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Pete Buttigieg takes aim at towing industry’s ‘junk fees’

By Jake Beardslee · February 16, 2024

In brief…

  • Towing companies charging extremely high fees to recover crashed trucks
  • Causing major financial problems for truck drivers and companies
  • Issue got attention of Transportation Secretary Buttigieg during Charlotte visit
  • Buttigieg supports proposed federal rules to limit "junk fees"
  • Owner of small Charlotte trucking company hit with $35k towing bill she felt was unfair
Trucking companies and drivers are suffering financially from exorbitant towing fees being charged to recover crashed vehicles, an issue that is drawing federal scrutiny.  Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America/Wikimedia

Charlotte towing companies are charging exorbitant fees that are causing major financial hardship for truck drivers and companies, according to WBTV. This issue has gotten the attention of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who recently visited Charlotte and voiced support for new federal rules that would limit “junk fees” imposed by towing companies.

Buttigieg said these rules are important because trucking is so vital to the economy, yet drivers and companies are vulnerable when a truck breaks down and they have no choice but to pay whatever a towing company demands to get the vehicle back. “There’s no transparency on the front end about what you have to pay to get them back,” Buttigieg said. “They make up things like an equipment fee.”

Latoya Howie, owner of a small Charlotte trucking company, described her experience to WBTV after one of her trucks crashed near Winston-Salem and was towed by All Over Towing. She received a bill for $35,000 and felt the company “held my truck hostage.” Independent towing experts who reviewed the case for WBTV estimated it should have taken only 20-30 minutes to tow the crashed truck, not the 5 hours of labor All Over Towing charged.

The Kernersville Police Department, which called All Over Towing to the accident scene, defended the charges. But the police crash report contained no timeline of when the accident was cleared.

The American Trucking Association and now the Federal Trade Commission have identified predatory towing fees as a major issue. The U.S. Department of Transportation wants more protections for drivers who lack bargaining power over fees. “Often these truck drivers feel they have to pay these fees because they’ve got to get their truck back, but they can be out thousands of dollars,” Buttigieg said.

Howie said her small company, which delivers car parts and medication to seniors, suffered financially from the towing bill. She is counting on elected officials to help. “Y’all need to do something for the working people that provide your daily essentials,” Howie said.