PORTLAND, Ore.— When an Oregon State Police inspector walked into a Tigard towing company, he found one problem after another.
Tow trucks were being used that weren’t approved, the company had a business license for the wrong city and the manager couldn’t find a list of prices. A quick search showed the Better Business Bureau gave the company an ‘F’ rating.
With all of these problems, the unnamed company still managed to do business with Oregon State Police.
The incident was highlighted in an internal audit critical of the Oregon State Police tow program.
“OSP does not have sufficient staffing, technology, and policy to operate a tow program able to meet even limited oversight over its non-preference tow program,” read the audit released Dec. 31, 2016.
KGW obtained a copy of the report through a public records request.
The audit looked at OSP’s non-preference tow program. Troopers use the computer generated list of roughly 300 companies to dispatch tow trucks to drivers who may be stuck on the roadside or in a crash.
The audit suggested it is not difficult to get on the OSP non-preference list. Over the past five years, no tow companies had been rejected.
Once on the non-preference list, OSP does little to inspect or monitor the towing companies it is doing business with.
“A closer look into the program showed little evidence that real oversight of towers happens in any meaningful and consistent manner,” read the report.
OSP’s own administrative rule prevents the department from setting rates for non-preference tows, unlike Washington and California which have some method of capping tow charges as a result of state patrol calls.
“There is nothing in the rules preventing tow business from submitting what could be considered unreasonable charges on their itemized list of charges,” said the report.
One example is the case of Gary Anderson. He was charged $948 after Oregon State Police called a tow truck company to haul his car from Interstate 5 near Salem.
“It’s like highway robbery,” Anderson told KGW in November.
The audit showed state police doesn’t track complaints about tow truck companies.
“There is no way to consistently and fairly hold individual tow companies accountable.”
The report made a series of recommendations which would require a substantial rewrite of existing rules and policy.
The report explained the OSP tow program is understaffed, consisting of a single Lieutenant and a program coordinator.
“This is not the fault of any one individual; it’s just the way the tow program is staffed and set up makes it all but impossible to do adequate oversight of the approximate 200 tow companies statewide,” read the audit.