Ohio House panel advances bill targeting predatory towers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A bill on the move in the Ohio House would protect truckers and other drivers from being victimized by dishonest tow truck operators.

The House Commerce, Labor and Technology Committee voted to advance a bill that covers concerns about predatory towing.

One provision in the bill caps towing and storage fees at $90.

A separate provision would require that tow companies inform people of their rights. For example, if the driver arrives while the tow operator is in the process of hauling off the vehicle the tower would be required to notify the driver that they can immediately pay half and get the vehicle back.

Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, said the bill would help upstanding tow truck operators who cannot compete with the unfair practices of predatory companies.

“The ‘wild, wild West’ of towing should be regulated more thoroughly than it is right now,” Duffey said in a recent news release. “We want to legitimize the hardworking, honest operators and we want to increase penalties and be a little bit more regulatory on the bad actors that are out there.”

Another provision would provide a 24-hour grace period for vehicle storage fees.

The bill would also limit how far a vehicle can be towed. Specifically, towed vehicles could only be moved up to 20 miles away unless it’s determined to be impracticable to store the vehicle within the area.

In addition, tow operators would be required to snap pictures from all four sides of the vehicle showing it is parked illegally. The date and time of the photo would also need to be recorded.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio would also be given rule-making authority for enforcement.

“Essentially what we’re trying to do is modernize the towing structure in Ohio and protect vehicle owners from predatory towing practices,” Duffey stated.

HB382 awaits further consideration on the House floor. If approved there, the bill would move to the Senate before it could advance to the governor.

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