An Ohio-based trucking company says black ice caused one of its drivers to jackknife into a ditch on Interstate 80 near Cheyenne, Wyoming, on March 5 but that the real shock was a $46,800 tow bill.
Odil Shanazarov, operations manager for SUS Transport in Mason, Ohio, says his company was initially charged an “excessive amount” to tow its tractor-trailer less than 10 miles. This included 2 miles that his driver drove the semi to the nearest exit after Cozad Towing of Cheyenne straightened the rig, before finding a safe place for the towing company to hook up and tow it to the company’s yard nearby.
Shanazarov said SUS Transport’s bobtail insurance provider paid half of the claim and was able to negotiate a lower amount. He and others at the company decided to use cash to keep the carrier’s cargo insurance premium down as the company was hauling a UPS load.
“We called the towing company and said we want to pay out of pocket for the trailer insurance because we didn’t want our premiums to go up over this small incident, but Cozad said it’s a lot of money and we might not be able to pay cash or write a check for the amount,” Shanazarov told FreightWaves. “Then he sent us a photo of the invoice for the amount.”
The invoice, reviewed by FreightWaves, appears to show the 10-mile tow cost $34,800, plus a second “weather tow” of $12,000.
Robin Cozad, owner of Cozad Towing, claims SUS Transport’s owner and managers manipulated the photo of the invoice — which he sent to the trucking company and Progressive Insurance and which was posted on social media — and inflated the price of the tow to make his company look bad.
“They just made a bunch of complaints and false accusations because they didn’t like the little tow bill that it was,” Cozad told FreightWaves. “It was like 6,000 bucks and they put a number 4 in front to make it 46,000 bucks or something like that.”
He added that SUS Transport wrote the amount on there and “tried to get us in trouble,” but Cozad refused to provide FreightWaves with his original copy of the invoice to dispute SUS Transport’s claims.
“I don’t know what fake stuff they did, but I don’t want anything to do with those people,” Cozad said as he hung up the phone.
Nodir Nasirov, safety manager for SUS Transport, said Progressive Insurance was able to negotiate its portion down to $18,000 but that Robin Cozad insisted the trucking company pay its $17,400 portion in cash or by using Zelle, a controversial mobile payment method, instead of an EFS check as the trucking company suggested. However, he said Cozad refused to provide the trucking company with the towing company’s bank account information.
Instead, the SUS Transport owner and others within the company sent Zelle transfers, which FreightWaves reviewed, to Robin Cozad’s personal account.
After the transfers were complete, Nasirov said he asked for a receipt from Cozad Towing confirming the payments to submit to the trucking company’s insurance since it was more than the company expected to pay.
As of publication time on Thursday, Nasirov says Cozad has refused to provide SUS Transport with a copy of the receipt it needs to turn in to its insurance provider.
“[Robin] Cozad said he doesn’t provide receipts, but our insurance company won’t reimburse us without it,” Nasirov said.
Cozad denies this allegation, but refused to provide FreightWaves with his company’s invoice.
Of the 14 towing companies that operate along that segment of I-80, Robin Cozad is affiliated with at least three. In 2022, Rodney Miears, tow and recovery program coordinator for the Wyoming State Police, says four complaints have been filed against Cozad, O’Hearn Towing and American Eagle Towing — which are all located less than a mile from each other along South Greeley Highway in Cheyenne — from Cozad.
Cozad Towing and some of its affiliated companies have been suspended from the Wyoming State Police’s rotation list “a couple of different times” for various violations since 2015, Miears said.
Since 2021, Miears told FreightWaves that Cozad Towing and its affiliates have received seven complaints from six trucking companies and an RV owner.
“He was suspended or kicked off of the Wyoming Highway Patrol’s rotation list for an insurance lapse and the other one was for misuse of dealer plates, although it wasn’t on a wrecker, but on a piece of equipment that [Robin] Cozad took to a scene,” Miears said.
Shanazarov, one of SUS Transport’s executives, says that after his company complained about the excessive towing bill on social media, an additional $12,000 was added as a “weather fee,” although he suspects his company was unfairly targeted because of its Uzbekistan heritage.
“The police came and asked our driver, who doesn’t speak great English, if he wanted them to call a towing company,” Shanazarov told FreightWaves. “We thought that if the fuel tank is leaking and it’s damaged, it’s not viable, then we have no choice. We found out later there was no fuel leak or damage.”
The towing industry in Wyoming is largely unregulated and excessive tow bills to move damaged commercial vehicles a few miles from the state’s roadways are not uncommon.
Three days after a proposed bill was introduced to address pricing disputes and other issues within the state’s towing rotation list, it failed on Feb. 18. The bill, HR119, introduced by Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, would have required the Wyoming Department of Transportation to create a pricing schedule for towing companies.
Miears said several lawmakers over the years have attempted to regulate towing prices, but their efforts have all failed.
“Maybe the bills haven’t necessarily been worded the way that other legislators want them to be worded or they’re not drafted or put together in a way to have everyone make sense of it, but I’m not sure why these towing bills fail.”
In December, a Canadian trucking company called Blue Line Distribution was charged $70,000, but negotiated the bill down to $50,000, after one of its tractor-trailers slid off of the interstate because of black ice and high winds in Wyoming. Miears said Maps Towing and Diesel Repair of Rawlings, Wyoming, was called to the scene because it was on the state’s rotation list. After Miears’ investigation, the towing company was removed from the Wyoming Highway Patrol’s rotation list.
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