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Old 12-22-2012, 02:17 AM
brazil84 is online now
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Why are AAA and Similar Services So Slow?


The other morning, my car broke down. I called an AAA-like service an arranged for a tow truck to come at a particular time in the afternoon. The tow truck came well over an hour late and what is worse, they kept lying to me and giving me the runaround about whether the tow truck was on its way and when it would get there. I finally called a different towing service directly and the tow truck was there in less than 10 minutes.

This is in Manhattan and the towing company is about a 10 or 15 minute drive from where I was. I had called for service like 8 hours before I actually needed the tow.

A few years ago, also in Manhattan, I needed a jump start for my car. I had called AAA and the truck they sent was also very late. I don't know how long it would have taken since I finally found someone willing to let me hook jumper cables to their car.

I am wondering if there is something in the system which causes this to happen.

My hypothesis is that towing companies get their business through a combination of AAA calls and private calls. The private calls are far more profitable for them since AAA negotiates a low rate. Thus, they give AAA calls the lowest priority. Also, they know that if they are not prompt in responding to a private call, the caller will just call someone else.

Is there anyone with knowledge of the industry who can confirm or allay my suspicions?
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Old 12-22-2012, 03:57 AM
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I do not know - what you say makes sense, bit AAA would be likely ticked off if they found out - and might go with someone else when the complaints rolled in. Also I have worked in other industries where we had companies that negotiated lower prices - and we treated their customers the same.

I don't have AAA, but my battery died the other day (left the interior light on). I looked up "jumpstart" or something like that and saw an ad for Allstate Emergeny Road Side assistance. I don't have Allstate, but thought - hmm - I wonder if I have that through Geico (my insurance). Turned out I did - which was cool as I was all prepared to pay someone.

I think they promised 30 minutes on the phone - and I'm pretty sure they were there in that time frame. I wasn't in a hurry - so it didn't matter much and I thought 30 minutes was pretty good (I was at home - I may have thought different elsewhere).

Anyway - i thought they were great on the phone - and was very pleased. I never even really thought of insurance companies providing this service, but now I will never use anything but Geico. I had paid to have my car towed like a month before and didn't even know I had coverage.
  #3  
Old 12-22-2012, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by DataX View Post
Anyway - i thought they were great on the phone - and was very pleased. I never even really thought of insurance companies providing this service, but now I will never use anything but Geico. I had paid to have my car towed like a month before and didn't even know I had coverage.
Roadside assistance is an optional extra-cost (but relatively inexpensive) coverage with most insurance companies. It should be itemized on your bill and you can decline it if you wish.

However, there is something you should be aware of: Some insurance companies in some states will use your history of roadside assistance claims in setting your rates or even deciding whether to renew your policy. And I don't just mean the rate for roadside assistance.

Even worse, nearly all insurance companies in all states report your roadside assistance claims to the CLUE database. That is the database that insurance companies use to trade information about their experience with customers (it's sort of like the credit reporting agency for insurance). That means that if you want to shop around for another insurance policy, every other insurer will know about your claims and may possibly use them to set your rates or to decide whether to even accept you.

See Run out of gas? They track that, too.

I always decline the insurance company coverage and go with AAA.

Last edited by Alley Dweller; 12-22-2012 at 05:42 AM.
  #4  
Old 12-22-2012, 07:12 AM
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I have AAA and yes, their response time can be slow. Usually it's about a half hour to 45 minutes but if you break down or have an accident in a snow storm you could wait for a few hours.

BTW, traffic accidents (when dispatched by fire or police departments) get top priority with towing companies and that could slow AAA response times as well.
  #5  
Old 12-22-2012, 07:42 AM
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The one time I called AAA for roadside assistance, they were utterly useless. And I could find no way to send them feedback. When I called, they asked where I was. Or rather an automated answering service asked. I said "Massachusetts" and they said, "Did you say Massachusetts?" "Yes." So far, so good. "Where in Massachusetts?" "Near Barre." "Did you say [gibberish]?" "No." A couple more iterations. By the way "Barre" is pronounced more or less "Barry". Then I tried "Boston." Did you say "Boston?" "Yes." Finally, mirabile dictu, I got a real human being. I told her where I actually was (nowhere near Boston, in fact) and she transferred me to the Southern New England region where I got another human being who asked where I was. "On Route 122, 13 miles north of Barre (I had just seen a distance marker, so it was pretty accurate). "I can't find Route 122 on my maps." (Try google maps on Massachusetts Route 122. It will take 5 seconds.) I could only tell her that that's where I was. Finally, she said someone would be there in 45 minutes. An hour and a half later, I decided to change the tire myself. Fifteen minutes later a Massachusetts State trooper stopped and took over the tire change. He didn't leave until the spare was mounted and the old tire and luggage was back and we were off. He even followed for five miles to see that everything was okay.

