OOIDA works to protect truckers from predatory toll practices in Missouri, Colorado

May 2019

Mark Schremmer

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is busy working to add consumer protections on nonconsensual tows in one state and to maintain those protections in another.

OOIDA supports a pair of bills in Missouri that would provide truckers a means to complain if they believe they were overcharged for a tow. The Association also is pushing back against an attempt to remove those protections in Colorado.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s manager of government affairs, testified in February at the Missouri statehouse in support of two towing bills for truckers who are forced to have their tractor-trailer towed in the state.

Matousek told Missouri’s Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee that bill S323 would provide small-business truckers a means of contesting unreasonable charges regarding nonconsensual tows. A nonconsensual tow is one that is initiated by law enforcement with no opportunity for the trucker to negotiate services or compare prices.

“I had a lot of great questions from lawmakers on the transportation committee,” Matousek told Land Line Now. “What was eye-opening to them is that there is no recourse or no regulation whatsoever when it comes to nonconsensual towing of commercial motor vehicles in Missouri.”

Matousek also informed the lawmakers about some of the invoices that OOIDA members have received for nonconsensual tows in Missouri and in other states.

“One of the invoices I used was $43,000 that a member of ours in Missouri got in December,” he said. “I also highlighted some of the highest ones I’ve seen across the country – $250,000 in Pennsylvania, $185,000 in West Virginia, and $154,000 in New York. Those are some huge numbers, and it does get the attention of lawmakers when you bring those up.”

Missouri Sen. Lincoln Hough introduced S323, which would create a Commercial Motor Vehicle Towing Advisory Committee, comprised of government and industry stakeholders, tasked with developing recommendations regarding regulations for the towing of commercial motor vehicles but gives the state discretion for the adoption of those recommendations.

A similar bill, HR749, was introduced in the House by Missouri Rep. Nate Tate.

OOIDA supports both bills as they would both give truckers a way to contest an invoice when they believe they were overcharged.

“Small-business truckers keep getting stuck with towing bills that are arbitrarily inflated by thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars,” Matousek said. “The impact on them is financially devastating. There’s no meaningful recourse in Missouri, and the problem continues to get worse.”

Matousek added that the bill isn’t an attempt to negatively affect towing companies in Missouri. Instead, the consumer protections are only meant to eliminate the bad actors who take advantage of the current system.

“The towing industry plays a vital role in recovering tractor-trailers when they are in a crash, and we need to have a healthy towing and recovery industry without question,” he said. “But that still doesn’t mean that they should be able to charge whatever they want with no consumer protections whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, OOIDA sent a letter on Feb. 27 to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in opposition of a petition for rulemaking filed by the Towing and Recovery Professionals of Colorado. The petition would remove some of the towing carrier rules that OOIDA helped establish. For instance, the petition’s plan would remove the maximum rates for nonconsensual tows, which generally include all law enforcement dispatched tows to clear the roadway after a crash.

“This would effectively gut the reasonable rate caps currently in place for the towing, storage, and vehicle release fees specific to law enforcement ordered tows, which would fundamentally weaken the collective rules,” Matousek wrote.

OOIDA and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association worked extensively to create rules and regulations regarding nonconsensual heavy-duty tows. The full implementation of the rules went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.