After Embarrassing Tow Truck Reputation, City Rolls Out New Dispatch Service

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City is rolling out a new auto towing dispatch service on Tuesday -- and some say it's a much-needed step in the right direction.

Two months ago Caleb Gullett was in a wreck that cost him more than $8,000 in damage to his car. But it wasn't the accident that left him feeling uneasy and vulnerable.

"Before the police arrived, a tow truck company showed up," Gullett said. "They parked as close to our vehicles as possible. And, actually, ran other tow companies off as they approached."

Even worse, the tow company billed Gullett $1,100. A typical $50 dollar hookup fee cost him around $500. And the average $3 per mile rate was more than quadruple.

"With the crash and everything involved, it never really crossed my mind to start counting money at that point," Gullett said.

The city's Regulated Industries Division says practices like this have given Kansas City a bad name.

"It is embarassing for the city," said Gary Majors with RID.

And it's exactly why the city is rolling out a new tow dispatch service -- to help both officers and motorists on scene.

"Now, when an officer asks for a tow, the dispatcher enters the information into the computer, and, using GPS, it automatically dispatches the closest truck to where the officer is," Majors said.

Now instead of an unexpected bill, a regular tow within the metro area will be a set $200.

Gullett said anything is better than what's currently in place.

"I think it's a good iniative," he said. "I think it's a good start because right now it's like the wild wild west. It's first come, first serve -- whoever gets there first. With anything in place, it's good progress."

Right now, the tow dispatch service is only available when a police officer is on the scene. Majors said drivers can still use any tow truck of their choosing, but this gives drivers options.

The city currently has 24 tow companies registered with the service. Those trucks will be clearly marked.

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