■ Towing 101: What You Need To Know When It Comes To Towing And Impounding ■
***Note: This information is not legal advice, it is a opinion page that offers the authors personal perspective only, Abercorn Towing LLC does not assume responsibility for actions taken by anyone who relies on this information in any way, shape, or form.
We know, car trouble is a pain. But having your vehicle towed to a place to have it fixed shouldn't be! Here are some tips that will help you understand the sometimes strange world of towing.
Where Did My Car Go?!?!
You return to your parking spot to find your car is missing! Was it stolen? Was it towed away for some reason? All you have is an empty spot where your vehicle once sat. Here at Abercorn Towing LLC, we do not impound or repo cars for any reason, but there are many companies that do. Here are some hints that will help you find your car.
◘ Was you vehicle broken down on the side of the road?
-If your vehicle was broken down within Savannah city limits on or near a public road and not interfering with the thoroughfare of traffic, then it will usually be allowed to sit for a few days before being towed away. The police will put a brightly colored sticker on it warning of the number of days it will be allowed to remain before they call a towing company to have it removed. You can check with the SCMPD by calling the police annex at 295 Police Memorial Drive, they normally handle the towing dispatching and records. If your vehicle was on or near a road in CHATHAM COUNTY and towed away then it was most likely called in by SCMPD and towed away by Sapp's Towing, they are located on Gulfstream Road in Garden City. As of this posting it is believed they still have an agreement with Chatham County as the only towing provider.
◘ Was your vehicle in a businesses parking lot?
-Most businesses that aggressively defend their parking spaces against abusers will have a towing company come out and put a sign of regulatory size with the legally specified information. This sign will have the name of the towing company, their contact information, address, and maximum tow free printed on it. If you find that sign call the number IMMEDIATELY and verify if they have your vehicle. Also ask the company who's parking lot you are in if they towed your vehicle and if so who did they call. At this point being you MAY argue that they mistakenly towed your vehicle and that you were a patron of their business, but most of the time it will not help in any way. Storage fees can be legally charged after the vehicle has been stored for 24 hours, but not before then. You can find information on the impound laws set forth by the state of Georgia here: www.gamccd.net/NctFaq.aspx
◘ Was your vehicle on private property with no sign posted?
-It would be silly for every home owner or property owner to have a "no parking" sign or a sign from a towing company posted in their yard. Private property owners including owners of empty lots can have a vehicle towed away provided that they call the police first to make a report. Then they may call whatever company they choose that agrees to tow away the vehicle. Your best bet is to call the police department in that precinct and report your vehicle missing. If you are in luck they will already have a record of who had it towed. If that yields no results you may try to ask the property owner in person or start calling all the towing companies listed in the area. Again, do so IMMEDIATELY so that you can avoid extra storage charges. In the event that your vehicle was impounded you may expect your bill to be more or less around $100.00.
◘ Still can't find your car?
Report it to the police as quickly as possible. You may also want to call vehicle salvage yards and tell them to watch for your vehicle, many stolen cars end up being crushed for scrap metal. ALWAYS have your vehicles VIN number and tag number handy so that you can easily pass that along to the police, etc.
The dreaded word: REPO. If you suspect your vehicle was repossessed, you will likely want to try calling all the towing companies in the area to find it. But, 99% of the time that will not work at all. Most average towing companies do not repo, and most repossession companies do not advertise or list their information online or in phone books. There is a very easy way to find out where your car is, and as unpleasant as it sounds, you have need to call your loan company VERY FAST! Many repossession companies are sent from areas that are far away, and your car may be going far away back with them. Take heart though, its nothing personal to the loan company, they just want to recover the money they loaned on the vehicle. Calling them may (repossession laws vary greatly by state) give you the opportunity to recover personal items from the vehicle, and you may even be able to bring your account current and get the vehicle back.
