AAA customers in the Ozarks say wait times are long; towing companies say they’re not being paid fairly

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:29 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - If your car is stuck on the side of the road, it can be harrowing to wait several hours for a tow truck.

Three weeks ago, Cathy Lewis went out to her car, and it wouldn’t start.

“Being a long-time AAA member, I took out my card and called the emergency services, at which point they said a truck would be on its way,” Lewis says.

She said she waited hours and decided to call someone else to tow her car to get it serviced.

“When I called again, they said I could submit the bill for those services, and they would pay me back,” Lewis says.

Her story isn’t unique. KY3 called towing companies all over the Ozarks for this story, and several say they have received calls from AAA customers waiting hours for a tow.

Dennis Cleveland, owner, and operator of Affordable Towing, says he worked with AAA for decades, but he is not contracted with them right now. He has been in the business for decades. Some of those decades have included working with AAA.

“The rates on AAA are very low for wrecking companies. Almost unsurvivable,” he says.

Cleveland says around here that if you call a tow company directly, it will cost you about $100.

“When we were running for them on a regular basis about two years ago before the inflation rates, they were paying $27 for a tow in Springfield,” he adds.

During his last negotiations with AAA, they offered him $48. He decided to decline at this time.

Cleveland said when they worked with AAA, they answered calls in the order they got them, but some places didn’t.

“If you’re running for AAA, it’s pretty attractive to go to the private calls for $100 and leave the $48 calls on the side of the road.”

Other towing companies are ditching the services too. One company in Monett says they said they were offered $45 for a tow, so they ended their contract as well.

Lewis says she just wants the company to admit it’s unable to offer the services she and others are paying for.

“They need to come out publicly and say we realize what we have been promising on your paperwork and in your charges and on different types of commercials and different types of publicity,” she says. “That we are no longer able to provide the service.”

We offered to interview with AAA, but it chose to submit a statement:

AAA Missouri remains committed to providing our members with the highest level of customer service. That’s why we’ve increased the number of AAA roadside technicians in the Springfield area by 45% in the last year resulting in a current average wait time of just 56 minutes. We’ve also increased the average pay AAA Missouri tow contractors receive for providing emergency roadside service by 16% since 2020. We believe these factors contribute to why AAA members in Missouri report a 94% satisfaction rate with their emergency roadside service experience this year, according to a third-party aggregated survey.

We are deeply sorry to hear that any AAA member may have experienced a delayed wait time for emergency roadside service. The safety of our members and our independent service providers is our number one priority and will continue to be. We truly understand how delays in receiving emergency roadside assistance impact our members who rely on us to rescue them at the roadside. We encourage members to call 1-800-222-7623 if they have experienced any service issues.

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