Predatory third-party tow practices challenged by OOIDA

By Mark Schremmer, staff writer

OOIDA continues to tackle the problem of overcharged third-party tows state by state. The Association weighed in on Colorado's proposed rules regulating tow companies by sending a letter to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Aug. 31.

"The goal is to ensure responsible towing, and recovery operators can make a fair profit while preventing consumers from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators," OOIDA wrote.

During recent years, it has not been uncommon for OOIDA to discover trucking companies that were overcharged tens of thousands of dollars for third-party tows.

While OOIDA said it is generally supportive of Colorado's proposal to regulate tow companies, the Association also suggested several changes.

"‘Drive-away' tows should be expressly prohibited," OOIDA wrote. "OOIDA suggests adding language that reads, ‘Except as authorized by law enforcement officers, no towing service shall engage in the removal of a commercial motor vehicle that requires a commercial driver's license to operate the vehicle under its own power on a highway.'"

In the event of an overcharged claim, OOIDA said the burden of proof should fall on the towing operator.

"Towing carriers should be responsible for proving their charges are fair and reasonable upon the filing of any formal complaint. OOIDA suggests adding language that reads, ‘Upon the filing of any aggrieved party, including the owner, operator or insurer of a motor vehicle, the burden of proof to show that the carrier's charges are just, fair and reasonable shall be upon the towing carrier.'"

OOIDA also suggests increased penalties for violations and more reasonable rates for services. To deter unscrupulous towing carriers, OOIDA recommends that Colorado increase its civil penalty up to $5,000 for each violation.

The Association recommends maximum storage rates be reduced from $127.50 per day to $74 per day for a tractor, trailer and cargo. OOIDA also suggests that Colorado address maximum labor rates so that trucking companies aren't overcharged.

"Excessive labor rates for extra manpower to clean up debris, hold a flag, and load/unload a truck should be controlled," OOIDA wrote. LL