CHICAGO (CBS) – While the City of Chicago struggles with rogue tow truck drivers who rip off motorists for thousands of dollars in fees, the city of Philadelphia addressed that problem about 10 years ago.
In Philly, the city requires tow truck companies to be on a city-approved list. The drivers work on a rotational basis. There are 30 companies on the list, and they are allowed to operate in up to four of six geographical areas. A company at the top of the list gets the assigned tow and then moves to the bottom. The city also requires the operators to respond to a call within 20 minutes.
Philadelphia has operated under this system for 10 years. Illinois passed a law in 2008 that allows police to call a private company to tow a vehicle. But, because it’s a city of more than 1 million, Chicago is exempt and officials haven’t shown a willingness to allow it. As a result, accident-chasing tow drivers show up on a scene and take advantage of motorists, charging them thousands of dollars for tows and storage.
“It has not stopped wreck-chasing entirely, but it has certainly helped the City tighten up the enforcement process against bad actors and enhanced the effectiveness of the rotational towing program,” said Philadelphia city spokeswoman Maita Soukup.
The city imposes a standard fee for the tow and storage fees. The towing fees range from $215 to $400, depending on the weight of the vehicle. The daily storage fee ranges from $25 to $75.
Tow truck operators face fines up to $1,000 for drivers who repeatedly violate the city’s ordinance.
Philadelphia also requires tow truck drivers to have a smart phone with internet access and a photo ID.
New York City has operated a similar program for more than 30 years. Towing fees there range from $125 to $140. Storage is $25 per day for three days, then increases to $27.
The list of approved operators are called to an accident by police, who are responsible for maintaining the list of companies.
The city acknowledges that illegal tows are still among the top complaints. New York’s Department of Consumer and Work Protection recently launched an investigation into tow truck insurance fraud.