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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingFebruary 20 - February 26, 2019

Refusing Law Enforcement Requests

AbandonedMotor home 5ced7By Randall C. Resch

Can we refuse to respond to rotation calls when it's known that another derelict piece of junk means we towers may not get paid? Tow companies aren't charity workers.

I've read plenty of stories where some tow owners actively tell their municipatities, police agencies or officers on scene that they're not towing said derelict vehicles until they know that they're getting paid. When including the lien-sale process, storing one of these derelicts for 60 days or better takes up a lot of valuable storage space in one's towing yard.

In times past, law enforcement tow contracts were specific in stating if a law enforcement dispatcher requested a rotation tow—and the tow request was for a large, broken-down, trash-filled, derelict mobile home—a tow company couldn't refuse the tow based on it being a derelict. Yet, many of the responses I read nowadays suggest company owners openly refuse to take similar calls like these.

So, I pose the question, "At what point is the tow company violating the contract?"

Ya Can't Say 'No'

A Southern California company serving the California Highway Patrol knew of an older model Chevrolet that was abandoned on the highway for a period of days. Although California law provides that a vehicle disabled on the highway must be removed or can be towed after four hours, the vehicle remained on the shoulder until all tires and wheels were removed some day's later.

Section 6, Subsection D of the California Highway Patrol's Tow Service Agreement for rotation tow companies states, "A failure or refusal to respond to towing or service calls and/or repeated failures to meet maximum response time requirements, without justification, shall result in disciplinary action. (This includes refusing to respond for junk vehicle calls. Justification for failure, or refusal, to respond to calls shall be determined by the CHP)."

Fast forward to a CHP officer eventually taking time to impound the Chevy that they requested a contacted tow company to respond. One of the most verbal and aggressive tow owners and his company was next in line to receive the call. When the call came in the company's dispatcher was told to refuse the call citing the CHP waited until after the tires and wheels were gone.

Long story short, the CHP removed the tow company from their rotation list because the tow owner maintained his position of non-cooperation.

Was the agency justified in removing the tow company who refused to take the call?" I would suggest yes, based on the specific wording stated in a law enfocement contract about call response. (Of course, I'm no lawyer.)

There are bound to be derelict vehicles in the reality of towing for municipalities, and this is one of the downsides of being in the Industry ... but it's what we signed up for.

Tow companies should have a plan in place that works with law enforcement so a company is able to quickly dispose of derelict vehicles through lawful abatement processes to dismantlers.

Tow companies historically have a problem in not getting paid for derelict vehicles. A community and its law enforcement should work together to develop plans and processes that assists towers in being paid for their towing and transport work and easing the after-hassle that comes with storage and disposal.

This is a topic that state towing associations should work on along with the lien-sale process. I believe towers are in business to do the work and help rid the community of eyesores and abandoned junk; but not to bear the burden of disposal and working for free.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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