ATRI’s Causes and Countermeasures of Predatory Towing identified key predatory towing practices. - Photo: ATRI

ATRI’s Causes and Countermeasures of Predatory Towing identified key predatory towing practices.

Photo: ATRI

The American Transportation Research Institute released a new report that examines the causes and countermeasures of predatory heavy-duty towing, with the goal of improving the relationship between the towing and trucking industries.

Key Predatory Practices

ATRI’s Causes and Countermeasures of Predatory Towing identified key predatory practices as:

  • Excessive hourly or per-pound rates (82.7%)
  • Unwarranted additional equipment or labor charges (81.8%)
  • Excessive daily storage rates (77.7%)
  • Vehicle release delays or access issues (71.7%)
  • Cargo release delays (61.6%)
  • Vehicle seizure without cause (55.7%)
  • Tow operators misreporting nonconsensual tows as consensual (53.5%)
  • Damage due to use of improper towing equipment (59.2%)

Crash-Related Towing Issues

A comprehensive analysis of crash-related towing records found that 29.8 % of invoices include excessive rates or unwarranted additional charges. The leading causes contributing to this total were miscellaneous service charges (found in 8% of invoices), administrative fees (found in 6.5% of invoices), and equipment rates (found in 6.3% of invoices).

Regulatory Authority

The patchwork of municipal, county, and state regulations that currently govern towing are often insufficient to prevent predatory activities, ATRI noted. The report includes an online compendium of state towing regulations and describes key areas to improve the coverage and application of regulations to close existing loopholes.


Additional analyses and interviews with legal experts outline strategies that motor carriers can use to avoid, identify, or address predatory towing, such as how to review invoices for predatory billing and how to gather data to dispute towing companies’ incident accounts when necessary.

“Predatory towing is a costly issue for motor carriers as well as compliant towing companies, and it has been overlooked for too long,” said Shawn R. Brown, Cargo Transporters Vice President of Safety. “With reliable data analysis and a thorough regulatory review, ATRI’s report sheds light on the sources of the problem and paths forward for addressing it by both regulators and trucking fleets.”

Research Methodology

ATRI first created a state-by-state compendium of towing regulations to analyze the current legal environment surrounding the issue. Particular focus was given to rate regulations, regulations to prevent predatory practices, and the establishment of official channels for complaints or reparations, the report explained.

Next, ATRI conducted a motor carrier survey with 350 respondents. Of those respondents, 52% of trucks were in the truckload sector, 11% in the less-than-truckload sector, and the remaining 37 % in the specialized sector, according to ATRI. Compared to the industry as a whole, the less-than-truckload sector was underrepresented while the specialized sector was overrepresented, according to the report.

An additional data collection focused on obtaining complete invoices for towing and ATRI said 20 motor carriers supplied these. For all their towaway crash-related incidents in 2021 and 2022.

 A copy of this report is available on ATRI’s website.

Watch for an upcoming HDT story taking an in-depth look at predatory towing and what motor carriers can do.

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