Two hours later, I got a call from a garage in Petersham (the first town north of Barre) asking whether I still needed service, four hours after my initial call.
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:49 AM
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Yeah, I haven't found them useful. I didn't renew after the one time I called to use them.

I had a flat in a rainstorm on a busy road. It was 8:30 on a saturday morning and I had just started a 3 hour journey. Changing a flat isn't too hard, but hey, why pay for a service if you aren't going to use it?

I called them and they said someone would be there in 90 minutes.

That was just not acceptable response time. I changed it myself and never renewed.
  #7  
Old 12-22-2012, 10:20 AM
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All the triple A calls I and my kids have made over the past several years have been promptly serviced with one exception. It the best $200 a year I ever spent for coverage for my 2 kids and myself. Usual response time was 30 minutes to one hour. Just one or two non-AAA service calls, re jumps or tows etc. will be more than the cost of annual coverage.

Having said this I live in quasi-rural area. In cities it might be whole different equation as I'm sure AAA contract calls are not the best renumerated and you might go to the bottom of the pecking order vs other calls they get.

Last edited by astro; 12-22-2012 at 10:23 AM.
  #8  
Old 12-22-2012, 10:30 AM
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My GF had a flat tire (picked up a nail) waiting for her in the morning as she was headed to work. AAA not only came and was set to change the tire, but they patched the punctured tire and put her back on the road in less than 30 minutes from the original call.
  #9  
Old 12-22-2012, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
Roadside assistance is an optional extra-cost (but relatively inexpensive) coverage with most insurance companies. It should be itemized on your bill and you can decline it if you wish.

However, there is something you should be aware of: Some insurance companies in some states will use your history of roadside assistance claims in setting your rates or even deciding whether to renew your policy. And I don't just mean the rate for roadside assistance.

Even worse, nearly all insurance companies in all states report your roadside assistance claims to the CLUE database. That is the database that insurance companies use to trade information about their experience with customers (it's sort of like the credit reporting agency for insurance). That means that if you want to shop around for another insurance policy, every other insurer will know about your claims and may possibly use them to set your rates or to decide whether to even accept you.

See Run out of gas? They track that, too.

I always decline the insurance company coverage and go with AAA.
Wow thank you - did not know that.

Looks like Geico reports - but currently isn't using it (of course they could change their mind - or someone else could):
Quote:
Some auto insurers consider your calls for roadside assistance to be negatives, just like accident claims. State Farm, the nationís largest insurer, says the use of roadside assistance is a very small factor in calculating rates or considering a driverís insurability. Some insurers report roadside assistance calls made under their policies to ChoicePoint, an Alpharetta, Ga., company that compiles claims information for the insurance industry. Nationwide Insurance and Geico say they report the information but donít use it in their policy decisions. Allstate says it doesnít report usage by members of the Allstate Motor Club, but it does report towing claims made under its insurance policies
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2...gaps/index.htm
  #10  
Old 12-22-2012, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by brazil84 View Post
This is in Manhattan...
There's your problem. Judging by comments, every service of every kind is horrible to non-existent in Manhattan. I don't understand why anybody lives there.

My nine-year-old car battery died. I called AAA. It took maybe 45 minutes, but they sent out a special battery truck. The guy had the right type of battery on the truck, swapped it out for the old one right on the street, and charged me less than I would have paid for the battery alone at my dealership.

Manhattanites baffle me.
  #11  
Old 12-22-2012, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
There's your problem. Judging by comments, every service of every kind is horrible to non-existent in Manhattan.
I think that's not necessarily so. The second tow truck I called was there in about 7 minutes after I called. The driver was polite and competent. Of course I paid an amount of money which would probably shock you.

Quote:
I don't understand why anybody lives there.
I don't live there, I work there. And the reason I work there is because that's where the money is. Indeed, I make enough money so I can afford to pay the outrageous prices for services in Manhattan.
  #12  
Old 12-22-2012, 12:06 PM
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Towing garages have a finite number of tow trucks.
If say they run two trucks, and they get two accident calls, a flat tire and then you call with a dead battery, you are going to be a while.
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Old 12-22-2012, 12:14 PM
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I have had a fair number of encounters with AAA roadside service and only one made me a bit peeved. Usually they are prompt, courteous and very efficient. The only exception was a few years ago when my battery died while parked on The Loop at Stanford University. The problem wasn't with the service when it finally arrived - the problem was their call center (in Mumbai, I'm guessing) couldn't figure out where I was, since there isn't an address or cross-street to refer to. After trying to explain to Steve (Rajesh) for about 5 minutes just where Stanford University was, someone local jumped on the radio net and took the call. She was there in a flash and we shared a laugh about non-locals handling dispatch. Luckily I wasn't in a hurry to get somewhere.
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Old 12-22-2012, 01:05 PM
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The problem is not with AAA. The problem is with their tow truck contractors, who often are overworked. Especially during snow emergencies when too many call all at once.

