Arkansas adopts towing reforms

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/14/2015

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed two new laws that cover towing reform efforts in the state.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the changes but believes more can and should be done to protect the trucking industry from towing companies engaged in non-consensual towing and recovery operations.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of legislative affairs, said that in Arkansas and many other states small-business truckers are increasingly subjected to inappropriate and unreasonable charges from towing companies engaged in non-consensual towing and recovery operations.

“By definition, a non-consensual tow provides little (if any) opportunity for consumers, in particular truckers involved in a roadside accident, to shop for a vendor or negotiate rates or services provided,” Matousek said. “This frequently leads to unjustifiable and unimaginable towing and recovery invoices that reach tens of thousands of dollars, which is financially and emotionally devastating to truckers.”

Matousek also points out that OOIDA is unaware of any efficient or effective recourse for challenging or disputing towing and recovery charges.

The first reform law in Arkansas changes the consumer complaint resolution process.

SB562 requires the Arkansas Towing and Recovery Board to resolve complaints within 45 days. The board is also authorized to order tow companies to make restitution payments under certain conditions.

The changes are set to take effect in late July.

Matousek notes that while SB562 modifies the consumer complaint process, the timeline for resolving a complaint is too lengthy.

“When a trucker has his/her equipment towed, it remains in the possession of the towing company until the charges are settled, or in this case, the complaint is resolved,” Matousek said. “At nearly two months with no equipment or income, small-business truckers would likely be out of business.”

OOIDA encourages lawmakers to revisit the issue during the 2016 regular session. Specifically, they should work out a deal to limit or prohibit towing companies from imposing possessory liens on trucks, trailers and cargo.

Another new law taking effect this summer requires the towing board to set up a complaint process for the removal or suspension of a towing company from a non-consensual rotation list, and set fines for companies that violate rotation list policies. Previously SB893, the new law also specifies the severity of potential violations and generally requires law enforcement agencies to establish rotation lists.

Matousek said the Association is concerned that penalties set in SB893 are not severe enough to deter a towing company from taking advantage of truckers.

“First-time violations should result in a lengthier suspension from a rotation list as well as include a civil penalty,” he said. “Additional or repeated violations should warrant permanent removal from a rotation list.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Arkansas, click here.

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