MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A truck driver who came to Memphis, Tennessee to recover a tractor-trailer stolen from the Chicago area stayed inside the big rig for nearly 34 hours to prevent A1’s Towing and Hauling from taking it.

The owner of MHT Group Inc. said his driver gassed up at the Shelby Express on East Shelby Drive, pulled into a spot, and was in the process of paying for parking through his dispatch when A1’s booted and blocked in the vehicle.

18-wheeler booted at Shelby Express on East Shelby Drive. (WREG photo)

“We got a receipt. We called the gas station. We showed the receipt. We called the towing company, and they said ‘Oh, we booted you ten minutes before you had this receipt,'” said the owner of MHT who did not want to be identified.

He said his company offered to pay A1’s $7,500 to drop the truck, but they were told it wasn’t even close to what it would cost to get the truck back. He said police were called to the lot at least six times but told them they couldn’t interfere because the tow company had sued them.

“They were honking their horns and using the boom of the tow truck to shake the truck, so we called out the police. The driver wanted to file a harassment charge against them, and the police said that wasn’t enough to file a harassment charge,” the MHT owner said. “Our legal team told us because we were recovering a stolen vehicle, they cannot hold it.”

An attorney for A1’s claims the driver never paid for parking and said that is why the vehicle was being towed away.

“I am not there, but the truck driver assaulted one of my client’s employees, told the police department he was ‘not going to pay anything,’ and then stated that, ‘My company told me to just sit in my truck and see what happens.’ This was all captured on video,” said A1’s attorney Darrell O’neal.

Tennessee State Troopers tell A1’s to release 18-wheeler. Courtesy: MHT Group Inc.

MHT Group Inc. said it was able to get its truck back after Tennessee troopers showed up.

“We told them it’s a stolen unit, and they said that’s enough,” said the MHT owner.

They said the troopers told A1’s to unhook the 18-wheeler and remove the boot.

“Their lawyer showed up and started talking about laws, but state police shut him down and told him this is how the law works,” said the MHT owner. “Then they started telling us they lost the key to the boot and can’t do anything tonight, so state police gave my guys the authority to cut the boot off.”

This all happened at the same truck stop where a Church Transportation driver locked herself inside a big rig for several hours three weeks ago to avoid being towed.

Shirley Holland admitted she didn’t pay the $13 fee to park but said when she tried to pay a $275 booting fee, she was told it was too late and they were towing the truck. Her employer was forced to pay $12,950 to get the vehicle back.

Over the last year, the City of Memphis Permits Office has received more than a dozen complaints from truckers from all over the country who said they were illegally booted and towed by A1’s, and last month, the city released this statement:

Per the ordinance, 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 booting ordinance does not specify what type of vehicle can be booted.  

The maximum amount a booting company can charge to remove a boot is $50.00 per the city ordinance. The ordinance states that no vehicle affixed with a boot may be towed unless the owner of the vehicle fails to contact the booting company within 24 hours of the notice. Towing fees are based on the type of wrecker being used. A Class C wrecker rate is $350.00 per hour. The ordinances state vehicles.

The tow fee is based on the type of tow truck being used.   The rate for a Class A wrecker is $125.00, Class B wrecker is $200.00 per hour, and Class C wrecker is $350.00 per hour.

We have two complaints that are before the Transportation Commission regarding a refund for a tow. We have several complaints that are going to be discussed at an administrative hearing. 

Memphis City Councilman Frank Colvett also told WREG he wanted city leaders to take a closer look at the large fees A1’s Towing & Hauling was charging truck drivers that were being towed from area truck stops.

A1’s said it’s following state laws that supersede city law and has filed a lawsuit against the City of Memphis, the Memphis Police Chief, and multiple MPD officers, accusing them of “weaponizing a civil municipal ordinance to discriminate against the minority-owned company.”

The lawsuit cites several instances where they say police officers conspired with truck drivers to manufacture charges against the A1’s employees to accomplish the City Of Memphis’ discriminatory goals.

In October, a Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokesperson said the Tennessee Highway Patrol was assisting the Memphis Police Department with an investigation of A1’s Towing and Hauling.

TN DHS said THP’s Criminal Investigations Division is providing assistance upon request as Memphis Police look into A1’s activities but wouldn’t go into specifics. 

The owner of MHT Group Inc. said even though he got his truck back, he plans to take legal action against A1’s and is talking to other trucking companies considering the same thing.

“We are not letting this go. There is a big American company I know very well, and their lawyers and my lawyers are going to work together to get something done,” the MHT owner said. “I’m not going to let it happen again.”

On November 21, a Memphis City Council committee is expected to discuss alleged abuses of the City’s Booting and Towing Ordinances by certain local companies.