An effort underway in the Maine Legislature would put in place rules to help protect commercial drivers affected by nonconsensual tows.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the legislation. The Association says truckers are occasionally subjected to unreasonable charges from towing and recovery companies engaged in heavy-duty nonconsensual operations – in particular tows dispatched by police.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said by definition a nonconsensual tow provides little, if any, opportunity for truck drivers involved in a roadside accident to shop for a towing company or negotiate rules.
“If not properly regulated, this can result in towing invoices that are inflated by thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars,” Matousek said.
Sponsored by Rep. Wayne Parry, R-Arundel, the bill would mandate towing companies involved with a nonconsensual tow to provide an itemized invoice. Invoices would also be required to include a “no liability without itemization” provision intended to protect consumers.
A requirement would also be put in place to send complaints of alleged overcharging to the traffic division of the Maine State Police. In addition, a noncompliance penalty provision would be established for towing companies.
Matousek said the requirements included in the bill would better protect consumers and create, to some extent, a process for consumers to file a complaint if they have been overcharged. He added that the protections do not currently exist.
Although the Association supports the bill, it is concerned about a provision that would require towing companies to release commercial cargo prior to a towing invoice being paid.
“This issue is extremely complex, but we believe it could be detrimental to towing companies and owner-operator trucks alike,” Matousek said. “In short, this would generally remove any incentive or liability that the owner or insurer of commercial cargo would otherwise have to pay their share of a towing invoice.”
He added that the trucker would effectively be responsible for the cargo portion of the invoice, although they might not be responsible or covered for it under their insurance policy.
“That is not fair to towing companies or truckers.”
The bill, LD1022, is scheduled for consideration April 7 in the Joint Committee on Transportation.
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