Connecticut legislative panel reviews new towing rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/9/2015

An effort underway at the Connecticut statehouse addresses concerns about vehicles blocking highways and whether they are a threat to public safety and require immediate removal.

The Joint Committee on Transportation discussed a bill during a recent hearing that would give law enforcement authority to request that a vehicle blocking a roadway be removed by a wrecker service.

Any police or traffic authority personnel would be exempt from liability for damage to a vehicle or its load as long as “reasonable care” was used in the removal process. Wrecker services would also be indemnified from any liability.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Motor Transport Association of Connecticut are opposed to including tow truck operators on the protected list.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said there is no circumstance where a wrecker service should be held harmless for damage that they cause to a motor vehicle, its cargo and the surrounding area.

“Small-business truckers invest significant amounts of money in their equipment and if damage is caused to it the offending party should be held liable,” Matousek wrote in testimony submitted to the committee.

“This legislation becomes more problematic depending on whether or not cargo is involved, such as refrigerated loads, hazardous materials, or other valuable or perishable commodities.”

MTAC President Michael Riley said that people should be held responsible for what they do.

“Providing blanket immunity could protect bad actors,” Riley testified. “We don’t want to remove incentives to be safe, responsible and accountable.”

The bill, HB6817, awaits further consideration in the committee.

A separate bill in the committee covers road cleanup by tow truck operators at wreck scenes.

SB505 would require tow operators to clean up debris left behind after a vehicle accident.

“Many times debris is left on the side, or even in the street of a public highway after an accident has occurred,” Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, testified. “This debris has the potential of causing another serious accident if a vehicle hits it.”

In response, McLachlan said the state needs language that clearly outlines the responsibilities of tow truck operators regarding cleanup of debris, and includes fines for wreckers who fail to clean up properly.

“We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our constituents as they travel on public highways, and this legislation would help ensure their safety.”

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