1) Turn your flashers on
2) If it is safe to do so, check on others who were involved in the crash
3) If your are able, leave your car and get to a safe place, you could be hurt or killed by a secondary accident
4) Call the police so that they can make a report and request ambulance service if needed
5) Call a towing service if needed
6) AND THEN you can call everyone in your phone and tell them ALLLLL about your new drama. But PLEASE, do the first 5 steps FIRST.
Within Savannah city limits if you are in an accident in which your car is disabled on a thoroughfare it must be removed in a timely manner so as not to impede traffic. It is the job of the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department to make sure that happens. When in an accident it is always a good idea to find out if there are any injuries. Contact the police department to have an officer come out and secure the scene and have an official report made, call 911 if there are injuries that require medical assistance. MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE NOT IN ANY DANGER FROM THE TRAFFIC AROUND YOU! If your vehicle is disabled and positioned in the flow of traffic, turn your flashers on and leave it there and get to a safe area. You can be injured or killed by a secondary accident.
Now, when the police arrive they will (most of the time) ask you what you want to do about having your car towed. It should be one of the first things you talk to the officer about because sometimes if they are in a hurry they will radio in for a tow truck from a rotation list to be dispatched without consulting you. In the towing world this is called a "police head-out" or just simply a "head-out". In Savannah Ga the average head-out called in by police will cost you $100.00 or more, YIKES! You can avoid paying the higher cost by arranging a tow a soon as you can so that the towing company you have called will have time to get to the accident scene in a timely manner, you may also (If possible, and it isn't always) REQUEST TO MOVE YOUR VEHICLE OUT OF THE THOROUGHFARE TO A SAFE PARKING AREA SO THAT YOU HAVE TIME TO CALL A TOWING COMPANY OF YOUR CHOICE WITHOUT HAVING TO RUSH. Remember that the police want your car out of the road PRONTO.....as soon as they have surveyed the accident scene and have given the "okay" for the vehicles to be moved. Having your towing company waiting and ready by the time the officer is done with the accident scene will speed things along nicely. If you do not have the number to a towing company handy you have the right to request the officer to call whatever towing company you want to use instead of the one that is next on the rotation list. This assures you that the towing company that you trust takes care of your car instead of one of the 20-30 companies that could randomly show up. If the officer calls in a head-out to a towing company the assumed cost is still about $100, calling the towing company yourself will ensure that the price is a known quantity before they show up. The officer will ask their dispatcher to call the company requested, that company will tell the dispatcher how soon they can come. It is then up to the officer to decide if the time frame is allowable or if another company that can respond faster should be used.
IMPORTANT!!!! Tell the towing company where you want your vehicle towed to (yes you have this right unless you have been cited with an infraction that requires impounding like "no license or no insurance, etc", do not let a towing company tell you they cant) or it will automatically go to an impound yard where it can accrue storage penalties!
In Chatham County outside of city limits the arrangement with police is to use one single company that holds the current contract for all towing that has police interaction. You still have the right to request your own towing company, the only difference here is that there is no rotation list that the police call from.
In short, if you get in an accident, call and arrange a tow with your preferred company so that YOU have some control over where your car goes and how much it will cost.
What Kind Of Tow Truck Do I Need For My Vehicle?
There are essentially 2 types of towing trucks used in our area. The "rollback" and the "wheel-lift", there is a third type called a "sling" truck, it is described below but you will probably never see one. Not every truck will work perfectly for every vehicle, even the prescribed towing methods in your vehicles owners manual may not work in many different situations. The best way to assure that no damage occurs when towing your vehicle is to hire a reputable company with knowledgeable towing operators.
The most common is the "rollback" or "flatbed" tow truck. The bed of the truck is tilted, and the vehicle is winched onto the platform and them settled back on the truck. The rollback tow truck gained popularity when full steel bumpers gave way to plastic and structurally inferior bumpers designed to give under crash conditions. Sling trucks could no longer use steel bumpers as a structural piece to stabilize the vehicle while towing. The rollback solved the problem of getting a vehicle onto a towing vehicle without causing damage to bumpers or to the new up and coming and fragile 4wd and AWD systems coming out on newer vehciles.
