MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A truck driver from East Texas won’t be hauling anything through Memphis again after he says a local towing company strong-armed him into paying a nearly $300 boot removal fee.
Adam Herrell is one of nearly a dozen truckers across the country who have filed complaints with the City of Memphis about A1’s Towing and Hauling over the last year. As a result, the permits office has opened an investigation into the company.
This follows the arrests of five A1’s employees in three separate incidents over the last five months. In one case, an A1’s Towing and Hauling driver was charged with robbery, and in another, three others were charged with carjacking for allegedly taking 18-wheelers by force.
Herrell said he and his wife were sleeping inside his big rig at an unmanned truck stop on Lamar when his truck was illegally booted. Herrell said he was approached by an A1’s driver and a man dressed like a police officer.
He said the men told him he had twenty minutes to pay $272 to get the boot off, or they would be physically removed from the truck.
“I felt like they were full of crap, you know, but the wife was hysterical, the guy had a gun on his hip, his hand on the gun. You know, I really wanted to defend my truck, but obviously, with my family in there, I didn’t want to put them in the crossfire,” said Herrell. “Memphis police showed up long after those guys were gone and said we wish we could have come over and caught them.”
Deschun Williams said he was parked at the Mapco in the 1500 block of Brooks Road when an A1’s tow truck driver blocked him, put a lock on his air hose, and a boot on his tractor-trailer.
The Houston, Texas, truck driver said the tow truck driver told him he would have to pay $260 via Cash App or his truck would be towed.
“He wouldn’t give me time to pay it,” said Williams. “He just towed it off. He started hooking it up to it and disconnecting my drive shaft and jacked it up in the air while I was in it.”
Williams said the A1’s driver towed his truck to their lot on Mallory and told him he would have to pay $2,600 to get it back.
“I realized he was only five minutes away, so I’m like, why are you charging $2,600 to go five minutes away? That doesn’t even sound right,” said Williams. “My company talked them down. It was like $1,800 or $2,200.”
Fernando Arias said he was forced to pay A1’s nearly $3,700 after his semi-truck was towed from a Walmart in the 5200 block of Elvis Presley. The Miami trucker said he was inside the store shopping for food, and when he came outside, his vehicle was being hooked up to an A1’s tow truck.
“I said hey, I’ve only been in there 45 minutes. I have a receipt, and they said no,” Arias said. “I was a tow trucker driver for 27 years. I know the business. I knew they were doing it illegally.”
A Walmart spokesman said at the time, the store was in contract with A1’s Towing and Hauling, but they were not allowed to tow customers. He said Walmart quickly terminated the agreement with A1’s after its signing.
Arias said A1’s Towing stole his truck from the Walmart, costing him his job.
“The company paid for it, and the company took it out of my check,” said Arias. “I got fired. I got fired, and it wasn’t my fault.”
According to the city’s booting ordinance, no vehicle with a boot may be towed unless the owner of the vehicle fails to contact the booting company within 24 hours.
The maximum booting fee is $50.
Companies must accept multiple forms of payment, including checks, cash, or credit cards, and must remove a boot within one hour of being contacted by the owner or operators of the vehicle that has been booted.
The ordinance also states that if the owner of a motor vehicle parked without authorization on private property attempts to retrieve their vehicle before booting occurs, there shall be no fee, and the vehicle owner shall be allowed to remove the vehicle without further delay.
The city said a towing fee should not exceed $350.
Vaughn Kelly was not one of the truckers who filed a complaint but contacted WREG because he believed A1’s illegally towed his 18-wheeler near a Kroger in Horn Lake, Mississippi.
The 71-year-old New Orleans man said he parked at the edge of the Kroger lot and was throwing out some trash when an A1 driver appeared, locked his air hose, and began hooking up his truck.
Kelly said the store manager told the tow truck driver he was a patron and was not illegally parked, but the driver still took his semi to Memphis. Four months later, he still doesn’t have his truck.
“They told me you have to have $5,300 to get your truck out and said no debit card, just cash, Zelle, or Cash App. I was really frustrated. I was calling people to see if I could get that kind of money together, and I really couldn’t,” Kelly said.
Adam Herrell said truck drivers are nervous about driving through Memphis. He said the word is getting out to get in and out of the city as fast as possible.
“There is so much there. So many cool things there. I even like a rapper from there, Young Dolph, I like to listen to. I wanted to see his memorial and the little cookie shop he visited before he died, but I don’t want to be anywhere around there,” Herrell said.
WREG tried to contact A1’s Towing and Hauling to ask about the complaints but could only get a recorded message and has not heard back from the company.
The city has not released any details about their investigation. If you believe you have been booted, ticketed, or towed improperly, you can contact the City of Memphis Permits Office at 901-636-6711.