On Wednesday, City Hall was practically a sensory overload. Unseasonable weather had temperatures hovering around 60 degrees as 30 tons of melted snow and makeshift plywood ramps were being constructed in Dilworth Plaza for a nighttime urban snowboard competition. Meanwhile, a motorcade procession rivaling the president’s persistently circled the building.
All the four-wheeled fuss was in regard to Bill 040595, proposed by the Street administration and supported by some council members – mainly Frank Rizzo – that will transform the city’s towing industry into a rotational system.
As is, Philly’s towing industry is a veritable free-for-all with massive tow trucks racing around the city, trying to get to accident victims first in order to push unnecessary fees on the vulnerable.
What happens is that a tower zooms toward the accident victims, jumps out and passes a contract along to the victims who, after being in a likely traumatic experience, is liable to sign the contract in order to get their car out of traffic and get their body off the street.
The catch is, towing companies are usually contracted with a specific auto-repair shop, and the signed contract mandates the motorist to have their vehicle repaired at that particular shop.
However, if a motorists’ insurance company doesn’t approve of the repair shop connected with the towing company and wants another company to do the work, then towers “gouge you $400 to $600 for the tow,” according to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Tom Ferrick Jr.
Ferrick has long been a champion of the reform, citing the bullish and overzealous towers who are so competitive to get the job first that “they’ve gotten into fistfights and shouting matches at accident scenes, arguing over who got there first and who gets the tow.”
A rotational system, already implemented in many of Philadelphia’s suburbs and other major metropolitan areas, has those in accidents call their firm of choice first.
If they fail to, or simply call the authorities directly, then police call the first tow company on the list. Once the truck is deployed to the scene, the next company on the list is then moved up, ready and waiting.
Sounds simple, right?
Those in accidents still receive timely service by reputable companies, towers are kept in line and Philadelphia’s roadways will look less like an Indianapolis racetrack.
But towers are consistently knocking the proposal, saying it will hurt the industry financially while claiming the measure is an overreaction.
The demonstration at City Hall was just the latest attempt to bring publicity to their cause.
In this instance, the Street administration should be commended for the bill, and towers should stop honking their horns in protest. After all, it’s their actions that precipitated the proposal.
Towers will be kept in line by regulatory measures and required licenses. Their fees will likely be capped, and in some other cities already using the system, towing companies are penalized for driving infractions, like drunk driving.
Inflate prices or get caught pulling a Nick Nolte? You’re off the list.
This week’s unseasonable temperatures are going to end soon, but the Street administration, Frank Rizzo and The Temple News don’t care if we’re cold.
We’d rather have tow companies keep the fleece to themselves.