PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They appear on the scene within minutes of an accident often beating the police and paramedics.
Tow truck operators are there to clear the wreckage, but according to those who say they’ve been victimized, many take advantage of a bad situation.
“There’s a couple of tow truck drivers asking, ‘What do you want to do, you want it towed?’” Dale Labby said.
A few weeks back, he was rear-ended on Brookline Boulevard and needed to be rushed to the hospital.
Dazed and confused, he put his keys in the hand of one of three tow truck operators who had raced to the scene.
“In shock and, you know, not even thinking about towing and everything,” Labby said.
That was on a Saturday night. When he checked on his car at a nearby body shop on Monday morning, he got a bill from an operator called Extreme Towing.
Two tows at $175 apiece, three days’ storage at $50 a day, plus $50 clean up costs all totaled $550.
“I tell you what, it’s outrageous. It is,” said Labby.
Councilman Doug Shields has been trying to rein in operators and enforce the city’s anti-gouging ordinances already on the books. Under the law, operators can’t charge more than $110 a tow.
Yet in the case of Extreme Towing, they towed the car twice saying the garage wasn’t open on Saturday night and charged $175 each time.
The city code also says that storage fees cannot exceed $9 a day and can’t be charged for the first 12 hours after an accident which means at the most Extreme Towing should have charged $18 for storage, not $150.
“Extreme Towing is acting illegally,” said Shields.
Extreme Towing is not listed in the directory, but KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan was able to track down a man named “George” and his tow truck to ask him about the bill and those storage charges in particular.
Sheehan: “The city ordinance says you can’t charge more than $9 a day.”
George: “It’s not the city, it’s the insurance companies that we deal with. We don’t deal with the city.”
Sheehan: “Well, the city has a law though.”
George: “We don’t tow cars for the city.”
The accident scene is less than a mile away and the repair garage is only three blocks up Brownsville Road, but George told KDKA-TV those charges were justified.
“I think everybody needs to feed their families and pay their mortgages and everybody works hard for a living,” he said.