A Massachusetts man whose Jeep got stuck in a mud pool while off-roading with his girlfriend says a towing company presented him with a bill totaling nearly $49,000 for pulling it out.
Joel Ramer told local TV station WFXT that he ended up in a mud pit last week in Walpole, a suburb south of Boston, and called for a tow. After 12 hours of work, the towing company, Assured Collision, extracted the vehicle.
But when he went to pick it up, Ramer says he was given a bill for $48,835.
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“He informed me there was some damage done to the vehicle, but didn’t get into details,” Ramer told the station. “He also informed me the bill was $48,000. I thought they made a mistake.”
In truth, it seems that Ramer and his girlfriend were being naughty in their off-road adventure — in addition to getting the vehicle stuck, he also got arrested and cited for trespassing and disturbing the peace, WFXT reported. Ramer said he was unknowingly on private property owned by a utility company.
Here’s the, er, breakdown of some of the items on the bill: $16,000 for an on-scene supervisor at $1,250 an hour. More than $10,000 for an off-road recovery incident response unit. A $5,000 fee for “dangerous condition liability insurance.” All in all, $48,835.
Assured Collision Inc.
On Assured Collision’s Facebook page, reaction to the bill was incredulous. “Wow, Assured Collision of Walpole MA found a sure fire way to make a dollar,” said one user. “What a bunch of incompetents,” said another. “48k for not having a clue how to do your job … i wouldn’t trust you to tow a scooter.”
The owner of Assured Collision, whose mission statement is “Price is Important, Satisfaction is Priceless,” told WFXT that the Jeep’s proximity to power lines put his seven-man team in dangerous conditions and that the fees reflect the industry standard.
But the Statewide Towing Association told the station that the rates quoted appear to be out of whack. “Although Statewide Towing Association has not had a chance to review the actual invoice,” said a statement, “the rates quoted … appear to be significantly in excess of the industry standard.”
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In addition, the association said the industry standard for an onsite supervisor is between $175 and $325 an hour, not the $1,250 that Assured Collision charged, and that they have never heard of dangerous condition liability insurance, for which Ramer was billed $5,000.
The tow company’s owner also told the station that he is negotiating with Ramer’s insurance company. However, Ramer claims he is refusing to pay anything toward the tow, so the vehicle remains at Assured Collision’s lot, where a lien has been placed on it.
Road Transport Consultant, Cecil Garbrah has described as “rubbish”, the decision by the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) to make vehicle owners pay a mandatory yearly towing fee.
Effective July 1, 2017, vehicle owners and motorcyclists will pay compulsory annual fees, tied to the acquisition of road worthy certificate, to cater for towing services.
Fees per year for both commercial and non-commercial vehicles, depending on tonnage, range from ?20 to ? 200.
The NRSC is introducing the service in order to rid the country’s roads of abandoned broken down vehicles which cause accidents.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority and the Ghana Police Service are collaborating to ensure such stationary vehicles are cleared off the road.
There is already a chorus of disapproval among the travelling public, particularly commercial drivers, over the scheduled implementation of the new regulation. There are close to Two million vehicles plying the roads across the country, according to the NRSC statistics.
Speaking on the Super Morning Show on Joy FM Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Mr. Garbrah, who is also the Executive Director at Toptech Transport & Logistics said the timing is wrong and premature.
“How can you use one week [or] two weeks to tell the public this is what you are going to do? It is not fair,” he said.
Although he agrees in principle that the provision of towing services will help reduce accidents on the roads, he argued there is not enough awareness creation on the regulation.
“All we know is that from 1st of July we are going to pay this amount [and] I think it is really rubbish honestly! We don’t have to accept this. If you are coming to do this, come up with public awareness first,” maintained the past president of the Ghana Association of Driving Schools.
Impact on commuters
Contributing to the discussion, National Vice Chairman of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) Robert Sarbah said, although the directive will add to their operational cost, it is the commuters who will feel the impact.
“This will also impact on the cost of our operation and we will pass it on to the passengers. We will not feel it much,“ Mr. Sarbah said.
In addition to public awareness, the GPRTU Vice Chair also wants the fee reviewed ahead of the implementation deadline.
“If for anything at all the fees must be reduced by 50 percent,” Mr. Sarbah appealed.
