Limits for tow truck fees imposed

A car damaged in a highway traffic accident gets towed away in Jinshan district. Photo: CFP

Hefty tow truck service fees are soon expected to become less of a worry for drivers, whose vehicles break down on city highways, said Shanghai authorities, who this week introduced price ceilings on the fees that will take effect Monday.

To better regulate the industry, the Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority said that tow truck companies are prohibited from charging car drivers more than 300 yuan ($47) for the first five kilometers. Up to an additional 10 yuan per kilometer can be charged, according to the new rules, but companies are prohibited from charging more than 1,500 yuan per trip regardless of the distance towed.

Huang Xiaoyong, a press officer for the authority, said that the guidelines are meant to help drivers gauge costs when they find themselves stuck in such an unfortunate situation.

“We’ve heard many cases of drivers receiving extortionate towing fees after their cars break down on the highways,” he told the Global Times Tuesday. “The guidelines are meant to help rectify the problem.”

The issue of overpriced fares was most recently raised again early last month after car owner Song Jianrong got into a rear-end collision along the Shanghai Yangtze River Tunnel Bridge – the accident resulted in him being slapped with a 5,000-yuan bill to have his vehicle towed some 25 kilometers from the highway.

“A traffic police officer called a tow truck company for me,” he told local media. “I was on the way to hospital with a concussion from the accident.

“When I recovered and went to pick up my car, the company had charged me 5,000 yuan for the service,” he said.

Song said he was billed 120 yuan per kilometer and another 800 yuan for seven days of parking fees, the period of time his car remained in the hands of the tow truck company.

The new rules fail to mention parking fees, but add that when it comes to towing trucks carrying more than 10 tons of cargo, companies cannot charge more than 800 yuan for the first five kilometers, or more than 30 yuan for each extra kilometer.

Tow truck companies, which are required to clean up a spill on the roads after a collision, meanwhile, can charge up to 100 yuan per square meter for their services.

But some industry insiders complained Tuesday that the new regulations prevent much-needed flexibility with pricing schemes.

“Each situation is different,” an operations manager, surnamed Sun, from Yanmei Tow Truck Company, told the Global Times Tuesday. “We can get some pretty bizarre cases.

“A driver once lost his keys in his car after it broke down on the highway,” he said. “We had to charge extra to help him out, but these allowances are not included in the guidelines, and that means we’ll lose out.”

Sun added that the stipulated charge of 30 yuan per kilometer for heavier trucks is too low, saying that rising petrol prices also need to be taken into consideration. 

Meng Meng contributed to this story

Source: Global Times

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