Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

SJR 330 - Joint Subcommittee to Study the Vehicle Towing and Recovery Industry

June 21, 2005

The Joint Subcommittee to Study the Vehicle Towing and Recovery Industry held a public hearing on June 21, 2005, in Fairfax.


William A. Diamond of the Virginia Attorney General's Office provided information regarding limitations imposed by federal law on the abilities of state and local governments to regulate the towing industry. The federal limitations, however, do not extend to safety-related issues such as permit requirements, limitations on rates charged for nonconsensual towing, employment as a tow truck operator, or powers the police may need to ensure public safety. If the towing is consensual, states may not regulate the price that is charged.


Jim McGettrick of the Fairfax County Attorney's Office began his presentation by addressing the public safety tow, stating that there are very few complaints or problems with this type of tow due to the Public Procurement Act. He requested that nothing be done to reduce the ability of the police to keep the public safe.

Mr. McGettrick also addressed the trespass tow, explaining that his office receives at least 3-4 complaints per day regarding private, involuntary towing. One of the major complaints about this type of tow is that operators refuse to accept credit, check, or any payment other than cash. He supports requiring towing companies to allow a variety of payment methods. There are also numerous complaints regarding the fees companies charge to store towed vehicles, delays in notification that vehicles have been towed, the location of storage lots in dangerous areas, limited hours of storage lot operation, and damage to vehicles during towing.

Mr. McGettrick concluded by addressing how federal preemptions limit local governments' ability to
regulate involuntary towing practices. Localities would like an elimination or at least a reduction in federal limitations on involuntary towing. He stated that local governments need flexibility in order to regulate the various types of tows; there is no one-size-fits-all


Major Robert B. Northern of the Department of State Police explained that the State Police have approved zones in which operators are responsible to provide towing and wrecker services. The major concern of the State Police is public safety. If a tow truck operator/company proves to be incompetent, it is removed from the State Police's approved list. Complaints about towing are also investigated, with the most frequent complaint being from citizens who feel they have been overcharged. Major Northern stated that the Department of State Police supports criminal background checks of tow truck operators, which is currently not a requirement.


Several tow company owners spoke about the rising costs of operating a towing company, as well as a need to increase their rates to fair market value. Owners conceded that some oversight of the industry is needed and expressed a willingness to be regulated by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. Owners also understood that payment methods other than cash were desirable.

Speakers from the insurance industry spoke about the necessity for standardizing vehicle release procedures, establishing minimum standards for storage areas, as well as minimizing "add-on" charges that appear on towing bills.

Several citizens expressed their views on predatory towing, vehicle damage during the tow, and high towing and storage fees.


The next meeting of the joint subcommittee will be posted on the General Assembly website as soon as a date is scheduled.

The Hon. Jay O'Brien

For information, contact:
Alan Wambold, Maria Everett, Stephanie Bishop
DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005 

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