A private firm, Road Safety Management Company Limited incorporated in June, 2011 and owned by businessman, Joseph Siaw Agyepong, who also owns waste management company, Zoomlion, has been awarded the contract to tow broken down vehicles from the roads.
The Road Safety Management Company Limited and it’s allied service providers will enjoy 85% of the charges while the DVLA and Police Service share 5% each. Ministry of Finance as well as NRSC will also be allocated 5% each from the proceeds.
Communications Manager for the National Road Safety Commission, Kwame Kodua Atuahene says the Ghana Police Service which is originally mandated provide towing services is constrained with capacity.
According to Mr. Atuahene, the purpose of the levy “is to have vehicle owners make a certain minimum contribution to be able to deal with a national issue”.
“The Police do not have the capacity to handle this situation…the Commission [NRSC] does not have the resources to procure these trucks,” hence the engagement of the private sector participant.
He maintained: “this project has gone through all the necessary benchmarks” as provided by the law.
“The problem is there; the government may not have the resources to deal with the problem; the private sector is there but it comes with a cost,” he said.
It is the hope of Mr. Atuahene that the public will comply with the new regulation in order to reduce the number of road crashes caused by abandoned vehicles.
The government says it has taken note of concerns raised by a section of the public regarding the mandatory towing charges to take effect on July 1 and is taking steps to resolve them.
Deputy Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said there have already been a series of engagements with various stakeholders to see how to deal with some of the concerns.
He said Saturday on Newsfile on Joy FM/Multi TV that government was “picking the various pieces of all the legislation that have to deal with the [tow tax]…to take a second look at it.”
From July 1, vehicle owners will be required to pay the mandatory Road Safety Fee each time they renew their road worthy certificate at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA).
Commercial vehicles and taxis will pay GH¢40, mini buses will pay GH¢80, while heavy duty trucks will pay between GH¢80 and GH¢200 annually, depending on their tonnage. Non-commercial vehicles are expected to pay GH¢20, while motorbike owners will pay GH¢10 annually.
Some 118 trucks have been acquired by Road Safety Management Services Limited (RSMSL), the private company contracted by the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) for the national towing service.
The charges are to provide reliable towing service so that when vehicles are abandoned on the road the NRSC can ensure that they are swiftly towed.
Many road accidents have been caused by speeding vehicles crashing into stationary vehicles.
There have mixed reactions to the legislation, although public disapproval seems the fiercest.
Critics disagree that the fee should be mandatory. Others say there were no consultations before the legislation was passed.
Vice President of thnk tank, IMANI Centre for Policy and Education, Kofi Bentil, has described the incoming tax as an attempt to steal from Ghanaians.
According to him, there are existing laws that mandate Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to provide towing services in their respective jurisdictions.
Chief Policy Analyst at the Ghana Institute of Public Policy Options (GIPPO) Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby on Thursday, has also called on the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, to immediately halt the implementation of the policy.
The Chamber of Petroleum Consumers (COPEC) has since petitioned the President over the matter.
During discussions about the tax on Newsfile, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said the government is engaging with the relevant stakeholders to see “whether or not there is room to do the necessary maneuvers that will ensure that the problem is solved but is solved in a manner that is generally acceptable to the broader population.”
Meanwhile, Road Safety Management Limited defends that concept, pointing out that a similar system is practised the world over to keep roads safe.
When a motorist’s car got towed, he desperately needed a few personal items from inside.
When he asked to retrieve the items from an impound lot, he was told: for a price.
Kalen Tartt’s car was legally towed to GTS towing’s site in Dolton. He didn’t have the money to get it out. He just wanted his belongings, including his Social Security card, his ID and his birth certificate. The car was towed while Tartt was job-hunting.
The clerk told him: “If you want any of your belongings out of the vehicle it’s $190.”
Another clerk at GTS had asked for money and the vehicle’s title.
When CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker asked about the conditions, the clerk responded: “The owner of the company — those are his rules. It’s a private company.”
But those rules could violate a state statute that says vehicle owners may claim certain personal belongings, including eyeglasses, food, medicine, a wallet, identifying documents, cash and credit cards.
Demanding cash can be an intimidation tactic to get unknowing customers to get their cars out.
Tartt eventually paid the full $425 to get his car back.
“I don’t think it was fair but I had to do it,” he says.
