Independent Tow Truck Drivers Go Unchecked

By Andy Sheehan, KDKA Investigator

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.

  • Queenie

    It is true that towing companies get paid by the insurance companies when in an accident. If the city tow pound only charged $9. a day after the first 18 hours, then they are over charging and the city should stop them.
    They are a private tow company also.

  • Mr Obvious

    Heres a tip, call AAA………

    • FixPGH

      Do you not read? These gypsy tow companies show up before anyone, and the man in the story had JUST BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT and had to be RUSHED TO THE HOSPITAL and was too dazed to realize what he was doing.

  • Queenie

    It is true that towing companies get paid by the insurance companies when in an accident. If the city tow pound only charged $9. a day after the first 18 hours, it would be ok then, but they are over charging and the city should stop them.
    They are a private tow company also.

  • Rj

    “I think everybody needs to feed their families and pay their mortgages and everybody works hard for a living,” he said.

    I agree with George. George is working out working 12 hour days to feed his family and pay his mortgage while there are people living off the welfare system not working hard, having more and more babies to get more welfare money. And this report is trying to make George look like the bad guy….

    • Hoss

      RJ…Just because someone has a mortgage or a family to support does not give that person the right to violate the law in the course of doing their job. Using your backwards logic, everyone should ignore federal, state, city, and local laws in the interest of getting to work and earning a paycheck. If a store double-billed you for an item, is it ok for them to hide behind the excuse that the store employees have families to feed? Nope!

  • jessica

    i was in four wrecks over the years and all these company’s show up i had an encounter with elite j&a extreme and d&t they all tryed over charging me and trying to force me to tow my car besmart call triple a they will tow it and when i was on the phone with triple a they were fighting over who was here frist it was like they are four little kids fighting over the last candy bar people do not trust them i made the mistake once and and it cost me my car cause the tow bill was so high they totalled my car over 50 but and do u think they would help me out no so dont let them tow ur car

    • GrammarPolice

      Holy geez, learn what a period is! Oh, and it’s “you’re,” not “ur;” “you,” not “u.” Also, capitalization please! What were you doing during those four wrecks? Obviously texting and not reading.

      On a side note: When commenting, why can we say “ass” but if we write “c r a p” the comments don’t post?

    • JAUN


    • Tanya

      Well Jessica, I don’t know what D&T you’re referring to (D&T Towing & Auto Service or D&T Automotive) I do own D&T Towing & Auto Service and you say you were in four wrecks. Were you drinking, texting, talking on the phone while involved in these four wrecks? And I have NEVER fought with anyone over a tow because I also repair vehicles at my garage. You say it cost you your car once, then you say it was totaled in the SAME sentence!! IF YOUR VEHICLE WAS TOTALED ONLY YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY CAN MAKE THAT DECISION NOT ANY TOWING COMPANY OR GARAGE!!! They send out an insurance adjuster who looks over the vehicle and determines if it’s fixable or totaled out. It has NOTHING to do with your tow bill!! Check all your facts before you go trying to run your mouth!

      • Sarah

        I think that she meant that the bill totaled over 50 bucks. Not that the car was totaled. Anyway, it’s a hard reply to understand but I am trying to make a bit more sense of it. I do agree that some tow companies commit highway robbery because some people seem to be at a disadvantage when they are in an accident (disorientation, trauma, racing mind, etc..).


    yes they need to make a living but ripping people of is a different story they do it all the time over charge for things they dont do like hazard clean up yea right they have to be certified for that dont think they are towing your car with the wrong equipment like towing a vehicle with a SLING just causes more damage or towing a 4wd or AWD vehicle not good for the drivetrain must go on a flatbed insureance companies HATE these CHASERS they over charge and make rates go up either call triple A or have the city tow it to their yard they are very nice to deal with had too a couple of times but just be nice to them i had bad first time then realized they just do what they are told by the cops AND WONT RIP YOU OR THE INS. COMPANIES OFF


    OH i forgot something i have heard that some of these drivers don’t even have a license or insurance and some of the trucks don’t even MEET DOT requirements to be able to tow vehicles

    • Sarah

      These kinds of claims need to be researched. Unless one hears it from the horses mouth so to speak then it probably should be taken as rumors or gossip. Here say is one of the worst forms of spreading false information.

