Towing fare increase could heighten risks


Tribune Business Reporter


Automotive repair shops yesterday voiced concern that the 67 percent, or two-thirds increase, in standard towing fees could prompt Bahamians to take more risky measures to move broken down vehicles.

Primrose Johnson, owner/operator of Johnson’s Auto-body Repair & Paint, told Tribune Business that many may opt to save money by asking their friends to give them a tow rather than hire the services of a trained wrecker or tow truck driver.

Explaining that her company normally locates a tow truck for customers, then tells them how much it costs and lets them decide if they want to use its services, she added that the $40 increase in standard fees - from $60 to $100 - may also deter clients from bringing vehicles to the shop.

“It’s more convenient for a wrecker to pick up the car from the boat or the house, but a customer may go now and get one of their friends with a rope to pull the car. That’s dangerous,” she said. “Everything has gone up. Even the materials to fix cars have gone up. We run specials and things like that but it’s really hard.

“What’s really putting a lot of pressure on us is these mechanics who operate from their homes, and the shops end up losing money. We still have to end up paying Business License fees and VAT and all of that while they pay nothing.” So-called “bush mechanics” undercut established repair shops by up to 50 percent on the standard rate of auto repairs.

The Towing and Salvage Association, in a statement issued on Tuesday, said its members have had little choice but to increase rates that have remained unchanged for at least two decades in some cases due to the rising costs of doing business in an inflationary environment.

A flatbed truck will start at $150, up from the $100 per call, representing a 50 percent increase. Regular tows will now start at $100, compared to the previous $60, while recoveries start at $150 in addition to the towing fee. Derelict car removals will begin at $100, and unlocking vehicle doors at $80. Finally, the service of towing vehicle from no parking zones will cost $100.

Another repair shop, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said: “The thing with us is that normally when a tow truck tows a car here we would pay the $100 fee. So it’s not a big increase to us, but I do see it as a big increase on the general public.”

“This will hinder us getting business in, but if a customer gets into an accident, especially if it’s a prior customer, we will pay the cost of the tow truck regardless. Towing always came out of our pocket, so it wouldn’t affects us in that regard with getting customers to come in. Also, we can still also submit that towing fee to the insurance company and get reimbursed. So it will have a little effect, but nothing major.”

Jeff Major, owner/operator of Jeff’s Auto Repair, said: “One thing I tell everybody, a carton of eggs was $4 and now it’s $8. So the same money they get from towing the trucks he needs to go to the store and buy those eggs.”

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