MEMPHIS, Tenn. –Memphis City Councilman Frank Colvett wants city leaders to take a closer look at the large fees A1’s Towing & Hauling is charging truck drivers being towed from area truck stops.
“I look at these invoices and $4,500 to get your truck out when all you were trying to do is apparently park and stay for the evening in a truck stop. At first blush, it just feels extraordinarily excessive,” said Colvett. “We need to look not just at the state law but all these fees. Not just the towing fees but these storage fees. I’m seeing $200.”
WREG showed Colvett the invoices two different trucking companies recently received after their drivers were booted and towed from a truck stop on Lamar Avenue. One invoice was for $4,550. The other was for $2,450.
In both cases, the drivers said they did not see the pay-to-park signs and were towed. One driver said he was asked to pay a $272 boot removal fee, his credit card was rejected, and A1’s Towing took his truck.
The other trucker said he was gone from his vehicle for twenty minutes to get food, and when he came back, A1’s was already in the process of towing his big rig.
Friday, a Church Transportation truck driver locked herself inside her 18-wheeler after she was booted at a gas station at East Shelby Drive and Mendenhall.
The driver admitted she did not pay to park. Shirley Holland said she tried to pay the $275 boot fee, but her debit card was rejected, and she didn’t want to be towed.
Over the last year, the City of Memphis Permits Office has received more than a dozen complaints from truckers from all over the country who said they were illegally booted and towed by A1’s.
The permits office has held one hearing with A1’s and plans to hold another. A spokesperson for the city said they have two complaints before the Transportation Commission regarding a refund for a tow.
“It clearly doesn’t seem fair, and one thing I found in politics is if the back of the hair stands on end, something is not right,” said Colvett. “We need to look into not just the towing companies but also the property owners. How was this agreement set up? What is the transfer from somebody just owning the property and somebody acting like a property manager? And how are these fees set up?”
The Memphis booting ordinance says the maximum amount a booting company can charge is $50, the owner/operator of the vehicle has 24 hours to pay the booting fee, and the maximum towing fee allowed is $350.
A1’s Towing invoices showed drivers were charged the $350 fee multiple times for a semi/tow hook-up and trailer hook-up.
In a statement Friday, A1’s told us they were following state laws that supersede city law and referred WREG to Tenn. Code 47-18-3203.
“First, the undisputed facts are the truck drivers park on private pay parking lots. Second, they refuse to pay for parking even though there are signs everywhere. Unfortunately, once the trucks are booted, they refuse to pay for the boot. Question, If someone refuses to pay and is trespassing on your property, what should you do?” said A1’s Attorney Darrell O’Neal. “Short answer we are complying with the laws.”
Tenn. Code 47-18-3203 states:
2) If the person who is requesting removal of the vehicle immobilization device elects to make the payment by credit card or debit card and the payment cannot be completed by the card without undue delay at the site where the motor vehicle to which the vehicle immobilization device is attached is located, and an optional online payment method as described in subdivision (c)(3) is either unavailable or has been refused by the individual, remove the vehicle immobilization device and issue a billing invoice for payment due.
“When a driver refuses to pay, they are considered trespassers,” said O’Neal.
The state ordinance says nothing about towing vehicles. Councilman Colvett said he didn’t want to see truck drivers bypass Memphis and said the city council may have to start talking about caps.
“We are already in the towing discussions for just regular cars. This needs to be added to the conversation,” said Colvett. “If these excessive fees are allowed, then let’s look to the state and local about what can we do to curtail that. We need to bring the hammer down because this is just wrong.”
The Tennessee Attorney General’s office has also received several complaints against A1’s Towing and Hauling.
In August, the Arkansas Towing and Recovery Board fined A1’s and suspended its booting license for sixty days after receiving complaints from nine truckers who said they had been illegally booted and towed from an unmanned truck stop in West Memphis.
Director Paul Burnett said A1’s towing license is still good, and they can start booting again in November. Burnett said they are still investigating complaints involving the company.