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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More Greenville, SC Tow Truck Operators Fighting Plan To Cap Rates

From the Greenville News:
The number of tow-truck operators publicly fighting a proposed county law
that would cap their rates when they tow without a car owner’s permission has
grown to more than a dozen, with some claiming the change would unfairly
increase their cost of business.The proposed caps came after county officials
and truck drivers said some people are paying as much as $1,700 and traveling
out of state to retrieve trucks towed from lots that appeared to be legal for
overnight parking.
County Council members have also said they’re concerned
about the towing costs paid by someone who’s just been released from jail after
being pulled over and arrested.
The Sheriff’s Office had earlier requested to
be included in the ordinance so that tow companies called by law enforcement
would be capped as well, but the Sheriff has now asked to make his own policy,
said Councilman Joe Dill.
Law enforcement tows were removed from the measure
Tuesday night, though council members said they want to see the rates the
Sheriff comes up with. Meanwhile, Dana Williamson of Elgin Williamson
Enterprises said about 60 percent of cars picked up from private property are
never reclaimed by their owners because the incidents involve old vehicles that
break down on the road and are left for good.Many car owners don’t believe its
worthwhile to pay for removal, while many towing companies don’t want to
shoulder the cost of taking the abandoned vehicles and navigating the
bureaucratic tangle of finding the owners and legally disposing of the cars,
Williamson said. However, an assistant county attorney said the county proposal
doesn’t deal with abandoned cars, only vehicles illegally parked on private
property. Williamson said the line between the two can blur. Councilman Joe
Baldwin said if towing companies aren’t getting paid for abandoned vehicles
anyway, then a new county cap wouldn’t pose an additional problem. The measure
limits towing fees to $50 for the lightest vehicles -- those less than 10,000
pounds -- plus a $10 daily storage fee. For the largest vehicles -- trucks of
more than 30,000 pounds -- the fees would be capped at $300 for towing and $50 a
day for storage. The measure also prohibits towing from commercial parking
facilities unless prominent, weather-resistant signs of a certain size are
displayed at a certain height and include a phone number for locating a towed
vehicle. Williamson said it will take time to change the posted signs and towing
agreements lot owners having with towing companies, and that people parking in
private bank lots already pose a problem for workers who arrive to find their
spaces taken. More than a dozen towing operators lined two rows of seats in
Tuesday’s committee meeting, some of them in their reflective work gear and
others saying the council members had no idea what they were doing. Dill’s
Public Safety Committee passed the measure by a 4-1 vote Tuesday, with
Councilwoman Lottie Gibson dissenting because she said she thought the caps were
still too high. The matter now goes to the full council for a public hearing and
a vote.

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