Amendment tackling predatory tows added to highway bill

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 11/4/2015

The truckers who fall victim to sky-high bills following a nonconsensual tow will be happy to know that Congress is taking steps to curtail predatory towing practices via the long-term highway bill currently under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Current law prohibits states and local governments from regulating the price of for-hire tow operations if the tow is performed without prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the motor vehicle. That loophole for towing was enacted in 1994.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., introduced an amendment to the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 – dubbed the STRR Act – on Tuesday, Nov. 3, that will give state and local governments the ability to regulate price on nonconsensual tows.

The amendment was added to the highway bill on a voice vote, with no lawmakers speaking out in opposition to the amendment.

“Predatory towing practices harm consumers and can lead to real financial pain,” said Van Hollen in a press release on the amendment. “Local communities should be able to address consumer complaints and crack down on companies that engage in abusive towing practices, and this amendment will give them back that authority.”

“State and local governments provide the best authority to regulate the towing industry and protect our Virginians from unfair, predatory practices,” Beyer said in the release. “We need more commonsense, consumer-friendly solutions like this amendment to protect our constituents’ wallets.”

Truckers are all too aware of the predatory nature of nonconsensual tows. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has long battled against predatory tows that members have suffered and are active in state legislative issues trying to curtail the activity.

OOIDA sent a letter to Van Hollen voicing the Association’s support for taking the lead on reining in predatory tow practices that can prove to be a death knell to small-business truckers.

“We regularly hear from members that have been involved in crashes where the tow bills are just so unreasonable, unimaginable, clearly predatory. And not only are they faced with the dilemma of not being able to operate, but the tow bills themselves can put them out of business,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line.

“Reform has been sorely needed. The efforts by Congressman Van Hollen are certainly welcomed by small-business truckers. Predatory towing is specifically a problem that can bankrupt small business. It’s also one of the biggest consumer ripoffs across the country, often found in lots of cities.”

This legislation will arm state and local governments with the ability to curtail these predatory practices, Spencer added.

The amendment is now part of the highway bill, which remains on the House floor on Wednesday for further debate on offered amendments. It will become law if it remains in the bill through the reconciliation process with the Senate highway bill in conference committee and sent to the president to be signed into law.

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