But you said Manhattan. Perhaps it's your area.
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Old 12-22-2012, 01:45 PM
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I was talking to someone recently who was sure that AAA would be a better bet than my roadside assist via USAA (I'd estimated 30 minutes plus for a jump start). Apparently, AAA wouldn't do any better, and I feel no great urge to pay 10x more per year for comparable service.
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Old 12-22-2012, 02:27 PM
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They have long waits for the same reason your cable company has huge appointment windows: they hire just enough contractors so they're busy most of the time. In other words, when you call for service, it's very likely the person they're sending to you is already answering another call that may be on the far side of town. If that other call takes longer than expected, they're going to be behind getting to you.

Businesses don't like paying for unused capacity. It's the equivalent of throwing away food.
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:51 PM
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Another problem with the AAA towing business model is the way they contract with tow companies. When I had an engine fire on I-80, right on the line between Richmond and El Cerrito (California), the local tow companies tossed it back and forth, each claiming that the other was responsible. I ended up with a third tow company, whose driver wanted the business and drove 30 miles from fucking PITTSBURG. I called at 5:30 and didn't get home until after 10.
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:39 AM
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As far as I've been able to tell, AAA contracts with local tow trucks to service their members. I would guess that AAA pays their contractors less per call than the towing company would get for a direct call. Rather a "make it up in volume" kind of deal.

So my theory is that on high demand days - say a snow storm or a very cold morning - the towing companies can make much more money by prioritizing the direct calls over the AAA calls. Combine that with lots of calls, and my AAA call for a jump start can have quite a wait.
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Old 12-23-2012, 03:31 AM
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I've had reasonable service from AAA but this turned around a few years ago. While travelling through Ohio in a snowstorm, I ran off the road. Called AAA and they kept giving me doubletalk about the tow being on the way. For five hours with family and a small kid in the car, while it was snowing. A couple of times, I declined offers from passing tow trucks because I had been assured that AAA would be there within 20 minutes. Until I finally got mad, and accepted the offer from a passing tow truck. The highway patrol also stopped by and helped. I was told that in Ohio, AAA paid poorly and late and hence didn't get good service or as many people agreeing (from their contractors). Still doesn't explain why they had to lie to me about it being on the way, though.
  #20  
Old 12-23-2012, 10:23 AM
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I think the reason why the average wait time for AAA is so long (for others) is because my wife had an experience which totally skewed the average.

The other day, she locked her keys and purse in the car, so she called me to call AAA to come and open the door. I called from my work phone and was told it would be at least a 30-minute wait. While I was on the phone with AAA giving them the gas station where my wife was stuck and describing her car, my wife called my cell phone.

I told the AAA operator to hold on while I talked to my wife to see if there was new information to pass along, and the AAA operator said that he would contact the tow truck operator and inform him of the situation.

I answered my wife's call and she said that the AAA driver had just walked into the gas station and was walking out with a soda. She walked over to ask him if he could open her door for him, and while they were talking, the call from the AAA operator came over the radio.

Thus, the AAA-directed tow truck had arrived before the AAA operator had notified the driver!!!

Her total wait time from the time she called me to the time she was back in her car was about 3 minutes. So, all in all, we were pretty excited by AAA's response on that particular call.
  #21  
Old 12-23-2012, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by dstarfire View Post
Businesses don't like paying for unused capacity. It's the equivalent of throwing away food.
Not a great analogy.
Most Americans have money for plenty of food; it's 2012 and food is plentiful.
When you run a business, you're frequently running a stupid 3% net margin and letting ANY cost run over will put you out on the street.
The analogy is probably more like throwing 18 years worth of food away in one night...
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Old 12-24-2012, 12:34 PM
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As others have already stated, AAA contracts with local towing companies, and I believe the statement of the pre-negotiated rate is correct. As such, the two companies make it their lowest priority and may even try to make extra money on the side.

For example, I had my car break down once at work in San Diego, which naturally occurred on one of the very few days we had pouring down rain. Luckily, this happened at work, so I could watch from the window for him to come, which took 45 minutes. I got the designated bitter Persian guy driving the truck. I had an Infiniti and knew where the dealer was, which was just barely within the limit of what you are allowed for free towing within the parameters of the standard AAA agreement. I knew exactly how to get there, and when the driver took off with me in his truck, I directed him where to turn. He (in my opinion purposely) missed a turn that required nearly two miles of extra driving to get him back to where he need to go, then claimed that because the trip was two miles over the limit, he would have to charge me for those two miles. I refused to pay him because it was his own fault for not listening to me and not turning where I told him to. Then he suggested I tip after that, you know for "letting that two mile thing slide". I couldn't believe it. I closed the door and left him there in disbelief pissed off.

