All Roadside Assistance Tow Trucks Should Have Back Seats For Stranded Passengers
As manufacturers continue to roll out new vehicles without spare tires, towing is becoming the backup plan for many vehicle owners who have no spare tire and who may damage a tire beyond a simple puncture. As we learned firsthand this past year, many roadside assistance providers are no longer transporting stranded motorists. This trend, combined with rideshare providers like Uber being unreliable during the past year in some places, leads to a stranded motorist.
Our recent stories highlighting this issue drew strong opinions from readers. Some feel that a ride in an emergency should be part of the service that roadside assistance provides. For example, reader Kathrine M wrote, "Giving your customer a ride is part of the duties of towing, I think. People stranded on the freeway, in a bad neighborhood, or in a remote location could get hurt." Others had a different view. For us, the option to ride in the recovery vehicle to our destination, our home, or as a last resort a place of safety off the highway, is a slam dunk.
One reason this is not the standard practice is that in the past many towing and recovery vehicles only had one row of seats. However, the companies that provide the basic vehicle from which a tow truck is then built upon offer two-row cabs. So why don’t all tow trucks have a second row with three seats across and a front bench seat that can seat two beside the driver in an emergency? Every top-20-selling vehicle model in America is a five-passenger vehicle. Such a configuration would allow a tow or recovery responder to transport the vast majority of those who need assistance.
During COVID, it was understandable that some roadside assistance operators may have objected to being in an enclosed truck cab with passengers who may be contagious. This despite the fact that taxi and rideshare divers did it all day every day on their shifts. However, every adult in America is now eligible for vaccination, including every roadside assistance driver. At some point, either today or in the near future, riding in a vehicle with a stranger will again be considered safe and reasonable.
We highlight the lack of spare tires in new models every time we test one. We feel that a spare tire is a safety feature that should be standard on all but the most unique sports cars. Setting aside tire failures, breakdowns and minor crashes that require unharmed vehicle occupants to be transported make up a meaningful percentage of roadside assistance dispatches.
We hope this story will be one of many that might emerge to highlight the shortcomings of present-day roadside assistance. Adding in the safe transportation of those with car trouble by the roadside assistance responder seems logical and overdue.
What is your opinion? Should we continue to leave passengers stranded or at the mercy of unreliable ride-share providers? Or should the roadside assistance companies to which we subscribe step up and always come prepared to move stranded motorists to a better, or at least safer, location? Tell us in the comments below.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin