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Travis County considering proposal to raise vehicle towing fees

Tuesday, July 10, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

The Travis County Commissioners Court is considering increasing towing fees for the first time in at least seven years.


Towing companies have been operating under the same county contract since 2001, and at the same pay grade since 2005, said Billy Davenport, treasurer of the Austin Towing Association, which last week formally requested that the commissioners increase towing fees.


“We come here this morning as a necessity to try to keep the towing business in Travis County on a financially stable basis,” Davenport said during last week’s meeting of the court.


“We apologize for waiting seven years to come here. We should have come three years ago. But due to the leadership and stuff that the local towers had, it’s hard enough for us to come here,” said Davenport. “Not that y’all are a scary bunch.”


Commissioners were asked to contemplate rate changes for instances where the tow is involuntary, such as when the driver is incarcerated or in the case of accidents, which are typically covered by insurance.


Increases in the cost of living, as well as equipment, fuel, maintenance, insurance and labor costs, are contributing to a “crisis” for Travis County towing companies, according to a letter from the Austin Towing Association’s Board of Directors.


“The ability to provide a professionally trained, well equipped, and financially sound towing service to Travis County is in jeopardy,” reads the letter.


The rate to tow a standard vehicle is $130; vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds are charged $393. County Commissioners are considering the request to raise the standard vehicle rate to $195. Additionally, the Austin Towing Association proposed the county create rates for two classes for larger vehicles: $400 to tow vehicles between 10,001 and 25,999 pounds, and $1,200 for trucks more than 26,000 pounds.


Davenport explained that increasing the fees to tow the largest vehicles is justified because the equipment required for these vehicles has increased substantially since the last rate increase. Such equipment, he said, can cost upwards of $260,000.


Davenport explained that the rates were derived from towing costs, with an additional 12 percent to 15 percent profit added. In addition to the base tow rate, the association has suggested an increase in accompanying labor, winching, and mileage fees.


Davenport told the commissioners that his group had approached the City of Austin about a year ago with a similar request, but the city put the request on hold.


“What we are asking them will probably match what we’re asking y’all,” said Davenport. Tows within the city are priced at $150 for cars.


The Commissioners postponed action on any rate restructuring until at least next week, waiting on a survey the staff is compiling of comparable towing rates. The towing association also is completing a study to present to the Commissioners.


Major Phyllis Clair with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office said the county is willing to work with the towing association. “We certainly want to meet with them and hear their ideas on where we should move forward and restructure, so that when people encounter a towing situation, say in the city, it’s not that much different than what they encounter in the county,” Clair said.

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