Ontario fleet fighting $19K tow bill after minor incident

Toronto, Ontario — An Ontario fleet has said that its tractor-trailer is being held hostage in Chicago, Illinois.

RoadStar Trucking is attempting to recover a tractor and trailer that a Chicago-area towing company impounded on August 12. VIP Towing and Roadside Assistance, the Chicago company in question, is asking for US$18,958 to release RoadStar’s equipment. VIP Towing claims its employees towed the equipment under authorization from the driver after a minor damage incident. 

The RoadStar driver reportedly got stuck in some tree debris after a major storm, minutes from the delivery address. When police arrived at the scene, they allowed the driver to proceed to the receiver, which was 500 yards up the road, and unload. RoadStar then informed the driver to wait for further instructions and a Volvo dealer was called to meet him and guide him to the dealership for repairs. 

Before the Volvo dealer had arrived four men from VIP Towing appeared and informed the driver that they had permission from RoadStar general manager Joe Smelko to tow the truck. The driver did sign a “pre-tow disclosure,” granting the employees permission to tow the equipment. 

Smelko insists that he never granted such permission and does not even have his company’s authorization to do so. Witnesses claim the towing company arrived in a light-duty tow truck and actually proceeded to drive the equipment to their own yard, rather than tow it.

After contacting the company to find out how much it would cost to recover the equipment Smelko was informed it would be a whooping US$20,000. The invoice was broken down as: US$2,495 for towing; US$2,495 for winching; US$1,995 for debris cleanup; US$2,995 heavy wrecker fee; US$3,570 for labor (two workers at $595 per hour each); US$2,985 for truck time; US$350 per day for storage; and US$1,723 administrative fee.

This is reportedly the second time an incident of this nature has happened to RoadStar in Chicago. In the previous incident, the driver ended up paying the company to get the equipment back from a different Chicagoan towing company called Citywide Recovery. 

RoadStar chose to fight back this time filing a claim with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois and is demanding the return of its equipment and $50,000 in damages. 

VIP towing has yet to respond, however, a CBS news affiliate investigating practices in the local towing industry did catch an unidentified employee on camera saying,  “Towing is expensive. It’s not cheap, why do people think that towing is cheap? It’s not. Not when you do professional towing. Why shouldn’t it be $18,000? Can you tell me why it shouldn’t be $18,000?”

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