States eye changes to tow rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, March 18, 2013

Towers and the fees charged to truckers are a constant concern in the industry. Actions pursued in statehouses from Utah to Connecticut address the concern.

A push underway in Missouri would set up a rotation list for towing. Specifically, law enforcement agencies would be responsible for setting up rotations to tow or remove disabled vehicles.

Critics say rotation lists result in truckers and others paying more to get towed. They say it’s not uncommon to see a $2,000 tow bill for a large truck blow up to as much as a $6,000 bill.

An Illinois bill is intended to rein in excessive towing fees. If approved, towers would be prohibited from hooking up commercial vehicles without permission from law enforcement.

Don Schaefer of the Mid-West Truckers Association said the bill attempts to address instances when a driver leaves his or her truck in a lot that prohibits towing.

“This bill covers aggressive towers who are always on the prowl and hold the truck hostage for a couple of thousand dollars,” Schaefer told Land Line. “It clarifies that you cannot tow unless you have the police authority to do it.”

Predatory towing spurred Utah lawmakers to endorse changes to their system. The bill would prohibit charging fees in addition to fees authorized by local government. It would also shift from the state to local authorities the ability to set up a “Bill of Rights” for non-consensual towing that details maximum rates.

Property owners would also be required to post signage that alerts people that vehicles may be towed from their lot.

Advocates for changes to towing rules say that overzealous tow fees are rampant throughout the country. One trucker describes towers who take advantage of the situation as modern-day thieves.

“The only difference between these wreckers and Jesse James is that he would use a gun. These guys use a hook.”

In Connecticut, one bill could result in higher fees that towing companies can charge for non-consensual tows. It would also protect them from responsibility for damage caused during a tow.

State law put the Department of Motor Vehicles in charge of setting maximum rates for non-consensual tows.

The bill would overhaul tow rates by setting the minimum rate to be “no less than the expense incurred.” Opponents say the change permits tow rates and charges to be increased by splitting fees into separate amounts.

Michael Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, told Land Line the system is flawed. He pointed out that despite state regulations on towing already in place there still are problems.

“State law regulates what rates can be charged for services, but it doesn’t regulate the number of vehicles, personnel that can be assigned for various incidents. It’s not a common problem, but it is a problem,” Riley said.

Editor’s Note: You are welcome to share your thoughts with us about this story. Comments may be sent to state_legislative_editor@ooida.com.

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