I'm curious why AAA doesn't do quality control so they can remove the seedier operators from their rosters since it reflects badly on them.
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Old 12-24-2012, 02:26 PM
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There may be 20 tow truck companies in the area but AAA only works with one of them. That guy might be busy or in bed or all the way across the county on another call.
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Old 12-25-2012, 07:04 PM
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My wife had AAA when we got married 27 years ago, and we've had it ever since. We live in a rural area in snow country, and it has paid for itself most years - enough so we keep renewing it year after year. We've used it for flat tires, dead batteries, starting problems (in cold weather) and the occasional slide into the ditch (our driveway is somewhat rugged).

Service response is typically 45 minutes to an hour, unless it is during a major snowstorm, when it can be several hours - but that is entirely understandable.
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Old 12-25-2012, 07:33 PM
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I don't have AAA service, as I don't travel very far by car and cars are extremely reliable today. So I made a point of looking up the phone numbers for a couple of the larger local tow companies and added their direct numbers to my cell phone address book. Plus I have a Visa Signature card and one of the free services is roadside dispatch. So I also have that phone number in my address book.
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Old 12-25-2012, 07:56 PM
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For what it's worth I work with the son of a tow driver. I once asked him about AAA towing, and he said that his dad refused to answer AAA calls--they don't pay well and they are slow to pay the drivers. Given that the father is one of two tow drivers in a West Texas county, I assume that he has a fair amount of spare time on his hands. Apparently, taking an AAA call may be a worse option than nothing.
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Old 12-25-2012, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I don't have AAA service, as I don't travel very far by car and cars are extremely reliable today. So I made a point of looking up the phone numbers for a couple of the larger local tow companies and added their direct numbers to my cell phone address book. Plus I have a Visa Signature card and one of the free services is roadside dispatch. So I also have that phone number in my address book.
It's worth it to note that roadside dispatch often isn't road side service. What they do for free is call the roadside service provider. They don't provide the service for free.

(least that's how my CC did it. I was kind of pissed.)
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Old 12-25-2012, 10:09 PM
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I boned up on the tow truck industry prior to interviewing for an office job with a company in that industry.

It appeared their preference was:
- towing illegally parked vehicles/etc (no negotiating power for client)
- towing vehicles at request of owner (medium negotiating power for client)
- towing AAA/insurance membership/etc vehicles (least negotiating power)

Some good reading on the tow411 forums at yuku if you're inclined to trawl through it.
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Old 12-26-2012, 12:34 PM
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I depends on the area and what else is going on.

Most tow services also have contracts with the cities and states. A car blocking a highway, or major city street has priority. Their contract requires them to respond when called, if they miss to many calls the contract is canceled.

In San Jose CAlif I started call the service 3A non emergency road service. And after any non emergency service I called AAA to ask how do get the emergency service promiced? And when they told me just call the number on the card, I would explain that no that is the non emergency number. When they claimed they did not have a non emergency service I would ask if a 60 to 120 minute or more wait was emergency service? The next day I would call my agent and ask to be signed up for the emergency service. And go through it again. Plus I would ask to talk to a supervisor. I would guess that I was not the only one callling. The last few times I call I was given a time and the driver beat the time. And it was under 30 minute.

