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Archive for Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Douglas County continues to investigate options for regulating towing companies

September 28, 2011, 2:36 p.m. Updated September 29, 2011, 11:16 a.m.

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Douglas County representatives continue to collect information about what, if any, steps the county can take to prevent towing companies from overcharging local residents.

In July, the Lawrence Journal-World highlighted the case of a local man who was charged $675 for a tow after an minor accident in Lawrence.

The case underscored the lack of pricing regulations for towing companies on the county’s rotating tow call list for “non-preference” tows — when someone indicates they have no preference for which company to call.

Owner of Bulldog Tow, Jeff Jacobs, and his attorney met with county representatives in August to discuss possible regulations and more stringent requirements for what companies can be placed on the rotating list, which is maintained by Douglas County dispatch. Currently, a business must simply meet the basic requirements for operating a towing business to earn a place on the list, which currently has 10 companies on it.

“There needs to be some requirements,” Jacobs said. The tow companies “can charge whatever they want.”

Caitlin Stene, a management intern with Douglas County administrator’s office has been investigating the issue for the past couple of months. Stene said county officials still are collecting data and gathering information, and trying to parse out what the county can legally do.

“It’s a complicated law,” said Stene, referring to the 1995 federal Motor Carrier Act, that prohibits states from putting limits on towing charges.

But Sam Brewer, past president of the Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida, said those restrictions don’t pertain to the type of non-preference tows included in the rotation list system operated by Douglas County. Florida and California, for instance, have added pricing restrictions to laws designed to protect consumers.

But the state of Kansas hasn’t addressed the issue, Stene said, making it unclear what can be done at the county level.

Stene said her office will continue to look into options and then could make policy change recommendations. She said it’s an issue that’s “on the top of our list.”

Comments

grammaddy 2 years, 11 months ago

Is it legal to operate a towing company in a residential neighborhood? I wouldn't mind if they weren't so loud and the owner would provide employee parking.

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Bob Forer 2 years, 11 months ago

Instead of regulating the prices, why not simply require each towing company who wants to be on the non-preference list submit a price schedule. Then have law enforcement agencies compile the price schedules into a single document, which the LEO gives to the motorist, who then decides what tow company he will use.

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Bob Forer 2 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like in 2006 Bull Dog ripped of some folks. But I have used Bull Dog for several tows in the last three or four years and they have always been the cheapest, and appear to be reasonably priced. Maybe the guy has reformed.

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Slowponder 2 years, 11 months ago

Hey Shaun: in Para 7, "Motor's Carrier Act"??? So the Motor owns the Carrier???? Or is it that Motor Carrier is a compound noun with no possessive? How about a quick edit to the correct name: the 1995 Motor Carrier Act.

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shaunepec 2 years, 11 months ago

Hey thanks for the heads up. It's been corrected.

Shaun Hittle LJW

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Melanie Birge 2 years, 11 months ago

I was very happy when I had a tow last Friday, they were there within 15 mins after the call and towed my car to have it serviced. I wont say which tow company, but they did a great job and it didn't cost me anything because my insurance Co pays for the tow. Thanks again "M" Towing! Oh and I am insured through Farm Bureau. Just one option/ opinion.

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del888 2 years, 11 months ago

Another thing that needs attention: Tow companies regularly tow and sell vehicles that have a lien on them - then the lien holder loses out on the money they loaned on the vehicle. It is legal to tow and scrap a car, even if the owner still owes the bank money.

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buffalo63 2 years, 11 months ago

If I am not mistaken, the tow company has to notify the leinholder and the owner the car will be sold if the tow bill is not paid. The lienholder has the option to come get the car by paying the bill. Sometimes it is not financially feasible for them to get it. It could be the car wasn't properly insured or was in an accident and totaled. Either way the tow company should be paid for their service, even if it means the car is sold. State law requires it to be a public auction and advertized in the local newspaper (legal notice).

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kansasredlegs 2 years, 11 months ago

Easy fix even in light of federal law. Tell these tow companies that if they continue to rip off our citizens with non-preference tow prices, law enforcement tows will be by contract to lowest bidder then all the others can remember the good ole days of ripping people off with $600 1-mile tows

It that doesn't work, anyone out there want to invest in my new tow company? It's called Non-Preference Tow.

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pace 2 years, 11 months ago

Bout time, enough to be in an accident without a crook getting into your wallet.

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