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Moran Bill Would Allow Full Local Towing Regulation

by Ethan Rothstein | March 5, 2014 at 11:00 am | 1,404 views | No Comments

A towing standoff outside Ray's Hell BurgerA bill introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) in the House of Representatives this week would clear the way for states and localities to take full legislative authority over regulating the towing industry.

Tow trucks were classified federally as “interstate carriers,” in 1994, putting its regulation under federal oversight, preempting state and local towing laws.

A year later, according to Moran’s office, Congress legislated away the regulatory body that oversaw the industry, leaving it vulnerable to predatory towing without consequences.

Moran’s bill, if passed, would remove the federal preemption and bring towing regulation fully under state and local control.

“Our state and local governments are the most logical places to regulate towing and many already have an established body of law in place to do so,” Moran said in a statement. “This bill would bring those laws back into effect by removing federal preemption and allow state and local governments the ability to establish common-sense, pro-consumer towing protections for their residents.”

Moran’s announcement of the bill — called H.R. 4131, the “State and Local Predatory Enforcement Act” — comes less than two weeks after Arlington passed a new set of towing regulations aimed at protecting car owners, while raising the trespass towing fee car owners must pay to $135.

Moran co-sponsored an amendment in 2005 that gave states and localities some towing oversight, but some governments were still open to liability with their towing laws. If Moran’s bill passes, that would no longer be the case.

“Representative Moran has long been a champion on this and many other issues important to state and local governments,” Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said in the press release.  “Dating back to 1994, he has worked to make certain we have the ability to enact common-sense, pro-consumer trespass towing protections for our residents and visitors.  Arlington County’s towing ordinance is in place and successful today because of his efforts, and we thank him for the introduction of this legislation to remove the last vestiges of federal preemption.”

The full text of Moran’s press release is after the jump.

Representative Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat, Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee and senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, introduced H.R. 4131, “the State and Local Predatory Enforcement Act,” to correct a loophole obstructing proper oversight of predatory towing practices by state and local governments.

“Our state and local governments are the most logical places to regulate towing and many already have an established body of law in place to do so,” said Rep. Moran.  “This bill would bring those laws back into effect by removing federal preemption and allow state and local governments the ability to establish common-sense, pro-consumer towing protections for their residents.”

A provision of the Federal Aviation Administration Act of 1994 defined the tow truck industry as an interstate carrier exempt from state and local regulation.  Passage of the Interstate Commerce Termination Act one year later eliminated the federal regulatory body that oversaw the towing industry, leaving the industry without proper federal, state or local regulation.

“Representative Moran has long been a champion on this and many other issues important to state and local governments,” stated Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette.  “Dating back to 1994, he has worked to make certain we have the ability to enact common-sense, pro-consumer trespass towing protections for our residents and visitors.  Arlington County’s towing ordinance is in place and successful today because of his efforts, and we thank him for the introduction of this legislation to remove the last vestiges of federal preemption.”

Since then, no level of government has been able to adequately regulate the towing industry.  This lack of regulatory authority has led to more than two decades of major consumer abuses by some unscrupulous towing companies.

Consumers who seek redress for overcharges or other unfair treatment often see their state case thrown out on the grounds of federal preemption and find no real recourse at the federal level either.

Previously, Moran authored an amendment with former Rep. Cox (R-CA) that was successfully included in the Transportation Equity Act of 2005 that gave states new tools to crack down on rogue towing operators.  The amendment allowed states the right to require that tow truck operators receive written permission from the property owner or an agent of the property owner before making a non-consensual or “trespass” tow off of the owner’s property.

It also permitted states to require property owners requesting a “trespass” tow be present or have an agent of the owner present at the time the offending vehicle is towed.  A study was also included in the bill to identify ways to protect the rights of individuals whose motor vehicles are towed.

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