This post is part of a series sponsored by IAT Insurance Group.
Companies that engage in reputable towing — sometimes called predatory towing — practice chasing trucks in areas known to have an elevated rate of crashes. They may even use nefarious means to contribute to the likelihood of an accident. This is the latest scam to affect long distance transport and moving and storage transport.
Case in point: A driver recently sustained significant injury while trying to drive his tractor-trailer under a bridge in Chicago, whose “low bridge”; sign had been suspiciously removed. As soon as the accident happened, an unwanted tow truck appeared. In the driver’s distress and urgency to remedy the situation as quickly as possible, the driver accepted towing without a quote. Shortly thereafter, the moving and storage company received a $75,000 bill for the tow, a service that should have cost around $2,500.
While predatory cars like this and others are appearing around the country and causing concern among fleets, they have been particularly prominent in Chicago. So much so that the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Licensing and Consumer Protection passed an ordinance calling on the city to establish a license for tow truck operators to catch fake tow truck drivers who rush to accident scenes, ditch damaged vehicles and hold them hostage until truckers rattle off exorbitant fees.
7 best practices for carriers
Fleets and truckers must protect themselves against tow truck companies that engage in illegal or unethical operations. The following best practices provide important guidance for your fleet.
- Plan your routes. Don’t let your truckers wing it while picking up goods or hauling a load. Proper route planning not only ensures safety and increases driving efficiency by avoiding both known and unknown hazards, but will also include breaks and help determine the best route depending on what time of day a truck driver is on the road. Digital route planning tools are available to help with this as well.
- Be suspicious. Towing companies that stand by the scene when an incident occurs are not the norm. Train your drivers to be on the lookout for bluff tow trucks waiting behind the scenes. Prepare your drivers before an accident occurs to relieve unnecessary stress; inform them that they may not be responsible for the underpass they just cut if, for example, the low bridge sign was illegally removed. That information should help them think more clearly in these situations.
- Call the police. Call them to the scene and request an accident report. If this happens to you or one of your drivers, ask the local police at the scene for guidance on choosing a reputable, local towing company.
- Get it in writing. Make sure the cost of a tow is in writing – not open – with all charges clearly itemized. Avoid verbal agreements at all costs. Signed documents with clear cost pricing are essential to protect the fleet from being defrauded. Ask for the towing company’s business license and, if possible, confirm the information before accepting assistance.
- Have protocols in place to deal with accidents. This includes contacting managers and traffic controllers directly, calling the police and preventing drivers from signing or approving a tow without management approval. Providing drivers with clear protocols in advance greatly reduces the likelihood of making a mistake when a tow is required.
- Consider partnering with towing companies. Establishing agreements with national or local towing companies where your fleet visits can help your organization avoid dishonest tow trucks. With such agreements already in place, truckers can immediately contact these companies and avoid the need to purchase one on the spot.
- Report to local officials. If your driver or fleet falls victim to a shady towing incident, contact local officials for support. Reporting all of these incidents will help local jurisdictions take regulatory action to prevent this from happening again, as they did in Chicago.
Even with all these precautions in place, towing is expensive. Factors such as the weight and size of the truck and the distance to be towed affect the price. Accordingly, fleets should also not assume they are dealing with a dirty towing company if they are looking at an expensive quote.
Due to the increase in these scenarios, the American Transportation Research Institute is asking motorists and drivers to participate in data collection on the impact of predatory towing. Find the link to the short survey here.
ASK A LCR
Do you have a question about how to reduce risk? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to see your question answered in a future blog.
By Chris Parker
 Costhack “How much does it cost to tow a semi truck?”
 American Trucking Association’s “The American Trucking Association, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud are joining forces to address towing fraud across America,” 5 Apr. 2021.
 Chicago Sun-Times “Aldermen support efforts to capture ‘Wild West’ of rogue tow truck drivers”, 19 May 2021.
 FreightWave’s “Route planning tool helps drivers overcome daily frustrations,” 27 Apr. 2022.
Interested in Towing?
Get automatic alerts for this topic.