A few months ago, I was driving a large moving truck when it died on a freeway on-ramp. Without warning, the engine light started blinking, and 10 seconds later I was blocking traffic at rush hour.
It was an uncomfortable situation. There’s an adrenaline surge you experience when you break down. Your mind starts racing and your judgment becomes clouded.
Tow situations, especially on a busy highway, demand that drivers keep their wits about them and never forget the traffic hurtling past. (THINKSTOCK)
While nobody anticipates breaking down, understanding what to do in advance can help you make good decisions when it’s time for a tow. We’ve talked with some of the area’s best wreckers to learn what to do during towing situations, and here’s their advice.
Your biggest danger after breaking down is getting hit by another vehicle.
“What you’re looking at draws your attention,” says 20-year veteran Darin Wade of Big D Towing. If you’re in your vehicle, at least you have some protection from other cars, he says.
Wade has seen dozens of examples of looky-loos causing additional collisions at the scene of a tow.
“Highways are the worst places to try to fix your car or change a tire. You have huge vehicles traveling by at high speeds,” he says.
The exception to this is if your car is out of sight in a ditch or the weather is extreme, says 30-year veteran Ray Caveness of Randy’s Towing in Wenatchee.
If you don’t have phone reception and you’re in a rural area, it might be better to hitch a ride to the nearest town.
If you do, leave a note outlining your plan, and think about where a tow driver will come from. Often customers have to pay more because the wrecker must get the driver and then backtrack to get their car, he says.
Beware: freeways are 24-hour tow zones, so if you abandon your car, you’ll probably pay an impound fee and a ticket.
Know where you are
Before you call a towing service, figure out where you are. It’s the first question they’ll ask, says Emily Gerke-Wade, operations manager at Big D Towing.
Know which direction you’re going, look for cross streets, mile markers or think of the last town or landmark you saw.
Also, figure out how your GPS zooms out to reveal your location.
Pull over quickly
When people notice car trouble, they think they can make it farther than they actually can, says Gerke-Wade. “Often going those extra three miles to the next exit will wreck your engine.”
Costly repairs can often be avoided if you pull over at the first safe spot you find.
Reduce your towing bill in advance
Many auto insurance policies offer towing assistance for only a few dollars per month. If you only need one tow per year, it usually pays for itself, but you must sign up before you need it.
Gerke-Wade tells the story about a customer who called from the bar after he’d had too much to drink. Rather than risking a DUI and paying for a cab, he simply called for a tow truck to take him home, knowing his insurance would cover it.
Towing is one of the biggest upsides to being an AAA Auto Club member. If their trucks are slow to dispatch, you have the right to choose another towing company and get reimbursed.
Have emergency supplies
Caveness often meets drivers stuck in the mountains wearing T-shirts and flip-flops in the winter, or summer drivers who are dehydrated because they’re waiting in a hot car with no water.
When your vehicle has issues, climate control will stop working. So when you travel be prepared with the basics like water and blankets.
Senate Bill 117 would require towers to receive written, signed authority from a parking facility’s owner or agent before towing.
The bill prohibits vehicles from being towed unless a sign in plain view prohibits or restricts public parking.
It requires towers to release vehicles that have been hooked up, but not yet towed, if an owner or driver is present, although they can charge a hookup fee if the hookup is complete.
And it requires towers to provide vehicle owners or operators with a photograph of the vehicle illegally parked on request.
The bill passed Monday on a unanimous vote with nine members excused.
Senate Bill 488 aims to protect victims of auto theft, who can face steep towing and storage fees to get recovered vehicles back.
It requires that law enforcement agencies provide towers with the vehicle owner’s contact information, and specifies that fees for storage cannot accrue until the tower first attempts notification.
The process currently takes about 30 days and can leave owners owing more money to the tower than the vehicle is worth.
The bill also allows the owner of a stolen vehicle that is totaled to transfer the vehicle’s title to the towing company in full or partial payment of towing fees.
“It helps minimize the harm and costs to victims of car theft whose cars are towed at no fault of their own,” said Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, who carried the bill.
It passed unanimously Tuesday with four members excused.
Oregon’s Department of Justice received 131 written complaints about towers in 2016.
In 2009, the Legislature passed a law that requires tow truck operators to take a photo of the vehicle showing it parked in violation before towing. They can only monitor lots, or sit in wait for violators, if the hours during which monitoring occurs are clearly posted in the lot. And they must release a vehicle before towing if the owner is present, charging only the hook-up fee.
