CALL TO ACTION HB 487: Commercial Vehicles – Police-Initiated Towing – April 28, 2022

CALL TO ACTION HB 487: Commercial Vehicles – Police-Initiated Towing – April 28, 2022

Call Governor Hogan at (410) 974-3901 and request that he veto HB 487


Due to the harmful impact House Bill 487 would have on the towing industry, the Emergency Road Service Coalition of America (ERSCA), opposes this bill from being signed into law. 

The bill requires the Department of State Police (DSP) to make a tow list of qualified towing companies for use by the Department in carrying out police-initiated towing of disabled or abandoned commercial vehicles and to make certain rate sheets available to the public on request; and establishing certain requirements and procedures for the police-initiated towing of certain commercial vehicles at the direction of the Department.

Issue:

Currently, Maryland law requires DSP to establish and maintain a list of “authorized towing list.” Our concern, however, is HB 487’s price-setting authority that would ultimately cap the fees which tows may charge for police-initiated towing. While this shift is in and of itself an issue, the bill never states any semblance of transparency regarding these rate structures. By instituting price ceilings, absent a clear and cognizable rate structure, ERSCA and its members cannot support this bill with all the intended ambiguity left to be fleshed out until after its already law.

HB 487 would:

  • Require a tow company applying to DSP’s tow list (for medium- and heavy-duty towing) to (a) submit a rate sheet that does not include per pound billing and (b) ban the use of per pound billing by October 1, 2023;
  • Make each tow company’s required rate sheet available upon request; and
  • Develop a process to receive, investigate, and adjudicate complaints from a vehicle owner or operator (or owner’s designee) against an authorized tow company regarding the police-initiated towing of a commercial vehicle, including a process to suspend or remove an authorized tow company from the tow list.

Additionally, HB 487 notes if there is a genuine dispute (never defined) as to the reasonableness (or amount) of the fees assessed, the authorized tow company must release the cargo immediately to the owner (or the owner’s authorized agent upon submission of: (1) proof of ownership if the cargo does not belong to the transportation company; or (2) if the cargo belongs to the transportation company. Most importantly, HB 487 requires the tow to release the vehicle to the owner (or authorized agent) upon payment of only 20% of the invoice by the vehicle owner or operator.

Small Business Effect:

Under the bill, DSP requires a tow company applying to the department’s tow list to ban the use of per pound billing by October 1, 2023. Moreover, during the application process to become an authorized tow company under HB 487, towing companies that employ if per pound billing would be viewed unfavorably in their application process. Lastly, other provisions in the bill (e.g., the requirement to release a vehicle or cargo prior to full payment under certain circumstances) would require tows to release the vehicle if 20% of the valued tow is paid.

If this bill is signed into law, it will be no time until other states begin to pass equally onerous laws that affect our industry. Please call Governor Hogan at (410) 974-3901 and request that he veto HB 487!

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