West Virginia lawmakers send to governor new, fair tow rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/17/2016

The West Virginia Legislature has endorsed changes to existing rules in the state that address concerns from truckers about questionable towing and recovery operations.

The Senate voted to approve an amended bill to change how the West Virginia Public Service Commission enforces its own rules and regulations on towing and recovery operations. House lawmakers voted soon afterward to agree to the changes. The actions cleared the way for the bill, HB4186, to move to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

OOIDA 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, Rep. Scott Cadle, R-Mason – who is a truck driver and OOIDA life member – worked to get a bill through the statehouse that covers multiple issues including a requirement for the PSC to review and make changes to their complaint process.

One change would give the commission more direction regarding factors to consider when determining whether or not a charge is reasonable. Factors to consider would include the total time to complete the recovery or tow, the number of employees required to complete the recovery or tow, location of vehicle recovered or towed, and materials or cargo involved in a recovery or tow.

In addition, the commission would not be limited to the factors listed in the bill when determining whether a tow or recovery was fair, effective and reasonable.

The bill also addresses complaints filed against tow operators relating to nonconsensual tows, or tows ordered by police. Specifically, the burden of proof to show that the tow company’s charges are legitimate would be on the tower.

A separate provision in the bill puts in place a process for truck drivers to recover costs associated with tows determined to be in violation of PSC rules.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, says the changes 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,” Matousek said.

Matousek said it would not have been possible to get the bill through the statehouse without the relentless efforts of Rep. Cadle. As a result, Matousek said professional drivers in the state will benefit from legislation that targets the “bad actors” within the towing industry without harming those that operate their business the right way.

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

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