So to make a long story lshort. Call everyone and complain.
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Old 07-09-2019, 02:17 AM
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Hi, I am one of two dispatchers we have at our towing company. I just felt the need to chime in a speak my two cents. First of all, as far as our towing company, we do not push a cash paying customer ahead of any calls we receive. The only time someone gets bumped up in line ahead of someone is if the logistical part of it makes more sense. If I have a driver with 3 calls pending for him (which is often the case, its almost always 2, but often more) and of those 3 calls, one of them is going to take them 2 miles down the road, one to another city, and one across town, the order they came in to us as can and will be changed around. I am not going to make my customer that is only going one mile wait for my driver to go and tow a car 10+ miles that leaves him 10+ miles away from them when done. It makes more sense to tow the car going one mile that is near the customer going the 10+ miles to another town (or state usually in our location) So, the customer that has the one mile tow, which is close to or on the way to the longer distance tow is always going to go first. It just doesn't make sense to do it the other way around. And that is not always what "takes so long". Our drivers work on commission and don't get paid unless they are taking and completing calls, the more they do, the more they make. So you won't ever find them sitting around doing nothing. And 99.9% of the time, the driver is out doing a call already for someone else before he heads your way. They are very very rarely without a call, waiting for someone who needs a tow. And as far as prioritizing AAA or any other call type, AAA is actually on our list of top priorities. No, they don't pay as well. In fact, they pay the least out of all the motorclubs, with the exception of Allstate, but they provide the most volume. And performance is very highly noticed in our region and probably most. If we don't meet or exceed AAA's expectations on arrival times, we don't get to keep our contracts with them. So keeping AAA a top priority is the only way you will keep the contract they give you. Think about this for a minute...You call AAA, they get all your info, then they send out a dispatch to the nearest truck to assist you. One thing their AVL (automated vehicle locator) system they implement to dispatch calls doesn't consider is things like this. They send out the call to the AVL, the AVL picks the closest truck (and its not closest truck at xyz tow company, its the closest truck between all of the tow companies that have a contract with AAA in that area). So they pick the closest truck. So Joe is closest at that particular time, but I guarantee you, Joe is heading to or already working on a call that was ahead of yours at that time. That could mean he is on his way to that other call and happens to pass by close to you and got picked for the call, he could be about ready to drop the vehicle off, or he could be on location with that customer still loading the vehicle. 2 out of those 3 possibilities most likely means he will finish the current call somewhere that is no longer the closest to where you are sitting and waiting. So now Joe is on the west side of town dropping his car off because the AVL chose him for your call when he was on the Southeast end of town and headed to the customer who pinged him before you. The AVL system is flawed in so many ways but AAA insists that we do not change the driver responding to your call unless its an emergency situation such as Joe got into a car accident or Joe's truck broke down. That type of thing. So our inability to do our job as a dispatcher is basically taken away when AAA calls come across. Dispatchers know where our drivers are going, where their call is going to leave them, what kind of car you drive and what kind of truck you need to tow that kind of car. We are the ones that are seeing the whole picture and would be best able to make those choices on who responds to which calls, but AAA won't allow that to happen. So if anyone wants to place blame, please don't place it with us. Our hands are tied. Next time you are waiting for a tow truck, regardless of how you are paying for the tow, also consider these things. Tow truck drivers risk their lives every single time they get a call to help you. Most people break down on the road or freeway. Not at home. Tow truck drivers are considered first responders and it is a very dangerous job. Sometimes its dangerous enough that they have to wait for a 2nd truck just to help with traffic or making drivers on those roads aware that they are on the side of the road helping the person who broke down. Because people don't pay attention and are distracted. How many times have you gotten close to or went over the line of the lane you are traveling in because you are reaching for or on your phone? It happens all the time. And if that tow truck driver and the customer waiting for him or with him is on the other side of that line you just crossed not paying attention, that's all it takes and suddenly your life and at least one or two other peoples lives have instantly changed forever. So think about how that driver that is later than you were told or later than u expected is risking their life to help you, a complete stranger, every time they go to a call. And most likely doing it as a way to support their family that wants them home as badly as you want to get home. Give them a break. They are some of the hardest workers and most selfless people I have ever known. They are only trying to help you and support themselves or a family while doing it.
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Old 07-09-2019, 04:20 AM
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What you're saying is really interesting and useful since its coming from someone on the inside, but can you please re-send with some paragraphs or structuring because, as it currently looks on the screen its pretty bloody hard to read.

thanks.
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Old 07-09-2019, 05:00 AM
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The problem seems to be pretty universal. We have two major services in the UK - AA and RAC, and they both have exactly the same problem. They both have their own vans and for a simple breakdown like a flat battery or a tyre change, you will likely get one of those; if you need recovery, they use contractors, but I am sure that they don't choose the driver.

The bulk of the complaints I see on the web are that a driver is stuck somewhere and the operator promises a mechanic in 45 minutes (or whatever) the driver waits for some time more than that and then phones to find out what has gone wrong and that's where it all falls apart, because the operator will now (it seems) make stuff up, like "he has been delayed and is on his way" when that is not the case, or they will say that they have no record of the original call or any other excuse they can dream up.

Most people understand that some problems take a lot longer to deal with than others and they have no way of knowing before they arrive, so scheduling is hard, to say the least. What aggrieves most people is the lack of information and especially the promised call-backs that never happen.

