Home Government County UHP lacks data to justify changing Morgan towing contract

UHP lacks data to justify changing Morgan towing contract

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A year ago, the Utah Highway Patrol changed their towing contract in Morgan County, allowing Weber County towing companies in on the towing rotation.  At that time, the UHP said they would re-evaluate the contract after a year’s time, when they would have data—including towing response times—to crunch to determine if the change was in the public’s interest.  Now, however, UHP officials say they don’t have enough data and will leave the contract in place, with an emphasis on requiring tow truck drivers to be better at calling in their response times.
Data provided to The Morgan County News by VIP Tow Dispatch, UHP’s third-party contracted dispatcher headquartered in Massachusetts, documents tow truck response times for less than a fourth of all dispatches in the Morgan area from Jan. 1 to Nov. 17, 2015.  Out of 82 calls, only 20 logged the time when the tow truck arrived on the scene.
Mike Loveland, the new UHP section commander over the Morgan area, attributes that to the tow truck drivers who fail to call dispatch once they have arrived on the scene.
“We have a lot of wrecker dispatches where we don’t have times,” Loveland said.  “The wrecker service needs to do a better job of logging those times.”
Often times, UHP troopers on the scene will call dispatch to inform that the wrecker has arrived.
“Troopers have a lot better wrecker logging times than the wreckers, significantly better,” Loveland told The Morgan County News.
UHP Sgt. Bryce Kohler said he was able to get an additional 34 response times by using the troopers’ calls instead of VIP’s numbers, but refused to provide those to The Morgan County News after a records request because “they are not accurate and reliable,” he said.  “Some are skewed a little bit.  We will try to straighten that up this year.”
Loveland said he wants better data before any changes are made.
“We don’t have complete date to make a fair decision.  We need more time to research.  We still need to analyze and look and talk about it to see what is best for the troops and the people and everyone involved,” Loveland said.  “At this current stage, we are not ready to change it. There is not enough evidence or data to change it.”
In the meantime, Kohler said the new 2016 towing contract will emphasize the drivers’ responsibility to call dispatch once they have arrived on the scene.  Kohler is drafting the contract now and expects to have it out to tow truck drivers next week.
“There should be a penalty to wreckers who don’t advise of those times,” Loveland said.
With the January 2015 towing amendment, the UHP allowed tow trucks 30 minutes to respond to dispatch calls, which is 10 more minutes than is required in the Weber County rotation.  “It is fair to give a little bit of a leeway,” Kohler said.
He said that looking at VIP’s 20 times in addition to his office’s 34 logged times, only seven calls were over 10 minutes late.  This would mean that in seven instances, tow trucks took more than 40 minutes to arrive on scene in Morgan County.
VIP’s data ranges from a response time of 12 minutes to 46 minutes, with an average response time of 27 minutes, barely under the required 30 minutes.
A July dispatch to Highway 65 in East Canyon shows an initial dispatch time of 7:46 p.m., according to VIP data.  One wrecker company passed on the opportunity to provide services, while another “could not do on scene.”  Then, at 9:43 p.m., almost two hours later, dispatch sent out another request.  The time the third wrecker arrived on scene, however, was not recorded.
“Definitely, response times matter,” Kohler said.  “The tow industry is a dog-eat-dog business, and wreckers are protective of their tows.  My job as the sergeant is not to make the towing company money, but to run an efficient tow program.  I am running a crew as well as trying to run this tow program, which is hard in itself.  My crew comes first.  It is a tough deal, honestly.”
Once a wrecker arrives on scene, they usually tow the vehicle to their own yard.  This means that if a tow company operates out of Weber County, cars picked up in Morgan are towed to a lot in Weber County.  For Morgan County residents, this could result in a lengthy ride just to pick up their car, accompanied by a steep towing bill.
But Kohler said troopers always ask motorists if they have a preferred towing provider, and will usually allow the consumer to choose the company.
So for now, the only way for Morgan residents to support the local economy and avoid an additional trip down the canyon, is to request Winterton Automotive Towing. Winterton is currently the only towing company that has a yard located in Morgan County.

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