assets that should be released, reports Trucknews.com.
Even if insurers pay the lion’s share of such invoices, the costs are still passed on to carriers in the form of higher premiums.
“Predatory towing is a costly issue for motor carriers as well as compliant towing companies, and it has been overlooked for too long,” said Shawn R. Brown, Cargo Transporters’ vice-president of safety, in a press release.
Excessive towing and recovery rates are experienced by 82.7% of motor carriers, while 81.8% of carriers face unwarranted service charges, ATRI says.
Overcharges occur through excessive hourly, per-mile, or per-pound costs, or charges for unnecessary equipment. For example, miscellaneous service charges were found in 8% of invoices, while over 6% of invoices included excessive administrative fees and equipment rates.
Other overcharging practices cited in the research include high daily storage rates, access issues, cargo and vehicle release delays, tows misrepresented as consensual decisions, and damage due to improper equipment use.
Such predatory issues lie in the fact that carriers are not able to choose their own towing and recovery company in a non-consensual tow, the organization adds.
ATRI’s research shows that carriers can use the towing and recovery service of choice in just 10% of crashes. Meanwhile, 36% of carriers responded that they never have the opportunity to select a towing and recovery company after an incident.
Billing practices are not standardized, either, which worsens the issue.
However, ATRI says towing and recovery companies are not always at fault for these issues. Assets may simply be over deployed in a legitimate bid to avoid extra delays and costs.
In Ontario the problem was addressed thanks in part to the Ontario Trucking Association, which worked with the provincial government in introducing the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act. The legislation, passed in 2021, strengthened provincial oversight of the towing and storage sectors to reduce crime and fraud, promote road user and tow operator safety, improve customer protections, and create a level playing field for tow operators – in addition to a new provincial towing program by the OPP, which ushered in significant changes to the way the police request services from and interact with tow and storage operators. This included a list of requirements tow and storage firms must meet before they can provide tow and storage services for police-requested legislated tows.
ATRI also identified several strategies to mitigate the predatory towing problem, such as itemizing invoices to tackle excessive hourly or per-pound rates.
The full copy of the report on the causes and countermeasures of predatory towing can be downloaded here.
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