These services are really insurance like any other; a bet against the likelihood of breaking down and needing assistance. In fact, both the AA and the RAC are owned by insurance companies, so a driver needs to weigh up the cost/benefit of the premium; someone who rarely leaves their home town probably doesn't need it, but someone who drives all over the country would probably like the peace of mind.
  #33  
Old 07-09-2019, 09:30 AM
Quintas is offline
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Originally Posted by brazil84 View Post

This is in Manhattan and the towing company is about a 10 or 15 minute drive from where I was.
Their office location has little to do with where their driver's are at any given moment. It's not like a fire department where a bunch of driver's are waiting around for an alarm to go off. They try to keep their trucks working pretty much constantly. The nearest one may be 30 miles away with heavy traffic between you and him.

That being said, there is also the problem of the tow companies promising over optimistic ETA's when companies like AAA call them.

Last edited by Quintas; 07-09-2019 at 09:33 AM.
  #34  
Old 07-09-2019, 09:49 AM
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brandyj, thanks so much for this information, it's an insider look at the industry that is very informative.

Hope you don't mind, I added a few line feeds to your text...

Quote:
Hi, I am one of two dispatchers we have at our towing company. I just felt the need to chime in and speak my two cents.

First of all, as far as our towing company, we do not push a cash paying customer ahead of any calls we receive. The only time someone gets bumped up in line ahead of someone is if the logistical part of it makes more sense. If I have a driver with 3 calls pending for him (which is often the case, itís almost always 2, but often more) and of those 3 calls, one of them is going to take them 2 miles down the road, one to another city, and one across town, the order they came in to us as can and will be changed around. I am not going to make my customer that is only going one mile wait for my driver to go and tow a car 10+ miles that leaves him 10+ miles away from them when done. It makes more sense to tow the car going one mile that is near the customer going the 10+ miles to another town (or state usually in our location)

So, the customer that has the one mile tow, which is close to or on the way to the longer distance tow is always going to go first. It just doesn't make sense to do it the other way around. And that is not always what "takes so long". Our drivers work on commission and don't get paid unless they are taking and completing calls, the more they do, the more they make. So you won't ever find them sitting around doing nothing. And 99.9% of the time, the driver is out doing a call already for someone else before he heads your way. They are very very rarely without a call, waiting for someone who needs a tow.

And as far as prioritizing AAA or any other call type, AAA is actually on our list of top priorities. No, they don't pay as well. In fact, they pay the least out of all the motor clubs, with the exception of Allstate, but they provide the most volume. And performance is very highly noticed in our region and probably most. If we don't meet or exceed AAA's expectations on arrival times, we don't get to keep our contracts with them. So keeping AAA a top priority is the only way you will keep the contract they give you. Think about this for a minute...You call AAA, they get all your info, and then they send out a dispatch to the nearest truck to assist you.

One thing their AVL (automated vehicle locator) system they implement to dispatch calls doesn't consider is things like this. They send out the call to the AVL, the AVL picks the closest truck (and itís not closest truck at xyz tow company, itís the closest truck between all of the tow companies that have a contract with AAA in that area). So they pick the closest truck. So Joe is closest at that particular time, but I guarantee you, Joe is heading to or already working on a call that was ahead of yours at that time. That could mean he is on his way to that other call and happens to pass by close to you and got picked for the call, he could be about ready to drop the vehicle off, or he could be on location with that customer still loading the vehicle. 2 out of those 3 possibilities most likely means he will finish the current call somewhere that is no longer the closest to where you are sitting and waiting. So now Joe is on the west side of town dropping his car off because the AVL chose him for your call when he was on the Southeast end of town and headed to the customer who pinged him before you.

The AVL system is flawed in so many ways but AAA insists that we do not change the driver responding to your call unless itís an emergency situation such as Joe got into a car accident or Joe's truck broke down. That type of thing. So our inability to do our job as a dispatcher is basically taken away when AAA calls come across. Dispatchers know where our drivers are going, where their call is going to leave them, what kind of car you drive and what kind of truck you need to tow that kind of car. We are the ones that are seeing the whole picture and would be best able to make those choices on who responds to which calls, but AAA won't allow that to happen.

So if anyone wants to place blame, please don't place it with us. Our hands are tied. Next time you are waiting for a tow truck, regardless of how you are paying for the tow, also consider these things. Tow truck drivers risk their lives every single time they get a call to help you. Most people break down on the road or freeway. Not at home.

Tow truck drivers are considered first responders and it is a very dangerous job. Sometimes itís dangerous enough that they have to wait for a 2nd truck just to help with traffic or making drivers on those roads aware that they are on the side of the road helping the person who broke down. Because people don't pay attention and are distracted. How many times have you gotten close to or went over the line of the lane you are traveling in because you are reaching for or on your phone? It happens all the time. And if that tow truck driver and the customer waiting for him or with him is on the other side of that line you just crossed not paying attention, that's all it takes and suddenly your life and at least one or two other peopleís lives have instantly changed forever.

