Snow route towing expensive business



Column by Austin Hill

Recently, Mayor Jim Newberry took a lot of heat for towing cars along designated snow routes during the most recent wave of inclement weather.

I can see his position, trying to clean off the roads is one of the top priorities during the snow season and he needs snow routes clear to do so.

On the other hand, most people park on those streets because Lexington is not the most parking-friendly city when you live in the downtown area.

The mayor should have devised a better solution to get roads clear for the plows, while not punishing drivers with a hefty towing charge for owning a car or living downtown.

The news has been running stories based around this problem in an attempt to remind people to move their cars during snow storms if they lived on these designated snow routes. But some people do not watch the local news or may be prone to catching specific segments such as sports or the weather forecast.

In some cases, police were going door-to-door reminding those living on these routes to remove their cars.

Yet UK only canceled a portion of its classes, and most employers were open so students and professionals walked or traveled by other means and were not at home to receive these reminders, only to return home to discover their vehicle was gone and their wallet getting lighter.

In many cases there is a driveway, parking spots, etc., for a set amount of cars. Too many times it is the same renovated six-bedroom house with two or three spots forcing the others onto the street, which supports the argument of the housing committee’s desire to re-define zoning.

Perhaps a compromise would have been, if your car was towed off a snow route then you would not be charged to get it out of impoundment.

I realize this wouldn’t please the towing companies, but they might be the largest racketeering business around, second only to college textbooks in my mind. I mean, what does the price of towing a car really pay for?

Towing cars is a complicated industry, Andy Alphin, president and CEO of Bluegrass Towing, said. It’s a business of “peaks and valleys,” and trying to understand it as a common man could be hard, but I figured it was worth a shot.

During a snow storm the city calls Bluegrass Towing and tells them to start towing cars on snow routes. This kind of towing carries a fee of $60 with a $30 charge per day, meaning you pay $90 if you get the car out in the first 24 hours.

If the weather continually gets worse and you were unable to retrieve your vehicle until the next day, you would be charged an additional 30, and so forth. If you come out while they are towing your car and want to get it down, you pay a $50 drop fee.

In comparison to Bluegrass’ normal charges of $83 for the tow plus $35 for each day, the rates for towing on a snow route aren’t too bad. People who are being towed by the city are saving $28, in comparison to those who are parking improperly out of human negligence.

Alphin was quick to point out that no one towed by the city has had a layover of more than a day on retrieving their vehicle, but as we haven’t received an abnormal amount of snow or ice it is not out of the question that it wouldn’t happen.

“It is not easy to run a business that is open 24-hours, 365 days a year,” Alphin said.

As far as what the money for towing is spent on, there is payroll to his staff of approximately 35 people. Most of the hourly employees are mechanics, office staff and drivers receive payment by commission — 25 percent of the tow fee or drop fee.

Alphin also has drivers working on a weekly salary negotiated up front. The fee pays for property, water, real estate and social security taxes. It pays for maintenance on the trucks, electric bills, a land consultant and, of course, Alphin’s salary.

Towing cars may be a business of “peaks and valleys,” but the bottom line is it’s lucrative to those doing it, and if it is a hard business to run, it has something in common with every other business in the world.

It sounds as difficult as finding a place to park for free in this town. Luckily, I just own a bike.