Competition at crash scenes sparks towing wars

    A city program called Rotational Towing, created in 2005 to even-out competition for accident towing, may have forgotten about one thing – hutzpah.

    Rival tow-truck companies recently came to blows after a confrontation over a towing job in Philadelphia. One company alleges arson – the other, gunfire.

    A city program created half a decade ago was supposed to bring order to the Wild West aspect of the towing business.

    The Rotational Towing Program works like this: when a police officer arrives at the scene of an accident, he or she calls the police dispatcher who suggests a towing outfit from a rotating list of companies.

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    But the program may make the problem worse. City Councilman Jim Kenney says some tow companies monitor police scanners and high-tail-it to accident scenes before the police arrive.

    “Once they get on the scene they then begin to aggressively try to get the owners of the cars to sign consent forms so they can take the cars,” he says. “It’s just chaos out there. People have no consumer protection, and pedestrians and other vehicles are in danger of these guys, you know, screaming at a high rate of speed to these crash sites.”

    Kenney says he’s asked Mayor Michael Nutter to suspend the city’s rotational towing program and institute a temporary policy to have the Police Department call one of the towing companies already under contract with the city at the same time a police officer is contacted to respond.

    Kenney plans to introduce legislation in the fall that would put additional requirements on the accident towing companies.

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