06 Mar

No sympathy for the tow trucks

Following up the recent towing saga discussed here: it seems that West Coast Towing has been trying an end-run around state law that prohibits certain predatory towing practices (in their case, impounding cars without getting an express authorization for each tow), by claiming that federal law that deregulates the trucking industry prevents the state from regulating towers. (Towists? Towsters? Towistas?)

But it gets uglier: a former employee claims that West Coast, among other questionable actions, actually moved legally parked cars into illegal positions in order to tow them. Towing industry representatives point out that when towing companies make the decision whether a vehicle should be towed, it’s a huge conflict of interest, but TBT Towing GM Rick Woodrow, who recently made a couple of appearances in these pages, is quoted as saying “Probably every tower is rooting for West Coast.” (As one of my friends said after reading this: Rick, when are you going to hire a publicist? Because quotes like that are not helping your cause.)

Yesterday, striking a blow for the good guys, a U.S. District Judge rejected West Coast’s attempt to overturn a cease-and-desist order that blocks them from the “blanket authorization” tows. West Coast owner John Tillison claims to be suffering from “a tremendous loss of reputation and goodwill.” I wonder why he blames the state and media, but not his own company’s illegal actions?

4 thoughts on “No sympathy for the tow trucks

  1. Wow! “Blanket towing authorisations” should not even exist! On public roads & public parking lots police is to enforce the law. If there’s a parking violation the police should write a ticket, and ONLY IF there is DANGER for other road users ( such as double parked, parked on bicycle lane or pedestrian crossing, in a fire lane,

  2. Agreed — though in this case, these are blanket authorizations for private properties. So for example, if I hire West Coast to tow cars from my business’s (hypothetical) lot, with a blanket auth they can just come by and tow a car anytime they think that it needs to be towed, without waiting for a specific request from the business.

  3. First off, as I stated previously on this site, although we may not
    always see the towing issue(s) from the same perspective, the more I view
    this website the more I enjoy the constant exchange of ideas and views.
    Keep up the good work.
    OK, so perhaps I need a publicist…if I ever win the lottery I will sure
    hire the best one I can find. In the mean time I would just settle for
    a Seattle news reporter that would place my quotes in their proper
    context instead of sticking it on the end of a story. Yes, I said that
    probably every towing company is rooting for West Coast Towing on the
    “blanket” towing issue but there was far more to the statement I made
    to the reporter.
    A brief response to the comments that have been added to the original
    article. There are two types of impounds in Washington State. Private and
    law enforcement. If an impound is done from public property ONLY a law
    enforcement official can authorize the impound. Private impounds consist
    of those impounds on private property such as land owned or leased by
    business owners or home owners.
    How would any of us like to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to own
    property in Seattle, pay tens of thousands of dollars for taxes on that
    property PLUS the gross income of the business, regardless of whether it
    makes OR loses money, thousands of dollars for insurance and then be told
    by the city or state that you as a business owner have no right to keep
    that property free of people parking on your property without permission,
    made to clean up the beer bottles, drug needles and other trash left
    behind? Where’s the fairness here?
    Yes, any tow company that is truly honest would admit that they hope
    that West Coast wins their case regarding “blanket” impounds just as most
    business owners and property owners hope for the same thing. It is not
    because business owners are vindictive toward the public…they count on
    the public for their survival. Rather than a case of vindictiveness, it
    really comes down to their right to control their property the way they
    want to…free from unwelcomed vehicles, liter and liable risk. A liable
    risk? You bet! In this lawsuit happy society the case history is full
    of incidents where a person chose to park illegally on someone’s
    private property, got hurt, usually because they were “tanked” or “flying
    high” and sued the property owner…AND WON!
    The owner of any property in Seattle should have the right to contract
    with a towing company to make sure their property is kept free from
    unwanted and unwelcome vehicles…PROVIDING that the property is clearly
    marked with adequate signs that state “Unauthorized vehicles will be
    towed 24 hours a day. And, their contract with the towing firm should
    clearly establish when they are permitted to tow and under what
    circumstances. In other words, the procedures and risk of parking on this
    property should be clearly spelled out to those individuals who make
    the decision to take the risk and park on someone else’s property
    without their permission.
    Most business owners agree that the above should be the law in Seattle.
    All of us have to realize that in Seattle there simply is no such thing as
    free parking. Some of the parking rates in the city are outrageous but it
    is the old law of supply and demand at work.
    With or without the law being changed, tow truck operators have a
    tremendous responsibility to operate fairly, ethically and within
    whatever law is in place. Does it always happen that way? Of course
    not because the towing industry, just as every industry that exists has
    a small percentage of drivers or companies who damage the reputation of
    the entire industry.
    Obviously I can not speak for every towing company in Seattle but as
    General Manager of TBT Towing I can say that our company operates within
    the confines of Washington State Law and the Seattle Code as it exists
    today. The fact that we have never been fined, our license never
    suspended and win 97% of our cases in Impound Court speaks for itself.
    Our drivers are routinely evaluated even to the point of occasionally
    following them, making sure that they are operating ethically and above
    The parking situation in Seattle isn’t going to change until enough
    people get fed up and raise hell about it. Combined the City of Seattle
    and the Port of Seattle own tens of thousands of square feet of property
    that sits empty and unused. Perhaps if Mayor “I have a new Priority
    Project every week” Nickels and the goofy City Council would put some of
    the unused property to use and provide free or cheaper parking in Seattle
    there would be far less towing of cars and angry citizens directing
    their wrath to the towing companies.
    The towing industry is the most regulated industry in the State of Wash-
    ington. The state approves how much we can charge, what we can and
    can’t do, who and who can’t work for us..etc. etc. About the only thing
    they don’t control is when we go to the bathroom and who knows, that may
    be next! Our drivers literally risk their lives aiding stranded
    motorists, changing a tire during rush hour on I-5 and aiding the
    State Police clear the wreckage after horrendeous traffic accidents. Often
    we are left to deal with the family of loved ones who have been fatally
    injured in these accidents serving as not just the “tower” but as people
    who truly care about the devastated familes left behind. Our drivers
    take an unfair rap because of the “impound” issue but keep in mind that
    this is but one of many aspects of this industry.
    Like every other company in business we want to make a profit. But we want
    to do it ethically, responsibly and within the confines of the law.
    This has turned out to be a much longer article than intended so feel
    free to cut it down as needed…just, unlike the PI or Times, be fair in
    your editing process.
    You guys are awesome…do keep up the good work!
    Rick Woodrow
    General Manager
    TBT Towing

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