Houston City Council Terminates Tow Truck Contract After Owner Arrested

Drivers should know their rights when dealing with a wrecker.


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Houston police recently arrested the owner of tow truck company USA Auto Collision for allegedly defrauding thousands of dollars from the drivers of vehicles the company towed.

The company was part of the city of Houston's Safe Clear towing program.

Last week, the City Council voted unanimously to terminate the contract with the wrecker.

"When we say ‘safe tow,' it's safe," Council member Brenda Stardig said. "The people should have confidence in who they're doing business with and who the city is doing business with."

Police say USA Auto Collision deceived drivers whose cars were towed after an accident into signing permissions to do repairs that were in many cases unnecessary. They then allegedly charged them extremely high amounts.

Todd Forrester with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which regulates tow companies and storage facilities, said drivers can avoid getting scammed by knowing their rights.

"If you're at the scene of an accident and a tow operator or somebody tries to get you to sign something, you don't have to sign it," he said. "You don't have to sign anything to get your vehicle taken anywhere. And if you do sign something, make sure you read and understand what it says before you sign it."

The state of Texas regulates storage fees for towed vehicles. It's between $5 and $20 per day for a normal sized car and $35 for a vehicle longer than 25 feet – that doesn't include other one-time fees.

In Houston, Safe Clear wreckers charge $60 for towing a stranded vehicle anywhere within one mile. The fee is $155.50 for the first 20 miles if you've been in an accident or blocking a lane.

If you're not sure about the legitimacy of a tow truck company, you can call the HPD Auto Dealers division at 832-394-4800 during business hours or 832-394-4869 after hours.

You can also file a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

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