Advantages to using a roll back tow truck:
-Flat tires are not a problem
-Best truck to use for four wheel drive and all wheel drive vehicles
-Vehicles with locked up wheels can be towed with proper equipment
-Project vehicles that may drop parts/bolts/etc will have a surface to catch those items
-Accident vehicles that can not roll can be winched into place
-Can easily winch out stuck vehicles
The disadvantages to using a rollback:
-Operator must have a better than average skill set
-Low profile vehicles need extra ramps to go onto the slanted bed without scraping the body work and causing damage
-Unskilled operators can stretch your vehicles frame/body by improperly using the "winch tight" method of securing the vehicle
-Most local operators (seen in person) do not properly secure vehicles as specified by law (securing all four corners), this forces stress on your vehicle frame in concentrated areas
-Vehicles that can not be put into neutral will not roll on or off the bed without extra equipment and a skilled operator
-Can not be easily used in confined areas as they are generally between 25-35 feet long
-Can not be used on soft ground as the majority of rollbacks are extremely heavy (up to 26,000 lbs when fully loaded) and usually two wheel drive
Wheel Lift Trucks
The second most common type of tow truck, often confused with the sling trucks of the old days due to their similar appearances and wheelbase. The wheel lift truck uses a tow bar and "L" arm configuration to pick up and support vehicles by their tires alone. This design has enjoyed incredible popularity due to many newer vehicles coming off the assembly lines with fewer and fewer structurally sound areas to attach "J" hooks and "Mini-J" hooks when winching a vehicle. Front wheel drive vehicles are the wheel lifts bread and butter, although rear wheel drive vehicles can also be towed easily when the proper precautions are taken such as locking the steering wheel into place. BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagon, Saab, and almost all other European car companies are typically the absolute worst vehicles for finding a strong and convenient winch point and sometimes work better on a wheel lift. All models of vehicles need to be matched to the appropriate type of truck. Hiring a knowledgeable towing company and operator is the best way to avoid damage to your vehicle
Advantages to using a wheel lift:
-Vehicle does not have to be put into neutral to tow it (most of the time)
-Vehicle can be loaded without having to roll it into posting in some situations
-Wheel lifts lift by contacting only the tires, the only part of the vehicle built to endure rigorous contact and push/pull forces
-Wheel lifts can tow vehicles with flat tires so long as the the flat tires are the ones on the lift or on a dolly set up
-Can easily fit into tight spaces
-Skilled operators can load a car at nearly a 90 degree angle
-Four wheel drive and all wheel drive vehicles can be towed with an optional dolly set
Disadvantages to using a wheel lift:
-Can not be used with four wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicles without using a dolly system
-Can not be used when the towed vehicle has flat tires in "on ground" positions
-Can no be used when tires will not rotate in "on ground" positions
-Can not tow extremely large/heavy vehicles
Sling trucks are some of the first tow trucks to ever be commercially made. If you call a towing service there is very VERY little chance that they have one. The design of the truck makes it cumbersome to use and often dangerous in the hands of inexperienced operators. 99% of today's tow truck drivers do not know how to properly secure a car on a sling truck as these types of trucks have been phased completely out and are no longer made. You may still see one from time to time out on the road, but they are usually only used for hauling junk vehicles in which damage to the vehicle by the truck does not matter. The telltale sign of a sling truck is the two rubber strips hanging from the boom. These rubber strips act as a hammock of sorts in which the bumper rests against once the boom is moved into the up position. Chains are attached under the car and are then are hooked into chain stays. Do NOT allow an operator to tow your vehicle with a sling truck unless it has a solid steel bumper. Sling trucks will cause damage to the bumpers and bumper sub-frames on nearly any late model vehicle.
Advantages of a sling truck:
-Usually equipped with a boom and winch, good for recoveries in tight spots
-Good for use on junk vehicles missing either a front or rear axle but not both
Disadvantages of using a sling truck:
-Will cause damage on nearly ANY vehicle produced after bumpers went from steel to plastic
-Dangerous when used improperly and sometimes even when used as directed