Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

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

September 12, 2005

The third meeting of the joint subcommittee was held in Richmond on September 12, 2005.

HB 2141

Delegate Eisenberg 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).

Delegate Griffith 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.


VATRO Perspective
Bruce Keeney, 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.

MIHROA Perspective
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.

Insurance Industry Perspective
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 insurance provider.

Courts Perspective
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 documentation.

Delegate Watkins 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.

Local Government Perspective
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.

DMV Perspective
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 website.

The Hon. Jay O'Brien

For information, contact:
Alan Wambold and Stephanie Bishop
DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005 

Privacy Statement | Legislative Services | General Assembly