So think about how that driver that is later than you were told or later than u expected is risking their life to help you, a complete stranger, every time they go to a call. And most likely doing it as a way to support their family that wants them home as badly as you want to get home. Give them a break. They are some of the hardest workers and most selfless people I have ever known. They are only trying to help you and support themselves or a family while doing it.
  #35  
Old 07-09-2019, 03:27 PM
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I had to have my vehicle towed recently. I called my auto insurance company and they connected me to a dispatcher (who seemed to have no info on locfal addresses at all). They told me it would be 4-5 hours before they could get a tow there (at a slow time of the day) -- I told them that was too long and cancelled it.

Then I called a tow company recommended by my mechanic. Their local dispatcher knew the area, but apologized because it would take 15-20 minutes before a driver could get there. That was OK with me. But about 5 minutes later the dispatcher called back, and said the police had called them to a major accident, and it would now be 45 minutes to an hour before they could get to me.

About 15 minutes later the tow truck driver called me -- he was just arriving at the accident scene, and, in his words, it was "a real mess" and he said it'd be at least an hour or two before he could be out of there. So we made arrangements to leave the keys there for him, and I headed for home.

A couple hours later, the tow driver called me again. He had arrived at the location, and was verifying that he had the correct vehicle, and where I wanted it located at home. Then he called again as he was arriving at my home, unloading, and left the keys with me.

Reviewing this, by the time my car finally arrived back at my home, it did take the 4-5 hours that the insurance company dispatcher had originally estimated. But the local tow company had kept me informed during the process, and had worked with me to free me from waiting around. I was quite pleased with this, and happy with their service. (And my insurance agent had me send them a copy of the tow bill, and they eventually paid most of it.)
  #36  
Old 07-09-2019, 05:18 PM
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I don't know if it's because I'm often alone and a woman, but I've had good experiences with the AAA operator keeping me informed on the status of the tow truck being on its way.

Also, the L.A. area freeways have Metro tow trucks who are always patrolling and have helped me more than once. And it's free. Their primary objective is to keep the freeways moving. The times they helped me I was impressed with their efficiency and friendliness.
  #37  
Old 07-09-2019, 11:26 PM
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I had AAA, but I have Onstar now. Onstar is much better, when my wife had a flat tire on a rural road, they dispatched a truck immediately. The truck was there within 10 minutes, with the Onstar person giving us a very accurate ETA. As I understand it, Onstar pays to have a dedicated trucks, solely to service their customers. A friend that was in the business told me that AAA paid very little.
  #38  
Old 07-10-2019, 01:53 AM
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Yes, AAA pays $47 a call in our area, Urgent.ly (Mercedes, BMW, Volvo Roadside assistance provider) pays $75-100 per call depending on type of car. Our standard rate is $75 hook and $5 per mile if you call as a cash customer. So yes, you are absolutely right. It's volume but less money.

Last edited by brandyj; 07-10-2019 at 01:54 AM.
  #39  
Old 07-10-2019, 03:09 AM
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I've had AAA for decades, and never had a problem with them. (Unless one considers a 30-45 minute wait for the tow truck a problem, which I don't.) I still remember the time I got a tow from Vienna, VA all the way back to my house, about a mile from the Chesapeake Bay. When you sign up for that level of service where they'll tow you up to 100 miles, they'll really do it.
  #40  
Old 08-13-2019, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quintas View Post
Their office location has little to do with where their driver's are at any given moment.
I was actually referring to their garage.

Quote:
It's not like a fire department where a bunch of driver's are waiting around for an alarm to go off. They try to keep their trucks working pretty much constantly. The nearest one may be 30 miles away with heavy traffic between you and him.
I had made the appointment literally 8 hours beforehand. Besides which, there is no way in hell that the tow truck was 30 miles away. Look at a map of NYC.
  #41  
Old 08-14-2019, 08:57 AM
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The answer lies in call-for-assistance arrival patterns, the sporadic nature of incoming requests (not spread out evenly over each hour), the geography of the coverage area and the crushing costs it would take to have equipment on stand-by.

Further, small groups (such as a garage with several trucks) are inherently unstable when it comes to providing a consistent service level. That only comes when you get to dozens of trucks and hundreds of calls. It's easier to provide consistent service at scale.

Like a doctor's office, just two patients who take much more than average time in one hour can send the whole schedule into chaos.

Small teams, which local regions are, cannot provide 20-minute turn times consistently. One will get out in 15, then someone will wait 45, then 30, then 10, then an hour.

Same reason an intersection cannot give the same experience 24 hours a day: You cannot build it for the peak traffic, or it will be wasted most of the day. During peak times, you wait longer and your commute is longer. You try to find a balance. No local shops have trucks waiting to run out to you 24/7. That's just waste and impossible to staff for.

