Truckers back West Virginia bill to rein in predatory tows

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/22/2016

A piece of legislation in the West Virginia Legislature addresses concerns from truckers about questionable towing and recovery operations in the state.

Delegate Scott Cadle, R-Mason, and 10 of his counterparts in the House chamber are pursuing changes to how the West Virginia Public Service Commission enforces its own rules and regulations on towing and recovery operations.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says small-business truckers in the state are increasingly subjected to unreasonable charges from towing companies engaged in nonconsensual towing and recovery operations.

The Association highlighted a June 2014 incident where a truck driver was double-billed for a third-party tow.

To address concerns of truckers, Cadle’s bill covers multiple issues that include a requirement for the PSC to review their complaint process and make changes as needed.

The commission would also be given more direction regarding factors to consider when determining if a charge is reasonable. In addition, the commission would be authorized to impose a civil penalty upon a towing company that violates the law.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said the change would better protect truck drivers from inflated towing bills in the state. The Association has about 1,000 members residing in West Virginia, and thousands more who travel through the state.

“Towing invoices in West Virginia are among the highest in the nation, and the state’s enforcement is severely lacking,” said Matousek.

Other issues covered in the bill include the following: clarification that a towing company shall not be indemnified for damages to a wrecked or disabled vehicle as a result of the negligence of the tower; a towing company would be prohibited from driving away a commercial vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license to operate, unless authorized by law enforcement; and the PSC would be given authority to suspend or revoke the operating authority of any towing operation found to be in violation of the law, as well as the authority to work with other public entities to remove a tower from a wrecker rotation list.

Matousek said the Association worked closely with Cadle to craft the legislation that targets the “bad actors” within the towing industry without harming those that operate their business the right way.

“We think we accomplished that goal,” Matousek said.

OOIDA is asking all West Virginia truckers to contact their state legislators to express their support for the bill.

The bill, HB4186, is in the House Government Organization Committee.

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

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