The Chattanooga Wrecker Board under the direction of Chairman Bill Glascock has been in the process of updating the city’s wrecker ordinance. The goal is to find solutions to the problems that will satisfy both the wrecker company owners and the city. The wrecker board needs to establish a fair rate that will allow the wreckers make money without letting that price get out of hand, he said. The city since 2003 has only allowed the companies to charge $125 per wrecker tow for cars, while if a car is towed by the state, the charge is $300 and if by Hamilton County it is $285.
The wrecker board members recognize the need for a rate increase in Chattanooga, it was stated.
The biggest point of contention is that there is conversation about Chattanooga establishing its own impound lot where all the companies would store towed vehicles, rather than taking them to lots individually owned by their company. Most of the surrounding cities in Tennessee own their own central lot making it easy for owners to find their cars in a safe location and with known storage charges. Another issue is that most of the storage lots in Chattanooga require a cash payment to retrieve their cars. The board would like for them to accept credit cards.
The towing companies are assigned to different districts in the city and each district chose one speaker to represent their service areas at the Tuesday morning meeting of the Wrecker Board that was held to discuss the issues from both sides. Rick Rutherford from R&D Towing in District 1 told the board that most companies get 40 percent of their income from their storage lots. And Les Cantrell, owner of S&L Towing, said that half of the towing businesses will not be in business if they don’t have that income.
Mark Shackleford from Shackleford Towing and Recovery in District 2 created a packet for each board member highlighting recent increases in costs that the industry has had. The increased expenses include the cost of their trucks, insurance, registration costs and online services that provide information about cars that are towed and their owners. He listed the costs associated to send letters related to liens, and the expenses that companies have when an unclaimed vehicle has to be auctioned. Additionally, quality tow truck drivers need to be compensated fairly for the dangerous work they do, sometimes in the middle of the night.
Communication is another problem, starting with tow sheets completed by police officers. The tow sheets include pertinent information about the vehicles that are being towed. In Chattanooga, they are written with two carbon copies. Only the top page is legible, said multiple speakers, the third or last copy that the tow truck drivers get, is such bad quality that it cannot be read for the most part. They are pretty useless, said Chris Perry from District 4. And often by the time the tow truck arrives, the owner of the vehicle has left, so no information is available. This leaves people unable to know where their cars are so they call 911 for help.
A new challenge, is that most towing companies do not know how to store a wrecked electric vehicle. With the increase of EVs expected, a policy is needed for how to handle them. Shannon Yates with Yates Wreckers said there are so many unknowns now that no decisions should be made yet.
Curtis Wilson with United Wrecker told the board he hopes that the working group of representatives from the wrecker companies, along with Bill Glascock, Ron Smith and Vince Butler from the Wrecker Board, will be able to communicate and they can come to a good understanding about how to bring about changes. He told the board that the wrecker representatives appreciate having the opportunity to speak in order to determine where to go from here.
Mr. Butler said that the board agrees a rate increase is needed but the wrecker board can only make suggestions to the Chattanooga City Council who will be the ones to make the final decision. He urged the towing industry to contact the council members that represents them. Mr. Glascock said it would be beneficial if the board and the wrecker business can come to a mutually beneficial agreement before taking it to the City Council.