COVID and your tow: Some trucks may not let you ride along

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s tow truck season, when snow flies from the sky and cars fly from the road. But if you’re unfortunate enough to need a tow for your car, will COVID-19 leave you stranded on the side of the road?

Tow truck companies have heard from their insurance companies trying to limit the spread of COVID-19. The message: Don’t let passengers in your trucks.

“They sent out a mass text that says you’re not allowed to ride with the truck and if you can find alternative transportation, do so,” Jordan Felty, owner of HD Recovery in Wyoming, said.

Social distancing is one way to battle the spread of the virus, and it’s difficult to do in the close confines of a truck cab. But Felty thinks it’s bad enough your car broke down or you’ve been in a crash.

“I’m not going to leave somebody stranded on the side of the road, especially in weather like this,” Felty said.

He and his dozen or so drivers are still taking precautions. If you’re getting in his truck cab, be sure to mask up.

“As long as people have masks and you take the necessary precautions, we don’t mind people riding with us,” he said.

The rules vary depending on the insurance company and tow operator. Some insurers will offer to call you a ride sharing service if you can’t ride with the hook.

“Every tow service is different. I can’t speak for the whole industry,” Felty said. “I would definitely ask first off (the) bat: ‘I can’t get a ride. Can I get a ride with the truck?'”

Another concern for tow truck operators is their own safety.

“When people start sliding off and get in accidents, we got to get out there and give them a hand,” Felty said.

But that can be risky for tow truck operators.

“When you’re out on the highway, especially in this stuff, it’s nerve-wracking because you just don’t know,” Felty said.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health studied tow truck driver injuries and deaths between 2011 and 2016 and found the risk of death to drivers was 15 times higher than other careers. The majority of those deaths involved being stuck or other vehicle-related crashes.

The state’s move-over law requires driers to slow down by at least 10 mph and move over to an open lane when possible if they see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle — including a tow truck. A ticket for violating the law could cost you up to $400 and two points on your license.

“When you’re out there and you’re laying down on the ground trying to hook a car and you’ve got people whizzing by you, it gets nerve-wracking,” Felty said. “But if people just pay attention to the lights and stuff, and just make an effort to get over — I know you can’t always get over — but the more of an effort they make to slow down and get over, it just helps us out.”

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