Knightdale reviews towing insurance policies

mhankerson@newsobserver.comJanuary 20, 2014 

— After two town-contracted towing companies were found to have a brief lapse in insurance coverage, the Knightdale Public Safety Committee is discussing more changes to the town’s towing policy.

The town revised its towing policy in May 2013 to add geographic requirements, but now the town is looking to add repercussions for companies that let their insurance lapse.

Police Chief Jason Godwin suggested giving companies probation-like time periods where they would be removed from the town’s rotation for about a month for having insurance issues. If it happened again, the company would be removed for a longer amount of time.

After that, the company would be permanently removed from the list.

Because of problems with reporting their insurance coverage, B&B Towing and Tow-riffic, owned by the father and son team Charles and JR Bullock were removed from the town’s rotation earlier this month, although Godwin’s proposal wasn’t in effect, so they received no warning.

“(The town) has proof ... showing active, current insurance with no lapse but they still took (us) off the rotation,” JR Bullock said.

Godwin told the Public Safety Committee the police department received several notices from insurance companies that the Bullocks were late on insurance payments and received one report indicating a lapse in coverage.

Godwin was concerned with the time it took his employees to confirm if the companies were insured up to the town’s standards and eventually the two companies were taken out of the rotation.

Charles Bullock, who operates B&B Towing, said it is possible the town received those notices, but he didn’t receive any from his insurance company. He said he mails his payments, so it could have been that the insurance company generated notices before a payment was processed.

He admits there was about a 10-day lapse where it looked as if his company was uninsured but it was because a payment was slow to be processed. The insurance company provided a letter saying the policy was backdated, meaning even though there appeared to have been a lapse, there wasn’t.

Town’s changes hinder companies

Both Bullocks said part of the reason their policies weren’t being reported properly is because the town changed the minimum insurance requirements. Charles Bullock said the company he previously was insured with couldn’t write a new policy that would abide by Knightdale’s rules so he had to switch companies.

The town’s policy currently requires all town-contracted towing companies to carry a minimum of $750,000 personal injury and liability coverage, garage keepers insurance (which covers cars when they are in a shop or similar environment) at $100,000, on-hook and cargo insurance at $50,000 for small wreckers (tow trucks able to carry average-sized vehicles) and $150,000 on-hook and cargo coverage for large wreckers.

The state of North Carolina also requires tow trucks and similar vehicles to carry at least $750,000 minimum liability insurance.

All but two of the original 10 companies Knightdale used carried a $1 million liability policy, town council member and public safety committee member Mike Chalk said at the meeting.

“You’re handling other people’s cars and if you don’t have the insurance and something happens, that falls back on the town,” he said.

The committee is still finalizing details of the changes. Chalk suggested having longer periods of time where a company is removed from the rotation and cutting down the number of times they can be reinstated to the rotation.

“I understand how it happens sometimes, some of my personal stuff probably has lapsed,” Chalk said. “It’s up to the company to stay with the policy. I think they have to have some responsibility here.”

Charles Bullock said his company has been helping the town by towing their vehicles for free for 27 years. The town couldn’t confirm how many times the Bullocks may have assisted for free, but Godwin said the Bullocks’ favors had nothing to do with the town’s insurance requirements.

Bullock’s free tows aren’t uncommon. The town has an unofficial policy of asking the company at the top of the rotation to tow town-owned vehicles for free. If the tow company charges, the town will simply move to the next company in the rotation until a company offers to tow the vehicle for free. If no one is willing to tow the vehicle for free, the town uses its own equipment to tow the vehicle.

The town had 10 total companies and removed each of the Bullocks’ companies, leaving the town with six companies that can tow smaller vehicles and two companies that can tow large vehicles.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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