Towing companies scale back due to gas prices

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - No one likes to see tow trucks, especially if they're headed for your car. But these days, you may be seeing fewer of them in downtown Richmond. That's because high gas prices are preventing tow trucks from making as many patrols as they usually do.

On a good day, USA Towing in Richmond picks up about 5 cars. But these days, William Carter says he is pulling in just about 3 a day.

"Gas prices hurt everybody," said Carter of USA Towing.

At close to $4 a gallon for diesel fuel, Carter says the company had to change the way it does business.

"Of course you can't keep driving around looking for cars, so we're not out combing the whole entire city, we just look in small areas," said Carter.

Driving around at night looking for illegally parked cars and waiting to report to an accident is what many towing companies used to do. Now, with gas prices so high tow trucks are more likely sitting idle in a parking lot rather than roaming aimlessly in the streets.

The city of Richmond has capped off what towing companies can charge people at $125 per tow service. Companies can charge less, but they can't charge more.

Drivers may think that's a lot of money but Carter says it doesn't cover much. Here's a breakdown: A full tank of diesel fuel costs about $150. That plus insurance, plus the cost of the truck and in the end there's not much money left over.

"That's what people don't understand. You tell a certain person $125, they want to scream and get so uptight with your car getting towed, they don't know what it costs to tow and get their cars here you know," Carter said.

Carter tells me they are now - more than ever - relying more on people calling them for tow services - to help them keep their business going.

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