Ohio House approves bill targeting predatory towers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/22/2014

A push to protect truckers and other drivers from being victimized by dishonest tow truck operators is halfway through the Ohio statehouse.

House lawmakers voted unanimously to advance a bill that covers concerns about predatory towing. It now moves to the Senate.

One provision in the bill would cap towing and storage fees.

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 pay a “drop fee,” which is half of the normal tow charge and get the vehicle back.

Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, said the rule changes would help honest tow truck operators exist in the state that 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, vehicles towed from private property could only be moved up to 20 miles away unless it’s determined not to be practicable to store the vehicle within the area.

Vehicles towed from the street must be taken to a location “conveniently located” within a “reasonable distance.” Affected tows must also be delivered to the designated location within two hours of removal.

In addition, tow operators would be required to snap enough pictures of the vehicle to show it is parked illegally. The date and time of the photo would also need to be recorded.

Storage facilities would also be required to release a vehicle within three hours of receiving a phone call from the vehicle owner.

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 in the Senate State Government Oversight and Reform Committee. If approved there, it would move to the full Senate before it could advance to the governor.

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