Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Towing In Saudi Arabia

Here's an interesting look at tow truck operators in Saudi Arabia from Arab News:

Tow truck drivers speak their mindsBadea Abu Al-Naja Arab

LIFE IS NOT EASY: Tow truck drivers toil to make both ends
meet, but there are always complaints they exploit people during emergencies.
(AN photo)

MAKKAH: Tow truck drivers do not live easy lives. On
call 24 hours a day, they often sleep on the streets. Frequently accused of
exploiting car owners who have damaged or disabled vehicles, tow truck drivers
say they only charge normal prices and never take advantage of people whose cars
may be unserviceable because of accidents.
Arab News visited the industrial
area of Aziziya in Makkah where tow truck drivers gather. The drivers sleep on
the streets and come with coolers, beds, fans and small pieces of furniture.
They say they bear the heat of the sun, the cold of the night and sometimes rain
just to make a living.
Muhammad Al-Otaibi, a 27-year-old Saudi tow truck
driver, said he bought his tow truck on installments. “I pay SR2,000 every month
in addition to other expenses. I am on call all the time and so sleep on the
street next to my truck in order to make as much money as possible,” he said.
“Earning SR2,500 a month is not easy. It is true that we take advantages of
crises such as floods to make money. However, this is just like other
businesses. Airlines increase their fares during holidays,” he added.
Al-Juaid, a 21-year-old Saudi, said it was unfair that people accused tow truck
drivers of charging exorbitant prices. “There are many trucks on the street and
tow truck drivers will not risk losing customers by increasing the price to an
unacceptable level unless it rains or the driver is in a remote area,” he
Al-Juaid has been driving tow trucks since he was 14. He dropped out of
school to drive. “The income is not steady. I normally earn between SR2,000 and
SR3,000 a month. In peak season, it could reach SR5,000,” he said.
said that this line of business had its own risks and that one needed to be
sharp. He recalled how two years ago a well-dressed Saudi asked for help to open
his car as he had left his keys and wallet inside. “He then told me to tow the
car to a repair shop close by. He told me he was a municipal official with good
connections,” he said.
“I asked him if he could help me find a job at the
municipality and that I would tow his car for free. He agreed to help me find a
job and I towed his car to a repair shop and then broke its window to get his
wallet and keys out,” he said. “He then said he would go to a spare part shop to
buy some parts to repair the car. He disappeared and I haven’t seen him since.
The car was left at the repair shop. It turned out that he was a thief and that
he used me to commit a crime,” he said.
Basheer Ahmad, 55, transformed his
tow truck into a moving home. “People cannot object to the prices we charge;
we’re charging for the time we spend on the streets, the long hours in the sun
and the risks we take,” he said.
Ahmad said tow truck drivers often face
strange and humiliating situations. “I remember once receiving a call about a
broken car on the side of a road. The owner did not have the car’s papers with
him and told me they were at home and on that basis, I towed the car,” he
“On the way, the police stopped us and when they asked for the papers,
the man told them he had left them at home. The police held me for five hours
until the man brought the papers,” he said.
“Once an old man and his wife
insisted on sitting inside the car while I was towing it. I tried to explain
that it was illegal but they did not want to listen saying they needed the
air-conditioning,” he said. “The police stopped us later and when questioned,
the man said I hadn’t told him it was illegal.”

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