Two wrecker companies were given harsher penalties than the Chattanooga Wrecker Board members thought were deserved, at a wrecker board hearing Thursday morning. The problem was that the mistakes were serious enough to not be dismissed but the minimum penalty in the city’s wrecker ordinance was felt to be more than was deserved. The least punishment allowed by the code is to remove a towing company from the city’s rotation list for 30 days and to move the company to the end of that list.
S&S Towing, 4402 7th St. faced two different violations during the same time period. This business is in both Tennessee and Florida. One driver had worked for Scott Summery at his Florida location for years and was trusted by the owners of S&S. The driver came to Chattanooga about three-four weeks prior to the incident. On Oct. 11, he was not on a wrecker call and was not working that day but he left the shop in one of the tow trucks. Because she knew the man, the dispatcher let him leave.
Around 5 p.m. Chattanooga Police Officer John Collins received seven phone calls about a wrecker driving erratically going northbound on Highway 58 and then crossing the median almost hitting vehicles going against traffic. When it stopped, officers found the driver unresponsive and administered three Narcan kits until he was revived. Narcan is carried by first responders to reverse the effect of an opioid overdose. The police also found a female in the truck unhurt, and a baggie of meth. The driver was taken to jail and it was found he had been convicted of DUI earlier this year.
S&S Towing had neglected to do a background check within 10 days of hiring that driver, which is a requirement of the city’s code, it was stated. The paperwork just slipped through, said Mr. Summery. He said he had been in business for 20 years without a violation prior to this.
The second violation for this company occurred on Oct. 26 when it took a wrecker from S&S Towing 40 minutes to get to the site of a wreck instead of the 30 minutes that the ordinance allows. The business is at the other end of the district from the location of the wreck - about 15 miles. The tow truck driver could see the wreck on Cummings Highway when the Chattanooga dispatcher cancelled the tow, so the driver was told not to stop.
The two infractions of the wrecker code were put together and treated as one for the first offense. The penalty should have a financial impact, said board member Vince Butler, but not put him out of business. S&S Towing received the minimum penalty allowed, which takes the business off the rotation list for 30 days. Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman told the board that the company can still do regular business, just no city rotation calls during that time. And, the owner has the right to appeal the decision.
Allied Wrecker was represented at the wrecker board hearing by a manager, Chris Perry. The company sent a truck to help at a wreck near 6191 Bonny Oaks Dr. on the night of Oct. 29. The Chattanooga Fire Department also responded to the same wreck and they spread oil-dry to absorb a liquid spill and requested for Allied to remove it. The driver told the fire department official that he was not allowed to pick it up and remove it from the street because it was a hazardous material.
Robert Thompson with special operations for the Chattanooga Fire Department said that a tow truck is required to remove debris from a wreck which is defined as anything dropped from the vehicle which includes liquids. Mr. Perry with Allied said that towing companies are not allowed to charge enough to cover the cost of disposal of hazardous materials because of the rates set by the city. "We can’t be reimbursed for all that we’re doing," he told the board. Attorney Reisman said he would add that to his list of concerns. The motion to suspend Allied from the rotation list for 30 days passed, but the board restricted the penalty to only tows in the B-Class rotation list. This decision can also be appealed.