CTTA/T-ROC Strongly Urges the CHP to Reject the Use of a Third-Party Vendor for Tow Rotation Program
This fall, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) reached out to CTTA's Towing Regulatory Oversight Council (CTTA/T-ROC) seeking input on the CHP's possible use of a third-party, for-profit vendor (in this case, AutoReturn) for its Rotation Tow Program. While CTTA/T-ROC was not made aware of any specific proposal from AutoReturn or other third-party vendor, it conducted an extensive investigation of the topic, including interviews and consultations with those in the towing industry who have personal experience with third-party vendors like AutoReturn, as well as reviews of AutoReturn's business practices in various jurisdictions throughout California and across the country. As a result, CTTA/T-ROC submitted a letter to the CHP that strongly urged the rejection of such a proposal and stated that "...utilizing a third-party vendor for the CHP's Rotation Tow Program will result in a system that is not as safe, efficient, or fair and equitable."
CTTA/T-ROC came to this position for a number of reasons. First, in CTTA/T-ROC's opinion the CHP's Rotation Tow Program is likely the most successful and respected tow program in the country. It facilitates a first-party relationship between the CHP and the towing community that is mutually beneficial for the public, the tow industry, and the CHP as demanded by Vehicle Code section 2424. As such, CTTA/T-ROC was understandably confused that the CHP would even consider reforming its Tow Program. No wholesale problems had been brought up to the Tow Service Agreement Advisory Committee (the entity designed to meet the CHP's statutory obligation to work with the towing industry on issues with the Program) or CTTA/T-ROC (which has a lengthy history of working cooperatively with the CHP on difficult issues). Our letter raised the crucial question to the CHP, "Before we listen to a third-party vendor pitch 'solutions' shouldn't we use our existing processes that have proven successful in the past, collectively identify any problems, and strategically engineer any necessary corrective measures?"
Aside from these procedural concerns, CTTA/T-ROC raised a number of additional serious, substantive issues. These issues include the fact that through the use of a third-party intermediary the CHP would lose control over ensuring that all subcontracted towers would meet its high standards for operation, thus jeopardizing the safety of California's motorists. Our letter additionally raised a number of specific concerns that a number of towing companies have directly experienced when working with AutoReturn, including the lack of a fair and equitable rotation system. Moreover, we noted that alternative, comparable dispatch services are available that would maintain the first-party relationship between the CHP and towers. Finally, it was critical to state that not only do third-party vendors oftentimes sever the strong relationship between the towers and officers actually working on the roadways, but it is the practical reality that third-party vendors will siphon off already scarce resources for their profit, which leaves decreased revenue for the hardworking tow companies already struggling to provide a high level of service with razor-thin profit margins. These margins have already been pushed to the breaking point with the ever-increasing costs of fuel and insurance, as well as CARB regulations that are currently requiring the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars - all of which place towing companies in an impossible position.