Musik was so shocked she stopped by the News-Gazette to drop off a letter to the editor and see if the newspaper could investigate what she termed as “outrageous and unrealistic” pricing.
Upon investigation, The News-Gazette discovered the fee structure towing companies can charge after being called to the scene of an accident or a DUI are completely arbitrary and could even be prone to abuse, as Music claims.
Tow trucks are dispatched from a list that is held by the central dispatch office. There are nine companies on that list.
In order to be placed on that list a business must have a wrecker and the proper license and insurance. There is no one that checks the fees charged when an accident happens and a vehicle is towed, therefore the accident victim is at the mercy of the towing company.
The central dispatch office told the News-Gazette that Sheriff Rick Clemons’ office was in charge of the list of wreckers; the sheriff’s department said Jailer Darwin Dennison was in charge because he was in charge of the central dispatch and Dennison said he had nothing to do with the list. He said Judge-Executive Gary Logsdon and the fiscal court controlled that list.
These towing companies can charge whatever fee they desire to pick up a vehicle and tow it back to their office. Once there, a company can charge a daily storage fee and virtually hold that vehicle hostage until the bill is paid.
After contacting several of the towing companies that are on the county list, the News-Gazette determined that $520 charge to tow the vehicle in question was far above the highest fee that would be levied by any other wrecker service. When this situation was explained to the other wrecker services contacted, the maximum any of them would have charged was $150.
There was a second wrecker called to the scene of this accident because there was a second vehicle involved. After contacting the second wrecker service the News-Gazette found it would have charged an average fee of $150 fee rather than the $520 fee.
The victim had no say in who was called to pick up his motorcycle and was at the mercy of the list the county judge-executive and the fiscal court provides.
After further investigation, the News-Gazette has received copies of wrecker bills by two other victims of the same towing company and found those fees to be completely unlike the fee structure that is charged by other companies in the county.
Grayson County Judge-Executive Gary Logsdon said the county has never addressed the fees that are charged by the wrecker services contracted by the county but will certainly have to after inspecting the fees being charged.
“What we are going to have to do is bid this out like we do hauling rock,” said Logsdon. “That way everybody is charged the same thing or close to the same and no one is charged unfairly.”
Logsdon added that after the sheriff received several complaints about the wrecker service that hauled away the motorcycle it was taken off the county list for a short period of time but was put back on for legal reasons.
“This is not the first time we have had problems with this but we could not just take him off the list because we wanted to,” said Logsdon. “He could sue us.”
Logsdon added the issue would be addressed at the next fiscal court meeting on Tuesday, July 20, at 4 p.m.
If the state police is the law enforcement agency that is working an accident, then they dispatch a towing company from a list they have compiled. However, the same problem could occur because cost is not a factor on that list either.
Lieutenant David Lee of Post 4 is in charge of the companies that are on the tow list and he said if they dispatch a company and the victim files a complaint about the fees charged he will investigate the charges and assist any way he can.
“We have taken companies off the list when several complaints have been filed,” said Lee. “But in this case we did not dispatch the wrecker service so there is nothing we can do.”
KSP Trooper Davy Norris worked this motorcycle accident but the Grayson County Central Dispatch office dispatched the tow truck.