.
  #42  
Old 08-14-2019, 09:20 AM
Quintas is offline
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Originally Posted by brazil84 View Post
I was actually referring to their garage.



Besides which, there is no way in hell that the tow truck was 30 miles away. Look at a map of NYC.
Back when I worked in this business, it wouldn't have been unheard of for a truck based in Manhattan to be completing a tow on the other end of Long Island or somewhere in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. That's what I meant. Where the garage is located may have very litle to do with where the drivers actually are at any given time.

8 hours is a long time, though, I agree. And it does sound like someone screwed up during the process.
  #43  
Old 08-14-2019, 09:55 AM
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I have had AAA pretty much my entire life. My dad had been a subscriber since the 1960s.

AAA is very good if you need a jump, a new battery, or a flat tire fixed.

When it comes to something more involved, like a tow, that's when the wait factor comes it. It seems like their towing contractors are coming in from the boonies, and if it's a snowy day, then you're going to have a long wait.
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  #44  
Old 08-14-2019, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Quintas View Post
Back when I worked in this business, it wouldn't have been unheard of for a truck based in Manhattan to be completing a tow on the other end of Long Island or somewhere in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.
I have an extremely hard time believing this is commonplace.

Quote:
8 hours is a long time, though, I agree. And it does sound like someone screwed up during the process.
Seems to me it's like the flaky secretary whose bus or train is always getting delayed on the way to work.
  #45  
Old 08-15-2019, 08:24 AM
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I have an extremely hard time believing this is commonplace.


Ok. I'm lying to you. Because.
  #46  
Old 08-15-2019, 08:50 AM
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Sometimes it takes them longer because they have to find you in some twisty turny neighborhood. With GPS it's probably easier.

Years ago my radiator died at Walmart. It took the tow truck driver approximately 10 minutes to get there because he was free and, as he said "everyone knows where the Wal-Mart on Speedway is". I still don't know how he unwittingly picked out my car from the half-dozen or so white Corsicas on the lot, though (I was by the entrance in the shade. It was 109 out).
  #47  
Old 08-15-2019, 11:42 AM
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As far as I've been able to tell, AAA contracts with local tow trucks to service their members. I would guess that AAA pays their contractors less per call than the towing company would get for a direct call. Rather a "make it up in volume" kind of deal.

So my theory is that on high demand days - say a snow storm or a very cold morning - the towing companies can make much more money by prioritizing the direct calls over the AAA calls. Combine that with lots of calls, and my AAA call for a jump start can have quite a wait.
Probably less "make up in volume" and more of a "semi-guaranteed number of calls". So it's more that they know that being an AAA contractor means that they'll get X number of calls a day on average, even at a lower rate, than the more volatile nature of eating what you kill, so to speak. I imagine that being a tow truck driver can be a sort of feast or famine kind of thing- when it's rainy or icy or some other condition that could cause a lot of accidents, you're in high cotton, but if it's dry, sunny and clear, you're probably lucky to get the occasional person with a broken fan belt or something. Being part of the AAA network means that you're more likely to have steadier business.
  #48  
Old 08-15-2019, 03:03 PM
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Aside from the fact that the OP was begging the question, enough reasonable answers were provided.

It's not always a long wait. Long is relative. Resources, from basic trucks to full-on flatbed tow trucks, aren't on constant stand-by just five miles from your random dead car on magic roads that have no traffic.

AAA actually earned a reputation and became an iconic brand on the backs of good service and wait times that are, apparently, acceptable. An hour for a two truck at the wrong time and place will happen. But anecdotes are plentiful where a wait of less than 30 minutes was needed.

Personally took AAA road service calls, and wait times of 45-90 minutes were on harsh days, with spikes in calls, during specific hours. Unless you want to pay 5 grand a year, getting equipment to you in 15-45 minutes for your paltry annual fee seems reasonable.

.

Last edited by Philster; 08-15-2019 at 03:04 PM.
  #49  
Old 08-16-2019, 07:41 AM
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Resources, from basic trucks to full-on flatbed tow trucks, aren't on constant stand-by just five miles from your random dead car on magic roads that have no traffic.

...... Unless you want to pay 5 grand a year, getting equipment to you in 15-45 minutes for your paltry annual fee seems reasonable.

.
Amen.

Thank God I don't do that job anymore.

Last edited by Quintas; 08-16-2019 at 07:42 AM. Reason: spell
  #50  
Old 08-16-2019, 12:33 PM
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Ok. I'm lying to you. Because.
Tows to Jersey City or Long Island City or Brooklyn I can understand. But the other end of Long Island is Suffolk County. Could you explain why it is common for tow trucks in Manhattan to go out there?
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