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Need A Tow? New Changes Drivers Who Rely On AAA and Other Roadside Assistance Services Should Know About

With the new social distancing mandates come some new challenges that drivers using AAA or other services may want to be aware of.

Torque News recently did a story in which we informed readers that AAA and other roadside assistance service providers were still hard at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in New England, and in the Boston area, in particular, the COVID cases have dropped dramatically, to under 100 new cases per day, lower than the recovery rate. Hospitals have more than enough capacity, and life is returning to normal - almost.

Related Story - AAA Will Be On the Job To Help You During the COVID-19 Crisis

However, AAA and roadside assistance providers are struggling to keep pace with the demand for towing and other roadside services. We learned this first-hand last Sunday evening when our vehicle required a tow.

Longer Wait Times
The first surprise was that the AAA helpline warns drivers that due to the COVID pandemic, wait times are longer than usual. This was hard to understand given the fact that there are fewer drivers on the road. Shouldn't wait times be shorter? Next up was the longer than usual wait time to speak to an agent. We needed to call in a few times with wait times between six and 15 minutes before an agent would answer the line. When you are home, a wait like this is no big deal. When you are on the side of the highway the wait time just to begin your discussion about getting help can feel much longer.

AAA has a great automated dispatch system that members/callers can use to get help with some services, but towing is not one of them. You need to wait to speak with a live agent. Our tow truck was dispatched from a few towns away, which we found unusual since we were in the heart of the metropolis, just 4 miles from downtown Boston. In the end, our tow truck arrived about an hour and fifteen minutes after we phoned for help. The driver was the usual from AAA - Experienced, polite, knowledgeable, and super helpful. But he could not offer us a ride.

Tow Trucks Will Not Allow You To Ride With the Driver
One big change between the pre-COVID and post COVID protocols is that you are no longer allowed to ride in the cab with the tow truck driver to the place you are being towed. So, when you are stranded, you need to not only call AAA and get help with your vehicle, you also need to arrange your own transportation from your break-down location to home or to the repair shop.

Uber May Not Be A Viable Choice
We are experienced Uber users living so close to the city. We use the ride-share service frequently. However, when we tried to summon an Uber ride on Sunday evening on July 5th, no Uber service was available. Thus, we had to call on help from family to get back from where we were stranded. Luckily, someone was within driving distance to help us and give us a ride.

Breaking down and requiring a tow is always stressful. AAA and roadside assistance companies that your insurance provider or your new car dealer offer are all viable options. Given our recent experience, and due to the COVID changes to how things work, we would also suggest trying a local 24-hour towing service if you breakdown. It may also be wise to think ahead about how you would get home if your vehicle needed to be towed far from home. As we discovered, AAA and Uber are not always reliable ways to get home from a breakdown in these unusual times.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. 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 the Torque News Facebook Page, and view his credentials at Linkedin

Image by John Goreham. Re-use with permission only.

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Thanks for this timely towing information. Leaving folks stranded, after the vehicle has been towed, could put customers in danger. Confirms my decision, of many years ago, to drop AAA. (Want to mention why a tow was required - run flats?)