Truckers welcome consumer protections for third-party tows

By Mark Schremmer, staff writer

For the first time, truck drivers in Colorado will have recourse if they believe they were overcharged for a third-party tow.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission finalized its regulations regarding nonconsensual heavy-duty tows on June 6. The effective date for the new rules was July 15. A third-party or nonconsensual tow is when a wrecker service is called to clear the scene of an accident without the vehicle owner’s approval. In those instances, the vehicle owner isn’t able to check prices or research a company before being obligated to pay for its services.

Previously, vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds had protections in Colorado regarding nonconsensual tows, but heavy-duty vehicles weren’t included in those protections.

“Consumer protections will now be in place,” said Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of government affairs. “If one of our members is driving through Colorado and they get in to a situation that involves a nonconsensual tow and they feel like they were overcharged, they now will be able to file a complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. This is something they previously couldn’t do.”

In fact, Matousek said OOIDA witnessed at least a couple of invoices where the Association believed members were charged excessively in Colorado, but there was no recourse.

“We simply couldn’t do anything about it,” Matousek said.

OOIDA and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association were both heavily involved in making the new consumer protections a reality. Colorado Motor Carriers played a big part in getting a 2013 law passed requiring the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to create rules and maximum rates for heavy-duty nonconsensual tows.

Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, said that some towing operators were overcharging truckers by thousands of dollars.

“We need to provide some sort of protection, particularly to owner-operators, so that they aren’t thrown to the dogs just because they break down in this particular place,” Fulton said.

Matousek said not all of OOIDA’s suggestions regarding the maximum rates were included but that the overall policy is a step in the right direction. LL