TOWING BASICS EXPLAINED
To the general public, all towing appears to be the same. This is not the case, as all tows are not created equal.
There are two basic types of towing,
(1) NON CONSENT TOWING (Private Property Towing) which also includes Incident Management (Police Ordered Towing), and
(2) CONSENT TOWING, which is customer requested towing.
There are many costs associated with Non-Consent Incident Management Towing that Consent Towing does not incur. Incident Management Towing must provide immediate response with all the equipment as well as the work force required to carry out the required duties. Incident Management Towing is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of what we might be doing at the time and without advance notice. Consent Towing does not require the urgency, equipment, government compliance, regulation and training that are necessary for Incident Management Towing.
Equipment requirements are vastly different as well. Consent Towing requires only basic towing equipment. Incident Management Towing requires the truck to have recovery booms, winches, modified suspension, blocking, recovery straps, chains, dollies, snatch blocks, spreader bars and other specialized equipment for completing any project we are required to do. On any one particular job, some of this equipment may not be required, but we must have it in the event it is needed.
On occasion, Incident Management tow trucks are subjected to necessary abuse from working in remote locations off the main roadway, to carry out the jobs, resulting in increased wear and damage to the equipment.
Incident Management Towing is considerably more dangerous and hazardous due to the circumstances under which we must perform. Darkness, cold, extreme heat, rain, traffic, body fluids, jagged metal, battery acid, broken glass, spilled fuels, mud, vegetation, steep terrain, insects, fences, swift water, hazardous materials, diseases and other precarious situations create a very careful and deliberate work situation for the protection of everyone and everything involved. Towing personnel are more likely to be injured or even killed while conducting the necessary duties of Incident Management Towing. The stress of this danger and the expertise required increases the time it takes to complete the job successfully and safely.
Incident Management Towing documentation is far more comprehensive than Consent Towing. We must describe what we did, how we did it, equipment & manpower used, detailed vehicle information, detailed owner/lien-holder information, certified notices to the registered owner/lien-holder, notifications to law enforcement, information on when and where the vehicle is transported, dealing with insurance companies, detailed information on who removes the vehicle from our yard, release affidavits and detailed information on disposal of the vehicle if it is unclaimed. It is routine to spend as much if not more time on the paper work than is spent conducting the actual work. We must maintain complete records on these jobs for years, and in many situations, are required to go back in our records researching certain vehicles for the State, insurance companies, lawyers and vehicle owners. We may be subpoenaed to appear in court as a witness for the prosecutor, defense, civil plaintiffs or civil defendants at our own time and expense.
Incident Management Towing must have a storage area with secured fencing, lighting, durable surface and required insurance for the consumer’s protection. Contents of the vehicles are required to be inventoried and secured. We must escort owners, adjusters, law enforcement, lawyers and others in the yard to do their jobs at no charge. We receive multiple phone calls or visits from the various individuals involved on each vehicle. We are required to release vehicles 24 hours a day. We are required to impound vehicles, which the owners no longer want and just leave on the side of the road. We will not collect a dime on 35% of the vehicles we impounded because the owners or insurance companies simply decided to dump the vehicle on us instead of paying the bill, which they are legally obligated to do. Our only recourse for payment is to file a civil suit, creating additional expenses in processing and disposing of these vehicles. The charges may reach $1800 or more by the time these vehicles are disposed of. The processing of these vehicles will take 60 to 90 days, and 95% of the unclaimed vehicles bring scrap iron prices of around $100 from the crusher (if they will even buy them). In the disposal process, the motor oil, transmission oil, differential oil, air conditioning freon, antifreeze, wiper fluid, brake fluid, tires, batteries, fuel and fuel tanks must be removed before they can be crushed. Environmental issues are a major problem for the storage facilities and have created additional costs. Unclaimed vehicles carry a cost that must be calculated into every accident/impound tow we conduct.
Incident Management tow trucks and storage facilities are regulated by the City and County of Honolulu, and rates are established by the State of Hawaii. This does not mean that the laws are equally enforced and in many instances, little is done to make offending operators comply. Legitimate companies compete with unscrupulous operators for the same customer. Fees charged by a non-compliant operator MAY be less due to lack of proper insurance coverage, avoidance of rules and regulations, proper accounting of work performed, inadequate and unsafe equipment, little or no training of operators, and illegal parking of equipment in residential areas. These non-compliant operators take business from the legal operators thereby increasing overall costs and reducing revenue. Licensed Incident Management towing operations are subject to fines in the thousands of dollars for making an unintentional mistake; unscrupulous operators go out of business or simply walk away from mistakes, only to reopen under a different name.
State law requires each truck to maintain a minimum of $1,000,000 of general liability, plus $175,000 of cargo insurance (on-hook) to cover the customer’s vehicles. Enforcement is quick and sure for legal operators, sporadic and loose for unscrupulous operators.
Never ending government regulations, better equipped trucks and drivers, ever increasing insurance rates, record fuel prices, extensive operational requirements and all the extra administrative costs must be allocated to Incident Management Towing.