SJR 330 - Joint Subcommittee to Study the Vehicle Towing and Recovery
September 12, 2005
The third meeting
of the joint subcommittee was held in Richmond on September 12, 2005.
was invited to speak on behalf of his bill, HB 2141, which was referred
for study. He explained that there were an average of 150 towing complaints
per year in his district of Arlington, including complaints of overcharging,
employee rudeness, and damage to towed vehicles. He suggested that a sign
be posted by the towing company where people pay for services and retrieve
their vehicles. The sign would state the maximum charge for towing services
and a phone number for the local consumer affairs office or an equivalent
local contact. For localities that do not have a local consumer affairs
office, like Arlington, the sign would in addition include a phone number
for the state office that handles such complaints. Delegate Eisenberg
also said that he would like to see towing companies prohibited from charging
customers more for data obtained from DMV than what they are charged by
DMV for the same information.
Staff presented an
overview of the draft legislation prepared at the Chairman's request.
The bill addresses time restrictions on notifications, licensing of tow
truck operators, the rights and procedures of secondary towers, signage,
trespass tows, rates and fees, and the creation of local advisory boards.
It also provides for regulation of the towing and recovery industry by
the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
asked about new language that would prohibit anyone convicted of a felony
from being employed as a tow truck operator. His concern, echoed by several
other members of the joint subcommittee, was that this may be too restrictive
a policy. Members agreed to delete the language. A suggestion was then
made to define "felony" to restrict only certain felons based
on the nature of the crime and the time frame in which it was committed.
Delegate Griffith also proposed that language be added to require tow
companies to accept some form of credit for the payment of tow services.
This was also agreed upon by the members.
representing the Virginia Association of Towing and Recovery Operators
(VATRO), stated that VATRO agreed that all felons should not be prohibited
from being employed as tow truck operators. Mr. Keeney relayed concern
that approximately 10% of localities have local advisory boards through
which to funnel complaints. He proposed that the Department of Professional
and Occupational Regulations (DPOR) would be a better choice for regulatory
oversight of the towing industry, because DPOR has administrative processes
in place to deal with consumer complaints.
Lee Stevens, representing the Major Incident Heavy Recovery Operators
Association (MIHROA), stated that while licensing can be handled through
DMV, regulation of the industry should be handled through DPOR, because
of its experience and knowledge of the towing industry.
Christopher LaGow, speaking for the insurance industry, supported DMV
as the regulatory oversight agency of the towing industry, because the
towing industry should not be allowed to regulate itself under DPOR. He
also spoke in favor of alternative methods of payment, price caps, and
fee abuse disincentives. Mr. LaGow asked the joint subcommittee to reconsider
language that requires secondary towers to have a notarized request from
the vehicle owner stating that this step would create undue hardship,
slow the process, and create added expense. He also suggested that the
definition of "owner of the vehicle" be amended to include the
John Rickman, Director of the Department of Fiscal Services for the Virginia
Supreme Court, briefed the joint subcommittee on the reimbursements to
towing and recovery operators out of the state treasury from the Appropriation
for Criminal Charges (§ 46.2-1209). Mr. Rickman stated that the reimbursement
process takes an average of 30 days. This year, approximately 840 payments
have been made averaging approximately $140 each. Reimbursement requests
are denied only if the owner does not have the necessary receipts and
Abbitt raised concern about the procedure of having to obtain a local
judge's signature, stating that this step posed an undue hardship on persons
seeking reimbursements and is possibly the reason why there are so few
requests for reimbursements. The joint subcommittee agreed that clarification
to the statute regarding this requirement may be needed.
Steve MacIsaac, county attorney for Arlington County, spoke regarding
the local government perspective. He suggested that the statute be clear
that the state will delegate safety issues to the localities. Mr. MacIsaac
proposed, and the members agreed, that the registered gross weight of
regulated tow trucks be changed from 12,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds.
Joanne Maxwell, representing DMV, discussed concerns regarding the agency's
proposed regulatory oversight of the towing and recovery industry. She
said the costs of the new oversight were difficult to project at this
early stage, but it was thought that DMV would need new staff to handle
the complaints that would be received from both the towers and the owners
of vehicles. There are concerns regarding DMV's capacity to oversee the
relationship between usually unfriendly parties, the tow company and the
individual whose vehicle has been towed, as well as the nature of complaints
and their origin. Currently, DMV takes action against drivers only as
ordered by a court. Under this new legislation, it is DMV's concern that
responding to a complaint instead of a specific court order may result
in due process issues. Ms. Maxwell ended by emphasizing that July 1, 2006,
was an unrealistic date for DMV to assume oversight responsibilities.
A date for the next
meeting of the joint subcommittee was not set at this time. When meeting
date information is available it will be posted on the General Assembly
The Hon. Jay O'Brien
Alan Wambold and