July 19, 2013

In compromise, Portland raises car-towing fees to $85

Although wrecker companies asked for the change, they say it's still not enough to pay the bills.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Ben Roussel of Charlie's Auto Transport stands by his truck and lot on Warren Avenue in Portland on Thursday, July 18, 2013.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

The number of tows initiated by the city has declined, because parking enforcement officers are "booting" cars more often to get scofflaws to pay parking tickets.

The city also has cut back in recent years on the number of cars towed for street sweeping. Fewer tows mean less revenue for tow companies, Hill said.

Portland's director of communications, Nicole Clegg, said it made sense to revisit the rates.

"It was a reasonable request," Clegg said. "The tow piece hadn't been adjusted in over seven years. The costs have increased. We were trying to work with them to come up with an appropriate rate."

Roussel, with Charlie's Auto Transport, said his overhead costs have gone up 25 percent in the past six years.

He said he averages one city-initiated tow a day in Portland, and many tows are for snowstorm parking bans. Roussel supplements his towing business by buying and selling cars and transporting vehicles.

The new rates will help a little, he said.

"But during the big parking bans and stuff, a lot of us go out on the interstate and turnpike and make more money than we do towing for the city at night," he said.

He said a tow on the interstate can earn $200.

Roussel said that while the tow operators are happy to see Portland raise its fees, there are still issues between the city and tow truck operators.

Tow operators want to see an increase in the amount they can charge for a "drop," when the vehicle owner shows up before the car is towed and moves the car. The allowable charge is now $25 in Portland, they say, while it should be closer to $50.

They also want to see a change in accident tow rates, which are now $95, up from $75.

"No two accidents are the same," Roussel said. "Two trucks, winching them, rollovers, or submerged vehicles – each one has its own amount of time and work that needs to be done."

Hill said she has a philosophical problem with any limit on tow charges.

"They don't regulate the ridiculous amounts of money we pay to insurance companies each month," she said in an email. "They don't regulate what a heating company charges to come out and fix someone's furnace so why should they regulate what we charge for a tow?

"They are about helping the people who break the laws," she said, "and not to small business trying to survive here." 

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

 

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