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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Palm Beach (FL) County Toughens Tow Truck Rules

Here's the Sun-Sentinel story:

Tow truck drivers now need a towing license, ID badge and more insurance to do business in Palm Beach County.

County commissioners Tuesday beefed up the rules for towing operations, trying to head off consumer horror stories of damaged vehicles and automobiles virtually held hostage by inflated charges.

The new rules expand licensing requirements to all tow truck operators, beyond just those who work with police or remove illegally parked cars.

Tow truck drivers called to help with a flat tire or to retrieve a car that won't start will soon be required to wear an ID badge showing who they work for and that they are licensed by the county.

To get a license, tow truck drivers must pass a criminal and driving background check. The drivers will have to carry insurance to cover potential damage from towing. Licensed tow trucks should also have a decal showing they meet county standards.

The idea is to protect customers against unscrupulous tow truck operators, blamed for damaging vehicles and jacking up prices while leaving stranded drivers with little legal recourse.

"This is one of the little things county government works on to keep people safe," Commissioner Jeff Koons said.

Licensing fees for tow truck drivers will start at $300 and go up to $600 for those who handle "non-consent towing," which includes illegally parked cars. The county's rules also include maximum rates for vehicles towed for illegal parking.

Tow truck operator Cameron Bragg of West Palm Beach was among those opposed to the new regulations.

"It's going to drive up the costs of tows," Bragg said. "Not everybody can afford these extra fees."

Other longtime county tow truck operators hailed the new rules as a way to weed out operations that have been below the county's regulatory radar.

The county's towing truck advisory board, which includes towing company representatives, helped craft the new rules.

"Everything in here is what you would consider good business practices," advisory board member Herb Goldstein said.

Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.

2 comments:

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