Truck company slapped with $43K towing bill

One of Wellco Tank Trucks vehicles with large bulldozer on it was left in the right lane of traffic on Seawall Boulevard

November 17, 2010 4:55:02 PM PST
One trucking company received what amounts to a huge parking bill. They paid $15,000 in towing fees after their driver parked their truck along Galveston's seawall. His complaints now have city officials taking another look at the city laws about towing. The mayor of Galveston says it's time to tighten its ordinance regulating towing fees. This case highlights a loophole which Mayor Joe Jaworski says needs to be addressed.

One night last week, Galveston police say a driver for Wellco Tank Trucks of Dover, Oklahoma, parked his trailer in the right lane of traffic facing westbound near the end of Seawall Boulevard by East Beach.

Tino Ordonez with A & A Wrecking said, "It was the trailer and the load. It was right in the lane of traffic."

Police had it towed. Tino Ordonez was among the crews from A & A Wrecking.

"It was in a lane of traffic," he said. "It was basically endangering everybody."

But the owner of the truck says A & A Wrecking charged him by the pound. With the big bulldozer they were trying to deliver to the port, he says the towing company estimated the vehicle to weigh about 172,000 pounds, asking him to shell out $43,000 for the three-mile tow.

Mike Matthews with Wellco Tank Trucks said, "I thought it was extortion and I was pretty upset about it."

Matthews says he got the truck out of hock only after contacting the city of Galveston, which helped convince the wrecking company to accept less.

"They reduced the bill to $15,000 in cash and that was as far as they were going," Matthew said. "That was only because the city had asked them to cut me a favor."

Alicia Cahill, spokesperson for the city of Galveston, says it has an ordinance limiting fees for towing, but that it does not apply to such large, heavy vehicles.

"We don't regulate the rates charged for exceptional tows," Cahill explained.

The ordinance, she says, dictates the towing company and owner of vehicle must negotiate an agreed upon fee.

A & A Wrecking refused our repeated requests for interview, but their driver says they did nothing wrong.

"We don't do anything that's illegal," Ordonez said. "We do everything by the book, by the law."

The state says it does not set towing rates. That's up to each municipality.

We're told the bulldozer, which was being shipped, still sits on the dock in Galveston. In all, the owner of that trucking company says this incident will cost him about $30,000. He's considering filing a lawsuit against the city of Galveston and the towing company based on his losses.


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