By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
When RVs or tow vehicles break down on toll roads, the options available to emergency road service providers are often limited, and many times RVers are on their own to pay for service or to be towed off the highway.
One full-time family recently traveling through Colorado learned the lesson the hard way. The brakes went out on the truck towing their new fifth wheel. Fortunately, the driver was able to bring the tow vehicle to a stop at a toll plaza, and a big rig tow truck had to move it off the highway and to the campground.
When the couple called Good Sam Emergency Road Service, they discovered that service on toll roads is not covered.
“We have their Platinum Roadside Assistance and after about 30 minutes on the phone with them, the representative told me Good Sam could not dispatch a mobile mechanic or a tow service because I was on a tollway,” he explained. “I looked at the brochure and while it does not mention anything about road exclusions, there is a sentence buried in it that says they will reimburse for towing if a law officer requests towing service from a non-program provider while on a toll road.”
There is a reason for that, said Darren White, senior director of operations for roadside assistance and TravelAssist at Good Sam.
“Each toll road or turnpike makes its own decisions about which companies will be allowed onto a toll road to perform service,” he said. “Some allow any truck, while others contract with specific companies to provide service. In those cases, only specific vehicles are allowed on the highway.”
That applies to companies providing towing services, or a tire repair trucks or mobile mechanics. The firms must be approved by the tollway before the companies are allowed to provide service on that road.
Their hands are tied
If that is the case, the emergency road service provider’s hands are tied. If the officially contracted company is not part of the provider’s network, then members will have to pay for those services, and submit a receipt for reimbursement up to the limits of the policy.
“Don’t get me wrong, we still cover members everywhere in the United States and Canada,” said White. “We will do everything within our power to assist the member — even if the member is on a toll road.
“If a member calls to say he is on the New Jersey turnpike and needs assistance, the first thing we will ask is, ‘Are you safe?,’” White explained. “Then, we will get as much information as we can about where the RV is and what’s wrong. We will then call the agency responsible for the toll road and advise it about the situation and coordinate a response.”
But, it remains up to the toll road whether a Good Sam endorsed towing service — or any other endorsed program’s partners — will be allowed on the tollway. Chances are, they won’t be allowed. That’s because towing and repair companies often bid on the opportunity to provide service on toll roads. If another firm is allowed to come onto the highway to remove a vehicle or fix a flat, it is money out of the pockets of the contracted companies.
“The highway department will tell us what we can or cannot do,” said White. “Sometimes they will send an officer, or sometimes they will dispatch a service truck. It really depends on the department and the highway involved.”
From bad to worse
Once the highway department dispatches a tow truck, the situation can get even more difficult for RV owners. The approved tow truck may tow the RV to a repair facility or to a location of the owner’s choice. Or, more likely, simply remove the RV off the highway to an impound lot or a different location at the next available exit — whether or not a repair facility is even located at that exit.
However, from that point, the emergency road service companies have a plethora of options available because the RV or tow vehicle is now on an unregulated highway and any service facility is allowed to access it.
Another tow truck contracted by the emergency road service company can be dispatched to fix the problem or take the RV to an appropriate repair facility.
“In extreme cases where we can’t get on the toll road, the member will have to pay for the service, but we will reimburse the member for that expense,” said White. “If it were up to us, we would pay the service company through a purchase order, or give the firm a virtual credit card to immediately charge us for the tow or repair. But, some companies refuse to accept our payment and insist on immediate payment by the member.
“It is unfortunate that people must experience these type of problems on toll roads, but the problem lies squarely on the shoulders of the specific toll road administrators,” said White. “When they make it difficult for people to get help in those situations, the highway departments are pretty much saying that’s what you get for breaking down on our toll road.”
White explained that Good Sam can get service to a stranded RVer in the most remote regions of the country and even on dirt Forest Service roads, but the company might not be allowed access to a toll road.
“When an RVer breaks down on a toll road, the highway department tells us how the situation is going to be handled, and that may include having the RV owner pay for the service,” he added.
“At the end of the day, when our customers are inconvenienced that way, we quickly mitigate the situation for them as best we can, get them the help they need, and reimburse them for any towing expenses they incur,” said White.
Once the RV is off the toll road, Good Sam works quickly to get help to the RVer, even if it means dispatching another tow truck.
“We will find a towing service that will pick up the RV wherever it is dropped off by the toll road service company, and then transport the RV to a repair center we know can fix the problem,” said White.
In fact, before the RV is towed again, Good Sam will call the service center on behalf of the member and provide the year, make and model of the RV and a description of what the problem is. Then, Good Sam will validate that the repair center not only can do the repairs, but the firm will accept the member without requiring the RVer to pay for another towing charge.
“We basically connect the dots to get our members back on the road quickly,” said White. “Fortunately, toll road breakdowns are not that common of an occurrence. But, it is something we regularly encounter.”
Call the right people first
Dan Lopez, vice president of Coach-Net sales, said his staff also encounters uncooperative toll road officials from time to time.
“The toll road’s policies aren’t up to us. It is our job to manage through those situations and those policies in order to help our members,” he explained. “Some toll roads want to help. Some won’t work with us because they have certain providers they want to use.”
However, he said Coach-Net will do whatever it can to get service to customers and get them to a facility that can correct the problem, even if the RVer may have to pay to get the rig serviced on or removed from a toll road.
“We will absolutely make our customers whole, should they ever find themselves in that type of a situation,” said Lopez. “We guide our customers through every step of the process to get them reimbursed quickly.”
The key, Lopez said, is to call Coach-Net first before working with a service company.
“If the member doesn’t call us first, reimbursement is more problematic,” he explained. “We want the opportunity to see if we can get a qualified service provider to the location that is willing to transport the RV to a qualified repair facility.”
If that can’t happen, and Coach-Net finds its hands are tied, then the company is aware of the problem and will authorize reimbursement more easily than it would if a member simply submitted a receipt expecting to be repaid.
So, the bottom line for any RVer stuck on a toll road is to:
- Move as far off the road as possible and stay in the vehicle.
- Call the emergency road service provider FIRST. If the RVer calls 911 instead, the agency may dispatch a towing company that is ill equipped to work with RVs or that won’t accept the provider’s payment.
- Allow the emergency road service provider to work with the highway department or law enforcement to get a tow truck or service truck to the location. If a police officer or highway official requests service, it is often easier for members to get reimbursed.
- If the RV owner must pay for service on the toll road, the emergency road service provider will usually explain what needs to be done to get reimbursed quickly for the unexpected expense.
For more information about Coach-Net’s emergency road services, visit http://www.coach-net.com/
For more information about Good Sam emergency road services, visit http://www.goodsamroadside.com/
And folks THIS applies to ALL road side assistance company’s!!!!