High tech could decide who tows your car

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald wants to revamp the city's tow truck ordinance so disabled vehicles can be cleared from roadways more quickly. It sounds logical, but the city should proceed with caution.

The chief wants to hire a single company to dispatch the tow trucks. The vendor, using the latest in GPS technology, would send the closest tow truck to an accident, cutting down on response times. It would end a long-standing practice of selecting the next available tow truck driver from a rotating list.

The change would improve safety as wrecks are cleared more quickly and free up city dispatchers to handle other calls. Austin and San Antonio already are successfully using this approach, he said.

Local tow truck companies, however, raise legitimate concerns.

A leader in the Fort Worth Area Towing Alliance said the change would lead to tow truck drivers monitoring scanners and rushing to a scene in hopes of getting the job. He pointed out existing towing companies assigned from the list already use GPS technology and get to accidents well under the current 30-minute deadline.

We understand drivers' fears that taking this path may force some mom-and-pop tow truck companies out of business by enterprises with more equipment and better technology.

But we've all sat in traffic jams following a fender bender. The longer it takes vehicles to be cleared, the more time motorists waste. And it can be dangerous. With the city adding up to 25,000 new residents a year the situation will only get worse.

With what we know, the Editorial Board supports changing the towing ordinance, but encourages the city to make sure local companies aren't squeezed out and the dispatcher doesn't choose favorites for jobs. We urge the towing alliance to consider submitting a bid itself to be the agency dispatching trucks to accidents.

Let's clear a path for this idea and make sure the result is fair.