THE POINT: Prepare TODAY to respond to EXCESSIVE TOW BILLS
Video: DEFENDING AGAINST EXCESSIVE TOWING BILLS https://youtu.be/vtXcsRUcTeI
THE ISSUE: Tow companies are vital to our industry. They respond to breakdowns and accident to keep our industry rolling.
They invest their money in the equipment needed to keep us on the road. They respond day and night, and in all weather. They are entitled for fair payment for the service they provide.
However, you can hit with excessive bills. They leverage payment by holding your vehicle and even the load. They apply “techniques” they have learned to, uh, “maximize return” off of the recovery–excessive dispatch, mark ups on supplies, use of related “subcontractors” or “suppliers” that they again mark up.
I have successfully challenged a tow bill in a jury trial. Right, a jury trial.
While these bills are fortunately the exception, they can have a huge financial impact on you and your shipper. The keys are, like almost everything in our industry, to 1.) PREPARE and 2.) ACT IMMEDIATELY.
-Develop a relationship with towing company within the footprint of your loads. You may not be able to cover all the lanes in which you haul, but the more you can, the better the chance you can avoid the “nuclear tow bill” by having a relationship with a company.
-Know your rights. In some states you have the right to designate who you want to tow your vehicle. Make sure you know your rights in the states in which you haul.
-Inform your drivers. Make sure your drivers know what to do. Do they have the right to designate a tow company? If so, make sure they have a cab-card with the name, phone number, and area for that tower. Sure, dispatch should be able to provide the information. However, the urgency of law enforcement may require the drivers be prepared to designate immediately.
-Associate with a Tow Bill expert-Connect today with a qualified expert in towing procedures, requirements, and billing. Have them on the ready for whenever you get hit with an excessive bill. Why now? Keep reading.
-Line up attorney(s) experienced in tow bills-Again, connect today with attorneys in the footprint of your loads who is ready to respond immediately to a hostage vehicle or load. Why now? Like I said, keep reading.
-Check your insurance–Again, check your insurance today (you see a theme here?). How much coverage do they have for a tow bill? Will they respond? Immediately? OK, who do you call at what number? Immediacy is crucial!
And while you are talking to your insurance agent, broker, or insurer, ask how you can get a bond on short -notice. You guessed it–keep reading.
2.) RESPOND IMMEDIATELY
-Direct the driver-Do you have a designated towing company? Take photos of the truck, load, and the towing company equipment and what they are doing.
-Contact the towing expert-One of the largest expenses is often storage. Get a fair value from your towing expert and offer to pay immediately.
-Offer a fair amount-Key–fair value. Don’t try to low ball
If rejected, this is the amount you will will argue at trial was fair. You want to be the reasonable party–the one who was willing to make a fair payment for the work performed.
Not only is this evidence against the overcharge, it will be a potential defense against storage charges. If you offered the fair amount immediately, why should you be liable for storage?
Additionally, this allows you to take the offensive by counterclaiming for loss of use of your truck and/or the loss of the load. Again, you offered a fair amount (seeing another theme?). They wouldn’t take what was fair and deprived you of your equipment and/or lost the load. Give them a downside.
-Mobilize your attorney-Most states have a procedure to get back your property. It is often called an “Action in Replevin”. An attorney experienced in this should have the forms on their computer–fill in the blanks.
This is a legal way to go into Court and get an order ASAP to release your vehicle and the load. This is crucial if the load is time sensitive. Moreover, it stops the storage.
However, in many jurisdictions, you have to post bond. The bond is often based on the value of your vehicle and provides security pending the ultimate conclusion of the case.
Prepare for the release–Be ready for when your vehicle is released. No big deal, right? Just go and pick it up? Wrong.
Many tow companies that hold this equipment have hurdles you have to overcome to get back the equipment for which you have paid and/or have a Court Order. These include certificates of WC insurance by the tow company that is coming to retrieve you vehicle. Find out ahead of time to avoid multiple starts-and-stops in the process.
Bottom line: Towing companies are vital to our industry. They are entitled to be paid fairly for their work, risk, and investment. However, for those instances where the charges are excessive prepare today and act immediately.