  • Rj

    Periods and commas are your friends!

  • FixPGH

    I worked at a print shop and we got these “gypsies” in there all the time. There was one guy that had a business called “Accurate Roofing” but would change the name to something different every time he printed up a quote or bill…total rip off. We got a fax for him one day and someone was taking a lawsuit out. These “business” need to be stopped. Sure they need to make a living, but doing it like a slum is not the way to do it. You can’t rip people off like that.

  • JAUN


  • bettygerbil

    some of these guys have families to feed and go out 2am 3am to help people in need and risk there lives to do public service my brother was a tow truck driver as a second job and he lost his life do to a drunk driver while helping people stranded

  • John

    George is correct. He is permitted to charge any amount he wants, provided that is it a consensual tow. The fact that the drivers handed over their keys is consent. The City Code limits what can be charged by a city ordered tow (police officer orders the tow) OR a nonconsensual tow. That is not the case with the people in this story. There is no such limit for a consensual tow. George did not violate the City Code in this instance. I would agree that these towing companies are like sharks and prey on people, but as a driver you have a choice on who will tow your car. People like George will simply take advantage of you. Call AAA.

    • Sarah

      A+ answer! Finally something that makes sense.

  • Tow

    i am a tow operator also, i have yet to pick up a auto from the socalled city pound for $110.00 , correct me if im wrong but all cars towed there are police ordered tows (nonconsentual), so the city should try to control its own operations before it decides it needs to regulate private companys

  • Alicia

    There is good and bad in every business. However in instances like this bad out weigh the good. I was involved in a horrible accident and the towing company that I chose to tow my vehicle was Jay’s Towing in Brighton Heights and they were outstanding, they towed my vehicle, drove myself and my family home, helped me file my claim, and repaired my vehicle back to brand new. Now you don’t hear about these helpful tow truck companies, you only hear about how they all rip you off. After everything was said and done I have nothing but thanks for this towing company.

  • One small voice

    The city needs to do something about these ” Chasers ” they really do take advantage of individuals in unfortunate situations. These are not good people, overcharging the public in tragic situations. They need to be banned.

    • tow

      please don’t put everyone in the same bunch, yes there are some bad apples but that is in any line of work

  • Just Saying...

    Since “everybody needs to feed their families and pay their mortgages” I have decided to do some “hard work” writing this post. Everyone who reads this owes me $100. Cash only.

  • BZ

    I was a victim of Extreme Towing also. I had a wreck right in front of their business and needed towed to the dealership. They charged my insurance company over $700 to: 1. tow it about 200 feet. 2. store it overnight on its flatbed. 3. tow it to my dealership the next morning~ 2 miles away.

  • Nancy Dalena Elsesser

    Don’t they need your permission to tow your car?

  • dansuxs

    These towing companies had to reinvented themselves because the city ruined their primary scam.

    They used operate scams in the Strip District and the Southside. No parking signs would magically appear and disappear in “private lots” and if you unknowingly parked in a private lot without permission they would tow your car. They would then make you pay outrageous fees to get your car back. Not to mention you had to find the towing company that took your car. “Private” no parking or your car will be towed signs now need to be registered with the city and need to be permanent. They can not be set up or taken down whenever they feel like it. This was a large scam that operated within the law for years so the city had to create this parking ordnance to address the problem.

    • Tanya

      dansuxs, DON’T say “these towing companies” NOT ALL of us do or have done that. I have NEVER towed “illegal parkers” which is what you’re referring to in your comment. And to tow an illegal parker the CORRECT/LEGAL way the owner of the property NEEDS to call the police to have your vehicle tagged first then they can call their private towing company to tow your vehicle. There also MUST be signs posted with the towing company name and number on it in the private lot and must also be registered with the city and have stickers posted on the signs. This is NOT something new, it’s been this way for years.