In 2013 the Legislature passed a law allowing cities and counties to regulate towing if they choose. Portland, Gresham and Tualatin regulate tows from private lots.
This Father’s Day, Ladd Brindley is celebrating the opportunity to employ three of his children through his new towing company.
As a former mechanic and part-time tow truck driver for Cedar City Motor Company (formerly Parkway Autoplex), Ladd raised his children with a love for towing. Now three of them — Laramy, 23; Wyatt, 21; and Jessi, 18 — are in the towing business with him.
“They’ve been sitting next to me (in a tow truck) ever since they were able to sit in a car seat,” Ladd says. “My kids love tow trucks. They always have.”
Ladd notes that even though Laramy is only 23, he already has 21 years of experience in the business. Laramy began practicing towing skills in earnest as a teen. Ladd came home once to find him driving a pickup with a trailer around a makeshift obstacle course.
Even Laramy’s young son, Chaidyn, has caught the tow truck bug.
“He’s 2 years old and all his toys are tow trucks,” Laramy says. “It’s in his blood.”
Ladd recently struck a deal with Cedar City Motor Company to start his own business. He opened Ladd’s Towing, on Feb. 1, operating out of an office owned by Cedar City Motor in exchange for serving all of his previous employer’s towing needs.
Starting his own business also enabled Ladd to hand-pick his employees. Naturally he went to the three people he had personally trained for many years: his own kids.
Laramy and Wyatt both have commercial driver licenses, so they are able to drive the tow trucks. Jessi assists them on calls, often steering the broken-down vehicles as they are loaded on and off the tow trucks.
Jessi, who graduated from Canyon View High School last month, is already studying for her own CDL. She hopes to acquire her commercial license before she begins classes at Southern Utah University this fall to study business.
Like her brothers, the towing industry has intrigued Jessi since she was a small child.
“These guys are pretty much my role models — especially my dad,” Jessi says. “I like that he sees me as not a typical girly-girl.”
Laramy admits the male members of the family do worry about Jessi when they are out on certain jobs. But that worry also encourages them to teach her as much as they can.
Jessi says she’s grateful they don’t treat her like a “regular girl,” despite her slight build and long blond hair.
“We’re sticking to staying away from that stereotype,” she says. “That’s the plan.”
Ladd says they all try to avoid another stereotype: the “greasy, filthy tow truck driver.” In defiance of that stereotype they wear new Ladd’s Towing shirts and trucker-style hats with the company logo (Jessi’s hat is pink). The back of the hats display a little tow truck humor: “Get hooked on us.”
Ladd also insists that his tow trucks be clean, inside and out. Since she cannot yet drive the trucks, one of Jessi’s tasks is vacuuming the truck interiors to make sure they look professional.
“He’s a real stickler about that,” Jessi says of her father. “He wants the trucks to look nice.”
Jessi says it’s fun to tell people about her interest in towing. The only time her peers have given her a hard time about it was when she presented a report in school about how she wanted to be a tow truck driver.
Her eventual goal is to do the “big tows” associated with major automobile crashes. While she already rides along to help with clean-ups at crash sites, Jessi says she is still learning about all the aspects of responding to serious incidents.
As for working with his kids, Ladd calls it a “dream come true.”
“It’s not even like a job,” he says. “It’s like we’re on a vacation all the time, just hanging out.”
Laramy and Jessi joke that it’s like a vacation for their father because he gets to take every day off. After all, he’s the boss.
But when it comes down to it, they all recognize how lucky they are to have a father for a boss. Many fathers provide for their families in different ways, but they are able to say that their father has provided them with employment.
While individual tows often separate them, larger wrecks might bring the family members together at the same time. Ladd says he has a “no fighting” rule for his employees but Wyatt says their only disputes typically focus on who gets to drive the truck with the best stereo.
Past jobs have been a struggle for Laramy but now he says he doesn’t worry about getting fired. If he messes up while working for his dad, he knows the boss might just send him home for the day.
Ladd’s wife, Maria, says she admires the company her husband has built in less than five months.
“He has an idea and follows through,” she says. “It’s nice to see him succeed, to go from where he was to where he is now. I’m always amazed.”