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Poaching. -noun. Meaning, any encroachment on another’s property, rights, ideas or the like. “Poacher” or “Poaching” is a pretty harsh word for what has been going on but it does also carry pretty harsh consequences for all parties involved. For the customer, they have no idea who is actually performing the service and although most companies in the industry are here, to help there are others that are in it solely to make a profit no matter what. For the honest company, they waste fuel and time driving to locations only to find the vehicle gone or being loaded by another company. Also if the other company says that they are then one they customer called and they then don’t provide a satisfactory service at the originally agreed upon rate, the original company could get a bad review for a service they never performed. For the company doing this they are giving all of us a bad name and risking consequences for soliciting service which is illegal in Washington State.

The question is, if while waiting for the tow truck or roadside service vehicle you called to arrive another company shows up and does not deny that they are not the company you called and begins providing the requested service, is this morally wrong and should it be illegal? Could it be likened to you waiting for a plumber, and somehow another plumber knows you called the other guy so he shows up ready to provide the service for you. You didn’t go over rates or cost with this new person over the phone, nor do they have the same rating or trust as the company you originally chose.

What if you called a locksmith, gave them all of your info to have them come out but when you ask how much you tell them never mind. So you call another and you get an honest rate for the service that isn’t inflated by 200% (yes it happens) but while waiting for the company you chose to arrive the other one shows up anyway wanting to perform then charge $150.00 for what should only be a $40-$50 dollar simple service. When you tell them someone else is almost there that will only charge $40.00. They say that they can do it for the same price, dropping their rate over $100.00. Aside from a company that needs to make money, what kind of company throws a massively inflated rate out there in the first place?

There have been a number of instances where tow companies and roadside assistance companies have been “poaching” or “soliciting” calls from my company and other local legitimate tow companies. These guys are stopping on the side of the road soliciting services, which in the State of Washington is illegal. If you were to wave down a truck, or you are blocking the road, you’re in the middle of nowhere or even in the middle of the night, stopping to ask a motorist if they need help should be okay. I am not going to say that anything other than being waved down or stopping for a vehicle that is blocking the road is legal because it may not be. There are circumstances where that may be the only way a stranded motorist can get help, especially if their cell phone is dead.

My company has had a couple situations where we were called out to provide a tow and when we arrive the vehicle was either gone or being loaded on to another companies truck. I one case State Farm dispatched us and when we arrived on scene the vehicle was gone. When I called the customer and asked what had happened she said that a company had stopped and when she asked if they were from State Farm they said yes, which was not true since State Farm only called us. The lady was quite disturbed to learn that she was not with the trusted company that was called by her insurance provider.

Last night I took a call from Progressive Insurance for a motorist on the 205 bridge, I sent my driver out there and as he arrived another company was loading the vehicle that we were dispatched to tow. The owner of the vehicle was told what company was picking him up but he didn’t realize it was the wrong one until we arrived. He said the other guy just came up asked if he was ready to be towed then proceeded to load the vehicle.

Most of the companies that are doing this do not know the laws regarding towing for hire and some disregard them. I have met a number of owner/operators, one of them being the guy who poached last nights tow, that do not carry commercial insurance or even have the proper licenses to provide towing and roadside assistance. This particular guy I had met a few years ago while he was loading a pickup with his tow truck and we began to talk. I could tell that he had been doing it for a while and was the surprised when he asked what type of insurance he should have. I asked what insurance and licenses he currently had and basically his truck was licensed and insured as though it was a personal vehicle. Meaning if something happened during the tow, the customer’s vehicle would not be covered.

I have seen his his truck around along with a few others, some of them the OLD sling type tow trucks that are not nearly as safe as the wheel lifts and flatbeds used today. Aside from not having proper licenses and insurance these guys are not properly trained either. There is unfortunately a large company that has been doing the same thing recently and after talking with a number of other legitimately operating companies we know who it is but names will not be mentioned.

If your insurance company is sending out a truck, make sure to get the companies name, phone number and the name of the driver as well. If a truck shows up that drastically beets the ETA given it may be good to check to see who is about to provide the service. If they are not the provider your insurance company called than they may not even be able to bill your insurance and you will be paying out of pocket.

If you call your own company the quote or rate for service you received will not be the same with the other company and you may be overcharged. If you know it isn’t the company you called but still want to use them, please make sure to call the original company as soon as possible so that they do not arrive on scene, wasting time and fuel.

The best way to check that the tow company is legitimate without calling the Department of Licensing is by looking for their license numbers on the side of their truck. Commercial vehicles will have a combination of different license name and numbers which legally need to be on the side of the vehicle. The USDOT number which is 7 digits, M.C. number which is 6 digits and the RTTO which is 5 digits. Each operator should also have knowledge of the amount of insurance that their company carries which is a $500,000.00 minimum for commercial vehicles in this industry.

Thank you for reading and I hope this helps motorists who may be taken advantage of and other legitimate companies out on the road. Please be careful, drive safe and enjoy the road.

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