Truckers carjacked, roughed up by towing company: Reports

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An armed A1's Towing & Hauling agent tows a truck from A Valero station in Memphis, even though the operator was on-site.
An armed A1's Towing & Hauling agent tows a truck from A Valero station in Memphis, even though the operator was on-site.
Courtesy of Leander Richmond.

Predatory towing practices appear to have reached an absurd and violent conclusion as arrests and lawsuits stack up around the Memphis, Tennessee, area, with agents of local towing company A1's Towing & Hauling reportedly stealing trucks and attacking drivers

For months now, reports of A1's towing practices involving armed agents booting and towing trucks, even with the driver in the cab, have steadily streamed out of Memphis.

Danielle Reid of DR Associates, a PR firm hired by A1, disputed any wrongdoing on the tower's behalf, saying there were "three sides to every story" and that previous reports on A1's practices have been "biased" because reporters "never spoke to anyone from A1."

When confronted with the fact that Overdrive and other media outlets reached out directly to A1 for comment, Reid backtracked and said "many business owners don't understand the need for PR." 

As for the alleged assaults against truck drivers, Reid denied any of that took place and promised to provide body camera evidence clearing the A1 workers who had been charged. "Everyone who works for A1 has body cameras," said Reid. 

As of this writing, however, Reid hasn't sent any video evidence to back up her client. The drivers reporting assault and carjacking to the police, according to Reid, were lying, as well as the owner of a Shell station that sought an injunction to stop A1 from towing and booting on their property. Reid went on to say the Shell owner was on video requesting illegal kickbacks from the towing activity, but did not provide any evidence. 

"We know people file police reports all day," she said, adding that police told truckers they were "too busy" to follow up on the reports. 

Reid did, however, admit A1 booted trucks even when the driver was present.

While the apparent rise of predatory towing practices in recent years has been chronicled here, aggressive tactics like those alleged of A1 recently take things to a new level.  

Memphis local news outlet WREG has long documented A1's reported abuses, including an incident in July when A1 agents reportedly kicked a driver to the ground and held him down as they drove off with the truck. That was after the driver had his dispatcher pay A1 $265 to remove a boot. The driver had to pay an additional $2,535 to get the truck back the same night, according to WREG. 

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[RelatedTrucking fights back against predatory towing: State laws that level the playing field]

The city of Memphis' own ordinances state that booting fees should not exceed $50, and that if "the owner or operator of a motor vehicle that is parked without authorization on private property attempts to retrieve said vehicle before booting actually occurs, there shall be no fee and the vehicle owner shall be allowed to remove the vehicle without further delay."

The Memphis Permits Office said on Tuesday that the above ordinance includes commercial trucks, but Reid, without providing evidence, said a court found the ordinance did not. 

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office did recently drop charges against at least four A1’s Towing & Hauling employees arrested in six different incidents involving the towing of 18-wheelers, but a spokesperson for the DA stressed that the case was only dropped in the "very limited" general sessions court. 

"The case was dismissed due to lack of prosecution," said Erica Williams, director of communications at the Shelby County DA. "All the victims all live out of state, so it does not mean that there is no case. The charges were all dropped in general session, but we are still pursuing the case and is expected to go to criminal court."

The Memphis Permits Office announced an investigation into the company, according to WREG, and the Arkansas Towing and Recovery Board suspended A1's permit to boot vehicles for 60 days.

"They've got complaints and we issue licenses and permits and regulate them for the state of Arkansas, if someone files a consumer complaint, we investigate it, and we brought it before the board, had a hearing, and suspended their booting license for 60 days," the head of the Arkansas board told Overdrive. Details of the hearing, including details on the complaints, will be available at the end of this month at this link

Leander Richmond of Eagle Express maintains a website detailing his own company's experience with armed A1 workers. Richmond noted his driver was on-site at the location when his truck was booted anyway. 

In the same story detailing the reports of arrest of A1 workers after various incidents, WREG reported a truck driver saying the following: “We have been doing it awhile. We are good at it. That’s what the boot guy told me. He said we’ve got good lawyers. He said the city is scared of us."

The Memphis Permits Office responded to Overdrive's request for information on A1, but never came through with information on the investigation. Overdrive will update this story if the Memphis Permits Office statement comes through. 

[Related: Tow company defends 'predatory' practices]

A1's Towing & Hauling has been known to operate at a Shell station at I-40 and Exit 35; the Exxon at 160 W Mallory Ave. in Memphis; and at a Valero at 4161 Winchester, also in Memphis, but does business in other states as well.