  • Bob

    It’s simple people just look at the tow truck if it says j&a, extreme , jays towing or any other name that says towing your going to get ripped off. it’s simple go with a auto body shop truck they don’t care about the tow they want the repairs so they don’t over charge. Towing companies only have one way to make there money so if they only tow one car that week and need to tow three to make there bills. guess what ? Your making it up.

    • Jen

      no…the charge for a tow for a wrecked vehicle is $175.00, that dont change. However the bill does change due to storage and if another tow is needed. These companies charge the same as an auto body does for a wrecked vehicle to get the repair! These men try to make good out of a bad situation, they help people by giving them rides home, calling their families, getting them a rental car or whatever else they may need!! so Bob maybe you should get all the facts about something that you are gonna comment on thanks!!

      • Bob

        The 175 is ok the 50 a day is ok but the second tow should not be more than 60- 80 dollars. but if you let a body shop tow it there’s only one tow and if they fix it there’s no storage so get your facts together before you run your mouth thanks!!

    • Tanya

      Yes some towing companies are like that BUT NOT ALL ARE and I DISAGREE with what your saying about the names on the trucks because I do own a towing company and garage but, my truck only says the towing company because the door only has so much space to write on.

  • b hibell

    gilette towing in natrona heights charges 250 for 5 miles and 35 a day for storage and he adds to the cost if you question him. plus he tows your vehicle with you in it. What a douch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • John

    It’s the cities fault. That’s all they have to do to regulate these companies is have the police check or the owner of the car check the drivers info. If the truck don’t have a repair and towing license plate on it the trucks not licensed. To get a RT plate you have to go through a criminal background check, have proper insurance and have a clean driving record. That gets rid of half of the trucks already. And it’s easy to say only charge 110 for a tow they don’t sit out for 12 to 16 hour a day working. Get rid of the city contract or give the legit companies 200 tows a day and they will be glad to tow for 110 dollars and 9 dollars a day storage if he can be called for a tow while sitting on his couch. Then when you don’t pick up your car because you don’t have the money they sell your cars once a month that’s how they make up there losses. You can’t trust the city or shady tow truck companies. Don’t listen to the new judge fir your self

  • jen

    I also do believe that mcgann and chester started out “chasing” when they first started back in the day….so go investigate what they charged!!! John is right send these towing companies that are legit meaning have licenses and insurance some tows a day then you can regulate the price for the tow!!

    • jen

      Oh by the way, Andy Sheehan, go investigate how much mcgann and chester charge for a private tow and not one that they tow for thier “city contract”!!!

  • tow truck driver wife

    what the FINE people of this city fail to realize the costs involved of owning and operating a tow truck. yes, you may say that there are other ways to feed for your family. but if that is the only way at the time then so be it. i would bet my life that if you had no other means of putting food in your kids mouths and towing was an option, you would be out day and night towing wrecks! another thing no one realizes is that these are INDEPENDENT tow companies. and just like George said, we do not deal with the city. we deal with the INSURANCE companies. that is why you people pay for that towing coverage every month! so that means that the city should not be able to dictate what the price of a tow is. that is like the city telling a small business in the city that they are only allowed to charge X amount of dollars for something in their store/business. they are business owners just as these tow truck drivers are. the only tow company that should be dictated by the city is mcgann and chester since they have a contract with the city that states that they will charge the allotted amount the city wants. and yes, there are the tow drivers with no license or proper insurance but those are also the ones who need put in jail because they are normally a junkie. the ones that actually have a license and proper insurance and proper plates on their truck like the city says get the short end of the stick! so do not punish the good guys because of the bad ones!

  • john

    Let the lawsuits begin !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a meeting with my lawyer in the morning
    I think the next report should be on the $100 hour police officers get for when they work details they should only get paid what there hourly rate is. but we have to charge what they say. the cities full of shiiiiiiiiit!

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