The Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee will begin examining wrecker service compensation in the state on Wednesday, September 16. Senator Don Barrington, who chairs the committee, requested the interim study earlier this year.
“I want this interim study to help determine what a fair and equitable charge is for wrecker service. Due to inflation and increased operational costs in the industry, wreckers are not being fully compensated,” said Barrington, R-Lawton. “We need to look at ways for wreckers to be compensated for the services they provide in the state.”
Oklahoma law dictates what wreckers can charge for their services. According to the Oklahoma Wrecker Owners Association (OKWOA), Oklahoma has some of the lowest wrecker rates in the region and has not received a rate increase since May 2004. During that time, fuel prices have increased as much as 400 percent, while insurance fees in the state have increased 50 to 70 percent for many operators. The costs of the wrecker vehicles as well as tires, chains, and other necessary equipment have also gone up.
Another problem facing wrecker owners is being required by the Department of Public Safety to clean up accidents on state roadways. Under Oklahoma law, the vehicle owner is responsible for the towing and storage fees. The OKWOA points out that because many titles are not up to date, it is impossible sometimes to find the owners. Wreckers also do not receive compensation from the state for their services to law enforcement and the public. Therefore, wreckers are never paid for nearly four out of every ten tows.
“We have wreckers who lose thousands of dollars each year because they get stuck with dumped vehicles from drivers and some insurance companies. They have no way to recoup those losses,” said Barrington. “Wreckers provide such a tremendous service to our state, especially in the rural areas, and we need to figure out a way to address these problems and ensure they receive just compensation for their work.”
Wednesday’s meeting will include a discussion of the state’s current wrecker owner’s system and any possible changes that could be made to the system. Presentations will be made by the Oklahoma Wrecker Owners Association and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.
The meeting will take place at the State Capitol in Room 511-A from 10:00 - 12:00. The public is welcome to attend the meeting, or can watch it live on the Senate website at www.oksenate.gov by clicking on the /Video link on the homepage and then selecting Room 511-A.