Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Should Wayne County regulate tow truck charges for calls dispatched by E911?

The Wayne County Board of Supervisors held their annual Wayne County Fair meeting under the tent on Monday morning (8/12).

One of the hot topics was in the response by tow truck operators at a public hearing. The operators expressed their concern about the County establishing a law to regulate what tow truck responses can charge when responding to 911 calls for a vehicle tow.

Currently, E911 uses a rotating, next-available list of tow truck operators to respond to the County calls for common disabled vehicle tows, DWI arrests and accidents, whenever the vehicle operator has no preferred tow company.

According to Walworth Town Supervisor Bob Plant, the proposed law would not set rates, which still need to be discussed, only allow the County do so in the future. The proposed law came in response to citizen complaints of erratic charges that ranged from $100 to $300 for similar tow calls. Similar laws and tow charge limits already exist in both Ontario and Monroe Counties.

The law would be known as the “Local Law Standardizing Tow Rates to be Charged by Tow Operators Responding to Wayne County E911 Calls.” If passed, it would set maximum allowable fees that a towing company, which voluntarily participates in the E911 “Next Available” tow request system, could charge a customer.
According to Plant, someone distributed a sample towing rate prior to the public hearing that had upset the tow truck operators. “The public hearing is only to establish the law, not the rates”, he reiterated.
The fee schedule for towing would not apply to private calls for towing, only those dispatched by E911.

According to Ontario County Undersheriff, David Tillman, they have had a similar law and fee schedule since 2006. The “blended” rate allows not only for simple roadside tows, but for special conditions, additional truck requests, and milage. It also contains a fuel surcharge over a baseline fuel cost.

Tillman said before the law went into effect, “Charges were all over the board and some excessively high in certain cases”. With the blended rate, Tillman said the tow truck operators are happy and “The system is working great.” He added that the rates originally set are coming up for review. He added that he intends to get the tow truck operators together to discuss a fair fee schedule.

Buddy Bell, owner of Bell’s Collision in Palmyra said the industry has changed quite a bit over his 52 year career. While he acknowledges the fees charged by tow companies can vary, he also stresses that each towing situation is unique. “Each tow is different. Sometimes you need a flat bed, sometimes the vehicle needs to be winched from a ditch.” Bell, along with other local operators, still have several questions on the new fee structure.